You can think of Colours as Bluesfest in Mt Isa. The programming (in 2014 at least, apparently they had lost some city funding) was very like bluesfest: two massive stages with big international acts, half a dozen much smaller stages featuring local Czech bands, competition winners, or dance bands. Not much grass or trees, lots of asphalt and gravel (I wore shoes the whole time), and the whole thing surrounded, towered over, dominated by what was the biggest coal mine / iron smelter in the country.
The first day was pretty disappointing. We had trouble finding the camping area (don’t be tricked into camping at the castle!); after a stupid amount of time walking and catching taxis we eventually arrived at the festival, discovered that the only interesting thing on in the first afternoon was also the only thing you had to book a ticket for, and it was booked out. Didn’t really work out the festival layout properly, went home and didn’t realise till the next day that we had missed a couple of bands we wanted to see. Silly us.
That day was rescued though by three great mainstage bands. Shaka Ponk, Les Tambours Du Bronx, and oh dear i’ve forgotten the other one, but i remember the long walk home being saved by remembering how great those three bands were.
I’ve raved about the castle camp to too many friends, and i’m not going to do it again here. suffice it to say that the campsite is not in the castle, it’s in the castle grounds a long way from the castle. and the castle grounds are a very long way from the festival, half an hour’s walk if you find the directions, and hour or more if you don’t. one morning we walked along a highway for a while before climbing down onto the train tracks and walking across a derelict bridge. It’s possible that on the last day we worked out the quickest way in, but i can’t be sure because we never walked the same way twice.
OKA was the first Australian band up, playing the Fresh stage… On the first full day of the festival. They were the most distinctly Australian act, with their didgeridoo and first nations politics.
There were lots of Czech bands, some traditional, some jazz, and some very current indie pop. The range of cultures from the rest of the world was pretty broad.
Angelique Kidjo always preaches her African heritage like no one since Fela Kuti. OKA and A Tribe Called Red brought very distinctive first nations cultures, and one of my favourite discoveries of the festival was a funky African four-piece from Belleville in Paris whose show was completely in French – a language I’m not sure any of the punters knew.
Chet Faker brought his Portland styles to the Fresh stage – the most industrial environment, tucked away in a corner of the festival underneath hundreds of meters of rusting towers and pipes. He attracted the biggest audience I saw at that stage, overflowing way out onto the surrounding food and souvenir stalls, nearly half the audience was watching him on the screen.
On the last day of the festival, Graveyard Train played the first show of their tour to a mid – afternoon crowd on one of the smaller stages which quickly filled up with three or four hundred screaming whistling singing Czechs. The friends from our campsite all came with high expectations (thanks to us) and had them exceeded. Bo climbed around the side of the stage, leering at the crowd from the massive “Colours” backdrop. One Day We Will Be Dead struck a chord with the black – humoured Czechs and Poles, I even saw some of them laughing. They were the only band I saw sell merch from stage after their show, and they looked like they made some good money and a few friends by the time the crowd dried up.
They were immediately followed by John Butler on the biggest stage right next door. He had his Austin accent on, and, well, it was a huge gravel stage on a hot sunny afternoon and I didn’t need to hear more than ten minutes of bombastic blues so I moved on.