By now you’ve probably read how Harvest 2013 is in some serious trouble and even at risk of being cancelled, with promoter AJ Maddah noting that “sales have died” for the boutique festival’s third edition this November.

To put it gently, ticket buyers have not flocked to the box office for the November event in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, perhaps with many simply holding out for the second Harvest 2013 lineup announcement.

Chances are more likely however, that most just fall into the category of those who’ve shown a distinct “lack of interest” in the event, as Maddah bemoaned overnight, echoing comments from Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble over the struggling ticket sales for next month’s inaugural Boomerang Indigenous arts and music festival.

Unlike Noble however, who likened the public and the media’s lack of interest in Boomerang to “cultural apartheid“, Maddah hasn’t gone on the offensive against a ticket-buying public who have been relatively spoilt for choice for where to spend their hard-earned for the upcoming festival season.

It’s a rare moment of humility considering Maddah has spared little thought to openly cuckolding promoters, bands, and their fans in the past over far less (just ask Trent Reznor, Fall Out Boy, The Porkers, and Blood On The Dancefloor).

The flagging Harvest 2013 ticket sales however finds the usually brash promoter admitting to a “crisis of confidence” over the event, using his twitter account – typically an open (sometimes brutally so) forum between the festival maverick and the rest of the digital world – to telegraph his concerns and explanations over his festival’s ailing sales: the indie saturation in the lineups from other events (specifically referencing Big Day Out’s ‘Harvest-centric’ bill), competition for his “small boutique festival” against festivals with larger force and experience, and hinting at issues with the second Harvest lineup announcement.

Which brings us to the matter at hand, which is the likelihood of Harvest 2013 falling apart, or as Maddah put it gravely: “The truth is that unless we see some kind of sign in the next week we’ll have to consider the worst.”

It seems that a music festival ticket purchase is increasingly becoming as much a vote with your wallet than purely a decision to see a bunch of bands with friends for a good value price. So at risk of playing bias against the long ream of other festivals that have experienced significant troubles lately (Pyramid Rock, Summadayaze, the aforementioned Boomerang, et al.), consider this list of reasons for why its worth rescuing Harvest 2013 from having its plug pulled before you dismiss it, consciously or otherwise.

1) The Lineup Is Actually Ace

A festival lineup is for many a festival-goer the be-all-and-end-all, and understandably so. For Harvest that’s probably accounted for as much of its success in two short years than anything else; booking The Flaming Lips, The National, TV On The Radio, Grizzly Bear, Sigur Rós, and Beck will tend to do that. In doing so, they may have set expectations for Harvest 2013 a little higher than expected, leaving some indie circles a little disappointed with the turnout. If that’s the case, you really need to take another look at the Harvest 2013 lineup again to see that it really does tick all the boxes that Harvest has drawn for itself in previous years. It runs through a brilliant mix of styles and moods, from the fine presence of British-hewn electronica to groove out to (Massive Attack, Goldfrapp), festival-honed favourites (Franz Ferdinand, The Drones, Mutemath), some retro-tastic guitar joys (Superchunk, The Wallflowers), and the requisite wildcards (CSS, Primus). For $160, that’s pretty amazing value as well.

2) Harvest Brings The Rare Catches

Harvest came out swinging for its 2011 debut by locking in a long overdue visit from triphop pioneers Portishead, who despite butting heads with Maddah, provided a magical late-night set (including projections of a lazer-eyed Tony Abbott, how young and naive we were then…). Harvest 2012 didn’t just land one big fish in the rare Aussie visits stakes, but a few. Ben Folds Five offered festival sets that were their first Australian dates in 13 long yers, while Dexys (Midnight Runners) and Cake are not likely to swing through Australia for some time, and despite his regular returns to Australia’s shores, Mike Patton is unlikely to wheel out the super-sized Mondo Cane ensemble back Australia’s way for some time. That’s all in the past of course, so why should you buy a ticket to Harvest 2013? Because who knows what treats or left-field additions could eventuate for future editions? Speaking of which.

3) Three Words: Neutral. Milk. Hotel.

For those still clutching to their precious, well-worn copies of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea like they were a religious artefact, we know you totally get how the presence of the indie lo-fi mavericks will equate to a semi-seismic event, but for everyone else, you don’t need to get what the big deal is, you just need to respect that Neutral Milk Hotel fulfils a minor miracle that many indie lovers thought would never eventuate. A Harvest 2013 cancellation, and in turn any potential risk of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Aussie plans, will shatter hearts harder than Jeff Magnum’s songwriting.

