Founded when the rest of the nation and the world were kept out, Brisbane’s Open Season music and arts festival now brings global and homegrown acts together in a unique program across winter.

Since The Tivoli’s inaugural 2020 initiative, in response to the cancellation of its national and international bookings, Open Season has continued expanding and evolving. The Tivoli Group’s 2021 resurrection of The Princess Theatre was instrumental in that growth, positioning the venues at the heart of Brisbane’s alternative live music and entertainment scene.

This fourth iteration starts June 1 with First Night: Blak Day Out, a free all-ages King Street party celebrating indigenous food and music. Another new festival venue in Fortitude Valley is community bar QUIVR in Winn Lane.

Adding extra locations for this year’s festival reflects Open Season’s aim of “building the city’s cultural life”, says group creative director Dave Sleswick.

Central to that is stepping outside the mainstream by curating an “adventurous and creatively stimulating” content mix that spans diverse genres and age groups.

“We really try to provide something for everybody in some way or another,” he says. “The ethos is – let’s try and craft something dynamic and interesting. We want to try and stimulate people’s appetite to do things, to get out of the house and come and participate in life.”

So, if people decide to see something they wouldn’t usually go to, Open Season will have achieved its goal. Towards that outcome, there’s a mix of established and emerging artists, some making long-awaited returns to Australia and others, their Down Under debut.

Just a taste of the eclectic styles includes Regurgitator’s rock (in separate adult and all-age performances), Ladyhawke’s electro rock-pop (performing their debut album in full), Iniko’s alternative soul and folk-country inspired storytelling by singer-guitarist Marlon Williams (whose previously scheduled appearance was cancelled due to Covid).

Milestone and anniversary events also open the door to less familiar performers on the bill.

“We get to reintroduce artists who haven’t been here for 10 to 15 years. Ladyhawke doing their 15th anniversary tour is going to be really special,” Sleswick says.

“We’ve also got the 25th anniversary and finale shows for Elefant Traks, the major hip-hop record label that’s wrapping up, so that’s a big flagship event. Sky Ferreira hasn’t been to Australia in 12 years. Dirty Three are a legendary heritage act and haven’t played in Brisbane in around 10 years.

“Hopefully, we’ll hook our audience in with a lot of familiar names then introduce new acts that we find exciting and prolific acts that float around the world that Brisbane doesn’t get a chance to see or hear about.”

Independently running major heritage music venues is challenging, he says, emphasising that initiatives such as Open Season wouldn’t be possible without government and corporate support underwriting the financial risk.

“Each year it’s been made entirely possible through subsidies from partnerships and government agencies,” he says. “It’s a very tricky market at the moment and I like to think that we shouldn’t put our foot on the brake in delivering amazing arts experiences.

“Ongoing government support for both venue management and programming and artist development is going to be super, super critical moving forward. If we want to continue to hold on to what we’ve got it’s going to require investment.”

Open Season, June 1 to August 24;

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