After a successful rebranding last year, WAMFest (West Australian Music Festival) returns in 2017 with a couple of fresh, young faces ready to put their mark on the local music scene.
Mark Neal and Simon 'Skinny' O'Leary have inherited the role of WAMFest Co-ordinators from Greg Sanders, the man responsible for giving WAMFest its much needed boost in 2016. “Greg did an awesome job over the past three years building the event into WAMFest and becoming WAMFest,” Mark says.
“He worked tirelessly, we're a small organisation so he managed to pull-off a pretty large-scale event with the resources he had. It was three years in the making and last year was the biggest version of what he did with the things he implemented really well. The numbers were up and the bands were exceptional.”
With some very large boots to fill in Greg's absence, both Mark and Skinny say the former co-ordinator has bestowed on them a treasure trove of knowledge and expertise they'll bring to this year's event. “We're standing on his shoulders and making use of everything he's already built,” Skinny says.
“Mark was involved with Greg in organising some of the other elements over the past three years, so being able to say 'these are the things that worked well and these are some things that we want to work on over the next couple of years?' and 'it's a great success already, where do we go from here?' is a really great starting point for us. We can borrow the best elements of the stuff that's already happened and put our own spin on it.”
Mark and Skinny bring to the role of WAMFest co-ordinator a shared history of active participation in the Western Australian live music and youth culture scenes. Mark heads up Blue Grey Pink, which handles bookings, management, production, media and publicity for local WA acts. He also performs as guitarist with The Disappointed and fronts rock band Odlaw.
Skinny meanwhile has been the festival director for the popular all-ages music event HyperFest. “I've been involved with the youth music scene for a while and working on HyperFest I've worked on every aspect of the festival,” Skinny says.
“So everything from working out funding, through to marketing, social media and site planning. It's nice to be working in an environment where I'm not the one who has to do all the grant applications. It's nice to take a step back from that and think a bit more strategically about the event in itself, rather than having to be in it all the time.”
Though now based in Perth both Mark and Skinny have their roots in regional Western Australia, which means WAMFest 2017 will have a greater focus on and more opportunities for WA bands outside the metropolitan area. “We both come from regional WA originally and working on music events in regional areas before we ended up living in Perth,” Mark says.
“So a big focus for us is that the regional acts are acknowledged and looked after and that we can boost that regional aspect of the festival as well.”
In terms of a line-up, applications for bands to play at WAMFest in November are open until 20 July. “The thing that we want to focus on is learning more and providing the public with a more cohesive and indicative full representation of what's happening in WA music,” Mark says.
“The other thing we're doing is trying to involve the regional aspect; we don't want it to just be about what's happening in Perth because there's lots of cool stuff happening regionally too.”
WAMFest 2017 takes place 2-5 November.