Berry is a picturesque little town about two and a half hours south of Sydney. A history-rich little village of around 2000 people, there's dairy industry, rolling green hills, a thriving arts and craft and market scene that brings people from miles around, and the picturesque south coast ocean and Seven Mile Beach national park.
It's a beautiful spot for a daytrip or a weekend getaway, but hardly the sort of place you'd expect to find world-leading bands and cult favourite singer-songwriters. That's the main reason Ashley Sellers decided to bring his festival, Fairgrounds, to life in Berry.
After debuting in 2015 with the likes of Ratatat, Father John Misty, Royal Headache and Mercury Rev, the festival is back -- and bigger -- over two days on December 2 and 3. This time, Sarah Blasko, Rodriguez, The Drones, Japandroids, Jagwar Ma and The Tallest Man On Earth are the big drawcards on an eclectic day of music targeted at a more discerning, refined class of punter who enjoy a nice wine or cocktail and a plate of fresh produce while dancing to their favourite band, rather than a greasy bucket of chips and a plastic cup of mid-strength beer.
"We've been considering putting a festival on for a few years," Sellers, co-director of the festival, said of Fairgrounds' beginnings.
"We're both fathers, we love music, we were a bit over all the larger festivals and some have gone bust and finished. We wanted to target a more discerning music crowd. Rather than the 18 to 30 demographic, a little older, more like 25 to 40 and young families. We felt there was a gap in the market there."
After scouring sites up and down the coastline, Sellers and his team settled on Berry. The NSW south coast has a thriving and growing artistic and music scene, and the Fairgrounds team felt that vibe was worth tapping into.
"We liked the idea of the coastline, the dairy farm area, the lush hills. We went to a lot of different sites, some amazing beautiful sites, but everyone knows Berry. It's a historic little one-road town, there's a great little food scene, a hub of local producers, a lot of ex-Sydney people," he said.
"I remember first coming there from England years ago and it stuck in my mind. It's 10 minutes from the coast, it's this beautiful little town, and when I saw the showgrounds, that was it for me."
Sellers founded Inertia, one of Australia's most successful independent record companies. Their umbrella of interests includes touring the likes of Ball Park Music, Dinosaur Jr, The Delta Riggs and Big Scary; distributing releases from record labels 4AD, Elefant Traks, Rough Trade, Sub Pop and XL; and Handsome Tours, which tours an eclectic range of artists like The Lumineers, Billy Bragg, Explosions In The Sky, Bon Iver and The National.
Getting cool bands on the Fairgrounds lineup wasn't the hard part for Sellers; he says he had more fun assembling the non-music elements, which include an enviable lineup of food and drink, a "mini-festival" for kids including karaoke and magic shows, a hay bale maze, games like tug-o-war and egg-and-spoon races, markets, a record fair, and even a swimming pool and a planetarium.
"We had families last year who lost their kids for hours because they were off at the tug-o-war or something. I don't think any other festival can boast a swimming pool," Sellers said with more than a touch of pride.
"It's not just about the bands and nor should it be. We spend a lot of time curating everything from the music to the food, down to the way the signage looks and the way people access the pool and the record fair."
He said the food offerings have far expanded from their first year -- local bakers Flour Water Salt and restaurant Paper Bark Camp are top billing, while other standouts include Prestige Oyster Company, Fat Shallot, mac and cheese outfit Mac Merchants, vegetarian venture Gourmet Goons, as well as doughnuts, gourmet hot dogs, Japanese, smoked meat, Vietnamese, juices, crepes, coffee and stacks more.
A bit of a step-up from the standard fare for an all-day music festival.
"As Sydney has come of age with all these sophisticated food options, people do appreciate their food and wines and want to have that replicated in a festival experience. People expect a quality and it adds to their day," Sellers said.
"I've been to many festivals where I've struggled to find good food, so you settle for a crap burger and oily chips. You want to leave with a happy smile and a fully belly and an experience you want to do again."
Fairgrounds is on December 2-3 in Berry, NSW. Tickets are on sale now. For more info, click here.
See some images from 2015 in the slideshow below: