They say all good ideas start over a beer with your mate, at least that’s exactly how A Hitch To The Sticks was born.
In 2016 I was invited to be a part of the Victorian Music Crawl an initiative run by Music Victoria in partnership with local government. 25 music industry heavyweights (booking agents, radio reps, journalists, band managers, festival directors artists) were crammed together into a minibus over three days across regional Victoria.
The tour aimed to build connections between the Melbourne-based music industry figures with bands, venues, agents, events, promoters and media within regional Victoria to shine a spotlight on regional areas that were doing really well in the music sector.
I walked away with a bunch of new life-long friends, and an incredible weekend, but left wondering about the areas that weren’t doing very well, why weren’t we focussing on them?
I’ve played over a thousand shows with my band across the globe, many of these being in regional areas. I have gained a great insight into why venues work really well and why some don’t.
So, I thought if I took the Victorian Music Crawl Model, ‘flip it and reverse it’ (props to Missy Elliot), I could take a coach load (initially) of my direct fans on a three-day musical safari to much needed regional areas that weren’t doing so well.
We would teach venues the value that live music can bring to their business and mentor them along the way to pull off successful events, as well as booking 85% of regional artists, we could pass this knowledge on and hope to have a long-lasting impact on not only their business but the entire area.
In the beginning…
Here’s where the beer comes in. I reached out to my best buddy (also a logistical genius), Renee Delahunty, we met at the Rainbow Hotel Beer Garden in Fitzroy, we bought a schooey, I jammed out my crazy idea and she said, “we need to do this!”
The crawl opened my eyes up to the possibility of collaborations with city councils, to help them fulfil their live music event ‘KPI’s. With a little bit of guidance from us with the necessary music industry skills we can help them to nurture the scene back to life in these areas and bring music to the forefront again, then in time, other established bands could put these venues on their touring route.
And, the great thing about this initiative is you can place this model in any regional area in Australia.
20 years ago in the Wangaratta region (my home town), there was a kickass scene. Lots of venues to play and a killer scene of bands watching each other for example Killing Heidi, Incursion, Spiderbait (1.5hrs away), did I mention Nick Cave is also from Wangaratta?!
Every time one band in the region started getting really good, we all went back to the rehearsal rooms and got practising, that’s some healthy competition! This scene didn’t exist in the area anymore, well, not until now.
Music to me is life. It offers new ideas, different ways of thinking, fashion, relatability, identity, confidence, solutions to questions, unites people, happiness and well-being. I felt if I could start anywhere with this idea then my hometown Wangaratta was the place.
A Hitch To The Sticks was born in March 2018
We took a coach load of music lovers from all over Australia to this region and showed off the amazing local talent that was emerging in the area. We gave them a platform to play and showed them there is a pathway with music whilst we celebrated the culture, history and landscape of the area.
Our maiden voyage began in Melbourne’s CBD Friday afternoon on March 2018 and travelled up the Hume Hwy stopping at a series of specially curated events (six secret locations and four public) before returning to the big smoke late Sunday evening.
Three days, 10 music events, six secret locations, four open to the public with 20+ acts, 710kms all on one bus! Acts including Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe U.S.) who played around a campfire for music lovers and, we activated a bunch of new music spaces in the area.
The weekend included: busker hunts in a hedge maze, cultural experiences, celebrity hitchhikers (Nicky Bomba), singalongs, and the tiny Moyhu Pub in the middle of the King Valley stepping up to build an incredible bush stage for this event.
This venue had never previously hosted live music, so we were pretty stoked that they said yes and now host regular gigs.
The response overall was huge
One bus punter said, “Not so much a ticket, but a portal to the greatest weekend of my life!”. We had 4,000 people attend our main gig in the Apex Park in Wangaratta with an estimated $392,000 injected into the local economy from the program alone (Source: REMPLAN report).
We have designed A Hitch To The Sticks to build infrastructure around live music, support and strengthen regional artists by providing skills, development opportunities and a chance to hone and develop their skills.
We offer local original musicians a pathway to play on large ‘big city’ festival stages and activate new live music venues. We formed key, strong networks within the council and community to ensure longevity in live music as well as whilst help boost the local economy.
We did another voyage the same year (October 2018) and then a short time later in early 2019 we received 100K of funding from the Rural City of Wangaratta City. This secured our third instalment of A Hitch To The Sticks taking place over three days on Cup Weekend, November 1st-3rd, 2019.
In our short two years of operations, we’ve had the likes of Kate Ceberano playing the amazing bush stage in Moyhu, Jebediah, Tim Rogers, Killing Heidi and this year we have Tex Perkins, Magic Dirt, Stonefield, The Songs of Captain Matchbox and much, much more.
A Hitch To The Sticks is really a celebration of the Wangaratta community and region
We’ve used local visual artists to decorate the newly activated Rodeo Grounds (5000+ cap) as the next big live music event space for the area. We have a huge community parade to kick off the festival that was born from an educational collaboration between Bpangerang Elder, Uncle Freddie and primary school kids of the region earlier this month.
Our Regional Hitchers battle of the band’s competition (12-22yrs) also ran this year and saw a bunch of emerging talent start writing songs for the first time. The winner is to open the main stage for the Rodeo Grounds this year and five of our runners up play on our second stage in between the main acts!
To say it’s the biggest job by far we’ve ever undertaken is an understatement, but whattaya gonna do with all this rock n roll adrenaline?
It’s time to give back, and once this weekend is over, I’m back in the studio to make a new album (my real job, haha). I’ve been given so much in my career and feels good to spread the love.
Big ups to everyone who has supported our crazy idea, we luv ya
x Dallas Frasca
P.S. Mad props to genius Renee Delahunty and Missy Elliot.
A Hitch To The Sticks takes place this weekend and tickets are available here.