Live Review: Harvest Festival – Parramatta Park (17.11.2012)

Back for a second year, Harvest Festival took place at Parramatta Park on 17 November. Unlike other Australian music festivals that cram the same local artists onto the line up every year, Harvest books mainly international bands. The local bands played their sets early and left us to enjoy a festival of acts we might never see again.

The Dandy Warhols were on early at The Great Lawn stage. There were a few problems with their sound; the bass was drowning Courtney Taylor Taylor’s vocals and Zia McCabe’s keys. It isn’t until the hits ‘Bohemian Like You’ and ‘Get Off’ that the crowd started to pick up and show some enthusiasm but unfortunately, the set felt like a let down.

Cake played later on The Great Lawn stage and seemed to forget that people were there to see the hits, not their new stuff. The absence of ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’ was incredibly disappointing for many who were only watching their set to hear that song. Playing ‘Never There’ and ‘The Distance’ right at the end added to that frustration.

Ben Folds Five drew a huge crowd over on The Windmill Stage and rightly so. The poor sound that had tainted a couple of bands earlier had been fixed, and you could hear Ben Folds’ distinctive voice clearly for ‘Brick’ and ‘Dicks on the Wall’.

Back at The Great Lawn stage, it was time for Beck. He swaggered out with an impressive light show and a talented band. The best moment of the day was at sunset, singing: “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” with thousands of other people. ‘Where It’s At’ had everyone moving and gave Beck the title of act of the day. The mixture of acoustic and electronic and of old and new tracks was just right.

Sigur Ros brought their atmospheric, mesmerising live show out to a huge crowd on The Great Lawn. Their music is not something I would usually listen to but paired with some amazing images on a huge screen behind them, it was very easy to get lost in it.

Santigold finished up the night on The Windmill Stage with a huge party. Everyone in the crowd was pulling out their best dance moves, trying to keep up with her dancers. The whole set was fun from start to finish and the perfect way to end a great festival.

Harvest brings something different to the Australian festival scene, friendly attendees and a relaxing atmosphere. You can tell you’ve attracted the best kind of people when the huge line snaking its way down the hill isn’t for the bar – but for the vegetarian Indian food stall. Well done Harvest, you were definitely my favourite festival of 2012.

Live Review: Children Collide – The Metro Theatre (24.03.2012)

Children Collide returned to The Metro in Sydney for their ‘Sword to a Gunfight’ tour, showing us why they’re one of the best live bands doing the rounds in Australia.

From the moment ‘Chosen Armies’ kicked things off for the night, their energy was high and the sound was loud. Lead singer Johnny Mackay barely stopped moving around the stage and launched himself into the first rows of the crowd a number of times, causing a fan to caress the back of his head as he leaned over.

Children Collide mosh-pits are often dangerous places and Saturday night was no exception. Two girls started fighting about five songs into the set and it took three attempts from other crowd members to stop them before security stepped in.

It was a strangely excited Sydney crowd, with one guy taking his shirt off and swinging it around his head for most of the show and another getting over the barrier and jumping on stage.

Mackay and drummer, Ryan Caesar, appear to have a loveless relationship – with no mention of this being Caesar’s last tour with the band and his last show in Sydney. A devoted fan held up signs saying: “Farewell Ryan Caesar” during ‘Farewell Rocketship’ and “Ryan leaves me with Jelly Legs” during ‘Jelly Legs’, to show at least one person would miss him.

If anyone was looking forward to hearing new material, or even tracks from their last album ‘Theory of Everything’, they might have left disappointed. The set list was primarily from first album The Long Now and songs such as ‘We Live in Fear’ and ‘Fire Engine’ have become predictable. Single ‘My Eagle’ got the strongest response, with the crowd yelling: “Woo! Woo! Woo!” and fist-pumping with Mackay.

Technically, they are faultless and Mackay’s guitar playing is stronger than ever. He’s also becoming more comfortable on stage and has started to engage in banter with the crowd.

But you’d like to see more variety from their set-lists and the possibility of an encore every so often. Perhaps a tour and a new drummer after the album Monument is released in April will see them add some surprises to their shows.

Live Review: Splendour in the Grass Festival – Byron Bay (27 – 29.07.2017)

The site was muddy when punters walked in and despite the sun shining; we were later hit by a storm. Rain came out of nowhere, followed by 20 minutes of hail. The sun was back as quickly as it had left, leaving most confused and some drenched by what happened.

Howler won new fans in the Super Top, possibly because of the very “happy” girl who joined them on stage and managed to escape security by dancing away.

Spiderbait played all the hits we were dying to hear, including ‘Old Man Sam’, ‘Calypso’ and ‘Buy Me A Pony’.
The Shins wowed everyone with their harmonies and lyrics, before At The Drive-In impressed the fans that had traveled long and far to see their only Australian show.

