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Sunbury Festival (1972)

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.

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.

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