Festival Review: Wine Machine proves a long and deflating day in the Hunter Valley

After a drizzly week in Sydney, the skies miraculously cleared for a radiant Wine Machine day at the Roche Estate in the Hunter Valley. Little did upbeat punters know, Mother Nature was planning to absolutely blindside them with a literal show-stopping electrical storm in the evening to come. Hold on to your ponchos because this festival was a tumultuous ride.

Sunscreen-lathered bodies descended upon the gloriously green venue as Falcona DJs set the mood, followed by Happiness Is Wealth. It was only when ex-Triple J breakfast host Alex Dyson took to the stage to perform his DJ set, did the mosh really start to jive. Dressed in an Australian sports uniform, this man was ready to compete. Knowing his audience, Dyson whipped out generational classics such as ‘Hello World’ from The Saddle Club, Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’, the Round the Twist theme song and took the crowd “to a new dawn” with ‘Circle of Life’ from The Lion King. Paired with some interpretive dance and even getting in some hip-raises on the floor, the mosh was absorbing and emitting his energy right back.

Sydneysider GRAACE then *graced* the stage, opening with her single ‘Kissing Boys’. New to the festival circuit, she was a very comfortable presence on the stage and is likely to be a festival regular from here on in. GRAACE also teased upcoming unreleased tracks including ‘Downgraded’ – a tune about an ex who’s now dating someone new – and her next single, ‘Go Have Fun At Your Party’. Her performance was humble and sweet, so much so she even exited the stage by walking along the front row and hugging fans.

Maitland sister-duo Kinder performed a transitionary DJ set, opening with Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, followed by a little dance routine to Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’. Their set included only two or three of their original tunes, seemingly accompanied by blended live singing and backing-track. The highlight was when they brought their nana on stage at the end who had a boogie of a lifetime.

The night definitely peaked with Confidence Man. Notorious for a zany live act, they did not disappoint. Lead singers Janet Planet and Sugar Bones rocked their distinct skeletal dance moves with their nonchalant electro-pop, spiced by rehearsed routines, a finger gun stand-off, a costume change and even a Sugar Bones handstand. All the while, other band members Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie grooved away, faces hidden by macabre black mourning tulle. I implore you, even if you don’t enjoy their music, go see their live show – it’s an experience to remember.

Hayden James brought GRAACE back on stage for their tune ‘NUMB’ and debuted a new track ‘Nowhere To Go’ from his next album which he completed this week. This track really got the crowd grinding and is an exciting tease of his body of work to come. His set concluded with the hit, ‘Just Friends’, for which he invited some friends on stage for a birthday celebration of champagne showers, covering the front of the mosh pit with bubblies. Who didn’t expect to smell like wine at the end of this festival?

The Presets followed, playing hits from their endless discography including ‘Martini’ and ‘My People’. However, the duo was tripped up by technical difficulties during their performance of ‘This Boy’s In Love’, causing a short intermission. As an electrical storm brewed beyond the valley, the performance trudged on, treating the audience to ‘This Boy’s In Love’ Take Two.

However, the sky had other plans. Soon lightning cracked overhead and a monsoonal downfall fell upon the mosh pit, drowning all hopes of the festival continuing. Forcing them to cut their set short, The Presets left the stage as staff warned it was unsafe to continue and that headliners Hot Dub Time Machine would not be playing.

A stampede of drowned patrons ensued as they bolted for buses back to civilisation. In all honesty, the acts were enjoyable, but the festival was poorly run. With an obscene lack of shade throughout the day, hordes of hour-long lines at the bar and then a cancelled headline, it left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths.

The three-hour bus ride back to Sydney included classic one-liners comparing the festival to the infamous FYRE Festival and many asking what exactly had they paid for? At no fault at all of the acts, it was a long deflating day that people are renaming Line Machine and rightfully so.

The organisers published a statement today, addressing issues raised by various parties. It is below in full.


 Over the weekend 11,000 patrons attended the Wine Machine event at Roche Estate in the Hunter Valley. Toward the end of the event, personnel in the Event Control Centre who had been monitoring weather all day were made aware of an extreme storm cell rapidly approaching the event. The decision to evacuate was made in consultation with event medical, safety, police and emergency services officers and evacuation procedures were initiated circa 2130, 90 minutes prior to the scheduled end of the event after The Presets performance but prior to Hot Dub Time Machine’s performance.

 The extreme weather system included torrential rain and a high multitude of lightning strikes within close proximity. The safety of all patrons, artists, and staff is of absolute priority. Evacuations of this nature in such extreme conditions are never pleasant. If you have feedback on the method by which police and or security managed this please email the WM team at [email protected] and we will come back to you personally. We take reports of over aggressive behaviour very seriously and will investigate accordingly.

 We must also address bar lines earlier in the day. It must be noted the venue Roche Estate was a dry hire and not responsible for the bars. There were a number of external operators managing the event. Due to the current climate in NSW, severe licensing conditions were placed upon the event limiting drinks to two per person causing unacceptable congestion at the bars. Adding to this were staffing issues from our external bar operators Prime Collective who’ve issued the following statement:

 Whilst licensing restrictions played a significant role in bar congestion at the Wine Machine NSW event, we must unreservedly apologise for our role in this and take full responsibility. Two of our staffing mini-buses carrying 32 staff were reportedly involved in an incident whilst en route from Sydney resulting in bars being under staffed. 

 We are currently investigating the circumstances of this and following up on the conditions of those staff involved. If you would like further information on this or the licensing restrictions please email us: [email protected] and we will come back to you.

Event medical, police and safety officers have commended the attendees of the event for an otherwise very well behaved crowd with minimal presentations and detections for an event of this size.

 Lastly, stay tuned for an announcement from Hot Dub Time Machine who is planning to throw a complimentary make-up show for those disappointed he didn’t get to play.



Wine Machine continues on to tour other cities, including Swan Valley on 30th March, Yarra Valley on 6th April, and the ACT on 13th April. For tickets and more details, visit Wine Machine’s Official Website.

The reviewer attended the festival in the Hunter Valley on Saturday 23rd March 2019.

Tait McGregor