meet the architects: Nathaniel Holmes


Architects of Entertainment is the Kim and Kanye of Australian festival and event production. When the company’s co-founders — mighty solo forces in their own right — teamed up to form AoE, they unleashed a hybrid brand so awe-inspiring it deserved its own ‘New Idea’ cover. It didn’t get one, but it deserved it. Director Nathaniel Kardashian-Holmes, one half of this most formidable power couple, stumbled into in the middle of the night, looking for water. He surprised us.

AOE Blog: Hello. Who the fuck are you?

Nathaniel: Depends on who you are. I go by many names.

OK, Mr Mystery, your name’s in the title anyway. Tell us about your very first on-site festival, tour or event experience, Nathaniel Holmes.

I did my first festival when I was 14. It was Homebake in 1996, when it used to be at Sydney Uni. Three things stick in my mind:

  1. Seeing a real mosh pit for the first time. Frenzal Rhomb were annihilating the crowd with relentless punk rock. I just sat on the speaker stack and watched in awe as a crowd of people seemingly became one heaving mess. A girl came flying over the barrier and landed, completely unassisted, right on her face. Right on her fucking face! I thought she was dead but eventually she got up and ran straight back into the pit.
  2. Watching the singer from [REDACTED] snort a line of sugar in his dressing room before their set. He didn’t think it was sugar. One of the crew had prepared it earlier in the day before any artists had arrived and the singer just helped himself to what he thought was generous festival hospitality. We all had a good laugh at his sugary expense.
  3. Lifting something very heavy — barrier, back when it was steel — and then realising I had to lift it again 100 more times. I didn’t realise at the time but that was a metaphor for the next 20yrs of my life.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about putting together events since then?

That it doesn’t matter what your role is, you are just one small part of a large operation.

Who inspires you and why?

Omar Rodríguez-López. The Do Lab. They are very clever people that use simple tools and materials to create truly amazing things.  Their respective bodies of work are nothing short of prolific.

What do you do better than anyone else?

Knowing if something is going to fit through a doorway just by sight. It’s a mild superpower of mine.

Impressive. Your proudest professional moment to date?

Changing Lanes 2011. We closed several roads in the middle of Surry Hills, Sydney.  6 months of planning. We had 8 hrs to build a 6-stage festival, complete with outdoor bars, art installations, food, markets, even a catwalk for a fashion show. We had 10 hrs to run the show, 4 hrs to return it to an empty street. All with volunteers and a handful of beautiful, dedicated humans. All while dealing with City of Sydney and Surry Hills licensing. Anyone who understands the landscape of events in Sydney understands what that means. 5,000 people attended that day, it sold out. As far as logistics go it was a work of art.

Your promo video talks about finding “the space between the stars”. What does that phrase mean to you?

Between every star there are the stories. All stars are connected. We are the stories.

Nice and vague. Why do you do what you do?

Because it allows me to be so many different people. Thus I go by many names.

A minute ago you finished bump out on the biggest festival you’ve ever put together. What’s your refreshing beverage of choice?

Double Jameson. Neat. No glass.

And what’s your next move?

To get chickens for my backyard.

Nathaniel is currently building the next iterations of Fairgrounds, Lost Paradise, FOMO and Laneway festivals, with a few more secrets up his sleeve too. Please send all chickens c/o The Big House.


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