PUTTING on a brand new event is always risky, especially after COVID, but a strong line-up saw crowds gathered to the Sale Turf Club for the inaugural Sale Country Music Festival on Saturday, November 19.

There’s no events without event-goers. But there’s also no events without event promoters. Owner and director of Event People Australia, Scott Hollow, said the Sale Country Music Festival was part of an event attraction program through Wellington Shire Council.

Attendees enjoying themselves at the Sale Country Music Festival. Photo: Country Rock Shotz.

“It’s a three-year contract. It’s about getting out into different regional areas. So we’re thankful to the Council, plus the (Sale) Turf Club. It’s a good venue,” Mr Hollow said.

“The numbers are slightly down on what we hoped for, but there’s a lot of events going on. There’s a lot of promoters putting on events, so it’s busy after COVID.

“It’s a good base to build on. We’ll do a survey and get some feedback. And we’ll be here next year, same venue.”

The bill featured performances by Laurel and Phoebe, Ella & Sienna, Mick Harrington, Amber Lawrence, Casey Barnes, Travis Collins and Adam Brand. Dressed in their favourite country look, the crowd also enjoyed food trucks, beverages, and relaxing in their camping chairs.

Gary Turner, a radio journalist who took on the role of master of ceremonies, said the event was well-suited to Sale.

Radio journalist and master of ceremonies Gary Turner. Photo: Country Rock Shotz

“Nice town, lovely venue, lovely racecourse here, lovely townspeople here. Great crowd,” he said.

“I think we (organised) a great line-up. You know country music is all about new talent coming in and with country music, you just don’t know what’s around the corner, because there’s new talent all the time.”

One of the talented new acts were South Australian teenagers Ella & Sienna.

Ella & Sienna. Photo: Stefan Bradley

Sienna said they were excited to play after releasing their latest single last month, called ‘The City in July’, which followed their previous charting song, ‘Saved’.

“The response we’ve received from it is really great. Everybody seems to be really liking it,” Sienna said, shortly before their set.

Sienna from Ella & Sienna.
Photo: Country Rock Shotz

Ella said they were lucky to perform alongside the other big names.

“It’s an awesome line-up. The best thing about this festival is we were able to bring out our whole band here,” Ella said.

“We’re here to play some new music, including some unreleased tracks, and some well-known covers that everyone can sing along to…we’ve got ‘Need You Now’ by Lady A, some bluesier (covers) and a song by The Chicks.”

Ella from Ella & Sienna. Photo: Country Rock Shotz

Stratford’s own Mick Harrington spoke to the Gippsland Times immediately after his set.

“It’s good to come out to play for people coming out post-Covid… and to see smiling faces at events in Gippsland,” Mr Harrington said.

“I’m not the most country artist at this festival, but I think the crowd really got into it. I played a mixture of covers and originals.

“The good thing about every country music festival I’ve been to is that the artists are very down to earth, and just want to have fun.”

Mick Harrington. Photo: Country Rock Shotz.

Mr Harrington said he appreciated the opportunity to play a local show.

“I’ve got children, so it’s good to be able to play a gig and then get home to your family that night. I love being able to play music for people but also being home with your kids is good too,” he said.

Mr Harrington said he had new music out in late December, and a tour planned for next year.

“I’m taking a tour on the road next year called Australian Songbook, where I cover Australian songwriters from the ’50s until now.”

Country music singer Amber Lawrence. Photo: Stefan Bradley

Amber Lawrence was ready for a very important week in her music career, with her festival appearance and the ARIA Music Awards.

“I haven’t played down in Gippsland for so long. I’m lucky to be able to do these events,” Ms Lawrence said.

Ms Lawrence’s latest album Living for the Highlights was released in July and was nominated for Best Country Music Album at the ARIAs. It’s her second ARIA nomination, but she wasn’t feeling too confident about taking out the gong.

Amber Lawrence. Photo: Country Rock Shotz

“Who knows? I’m not expecting to win, no. But I’m there, I’m nominated and I’m happy about that.”

Adam Brand headlined the festival.
Photo: Country Rock Shotz

Casey Barnes, who also performed at the festival, ended up winning the Best Country Music Album ARIA last Thursday for his record Light It Up. Festival headliner Adam Brand was also nominated in that category.

Adam Brand’s headlining performance had to be cut short near its end due to safety concerns over the lightning storm. Photo: Country Rock Shotz