Yours and Owls 2021

Music festivals are back baby!



Yours and Owls 2021 will go down in history, marking the return of music festivals on a scale that has not been seen in New South Wales, Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The two-day event which took place over April 17th and 18th, celebrated its temporary home in Thomas Dalton Park, Wollongong, hosting approx. 14, 000 music lovers in a COVID-safe manner.

What does a COVID-safe festival look like? A little like this.


Yours and Owls 2021 was classified as a seated event, ensuring the social distancing guidelines as imposed by the NSW Government could be adhered to. To further protect attendees, the festival was divided into four zones, a capacity of approx. 3500 people in each, with state-of-the-art staging constructed in the centre.

To ensure all attendees had prime views of the performances, two stages were utilised – the “Yours” stage and the “Owls” stage. Performances were staggered across both, alternating by the hour. It made me nostalgic for Big Day Out, which adhered to a similar setup, proving to be effective. What was unique about the Yours and Owls setup was the function of the stages. Each stage featured rotating mechanisms, ensuring every angle of the festival, and crowd, could be played to. This was necessary, given the layout of the zones.

Despite being classified as a seated event, attendees could roam their zones to enjoy the food vendors, bars, and local “Rad” stage.

Most importantly? Dancing was given the tick of approval from the NSW Government in the weeks leading up to the festival. This made the weekend incredibly fun…and chaotic. Unfortunately, (and somewhat understandably) being restricted to socially distanced rows of seats is not the ideal dancing layout for festivalgoers. Countless people packed into the aisles and front sections, creating mosh pits during performances and essentially, throwing all social distancing rules out the window.

These actions resulted in multiple sets being interrupted and effectively, cut short by as much as approx. 15 minutes, whilst organisers took to the stage telling everyone to return to the seats.

Saturday was particularly frustrating in this regard, with every set of the evening being interrupted for this reason. The crowd would patiently wait for others to find a seat, only to witness hundreds of people run right back to the front and flood the aisles as soon as the performances resumed.

People were not PEACH-y keen on this experience. If you know, you know.

With organisers announcing that the future of the festival could be in jeopardy if subject to more chaos, it was a relief to find that Sunday was far better controlled, and performances were not victim to such frustrating interruptions.

Performances from Cosmo’s Midnight, DMA’s, Lime Cordiale and Hayden James were standouts, with almost everyone in sight on their feet, or standing on their chairs, dancing, and singing their hearts out. Despite Winston Surfshirt and The Smith Street Band experiencing lengthy interruptions, their performances were also crowd favourites.

Tones and I naturally worked up a frenzy of dance monkeys as she performed her global smash hit of the same name and after teasing a surprise, treated the crowd to a beautiful firework display to close her set. What So Not and PNAU were the perfect closing acts for their respective nights, concluding the festival on a high.

Despite the COVID-safe layout of Yours and Owls and the chaos that followed such restrictions, the festival experience was still exciting and euphoric.

It was simultaneously a sigh of relief, and a breath of fresh air. Personally, it marked my return to live music. Experiencing the absence of concerts and festivals for 14 months, due to COVID-19, felt soul crushing. It also made me experience intense waves of gratitude throughout the entire duration of Yours and Owls. I have a feeling, judging based on the reception of the crowd, I was not the only one. It was a magical weekend, and a much-needed reminder of the power of live music.

The Power of Live Music

It’s been approximately 9 months since I experienced live music and the energy of the crowd. As someone who always has a ticket to a future gig, it’s felt soul crushing to have all the events you’re looking forward to being cancelled or postponed. I know I’m not alone in this experience, which is comforting. That is the beauty of live music…it’s unifying. This is one of the many reasons why I love live music. Here’s some more…

I love live music because it erases loneliness.
Whether that’s through the presence of the crowd around you, or through captivating melodies and lyrics, live music makes you feel like you belong.

I love live music, because it brings out the best in people.
Live music gives people permission to feel, to express their emotions.
Take a look around at the next concert or festival you attend. I guarantee you’ll see people smiling, crying, singing and dancing. Live music allows you to be your most authentic self and not feel shame for the emotions you’re feeling or the experience you’re living.

I love live music because it is pure escapism.
For the duration of the setlist unfolding in front of your eyes, nothing else in the world matters. It’s as if the moment your ticket is scanned at the entry, all of your worries are left behind. Your worries are denied entry. The weight of the world is lifted from your shoulders and you feel light, filled with joy. Live music can make you feel so far away from the mundane, stressful, exhausting and painful aspects of day to day life. It’s that euphoric, relieving feeling that I miss the most right now.

I love live music, because it is healing.
I genuinely believe live music is healing. Some of the most famous live music performances come from events that aimed to heal the world. From Live Aid in 1985 to One Love Manchester in 2017 and FireFight Australia in 2020; benefit concerts prove that live music can create atmospheres of love, support, empathy and unity. It’s magical to witness and incredibly inspiring.

As 2020 nears its end, I find myself more and more grateful for every live music event I’ve experienced in my lifetime. In the moment, concerts and festivals pass by swiftly. The adrenaline kicks in and it all feels like a blur. However, those moments stay with you forever. Whether it’s in the form of photos, videos, outfits, tickets or the blurry memories in your mind, it’s more important than ever to revisit them, hold onto them and remember why you love live music.