Queenscliff Music Fest 2012, AKA That time I saw Shannon Noll.

Geez we love Queenscliff. Now in its 16th year, this wonderful festival runs with Japanese precision and the whole town feels like one big Bill Cosby hug for those 3 days in November.

This year was no exception. Truly a festival with something for everyone, this year’s Queenscliff delivered in spades.


Happy Cat Empire day. Fridays at QMF can often feel like it’s a one headliner self contained gig (not a bad thing), and this year it was Melbourne’s iconic, horneriffic 487 piece legends turn to take the accolades.

Earlier in the night TZU delivered a flattish performance (perhaps only flat due to the high rate of new stuff, and lack of crowd response to those tracks), but it was a joy to see them on stage together again. The rising Loon Lake, and the girl what had that song on The Slap but is actually way good, Emma Louise, were both impressive, but the night belonged to the Cat Empire.

It had been awhile since we’d seen them doing their thing on stage, but they did not miss a beat, opening with Sly and never letting up. It would be hard to tell if these guys were having an off night anyway, such is the eternal infectiousness of the tunes. Young people danced. Old people danced. People who don’t love to dance danced. And by the time The Chariot and encore Fishies were done with, we were stuffed. A great return.

Special Friday mention to the irrepressible King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who, along with having the best name on the bill, tore the arse out of The Rip Stage. It was a rock n roll haven in the blues-filled weekend, and the kids took full advantage, slam dancing and crowd surfing their way through an exceptionally high quality set.


There was one moment this weekend that everything else was centred around. And that was the very moment Shannon Noll took the stage. But I’ll leave that till later.

Saturday brought a smorgasbord of good shit right from the get go. Jordie Lane at the Pelican Bar was a treat and pulled a large crowd, and the King Cannons did the best they could with sound issues and a reasonably non responsive set of punters, Luke’s comb again stealing the show. Great band.

Back on the main stage, Lisa Mitchell performs to a throng of teenage girls, and several others, and despite not quite nailing her festival performances just yet, is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Gurrumul was clearly nervous, as always, but was note-perfect as he led one of the biggest crowds of the weekend through an emotional set.

Something For Kate are great. Always have been, and always will be. Paul Dempsey is a staggering presence on and off stage, and the band have lost nothing, with a winning set that includes every SFK song you would want, and an awesome, stripped back cover of Springsteen’s Born To Run. Excellent.

From one staggering stage presence to another, and it’s You Am I’s turn to headline the lighthouse stage. Tim Rogers. TIM ROGERS. I just….ergh. Tim Rogers. Loosely translated: You Am I rule. Not a huge festival band these days, the boys give a taste of what the other festivals are missing out on. Rogers, sans shirt for the majority, gets better with age, and seemingly forgets that the first 20 rows are 15 year old kids who probably should have a parent or guardian with them for this set. Some sound problems at the start are quickly forgotten and You Am I rip through a greatest hits set. Sing-along’s during Damage and How Much Is Enough, me losing my shit when they covered I’m Stranded by The Saints, and the temporary grandstands were in real danger of collapsing during Mr Milk and Good Morning. From start to finish, this was a pure, unadulterated rock show, and Rogers was its King.

And then King Gizzard tore shit up again. Seriously, you need to love this band.

Having said all that, Saturday clearly belonged to one man, and one man only. From the moment most of my friends ditched me (they said The Beards were awesome, but they don’t know what they were missing out on) and one flavour-saver took to the Lighthouse Stage, this was always going to be Shannon Noll’s day. He hasn’t really done much lately, but that didn’t matter, because all 4 or 5 of his hits made up for the absence. There were an awful lot of filler songs between those hits, but by god, when they came… He did a better job of Better Be Home Soon than the Finn Brothers have every managed, he out Green Dayed Billie Joe on Time Of Your Life, and while he didn’t play it, you could just see he was ready to demolish Teen Spirit.

Ok, whilst I jest just slightly, he actually wasn’t that bad. The dude is a pro, does have a great voice, and when he performs the likes of Drive and smash hit What About Me, he gets a response from his crowd equal to anything else the whole weekend. But I tried telling my mates that, and they were having none of it. But they weren’t there man, they weren’t there.


Traditionally the best day of music, but on the day you have to drive home, Sunday’s at QMF are an exercise in restraint. Some of us failed miserably this year, but damn we had a good day.

The suited up All The Colours showed why they regularly pack out Melbourne venues with s sharp and entertaining opening set, and then Owl Eyes is kind of dull. The songs are ok, and Brooke is maturing as a performer, but the whole thing is missing that intangible quality that separates the good from the not as a good in the harsh festival environment.

British India would have killed on either Friday or Saturday night, but they still do a sensational job in the haze of Sunday afternoon’s hangover. Still slightly underrated, and themselves declaring they don’t feel like the ‘right fit’ for Queenscliff, they rock with the moderate intensity that the time and place demands, and impress the die hards and win over a legion of new fans.

Then it’s Missy Higgins. Ahhhh Missy. Another that has shunned the spotlight in recent times, she is the perfect choice to close the weekend. Despite having sold a phenomenal amount of albums, one thing often overlooked is Higgins’ versatility. One moment she is singing the blues, the next she has everyone dancing, then she is able to silence thousands with a ballad. And it’s all on show here. Scar is maybe the biggest sing-along of the weekend, and Special Two is, well, pretty special. Moist eyes and all that. The new stuff is all well received, but the old stuff really brings QMF to life, tunes like 10 Days and Peachy getting huge responses. Backed by her wonderful band, Higgins has really come of age as a performer, and is possibly the pick of the weekend. Way to save the best till last, Queenscliff.

All in all, another triumph for Queenscliff. Can’t wait for next year already.