For many Australians, heading to a festival over summer is a rite of passage. Co-founder of Untitled Group, Michael Christidis, knows this better than most. The touring group so well known for its festivals (think Beyond the Valley, Pitch Music & Arts, Grapevine Gathering and more) is currently preparing for relative newcomer Wildlands. Running since 2019, Wildlands was originally a Brisbane-exclusive festival, but has since expanded to Perth and Adelaide as well.
Bright and playful with a focus on both electronic and hip-hop, this year’s line-up boasts RÜFÜS DU SOL (who’ll be doing the NYE countdown in Brisbane), South Korean DJ/producer Peggy Gou, British rapper Central Cee, American rapper A$AP Ferg and Aussie heavyweights like G Flip and The Jungle Giants.
After ringing in the new year in Brisbane on December 31 (with an extended license meaning the music can continue till after midnight), Wildlands will hit Perth on January 6 and Adelaide on January 7. It means Untitled will ambitiously run two New Year’s Eve festivals (Beyond the Valley also runs over New Year’s Eve) in Australia at the same time, but Christidis and his team know a thing or two about logistics – and audiences. In fact, Wildlands started because of the number of artists coming over for Beyond the Valley wanting more festivals to play while in Australia.
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“It really was driven from a gap in the market,” says Christidis. “There wasn’t a top-tier festival [in Queensland] that could work with the tour routing around Beyond the Valley. Then we looked at a product that would be local to that market. [Queensland] is very tropical and fun, so we came out with Wildlands as a fun tilt on the Beyond the Valley brand – and then programmed accordingly.”
Since debuting with animatronic animals and a ball pit, Wildlands’ whimsical spirit continues, and like everything that Untitled does, it’s all about striking a balance between the curated and the organic. “A good festival will be 50/50,” says Christidis. “We can build the best stages and book the best artists, but ultimately it’s about audience participation.”
Prompting that tailored personal experience is a key part of how festivals today hit differently from the heyday of Big Day Out, Soundwave and other mainstream behemoths. “The Australian market shifted in terms of what kind of festivals people were looking for,” he says. “Now everything is hyper-tailored, the stage design is intricate, and the variety of food offerings is top-notch. You’ve got art installations. It started with boutique festivals, but they got so popular that now they’re the big festivals.”
According to Christidis, the key to a successful festival is hyper-localisation – as seen in the different festival lengths in different cities. “Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide really adapt to a single-day event with a focus on hip-hop and dance. Melbourne and Sydney still have a lot of love for those camping festivals,” he says. “Certain cities care about food or art offerings, and some cities just want more stage designs. Perth loves a silent disco, way more than any other city.”
With Wildlands on track to sell out in all three cities, Untitled has once again followed that guiding principle to success. “Each festival has its own core purpose,” Christidis says. “Then they build their own cultures. Half of it is done by us and half of it is done by the community.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Wildlands. Wildlands comes to Brisbane on December 31, 2023 before heading to Perth on January 6, 2024 and Adelaide on January 7, 2024.