Article by Terry Stacey

Dates: 10 & 11 April 1971

Location: Fairlight, NSW (near Mittagong)

Promoters: unknown

Attendance: 4000

Ticket price: unknown

MC: Jeff Canters

Festival lineup:
Jeannie Lewis
The Cleves
Khavas Jute
Steve Phillipson
Tamam Shud
Nutwood Rug Band


The Fairlight Festival was held on the Easter long weekend of April 1971 and boasted a strong lineup of Sydney-based bands. Although advertised as "The Timeless Trip", this early Aussie rock festival was in fact a bit of a bummer, and like the ill-fated Mulwala Festival the following year, it was marred by those all-too-familiar festival hassles — poor organization, meagre facilities, bad weather and too much alcohol.

Fairlight is about 10 kms south of Mittagong, which itself is about 100 kms South of Sydney. The site was on a property (reputedly once an Aboriginal tribal ground) about 2 kms east of where the present M4 Motorway crosses the Old Hume Highway. Organisers provided the bare minimum of facilities -- no showers, primitive toilets and a few drums of drinking water.

Announcer Jeff Canters ambitiously started the festival on time at 10am Saturday -- even though the amplifiers had not yet arrived! First up was Jeannie Lewis who did an acoustic set (not surprising given the lack of sound gear at that stage). Once the amps arrived The Cleves did a rollicking set, followed by Khavas Jute who maintained the energy, although their set was shortened as they had to go on to another gig. However their lead guitarist Dennis Wilson impressed the crowd with his wah-wah guitar work. Steve Phillipson, ex-Velvet Underground vocalist), entertained the restless crowd with a solo acoustic set (a la John Sebastian) later in the evening. He was followed by Sydney band Wildwood who presented a set of Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night covers. Their improvised lead guitar solo went down particularly well. Blackfeather’s set kept a high going. Tamam Shud who went on at midnight bravely, or madly, depending how you look at it, played on through a torrential rainstorm.

Because of the bad weather, Sunday morning’s planned "Dawn Ritual" was abandoned. Instead a bunch of the musos played a ninety-minute improvised set. This was followed by a jam by Nutwood Rug, but by then most of the 4000-strong audience had left.

The police who attended busted some dope-smokers during the festival but the audience was largely comprised of "drunken yobbos". Like Ourimbah, a lot of rubbish was left behind after it had finished. Typically, the organisers had made no provision for the possibility of rain which, being the Southern Highlands at Easter, it did copiously, leaving the crowd to slosh around in large quantities of mud on the second day. This scenario would be repeated at Mulawa, held almost exactly a year later. To top it all off the organisers had $4000 stolen.

Reviewing the event in Go-Set filmmaker Albie Thoms commented: "If this was a demonstration of the new life-style, then it was right off."

Recollection by Terry Stacey:

"My band Wildwood was booked to do a set on the Saturday night. I didn’t get to see any of the other acts, except Steve Philipson who was on before us, as one of the band had got married that day, and after the reception finished we all had rushed out, dropped wives/girlfriends off, picked up our gear and roared down the old Hume Highway to get there late in the evening. The stage area itself was in a big clearing with lots of gum trees all around, probably quite beautiful normally. The parking/camping area, where the food/drink concessions were, was in a separate big paddock back up towards the highway. If I recall correctly, the stage itself was made up of two big semi-trailer flattops put together. The stage itself had no roofing or covering, as you can see in the attached photo. Fortunately it didn’t rain while we were on, although it had before, and did later."

"We went down well with the audience, our main setpiece being a long, long version of the Blood, Sweat & Tears song 'My Days Are Numbered' which featured a long improvised guitar solo/percussion section. Our lead guitarist, Mick Willens, stole the show by playing bare chested, wearing only a sheep skin waistcoat, and using an empty vodka bottle, which he had just finished off on stage, as a slide on his guitar. This went down very well with the mainly drunken yobbo crowd, many of whom had come down from the Liverpool/ Campbelltown area, where he was quite well known and had a bit of a following for these stage antics. Normally Wildwood tried to play a little more sophisticated (tight harmonies & flute work) than that but it seemed to suit the occasion. I don’t think there was much of that supposed peace and love thing in the air at Fairlight ... it was mainly mud and drunken yobbos!"

References / Links

Albie Thoms
"Did We Blow It?"
Go-Set magazine, 13 April 1971