People drinking in the gutters of Civic at 11:00 am? Gangs of youths (not the band) roaming around in matching patterned shirts and novelty sunglasses? Tents lining the pavements of Commonwealth Park? It must be Spilt Milk season.
Spilt Milk has made a name for itself as one of the best festivals in the nation’s capital, with a wide-ranging lineup featuring both up-and-coming locals and international superstars. This year’s festival sold out yet again, a testament to the festival’s strong reputation and to the booking—there is no doubt that many people bought tickets for American superstars Khalid and Juice WRLD.
The important thing about a festival is, to paraphrase Dennis from The Castle, the vibe. This year, Spilt Milk felt good. Yes, it was a hot day, and I saw a lot of sunburned foreheads and scalps, but on the whole, everyone seemed to be in good spirits, which isn’t always the case at festivals, especially as people get tired and more drunk.
It was great to see so many local bands on the lineup, from Triple J Unearthed winners Weirdo Gvng to Canberra darlings Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. More broadly, the Aussie talent at Spilt Milk was on full display, from Hottest 100 kings Ocean Alley to drummer-turned-all rounder G Flip. Tones and I pulled a huge crowd, who went predictably wild for ‘Dance Monkey’.
Maybe it was the sunny music delivered by bands like Lime Cordiale, Middle Kids and Benee, or the positive, summery pop vibes Khalid dished out. Or maybe it was the dancing elicited by Confidence Man, Kirklandd, Golden Features or Chvrches … Whatever it was, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a happy crowd.
The vibe is vital, but so are the logistics.
A mixed report card for Spilt Milk on this: on one hand, the toilet situation, which is the most complained about issue at any festival, was actually … good! Having been to many a festival in my time, I’d resigned myself to the fact that it was impossible to not spend the better part of a set waiting in line to pee at a festival—but then along came Spilt Milk, which has apparently cracked the toilet code. It seems odd to devote a whole paragraph to toilets, but anyone who has ever waited in line for half an hour in the summer sun just to pee will understand.
On the other hand, the recycling program made very little sense and seemed to frustrate a lot of festivalgoers. It started with promise: there was a recycling scheme! Each can would be traded for a $1 drink token that you could use to buy new drinks! Reality sunk in when people realised the recycling tent was far away – upsettingly far away.
The cans could only be redeemed uncrushed, so there was no easy way to carry a big batch there at once, even if you were up for the walk. Then when it came to redeem drink tokens, there were only a couple of drink options.
It all but guaranteed a sea of crushed drink cans left behind after the event, with little incentive created by the recycling program to go out of your way to actually recycle.
Moving past the disappointing recycling system, Spilt Milk 2019 was an excellent festival. Well-run, with a lineup designed for broad appeal and a tip-top toilet situation, my only other criticism is that the lineup was perhaps too safe. I’d love to see Spilt Milk bring a few international acts who aren’t already megastars to Canberra.
But for now, I’m pretty happy with short toilet queues.