PRE-UNIFY 2018 RANT
Whilst I'm generally really excited for my first time attending UNIFY last weekend, I do have a few issues about it to get off my chest. I don't think it's really fair to rush out all this important information to us within a week of the festival starting. For somebody like me, it's overwhelming and a lot to absorb all at once. The process of entry through the gates and to the campsite/arena seems to be more complicated than it needs to be and I'm still kinda stressing out about it.
Also charging people for hot showers, the silent disco and chilled/sparkling water seems like a cash grab to me. It's a bit rich considering we had to fork out $200 for tickets plus travelling costs and our own camping gear. I'm still a bit uncertain about the Unicoin system though I'm trying to be optimistic about it. Hopefully it'll make paying for things at UNIFY easier but we'll wait and see. My editor Byron traveled over 3000kms in his round trip, i can only imagine how people from further away feel..
DAY 1 - FRIDAY JANUARY 12TH, 2018
Four years worth of stress, anxiety, fear and apprehension has lead up to this moment. In all honesty, I never thought I’d actually attend UNIFY back when it first started but several things changed my mind. I’ve been working hard on my personal development in the last year or so which means putting myself out there more, getting out of my comfort zone, improving my self confidence, making and building friendships and doing some YOLO type things. Attending the UNIFY Heavy Music Gathering festival pretty much ticks all those boxes.
The last music festival I attended was the Big Day Out back in 2009 so it’s been almost 10 years since then. Plus that was only one day and didn’t involve camping out with 7500+ other people in the middle of Tarwin Lower. It’s been a daunting prospect for a while now, questioning whether I’d actually be able to cope in this environment. Everything is pretty much new territory for me except for the actual bands I’d be seeing on stage. But despite my doubts and fears, I’d tried hard to remain optimistic about this weekend and for the most part, I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from people who have been to UNIFY before.
Driving down the Bass Coast highway, the long queue of cars began banking up around 3km out of Tarwin Lower. In some ways, it was a relief as I was really exhausted from the drive down and yet it took over an hour of start-stopping just to reach the carpark entry. They had lots of staff directing traffic and stringline pathways set up to get us into the large field parking area.
I decided to buy myself a flat platform trolley to carry all of my gear on from the carpark to the entry gate. Perhaps I went overboard in the packing department but being my first UNIFY, I wanted to be safe and not sorry. Unfortunately, it was such a pain in the ass to maneuver especially when the weather turned and the ground became very wet, muddy and slushy. When I eventually made it to the main entrance, the security guy checking my bags and ID was really rude and cocky. He could tell that I was physically struggling with my load and simply didn’t care.
I made a beeline for the closest free campsite I could find and found quite of a few spaces available a bit further up and to the right of the main entrance. Setting up my own tent brought my back to my Scouting days but with the rain gradually getting more intense, it was a struggle erecting it up. Thankfully a couple of boys passing by offered to help me. Unfortunately, I was camping with strangers but in that moment, I really didn’t care. I just wanted to get myself unpacked and ready to go.
I was really not prepared at all for how soaked, dirty and muddy I got even though I had a puncho on. Thank god I listened to the advice from people who have been to UNIFY before and brought along some baby wipes, tissues and toilet paper. I did my best to clean out the tent and began settling in. I did some wandering around in the afternoon to get my bearings and it took a while for me to figure out where The Arena was located.
I was in for a rude awakening when I saw the massive line leading into The Arena entrance. And this is where my issues with the new Unicoin system begins. On paper, it sounded like a good idea getting people to top up their cash on a wristband and pay for things electronically. But sadly, in my opinion, Unicoin was a UniFAIL. Standing in a huge line just to get your wristband was an absolute joke. I heard that last year’s system was much better and really they should have stuck to it. Posting out the wristbands would have saved people a lot of grief on day one.
Because of the long wait to get your wristbands, I missed pretty much all of the bands playing on Friday. I really wanted to see Mirrors, Belle Haven and Polaris but unfortunately that didn’t happen for me. I honestly didn’t have the patience to wait in line so I just did some more wandering instead- although I had heard some people not getting in until 7pm. I bumped into Matt Jones, Joshua Cato, Nat Renée and Mitch Gibson-Kingdom in my travels to and from my campsite.
I spent the next few hours just hibernating in my tent to protect myself from the howling winds and heavy rainfall. Plus I didn’t really know anyone in my campsite so I decided to keep to myself. The one good thing about being independent is the fact that I’m really resourceful and resilient when I need to be. The fact that I didn’t have a “crew” meant that I had to fend for myself a lot this weekend. But at the same time, it does make me feel socially isolated and lonely. It can be really tough to deal with.
Day 1- at UNIFY was generally a pretty shit experience for me with the physical struggles of getting all my gear from the car to the campsite and setting up my tent in the pouring rain. There were also mental struggles of getting my bearings and adjusting to my environment. I got myself a bit emotional after forgetting my wallet and nearly losing my Photo ID. Luckily I found it in the pocket of my shorts. It took me 6 hours to finally get my wristband. My energy levels were sapped by this point.
My mood definitely improved after bumping into several more friends and band mates including Byron Hall, Nick Davies, Michael McLaren, Lachlan Hodge, Chris Greber, Ula Kay, Luke Barrows, Adrian Szostek and Dylan Houston. Certainly one of the best parts about UNIFY is running into people you know and they know you. I only ended up seeing one band on Friday sadly and that was Tonight Alive. Keep an eye out for the rest of The Unify Chronicles!