Roadskills

24 Feb 2020

One Electric Day on Cockatoo Island

by Cat Strom

One Electric Day on Cockatoo Island

The One Electric Day festival has been selling out annually in Victoria for the past seven years, and late last year, the inaugural Sydney show was held on the UNESCO World Heritage listed Cockatoo Island.


The lineup included James Reyne, Jon Stevens, Vanessa Amorosi and headlining act John Farnham, playing against the stunning backdrop of Sydney Harbour.

Vanessa Amorosi

It was only the year before when One Electric Day founder Duane McDonald presented his other festival Red Hot Summer on Cockatoo Island, again headlined by John Farnham, and it didn’t go too well.

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A total of 80mm of rain fell in one day resulting in a huge learning curve for Duane and his crew!

“It was a terrible wet day and it was almost washed out but we persevered,” commented Duane. “I could see it had the potential to be a great venue so we did it again!”

Duane McDonald

Fortunately, the morning of the sold-out concert saw perfect Sydney weather for those travelling to this unique site. Managed by the Harbour Trust, the former convict penal establishment island has emerged as an iconic contemporary art and live performance venue.

Duane utilised Humm Management, who have experience of mounting shows on the island.

“They were right across all the barging and how to get everything out onto the island,” he said. “It pieced together quite easily although it seems hard from a distance. We used Polaris Marine barges to ferry the semis full of gear over.

“They drive straight on and once we’re on the island it’s just a normal build.”


Water taxis were hired for the day to shuttle artists and crew over. The other hurdle to overcome when staging an event on Cockatoo Island is getting the patrons there, so Duane chartered Captain Cook Cruises.

The deal was that everyone who purchased a ticket received a return ferry trip from King St Wharf.

“It took a lot of organising and was Ticketmaster’s worst nightmare!” laughed Duane.

“It’s a great venue but obviously it adds a lot to the cost of staging the event. The barging costs are huge and everything on the island is dearer, as you’d expect, from toilets, fences and all infrastructure.

“It’s a lot more time for those companies rather than going to a city site and dropping their gear off. However, it’s well worth it for a special show.”

The barging costs are huge and everything on the island is dearer, as you’d expect, from toilets, fences and all infrastructure.


The island can provide all the power required although backup generators were barged over for the show.

Despite its location, there are still strict noise restrictions, as the island is still open to other guests who camp or rent accommodation. Plus, once the noise hits the water it can travel well over to the city.

Benbow Environmental were tasked with noise monitoring and ensuring all acts complied. Powa Productions supplied the stage, ground support, and production lighting and audio.

Pat Kearney from Powa Productions

The audio set up comprised an L-Acoustics K2/KARA line array with SB28 Subs and ARCs. FOH control was an Avid S6L for James Reyne and John Farnham whilst the other acts utilised an Avid Profile.

Monitor control was a DiGiCo SD5 for Farnham and a Yamaha PM5D-RH for the rest. As well as EV and d&b wedges, Shure PSM1000 IEMs were available.

Lighting was controlled by an MA Lighting grandMA2 full-size as well as a grandMA2 light and a Catalyst Media Server.

The rig included Robe MMX Spots, 1200 Colorwashes, Robin 600LED Washes, Robin 100LED Beams, Claypaky Scenius Unico, and a 400FT Hazer.

A massive rock wall in the background made the audio a challenge, however, the guys from Powa navigated their way around it, doing what they do best. Fortunately, they didn’t have a windy day – it was perfect.


Duane is quite fearless when it comes to stretching the possibilities of touring and staging events, taking risks to deliver something unique.

Last year he took Red Hot Summer Tour to Bali, an experience that resulted in him losing a fair amount of money but he’s a ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ kind of a guy.

Duane is quite fearless when it comes to stretching the possibilities of touring and staging events, taking risks to deliver something unique.


His One Electric Day and Red Hot Summer tours in Australia nearly always sell out as he has tapped into a large market with money to spend.

Duane will be doing it all again on February 8 and 9 when he returns to Cockatoo Island with the Red Hot Summer Tour for two nights.




CX Magazine – February 2020   

LIGHTING  |  AUDIO  |  VIDEO  |  STAGING  |  INTEGRATION
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