It’s 35 degrees in the shade at Belvoir and the locals tent is heaving. The big headliners will be starting soon in the amphitheatre, but I can hear Philly Blunt bringing in my favourite Plump DJs track. He’s going back-to-back with Micah, and they’re smashing it. I’m not going anywhere. Neither are hundreds of other people, many of whom I know or recognise from breaks club, Ambar. This is Boxing Day at Breakfest 2011.
Now in its 16th year, Breakfest is Perth’s longest-running electronic music festival. This isn’t by accident. Director Liam Mazzucchelli has ensured this festival has kept to its boutique roots.
The music is always predominantly breakbeat, tickets are affordable and sales are capped at 6000. Keeping the atmosphere in the amphitheatre that Belvoir is known for is paramount.
“I’ve resisted the temptation to expand because I truly believe the success of the event is, in part, because of its limited capacity,” says Mazzucchelli. “I’ve produced much bigger events [Parklife for 25,000 and Listen Out for 20,000] and I much prefer the atmosphere a smaller, boutique event can deliver.”
The inaugural Breakfest on Boxing Day 2001 hosted Tayo, Soul of Man, Krafty Kuts, Runaways, Jessica Joy, Nu Breed, Soundlab, Rhibosome and Flux Capacitor. Many of these artists have since returned multiple times to play at the festival, and Krafty Kuts is on the bill again this year.
Securing artists on Boxing Day is a constant challenge for Mazzucchelli. Not being part of a national touring franchise means his offers aren’t always attractive to some artists.
“We still always end up with a great line-up,” he says. “We also offer fantastic hospitality to our touring artists and their families to make it attractive for them to spend their Christmas here.”
The festival grew out of parties at Mazzucchelli’s house. As a long-term promoter of breakbeat nights, he would throw a Boxing Day party for his club friends and DJ mates. In 2000, 400 people crammed into his backyard and it was then he realised it was time to do something more. In 2001 Mazzucchelli opened Ambar and that was the year Breakfest was born.
Recently, massive music festival after music festival have dropped off. But Mazzucchelli has noticed a move back to smaller events.
“Around 2007 the festival market blew up with the huge increase in popularity of electronic and indie music,” he says. “All of the music festivals started small but then became major touring festivals and, in my view, became too big and ultimately less desirable.
“This is because they began to fail in delivering the customer experience people had come to expect. Now the big events really only seem to attract 18–24 year olds, and the more seasoned and mature patrons are choosing different events … like food and wine [festivals].”
Breakfest hasn’t suffered that way. Some punters have never missed one over the past 16 years. For many, it’s like a yearly reunion (or a place to see fellow regulars from Ambar). The locals tent is the meeting point; a place some don’t leave the entire festival.
It’s rare at music festivals to see a small stage remain full when the headliners are playing on the main stage. Mazzucchelli credits the music community with keeping the locals tent constantly full.
“At its core, Breakfest was built on the foundations of a music community and the support throughout the year of the local DJs who end up playing on the day,” he says. “It’s often said by punters that the locals play as well as (if not better!) than a lot of the touring acts. It is always nice to see that level of support for our locals.
“Our mantra rings true: ‘Your tunes. Your crew. Your day’.”
Breakfest is on December 26, 2016 at Belvoir Amphitheatre, 1177 Great Northern Highway, Upper Swan from 1pm–11pm. Tickets are $109 plus booking fee and are available here.
The full line-up:
+ local DJs