River Sounds, Two Years in the Making

UPDATE: River Sounds has been postponed due to COVID-19. The festival will be rescheduled for late August or early September 2022.

After two false starts due to COVID, River Sounds festival is finally going ahead. It all happens at Bellingen Showground over January 14-15. The two day contemporary music festival is the largest event to be staged on the NSW Mid North Coast since pre-COVID. It features some of the biggest names in Australian music. 

The Birth of a Bello Festival

Festival Director, Ben Lewis describes River Sounds as being a long held ambition of his, in the pipeline since 2017.

“The idea first came about over a beer with the owner of the Federal Hotel, Michael Sutherland,” he recalls. “Michael and I we’re keen to put on a festival in the car park behind the pub.”

“Sadly, not everyone agreed the car park was a suitable venue for a two day music event, which ultimately ended our original plan.”

By this stage, the seed had been sown so Ben decided to push forward on his own to deliver a festival at the Bellingen Showgrounds. This was the birth of River Sounds.

Ben Lewis River Sounds Festival
Festival Director Ben Lewis

Restrictions on Re-Scheduling

It’s been a turbulent time for River Sounds since the event was first announced in May, 2021. Only four weeks after launching, state wide COVID restrictions were introduced. This left Ben with no choice but to postpone the event.

“It was a difficult time as a huge amount of effort had gone into planning,” he explains. “There was so much work done that would need to be re-done – it was pretty heartbreaking to be honest.”

The event originally scheduled for August was postponed to mid-October. Then the October date was inevitably postponed as COVID continued to be a concern across NSW. 

Positivity in Postponing

The one positive of postponing the event was gaining more time, which allowed Ben to secure a stellar line-up of artists. Headlining the event is First Nations artist Danzal Baker aka Baker Boy, and 90s grunge-rock icons Regurgitator. Baker Boy, a proud Yolngu man from Arnhem Land, is currently one of the biggest artists in Australia. In 2021, he performed at the AFL Grand Final, was nominated for Triple J Album of the Year, nominated for NIMA’s Artist of the Year, was the 8th most played artist on Triple J. Baker Boy released his highly acclaimed debut LP ‘Gela’. 

Regurgitator River Sounds Festival
90s faves Regurgitator

Brisbane natives Regurgitator rose to fame in the late 90s. They were renowned for powerful live performances showcasing their unique blend of punk, grunge, electro, and pop sounds. They’ve graced the stage of most major festivals across the world and picked up a swag of ARIAs.

When asked about the line-up Ben explains that every artist is close to his heart.

“I spent a couple of years in my early twenties living in remote parts of Queensland and Northern Territory working as a tour guide. This experience gave me a deeper understanding and respect of Indigenous culture and a love for First Nations music.”

Dallas Woods River Sounds Festival
Noongar man Dallas Woods

Ben names Triple J and Double J as the soundtracks to his life. It’s where he first heard some of the other River Sounds artists like Jerome Farah, The Terrys, Adrian Eagle, Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers and Pinch Points. Ben says these artists are on the cusp of blowing up and is excited to have them perform at River Sounds.

Bringing Diversity to an Aussie Festival

He’s proud of the diverse line-up which features most contemporary genres including punk, psychedelic rock, hip hop, RnB and surf rock. Electronic music is not forgotten, with a dedicated stage featuring some of Australia’s best DJs.

River Sounds opens on Friday January 14 at 2pm till 11.00pm, followed by Saturday January 15 from 12pm till 11pm. There are two stages at the event, both of which are undercover to provide shelter from the rain and sun. Over the two days, 30 acts will perform at the event, and over 120 individual artists.   

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers River Sounds Festival
Teen Jesus & the Jean Teasers

Main stage: Regurgitator, Baker Boy, Butterfingers, Adrian Eagle, The Terrys, Dallas Woods, Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers, Jerome Farah, Resin Dogs, Pinch Points, The Regime, The Pinheads, Sunfruits, Nice Biscuit, The Stained Daisies, The Good Love. 

Boiler room: Phil Smart, Simon Caldwell, Katch, Biz, Pob, Jimmy D, Jamie B, Freebass, Bhakti, Jahzen, Phoenix, Dave Forward, Delusional Monk, Tropical PunchRiver Sounds is all an ages and licenced event with markets and food stalls on-site. Camping is also available through the Bellingen Showgrounds.

More information and tickets here.