But Jack White was the real star. The set featured sing-along goodness with ‘Hotel Yorba’, a romantic moment with ‘Love Interruption’ and rocking riffs with the closer ‘Seven Nation Army’. The crowd chanted the famous bass line long after Jack White and his band walked off stage. His male band, Los Buzzardos, played the first half and then left to make way for his female band The Peacocks.

Day two saw the site a little less muddy but just as crowded as the day before. Band of Skulls played a rocking set and drew a huge crowd that yelled every word of ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ along with them.

Miike Snow played their complicated arrangements with such enthusiasm it was hard not to smile. Everything sounded great until the microphone stopped working during ‘Paddling Out’. This was forgiven when they played ‘Animal’.

Bloc Party jumped on stage with new track ‘3×3’ but it was old hits ‘Positive Tension’, ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Banquet’ that had the crowd moving to end the night.

Sunday brought more bands to choose from and less energy to use.
Father John Misty played an electrifying set and was very under-appreciated over on the GW McLennan stage. His eccentricity and passion made the set my surprise highlight of the weekend.

The Kooks were disturbed later in the night, when a guy climbed up the pole in the Super Top and then stayed there until security forced him to get down three songs into their set.

The Smashing Pumpkins arrived on stage early. Their hits came loud and fast but the best moment was hearing thousands of people scream: “Justine never knew the rules,” in ‘1979’. The guitar solos in ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Ava Adore’ were face-melting and just when we thought they were finished, they played a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’.

Splendour in the Grass would benefit from going to back to basics in the Belongil site. There simply wasn’t enough room for the shops and food stalls that were added. The festival’s saving grace was the music, which is exactly how it should be.

Live Review: Ten Things We Learnt at Falls Festival – Lorne (30.12.2011 – 01.01.2012)

10. Get in early.
Falls Festival announced its line up in July and ticket sales followed soon after. You can’t decide to go to Falls (Lorne location) at the last minute, since tickets usually sell out within a week of going on sale. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t organised, I had to buy tickets from Ebay. For $100 more than the original sale price.

9. Check your tickets before arriving.
Since said tickets were purchased from Ebay and from someone I assume made profit by re-selling them, there was a mix up. We received four day tickets instead of three day tickets. If we’d realised sooner, we could have had an extra day there.

8. Don’t ask people about their exes.
When we spotted triple j radio announcer, Tom Ballard, in the crowd he was nice enough to stop and have a chat. My friend was then nice enough to mention Tom’s ex, comedian Josh Thomas, who had done a stand-up routine earlier in the day. Tom wasn’t that keen to talk to us after that.

7. Even Artic Monkeys make mistakes.
At about 11:58pm on 31st December, Arctic Monkeys walked off stage mid-set. We were left in darkness for five minutes without explanation. The band came back and Alex Turner told us they thought someone else was going to do the New Year countdown but “apparently not”. We pretended we hadn’t missed it, counted down together and then danced to ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’. It was all good fun but it would have paid to be sure about what was happening before their set started.

6. You will always end up with funny tan lines…
No matter how much sunscreen you put on.

5. Young MC can still ‘Bust A Move’
And did it while wearing a Socceroos jersey. Respect.

4. Don’t expect good coffee.
Festivals just don’t have it.

3. Bring your earplugs…
If you want to get any sleep. The music goes as late as 6am and could be heard clearly from the campsite.

2. Go with a fun group of people.
There’s nothing better than camping for three days at a festival, with good friends who love music as much as you do.

1. If heaven exists, I know what it’s like.
It’s dancing and singing with your best friend, while Tim Finn performs Split Enz and Crowded House songs under the stars. His set brought back memories from festivals past and gave me a big case of childhood nostalgia.

The number of events to choose from on New Year’s Eve can be overwhelming but if you’ve been to Falls Music and Arts Festival, it’s likely you’ll go back. A road trip or flights are necessary to attend if, like me, you live in Sydney. The festival has two locations: one in Lorne, Victoria and the other in Marion Bay, Tasmania. The journey adds to the fun but it’s the destination that makes it worthwhile.

Live Review: 10 Things We Learnt at Homebake Festival – The Domain (03.12.2011)

The Australian (and some New Zealand) music festival was named “The Classic Edition” this year, with a lineup featuring legends The Church, Ratcat and Grinderman.
Here are 10 things I learned:

10. You can make a comeback
When Homebake announced it wasn’t happening 2010 I was worried and thought it would drop off the scene completely. But it returned like an old friend in 2011.

9. The Domain is the perfect place for a festival
It has it all. Rides, trees, the city skyline and the Harbour Bridge in the distance.

