5 June 2023

Tagues Crank It Up for the Batemans Bay community

| Siobhan O'Brien
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Chris and Leisa Tague take over the dance floor at the old-timers rock n roll festival that's one of the best of its kind on the South Coast.

Chris and Leisa Tague take over the dance floor at the old-timers rock n roll festival that’s one of the best of its kind on the South Coast. Credit: Glenn Cotter Photography.

Thousands of houses, properties and businesses reduced to piles of ash. Hundreds of people dead from smoke inhalation, burns or worse. Twenty-four million hectares – or around seven percent of NSW – scorched. These are some of the devastating statistics from the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires.

Bimbimbie residents Chris and Leisa Tague know all about this. They lost everything in this catastrophic event.

Trauma of this kind would stop most people in their tracks. But not the Tagues. They know that adversity bears great gifts – and they pushed on with their dreams.

“As a new couple, we started salsa classes together but it didn’t really resonate,” Leisa says. “Then our instructor offered some rock and roll instruction. It was much more our vibe.

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“But it was a rockabilly event in Sydney shortly thereafter that really blew our minds. We absolutely fell in love with the music and the whole subculture that surrounds it – the hot rods, quiffs and passion for a bygone era. We knew we’d found our thing.”

Then the Tagues launched Batemans Bay Rock N’ Rollers, a dance school with old-style dance tuition. It sparked the idea to launch a festival of a similar ilk. However, fate has a way of inserting itself between people and their well intentioned plans.

“The event was cancelled twice due to the bushfires and three times because of the pandemic,” Leisa says.

“Rather than deter us, it drove us harder to rally more support and grow the event. More grants, more sponsors, more bands, and more cars.”

The inaugural Crank It Up festival was launched on the Batemans Bay foreshore in 2022 to much fanfare. The three-day event showcased some of the best rockabilly artists from around the country, an impressive hot rod and custom car show, pinup events, local brews and such. Not only that, it attracted around 3000 visitors to a traumatised community that desperately needed a shot in the arm.

Wes Pudsley and The Sonic Aces

Wes Pudsley and The Sonic Aces perform on the main stage at Crank It Up Festival, Batemans Bay. Photo: Glenn Cotter Photography.

“Initially we thought we’d run a small event for the rock and roll dancers and grow it slowly over time but following the fires, we decided to involve the wider community. It’s what we all needed, something to lift us out of the blur of the previous few years,” Leisa says.

The 40s/50s inspired showcase is set to return in November 2023, bigger and better than it was before. It will feature more of, well, everything.

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“We chose November as it’s a great time of year on the coast, the weather is spectacular and revellers can have a break before the Christmas rush,” Leisa says.

“We have events and project management backgrounds which made it possible for us to pull something like this together. It certainly hasn’t been easy and we continue to dodge curveballs but because the first event is behind us, it’s easier to attract artists, stallholders and sponsors,” she says.

The musical line-up for this year’s event includes some of the best talent on offer in the country: Rusty Pinto, Kid James Trio, Cherry Divine, The Flattrackers and Hellcat III to name just a few.

Hellcat III, a rockabilly/surf trio from the Central Coast NSW, are set to return to the Batemans Bay foreshore in November 2023.

Hellcat III, a rockabilly/surf trio from the Central Coast NSW, are set to return to the Batemans Bay foreshore in November 2023. Photo: Supplied.

Helen Bailey, who goes by the pseudonym Cherry Divine, is a rockabilly musician based in Queensland. She has performed at some of the world’s leading rockabilly events such as America’s Viva Las Vegas and is a big fan of Crank It Up.

“I performed at last year’s event and honestly can’t wait to come back,” she says. “I am humbled by how Leisa and Chris look after their artists. They treat us like we’re part of a team. It’s how the promoters work in Belgium or Germany, there’s a mutual respect.

“I’ve played all around the world on boats, islands and on some great stages but I have to say that the Tagues have chosen an amazing location at the foreshore. Not only that I really support what they’re doing. It’s a great, grassroots festival with a great vibe.”

Leisa says she wants others to experience “the euphoria that this genre of music and dance gives us”.

“Crank It Up is our way of giving back to our community and the musicians that we love,” she says. “We adore our region and we want people to come and support where we live. What better way to do it than through the music, dance, fashion and cars?”

Crank It Up will be held on the Batemans Bay foreshore from 17-19 November 2023.

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