Guitarist Luke Gough rips into a song during a Violent Sun show. The teacher and musician is behind the latest incarnation of Jacarok, an all-ages concert and Jacaranda Festival finale.
Guitarist Luke Gough rips into a song during a Violent Sun show. The teacher and musician is behind the latest incarnation of Jacarok, an all-ages concert and Jacaranda Festival finale. Asagai Images

Jaca Festival finale set to 'rok'

DURING the 70s, 80s and 90s, the spirit of Grafton's Jacaranda Festival was octane boosted with a JACAROCK concert held in Market Square. A gathering of the masses. A showcase of the hottest, most polished, rocking musical talent from around the North Coast.

The concert was free for all, the annual highlight of live music in the Clarence Valley. You could smell the excitement from miles away with legendary live sound engineer Billy Trembath pulling crystal clear tones from the biggest PA systems around.

As times toughened for live music, politically and financially, circumstances put a stop to this open air Tuesday night tradition. JACAROCK became merely a whisper in the blossoms for more than two decades. Until now.

Bringing Grafton's Jacaranda Festival to its climatic finale, the new Jacarok (minus the 'c' to signify a new era) is shaping up to be the biggest live music event that Grafton has seen since those heady days in the 90s.

The lone soldier in orchestrating this new strain of Jacarok is musician and teacher Luke Gough whose company LM Productions is behind the event.

The Clarence Valley Conservatorium tutor of more than 80 guitar students said the concept started small but just kept getting bigger and bigger.

"Ballina band Beast Machine called me and asked if they could do a show with my band Violent Sun. From there other bands jumped on the bill and we soon had four so I jumped on that, called it Jacarok and decide to make a big thing about it."

Deadweight Express was one of those bands former Graftonian and lead singer of the Brisbane powerhouse duo Sonny Ingledew who can't wait for Saturday's concert.

"As soon as I saw Luke was putting it on again after all these years I rang him straight away and asked if we could play. We are especially stoked that it will be an all-age event because if it wasn't for Jacarock and other similar events that were happening back in the 90s when I was young, there was no other way to see live music.

"I'm heavily influenced from that time in my life watching local bands like Gumption, Dirty Frank, JOR etc. One live show can change a kid's life which is what the youth of Grafton need after all the tragedy they have experienced lately. This is not just another gig for us; it means a lot to us to come down and play," Sonny said.

Luke reiterated that message saying that having an all-ages, free event was sorely lacking in Grafton and hoped it would become a defining part of the Jacaranda Festival for years to come.

"We are doing this at a very minimal cost. There are five or six volunteer staff setting up the stage and PA and the bands are playing at very low budgets. The number one reason we are doing this is for the community. We need a scene here. Teenagers need something to do. I'm a teacher at the Con so I wanted to show kids what we can do.

"I grew up going to bands like this. We had an older generation they were doing it so there were places you could go for inspiration. Live music is nowhere near the size it was in the 80s and 90s so I'm hoping the spark some inspiration and show the community how possible it is. It's about feeding up-coming generations to revive a forgotten culture.

"I could charge $10 but I just want everyone to be able to go. The racecourse are providing the venue for free and we have lots of local sponsorship. I'm putting my heart and soul into it and getting huge support. We've already been asked to return next year so I think it will be a successful debut.

"Apart from being a music festival it will also be a cultural festival with an art exhibition and a platform for young musicians to show off their skills.

"There will be a second stage off to the side to host school-age kids who want to come and play some solos. There's no discrimination. It's totally open to any in a safe and secure environment.

"Everyone involved I know and trust, the bands are all polished and all have local ties. It's going to be a pretty big night."

And while Jacarok was an all-ages concert, Luke said it was designed to please the general taste of the rocking population.

"There are nine, well polished, original, rock, metal, blues and funk bands set to unleash their talents over seven hours of pure, goose-bumped, hair-raising, all-you-can-eat, smorgasbord of awesome."

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