Hilltop Hoods put cancer kids on stage
AFTER Daniel Smith's son Liam went into remission for leukaemia, the Hilltop Hoods rapper formed a bold plan to give young cancer sufferers the music experience of a lifetime.
Known as MC Pressure to the hip hop band's fans, he and his bandmates partnered with CanTeen to launch Side Of Stage to give young people from 12 to 25 free access to festivals and gigs around Australia.
The prime position on stage is imperative for cancer sufferers as they have to be wary of large crowds while undergoing treatment and during their recovery because of their weak immune systems.
As brain cancer survivor and avid music fan Sophie Martyr said, a "cold can kill you."
The 21-year-old fan was one of the first to enjoy a Side of Stage experience at last year's Mountain Sounds festival where she watched Alex The Astronaut, Gang of Youths and Peking Duk perform from the wings and got the chance to fangirl with the artists before and after the sets.
Sophie, who lost her brother Hamish to cancer in 2010 and was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011, said going to gigs made her feel normal.
"Recovery is always ongoing - I'm on hormone treatment because of the tumour - and the hardest thing about going through cancer is you feel like a freak," she said.
"Going to gigs made me feel normal again, to be around young people who are like me, who are out to have fun.
"You get to look out at the crowd and have that human connection again."
Smith said going through his son's cancer journey opened his eyes to how young people can feel isolated by the disease and treatment.
"They can get quite cut off from society and doing the normal things people need to do to feel happy," he said.
"Side of Stage will bring live music and joy into their lives."
The band and CanTeen already have many artists and promoters on board to support the Side of Stage initiative, with some already enjoying the experience as the Hilltop Hoods support Eminem on his Australian tour this week.
The Hoods' MC Suffa said music was part of every young person's lives and those going through their own cancer journey or those of loved ones deserved the opportunity to get out of hospitals or treatment routines to form memories which would stay with them forever.
Among the Side of Stage ambassadors already on board are rapper Illy, singer Montaigne, singer songwriter Alice Skye and Lanks and hip hop outfit Thundamentals.
Festivals including Groovin' The Moo, which the Hoods will headline in April and May, as well as Yours and Owls, Unify, A Day On The Green, Laneway and Fairgrounds are among the early adopters of Side of Stage.
To sign up for free tickets, go to sideofstage.org.au