Music lovers ready for taste of Panama

DELIBERATELY limiting tickets and being hazy with directions might seem at odds with good festival hospitality.

But the founders of Tasmania's newest music event are banking on a dose of minimalism and mystery to draw their crowd.

The remote Lonestar Valley will host some of the best bands in the world for two nights next month during the inaugural Panama Festival, as well as pop-up cabarets, storytelling, late-night vinyl soul clubs and tiny candlelit bars.

The site is somewhere after the Golconda turnoff - about an hour's drive north-east of Launceston - nestled beneath the old-growth forest of the Panama Ridge.

The stage, set among giant ferns and old-growth trees, will feature Australian acts such as Husky and Big Scary, as well as acclaimed American soul singer Charles Bradley.

Entry is limited to 1000 tickets, but co-directors Dan Rooke and Tim Carroll insist that's the selling point.

``We'll get the people here who really want to be here,'' Rooke said.

``If we get this right, people will be really invested in their experience, what they see, what they hear, and the interactions they have.''

Rooke said the idea for Panama Festival was born 10 years ago - though its true roots can be traced back to the early '70s, when the first people settled and built homes in the Lonestar Valley.

Among them was Rooke's father, who later started a cider brewery and the nationally acclaimed CircusFest - which has been held at the site since 1990.

It was at CircusFest in the early 2000s that Rooke and Brisbane-based Carroll became acquainted, their friendship later leading to adventures around Australia and Europe via various music and art events. 

Carroll now plays in Brisbane indie band Holy Holy, while Rooke has crafted a career in event management.

Both agreed it was inevitable that they would return to the valley.

``To start with, the Panama Festival was a bit of a dream,'' Rooke said. 

``But as we've done bigger events, we realised we could make it happen.

``The circus festival laid down the infrastructure and a great legacy for us to build on - it was really the values of that event that informed us about how a music festival can be.''

Carroll said it was the stripped-back blueprint that would cement Panama's legacy among a plethora of live music events.

``A lot of music festivals can be corporate, and have a lot of waste, and not a lot of respect for the space,'' he said.

``We wanted to craft this specifically around the punter, from the moment they hear about it to the time they leave.''

WHAT:  Panama Festival, featuring Charles Bradley, Husky, Big Scary and The Frowning Clouds.

 WHEN:  Saturday, March 8, and Sunday, March 9.

 WHERE:  Lonestar Valley, Golconda.

 TICKETS:  Only 1000 tickets available. Adults $160 for the weekend, 12 to 17 years $100, five to 11 years $50, children 4 and under free. 

 INFO:  www.panamafestival.com.au/ or via Facebook 

Email adruce@examiner.com.au Twitter @AlexDruce1987

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