Photo: Max McGrath (Photo by Charlotte McPherson)

After a successful round of auditions over the weekend at Thyme to Taste, a new music and arts festival is set to kick off on May 21 at Riverbank Park.

The festival is the brainchild of Keith Rosario, band manager Chad Croker, Al Phemister, Sophie Peer and 20-year-old musician Max McGrath.

Keith said the auditions – called Howl At The Moon – which encouraged young musicians to try out for the program at the upcoming festival had an absolutely fantastic vibe across the four acts.

Referred to as “the young one” by his fellow organisers, Max McGrath said it was nice to hear a few bands from the area that they hadn’t heard of before.

Max said he’s pulled out of performing at the festival to focus on the other bands and the event itself. With eight years of experience playing on stage and in front of crowds across Yass, Murrumbateman, and Canberra Max is well equipped to support other young musicians throughout the festival.

“It’s really refreshing for me and I’m really excited to be a part of it,” he said.

Max also plays the role of beta tester, deciding what will draw young crowds and musicians to the event.

“When it comes to that vibrancy and that energy, it needs to be spot on otherwise people won’t sort of rock up.”

“It’s definitely in the stages of the exciting parts of it now,” he said. “It has the momentum now and we’ve got the ball rolling.”

“Now we just get to watch it all sort of coming to life.”

Organisers received a round of positive feedback from performers and punters alike and the team will meet soon to discuss the outcome of the auditions, but Keith said there was some good potential.

Live music has taken a hard hit the last few years of the pandemic due to restrictions and lockdowns, yet it appears it may be at last bouncing back.

The festival team is currently working with the Yass Valley Council on the event and ensuing activities. At the moment it appears the festival will kick off around midday and run through till the evening.

Headspace Yass is partnering with the festival and will likely have a “chill-out tent” at the park.

(Photo by Charlotte McPherson)

“We’re kind of plugged into Headspace just because they give such a great service in terms of youth mental health.”

Keith said Council is also considering screening a movie for the kids in the evening with a pop-up screen (bring a blanket or three).

“So our program will start with some entertainment and performances through the course of the afternoon,” he said. “Then mid-afternoon or thereabouts, we’ll kick into starting to showcase bands and musos.”

“We’ll run our way through a bill culminating with a couple of really good headline bands that will cap it off.”

Currently, the program has about six to eight acts, but this isn’t finalised yet and is still subject to change.

“I think once we finalize a few more details on the program people should be pretty excited about what the bill looks like.”

An engineer by trade, Keith said his motivation for creating a music festival was to give younger musicians (under-30s) in the Yass Valley area an opportunity to be plugged into a live music scene.

“We’re trying to support an evolution of that,” he said. “Through from people who are just starting out, doing their first performances and getting in front of people for the first time so that they can see what that evolution chain looks like, right the way through to what a headline act looks like.”

Organisers Chad Croker, Al Phemister, Max McGrath, and Keith Rosario (Photo by Charlotte McPherson)

At last weekend’s auditions, several Yass High School sound and lighting students were able to experience helping set up and take down the stage. An experience that Keith said he hopes he will be able to offer again on a much bigger scale at the festival.

“They came and saw us afterward and just said how grateful they were for the opportunity and for the real experience.”

“We’re really excited to be able to try and support the kids in the Yass Valley who might have an interest in that and might be thinking about it in terms of a career pathway or an industry,” Keith said.

The team was also able to give Yass High photography student Charlotte McPherson a crack at event photography.

The event will be free, and more details will follow in the coming weeks.

By Brianna O’Rourke