Hy-Fest was established in 2011 by Luke Armstrong, who is also the bassist and vocalist for Wollongong fuzz punks Hy-Test.
Now in its seventh year, Luke looks back on how it all grew from one simple idea. “It started as a birthday party really,” Luke explains.
“Hy-Test did a tour of Europe and we played a lot of cool, little festivals in small towns and I decided that I wanted to throw a party with all of our favourite local bands and bands we’ve played with around the country that we wouldn’t normally get a chance to stop in Wollongong.
"The metal and punk scene can be a bit macho and a lot of blokes don’t like talking about [mental health].”
“We used to have a pretty big scene in Wollongong for punk and metal stuff, but it kind of went by the wayside when we lost a venue down here. So bands stopped coming as much.
"We used to have bands coming to stop in Wollongong all the time; the big international bands and national bands and it dried up a bit. So it was around my 30th birthday and I decided to have a 30th birthday party with all my friends and my friends’ bands.”
Hy-Fest has since become one of the highlights on the local live calendar. This year, the event is dedicated to the memory of local music stalwart Mick Gray who sadly took his own life earlier this year. “Mick was a good mate of ours,” Luke says.
“He was a really good bloke and he ended up taking his own life earlier this year; it was a big wake-up call to a lot of guys in our scene. The metal and punk scene can be a bit macho and a lot of blokes don’t like talking about that sort of stuff.
“You’d never tell that he had problems, but obviously he did and it hit home that these things should be talked about a little more often I think. One thing we’d like to get out this year is if you’ve got mates, talk to them; sometimes just a couple of words can make all the difference to someone going through a rough time.”
With proceeds going to support Mick’s family, Hy-Fest 2017 is a great way to show your support for live music and the community of people behind it.
This year Hy-Fest is headlined by Hard-Ons, with performances from Hostile Objects, Rukus, Neptune Power Federation and a stack of local and national bands, including Hy-Test.
Thus one question remains: what present do you give the bloke who gets bands for his birthday? “Not much,” Luke laughs.
“I’m happy with a beer and to have everyone together, it’s one big party. I’ve got two kids now and I don’t get to go out to gigs very often, so just the fact I get to see all my friends’ bands play on the one day, and even see a few bands I haven’t a chance to see yet. Just the vibe of the day, that’s enough for me.”