Six reasons you have to head to the Dashville Skyline Festival in the Hunter Valley this weekend

This weekend, the annual celebration of Americana, psychedelia and alternative country music returns to the Hunter Valley for the Dashville Skyline Festival. Taking place from September 30th to October 2nd, across the long weekend, the 2nd annual event will see the likes of Brian Cadd, Henry Wagons & The Only Children, The Brothers Comatose, The Wilson Pickers, William Crighton, Melody Pool and many, many more grace the stages of the intimate event held on the same site as The Gum Ball Festival.

Last year I had the privilege for heading along to the event and found it to be among the finest festivals I’ve ever attended in this country. There were a variety of reasons why this was the case, but I’m going to share six with you now. If it sounds like your sort of vibe, with tickets still available, there’s no excuse not to head along!

The food and drink are excellent (and it’s affordable!)

Last year, Young Henrys beers and ciders were flowing for $6 a tinnie, wine for the same, spirits for $8 and excellent cocktails for just $10. While we can’t vouch for the prices this year, it’s clear they’re intent on providing everyone an affordable experience. American BBQ legends Bovine and Swine made their debut ahead of the launch of their now infamous Enmore hotspot, serving up incredible BBQ platters. There were also spectacular burgers from the wonderful Nighthawk Diner, a mix of treats from Jimmy Chews, schnitzels from Harrys and plenty of ways to get a high quality meal for around $10.

Nighthawk's Fried Chicken Burger and the piles of $6 Young Henrys Tinnies!
Nighthawk’s Fried Chicken Burger and the piles of $6 Young Henrys Tinnies!

Nighthawk Diner will return in 2016, alongside slow-cooked meat by Newcastle powerhouse MEET, who will be unveiling their new Texas smoker, as Bovine and Swine did last year. You’ll find superb Tex Mex cuisine from Opie Funk and the return of an old favourite, Rustic Pizza. There will also be coffee by Newcastle institution, Sprocket. The General Forage will be your place to go for milkshakes, baked goods, lollies and other sweet treats. And not to be missed, the Smoking Bluegrass Breakfast will get you going from 9am Saturday and Sunday.

Experience a truly curated festival

While selling an event on Americana, psychedelia and alternative country may be eclectic in its own right, everything fits together beautifully at the festival. Nothing feels out of place. The bands who play almost entirely have their musical origins firmly planted in the sound of Americana, with a few twists here and there to keep the day vibrant and full of surprises and discoveries.

All Our Exes Live In Texas hit the stage at the 2015 event
All Our Exes Live In Texas hit the stage at the 2015 event

A few Americans are thrown in for a good measure of authenticity, but it’s predominantly Australians who are doing the genre proud. And if that’s music you like, then in coming to this event you know exactly what you’re going to get. Because they have truly curated an event to fit that taste – rather than do what some other events do, which is call itself a genre festival, while throwing in whatever might be popular at the time. With a venue capacity of just 2,500, they have the luxury of niche programming, and they do it brilliantly.

Witness once-in-a-lifetime performances and collaborations

Sitting alongside the great performances from some of the country’s finest talents, is something very special. Around sunset on Saturday night, a bunch of the musicians who are playing the festival across the weekend get together for the “Sunset Super Round”. Inspired by similar collaborative performances at places like Woodford or the Edmonton Folk Festival, this will see a variety of artists – many of whom have never sat on stage together before – perform a one off collaboration, covering their choice of one of the greatest songs of all time.

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The festival promises to record it all live and give ticket holders a copy at the end of the event, too! This was truly the highlight of last year – with artists like Shane Nicholson, Green Mohair Suits, Ruby Boots and All Our Exes Live in Texas collaborating on stage, and is not to be missed.

Feel like you’re part of the family

There’s a great family vibe at this event. And I’m not just talking about the fact that families are free roaming at the festival, but I’m talking about the general atmosphere of community that Skyline – and the Dashville venue in general – has fostered. The team that runs the event, under the guidance of festival founder¬†Matt Johnston seemed like a close knit group even in the events inaugural year. No doubt they work together on the site’s other events throughout the calendar year.

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Some of the stages, too, are set up like you’re playing in a living room, or sitting on a porch. There’s a true intimacy to it all, even though they’re playing on an outdoor stage, potentially to thousands of people. There’s some true magic in that. It’s hard to not walk away feeling like you’ve just been a part of something truly special.

No Dipshits!

And so much of that is about the people who you’re surrounded by. The terms and conditions on their website can lend some reasoning for this, as they embrace a “No Dipshits or Dipshit-ish Behaviour Policy”, going on to say that “We at Dashville pride ourselves on hosting events full of considerate, consciencious good folk, which always guarantees a good time for everyone else. Let’s keep it this way.” I can attest to the fact that last year, there were no dipshits and it was fantastic. Let’s keep it this way indeed.

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Ruby Boots on stage at the 2015 event

Get in early on something special

Dashville Skyline is only in its second year, and just as Gum Ball has turned into an annual sell out affair, Skyline is fast on its way to becoming one of the same. Once you experience it, it’s the sort of event you’ll want to go to every year. I can’t make it this year and I’m pretty devastated. But there’ll be plenty of others who’ll feel the same way – so it’s the sort of thing you’ll want to get in early on, before the limited capacity event becomes one of the hottest tickets in town.

Elwood Myre on stage at the 2015 event
Elwood Myre on stage at the 2015 event

Don’t believe us? Well here’s a bit of a wrap up video from the inaugural 2015 event to give you a taste of everything I’ve been talking about here:

Dashville Skyline takes place from September 30th to October 2nd in Belford, Hunter Valley, about two hours out of Sydney. Limited tickets are still available. Head HERE for tickets and more details.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.