After footage emerged online of unmasked crowds singing and dancing to hopped up music at a Hillsong Youth event in Newcastle on January 13, just days after a singing and dancing ban shut down nightclubs, music festivals and live music venues across NSW, a lot of people were furious about the apparent double-standard. But perhaps none more so than the talented folks of the state's music industry, who have been hit hard by the red tape while religious and sporting events have been green lit to host huge crowds.
For many musos, it was the last straw. Which is why a huge collective of Aussie artists have banded together to form a satirical supergroup, which they’re calling Thrillsong. And they say they’re ready to “take bookings for religious and sporting events”.
The genre-spanning group features a rollcall of some of the hottest names on the festival and gig circuit, including: Alex the Astronaut, Annie Hamilton, Art vs Science, CC:DISCO!, Confidence Man, Dune Rats, Hatchie, Illy, Jack River, the Jungle Giants, KLP, Lime Cordiale, Montaigne, Odette, Peking Duk, Set Mo, Stace Cadet, Sycco, Thandi Phoenix and What So Not.
A statement released by the order of Thrillsong states: “We firmly support measures to protect our fans and communities and to safeguard our health care workers, we simply ask that if rules are made, they apply to everyone equally. We need to be in this together.”
Thrillsong’s statement adds: "If health orders are created to protect the public, our health system and its workers, where is the sense in having one rule for a church that attracts thousands of followers singing and dancing in praise of their God and another for a venue or festival that attracts the same number of people to dance and sing along with their favourite rock God, Goddess or non-binary deity?"
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Various Thrillsong members posted a video to Instagram and scattered it across the socials yesterday, January 13, outlining the cause. Since the statement dropped, a bunch more big names have come out in support of it, including Silverchair‘s Daniel Johns, Dylan Alcott, Gretta Ray, Ben Lee and the Delta Riggs.
Thrillsong’s media release directly references the footage of the Hillsong Youth event, which was shared to Hillsong’s own social media, and shows crowds of grade 10 to 12 students (who were definitely not social distancing) getting loose to DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s ‘Turn Down for What’. The multi-day event is still running until January 15. This is the second time that the megachurch has been clocked for an apparent immunity to NSW Health’s orders, with a service at its Hills Convention Centre in Norwest, Sydney last weekend concluding with an extended performance by praise band Hillsong Worship.
This was yesterday south of Newcastle at Hillsong’s summer camp. Singing and ritual are part of faith (inc mine) but on any test this is an indoor music festival. As the live music industry again is forced to cancel gigs this 👇 was entirely legal. Is that fair? #nswpol pic.twitter.com/Ogp30eER03— Elliot Stein (@ElliotJStein) January 13, 2022
Following its event in Newcastle, Hillsong Youth is also planning a similar summer camp event in Campaspe, Victoria from January 18 to 21.
Meanwhile, festivals including the famous Tamworth Country Music Festival and the much-anticipated three-day bonanza King Street Carnival, which was due to kick off in Newtown on January 14, have been indefinitely postponed.
Sydney pub the Gladstone Hotel has expressed similar disdain to Thrillsong, announcing an event they’re calling the Gladsong Hotel Sunday Service in protest of the double-standard.
After Thrillsong’s statement was released, NSW Health issued its own statement, requesting Hillsong “immediately stop singing and dancing at an event being held in the Newcastle area”, noting that “singing and dancing at a major recreation facility is in breach of the Public Health Order”.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard added: “While the Order does not apply to religious services, it does apply to major recreation facilities and this event is clearly in breach of both the spirit and intent of the Order, which is in place to help keep the community safe.”
So put that in your pew and smoke it, we guess.