4) It’s Got Great Personality

Sure, Harvest often has the band quality, but more importantly for some, you don’t have to wallow through meat-headed, flag-wearing mincers or disco-biscuit nibbling detractors to enjoy them. Chiefly thanks to its eclectic lineups, its placement at the cusp of the summer festival calendar, and its arts and culture focus, Harvest manages to draw that rarer breed of crowd that are closer in quality to Meredith’s ‘No Dickheads’ policy-enforced love-ins than other events. Not only that, but its smaller size means that unlike the mammoth Falls, Splendour, and Bluesfest, you don’t have to enjoy your favourite act as a dot on the horizon or as a visual on a giant screen, more often that not, a Harvest set can be enjoyed as close (or as far) as you like, among some very picturesque settings to boot – which brings us to…

5) It’s Got The Looks

From personal experience, there’s been few more magical sights than the sun lazily setting behind Werribee Mansion as The National’s brand of emotionally wrought rock storytelling vibrates to a chorus of anthemic and enthusiastic festival-goers. As the Melbourne locale perfectly demonstrates – from the mansion main stage to the beautiful lakeside arts hub and the rustic, dusty charm of the Windmill Stage – Harvest’s locations and settings perfectly accompany their soundtracks. Leafy, natural surrounds take preference over steely, industrial barriers or dust-smitten patches of scorched earth, which are the eyesores that typically populate major music festivals. Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens sprawl manages aesthetic pleasures with functionality, and while Parramatta Park provided some transport headaches for last year’s Sydney leg, Harvest is moving to The Domain this November, which should bring bayside views of the horizon into play to great effect (as those who attended Homebake last year may tell you).

6) Harvest Takes On Feedback

Sure Harvest had its teething problems in its opening year, with disgruntled Melbourne punters seemingly bearing the worst of the organisational oversights, but they more than made up for them the following year. Maddah might be able to dish it out, but he can take it too; rather than pollywaffle festival-goers with euphemistic spiels about ‘organisational inevitablities’ over the troubled facilities, understaffing, and broken drinks and ticketing system, Maddah and his team acknowledged the problems as “a source of deep embarrassment.” Knowing they’d only get one chance to ship up or shut up shop, they set about tinkering for the 2012 edition and making good on pretty much all of their vows, no matter the cost to the festival. Harvest’s team understands reputation is everything, especially in those foundling years. How many festivals can you name that set up a creative venture like Harvest’s Foundation Members loyalty scheme in the wake of public backlash? In the words of Scribe: ‘Not many, if any, I don’t know anybody.”

7) It’s Too Young To Die

Its quite remarkable to see how much Harvest has achieved in just three short years, sure some festivals grow too fast too soon – attempting to run before they can crawl – while others simply take too long to exact on their potential promise. Call it personal taste, but Harvest seems to be blossoming at just the right rate. Its extra-curricular arts and culture activities don’t seem like afterthoughts in the way other festivals treat them (we won’t name names, but we’re sure you can relate), while still managing to bring a music contingent that pulls a crowd (until this year’s edition, it seems). Harvest has already shown what it can be with its resources, with some championing it as their new favourite festival; given more time and investment, that pool of fans is likely to grow but only if it doesn’t get cut off at the knees at the ripe old age of 3.

8) Harvest’s Cancellation Sets A Nasty Precedent

There’s been an increasing number of worrying reports recently that may suggest that the music festival bubble is about to burst in a similar way that it did two years ago. In fact, in the very short span of two weeks we’ve seen Pyramid Rock fold on its 2013 edition, the aforementioned Boomerang festival struggle, and the likely cancellation of Summadayze as messy liquidation proceedings await major Aussie promoters Future Entertainment Pty Ltd, along with McManus Entertainment and Fat As Butter promoters Mothership Music.

All in all which makes for it seeming like a pretty bad time to be presenting a music festival, let alone three, which is precisely the position that Harvest’s Maddah finds himself in.

While it might be hard for the everyday music punter to feel sympathy for a man who’s got three seemingly huge festivals in his repertoire – the more vindictive probably even see the Harvest 2013 concerns as the beginning of a proverbial indigestion of piling so much onto his music festival plate – the cancellation of Harvest has some dire consequences. Not just for Maddah, his team, and no doubt flowing on to Soundwave and the Australian Vans Warped Tour, but for the Australian music festival scene as a whole. Love or loath the promoter, in Harvest there has been the careful curation of some pretty big elements planted in the last two years that would be a real tragedy should it be cancelled ahead of its third run.

More so than other festivals on the market? Not necessarily so, but the cancellation of Harvest sets an unfavourable precedent; spelling out to other promoters and investors that the only kind of music festivals worth putting on are weekend-long camping excursions with blockbuster lineups of the latest bands; that the Australian music public only require lowest denominator, large-scale events for their one-day festival fix.

If you care about what Harvest is trying to do, then it’s worth thinking of a ticket purchase not as a pass, but an investment. An investment into a festival that’s risking something that smaller boutique events have been squeezed of being able to, that is trying something a little different and ambitious at significant effort and finance while still trying to bring an experience that other festivals aren’t willing to.

Harvest 2013 Dates, Tickets

Sunday November 10: Melbourne, Werribee Park
Saturday November 16: Sydney, The Domain
Sunday November 17: Brisbane, City Botanic Gardens

Tickets and info at:

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