Dashville's Sky Ball aims to present way forward for music industry under COVID

AT A DISTANCE: The Sky Ball concert series will be the first major music event held in the Hunter since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
AT A DISTANCE: The Sky Ball concert series will be the first major music event held in the Hunter since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DASHVILLE chief Matt Johnston said this weekend's Sky Ball concert series creates "a bit of hope" for the music industry, but admitted he's frustrated by the irregularities of COVID-19 restrictions.

Sky Ball will be the first music festival held in the Hunter since the pandemic began in March, however, under NSW restrictions the event cannot officially operate as a music festival.

With music festivals banned the planned three-day Sky Ball has been separated into a five-night concert series held this Friday to Sunday and then on October 9 and 10. Under COVID-19 restrictions music festivals are defined as a concert that runs over five hours and features more than four acts.

It meant plans for Sky Ball were drastically altered and downscaled.

"I don't think I ever intended for anything, it was just a case of working out what was achievable and fitting into the mould of what's required for people to enjoy music," Johnston said.

Under COVID-19 regulations Sky Ball, which is situated on a rural property at Lower Belford, is restricted 250 people. The seated audience will be separated into 10-people "party pens" to maintain social distancing.

Headline acts include Kim Churchill, William Crighton, Fanny Lumsden and Catherine Britt.

On Saturday Darwin will host 500 people who can stand and dance at the Rebound Festival featuring Illy and Lime Cordiale.

Sky Ball will be held the same weekend that 40,000 fans are permitted to attend Saturday's NRL play-off between the Rabbitohs and Knights at ANZ Stadium.

"When you hear about other industries achieving so much, you ask why can't we be doing that?" Johnston said. "Obviously it relates to the economy and the footballers might have a pretty good line to the decision-makers."

Johnston and his wife Jess are expecting the birth of their first child next week and are likely to take a financial hit despite the Sky Ball series being a near sell-out.

Johnston decided to persevere with Sky Ball to provide opportunities for musicians who have seen their income streams almost completely collapse due to restrictions.

Sky Ball TV, a pay-per-view livestream featuring live performances and interviews, will launch at 2pm Saturday to provide additional revenue for artists.

"With what we're doing it feels like we're forging a bit of hope for what's achievable," Johnston said.

"There's a lot of people supporting what we're doing at the moment and others who thought it wasn't achievable."

Sky Ball begins on Friday. Visit dashville.com.au for ticket and livestream details.

This story Dashville forges ahead with Sky Ball to give music fans hope first appeared on Newcastle Herald.