In 2021 music festivals look a little different to times past, with capacity limits, COVID-safe plans and an emphasis on visiting places that previously would have been left out of major events.
Australia's newest music festival, Next Exit, is taking the road less travelled this month, visiting five towns in regional New South Wales including Batemans Bay, with a goal to drive economic activity and encourage regional tourism.
The tour will hit Batemans Bay on Friday, May 28 at Mackay Park and as one of the first standing events to happen since the beginning of the pandemic, it's expected to attract not only people in surrounding towns but also from Sydney and Canberra.
Next Exit Festival director Scott Mesiti grew up in Port Macquarie, and saw first hand the devastation brought by the fires, the COVID-19 lockdown and more recently the floods.
"This festival is about doing something to help regenerate those communities affected by all these events and have some sort of economic impact, using local suppliers where possible," Mr Mesti said.
"Around 300 local people will be employed per show, and it has flow on affects to accommodation, food suppliers, security, everything that is needed to make an event like this happen.
"The concept started as a response to the bushfires, but these communities have been hit by so much more since then, and we also wanted to focus on areas that typically don't have festivals for the younger demographic."
Festival capacity is 3000 and ticket sales have already been strong, with musicians looking forward to playing in front of crowds for the first time since the pandemic began.
Hit Australian rock band Ocean Alley was announced as the headliner, and guitarist Mitch Galbraith said regional towns deserved to have live music and standing gigs back before the cities.
"In all these places we're visiting with Next Exit it will be like a pre-COVID, proper music festival, and we're really looking forward to that energy because we've missed it," Mr Galbraith said.
"It's a sweet lineup and it just makes sense that the first standing gigs are going to happen in rural towns so we hope people from the cities will come and explore these places and stay a few extra days on the beautiful South Coast."
The festival lineup also includes Spacey Jane, Dear Seattle, Merci, Mercy and CLEWS.
One half of the sister-duo CLEWS Lily Richardson grew up in Mollymook and said young people in regional towns often missed out on performances as bands typically didn't travel to them.
"I remember as a teenager feeling like no one came to town, so it's really great that we're involved in this festival and putting on a super cool and fun event for the young people in the area," Ms Richardson said.
"It'll be extra fun for me and Grace because we'll see a lot of familiar faces and we're looking forward to performing in Batemans Bay for the first time as CLEWS."
Kicking off in Tamworth, the full festival line-up will make its way around regional NSW with additional shows in Port Macquarie, Gosford and Mudgee.