The Sunbury Music Festival – which took place from 28 – 30 January 1972 (the Australia Day long weekend) – was the turning point in Australian music.
Thousands at the Victorian gig held on a 620-acre site about 30 miles north of Melbourne saw Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Chain, The La De Da’s and Tamam Shud perform, with (for the first time) no big-name international acts to bolster the bill and guarantee the crowds.
Other bands in the 1972 lineup included: Max Merritt & the Meteors, Blackfeather, The Wild Cherries, Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, Spectrum, The Indelible Murtceps, Healing Force, Company Caine and Levi Smith’s Clefs.
Fears – held by the police and promoters – that the event would turn into a giant alcohol and drug-taking picnic proved unfounded and the police officer in charge of the site (Superintendent R H Warne) had nothing but praise for the crowds who flocked to Sunbury.
Though not the first major music festival in Australia, the Sunbury Music Festival was the first to turn a profit – it made a $90,000 net profit on an initial outlay of $70,000 – and to run consecutively for several years. For four years from 1972, the festival was held on the Australia Day long weekend at a private farm on the outskirts of Sunbury, attracting around 30,000 punters each year.
While the Sunbury Music Festivals did much for the Aussie music scene, featuring an all-Australian line-up in 1972’s festival, it also attracted well-known acts from overseas in the later festivals with British bands Queen appearing in 1974 and Deep Purple taking the stage in the festival of 1975.
Likened at the time to Woodstock, today Sunbury can be seen as a forerunner to big Aussie festivals like Big Day Out, Falls and Splendour in the Grass.