8. The biggest expectation can give you the biggest disappointment
The crowd for Gotye was huge but the sound problems on stage mixed with complicated arrangements were enough to make a lot of people leave after hit ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’. The song should have been the biggest singalong moment but it was too quiet to have much of an impact.

7. Simplicity often beats complexity
Dance act PNAU followed Gotye and showed you need a killer beat and a lot of energy to pull off singalong of the day. Seeing everyone hold their hands up and sing “Be my embrace now” was the highlight of their set.

6. We needed more rock bands
Electronic, hiphop and indie-pop music are all good fun but I missed the heavy mosh The Living End or Grinspoon would have provided. I had to jump up and down to ‘90s hit ‘That Ain’t Bad’ by Ratcat instead.

5. The bars and toilets at the smaller stages have short lines
Over at the small Rowland S. Howard stage, we found “secret toilets” that weren’t portaloos or in a state after 3pm. And instead of waiting an hour in the bar line like the people near the main stages, we waited ten minutes.

4. The Vines still know how to rock.
Even though they were on early and placed between hiphop artist 360 and Architecture in Helsinki, they drew a large and loyal crowd. About halfway through their set a circle formed and had people running in and out, bumping shoulders with each other. Not everyone enjoyed that, if the guy with blood pouring down his face was anything to go by.

3. There will always be surprises
RockWiz Live brought out Ross Wilson from Daddy Cool to sing the classic ‘Eagle Rock’ on stage. It doesn’t get much more Australian than that.

2. It’s not a festival for show-offs
A guy got into a fenced off area and started entertaining us by dancing on a wooden box. When he jumped back over the fence, he was carried away by what appeared to be undercover security.

1. The Australian music scene is alive and kicking
The ‘classic’ bands were great but Hungry Kids of Hungary, Papa Vs Pretty and The Jezabels showed they’re keeping the standard of Australian music high.

Welcome back Homebake! Don’t ever leave us again.

Live Review: Cold Chisel – Sydney Entertainment Centre (15.11.2011)

From the moment I walked into the Sydney Entertainment Centre to see Cold Chisel, I felt out of place. It started at being younger than 40 and ended with being the only one in my area to enjoy You Am I’s support set.

But when Cold Chisel started playing the feeling disappeared. As soon as they walked on stage, they demanded attention and got it. Opening with ‘Standing on the Outside’, their message is clear. It’s time to rock and they’re not waiting for anyone.

They sweeten things up with radio-friendly hits ‘Choir Girl’, ‘Forever Now’ and ‘Cheap Wine’. These songs get a great reception and you can hear everyone singing: “Come on, come on, come on!” in ‘Cheap Wine’’s catchy chorus.

Lead singer Jimmy Barnes doesn’t stop moving and makes sure he works every area of the stage. He tells us stories and cracks a lot of jokes, and has a lot of energy. His voice is powerful in their louder songs but he’s unable to recreate the gentler melodies in ‘Choir Girl’ and ‘Breakfast at Sweethearts’, and sounds strained.

Guitarist Ian Moss takes over lead vocals for ‘My Baby’, and though his voice might not have the strength of Barnes’ for some of their songs, he brings softness to the song that Barnes couldn’t have achieved. Moss sings again in ‘When The War Is Over’, a very touching tribute to their former drummer, Steve Prestwich.
Prestwich died earlier this year and Barnes dedicates “tonight’s set and every f**king set for the rest of our lives,” to him.

Barnes introduces ‘Flame Trees’ by saying: “This could be about your hometown,” funny, because it is about my hometown. I doubt anyone else in the Entertainment Centre could, or would want to, claim being from Grafton; though the way some people react when the song starts makes me think they like to pretend it’s about their own hometown.

‘Flame Trees’ sounds beautiful and I’m sure it brings on a bit of nostalgia for everyone who loves it as much as I do. The crowd favourites continue with ‘Khe Sahn’, and the band have helped us with the lyrics by having them appear on screen. Not that anyone needs them, I’m sure we’ve all sung that song word-for-word many times in the middle of a pub somewhere.

We’re treated to another appearance from Moss and he delivers a fantastic version of ‘Bow River’ to close the set. His voice is as strong as it was when the song was written and his guitar doesn’t falter once during the long solo.
The band walk off for a few minutes, then play ‘Four Walls’ and the predictable ‘Goodbye Astrid Goodbye’ for their encore and have everyone standing as they walk off stage.

Cold Chisel have provided the soundtrack to many an Australian’s life and will continue to do so. The heart in their songs will stand out through time and I’m hopeful they won’t leave it long before touring again.

Live Review: 10 Things We Learnt at Harvest Festival – Parramatta Park (13.11.2011)

10. It is possible to host a festival in Parramatta.
When I heard about where Harvest was being held, I was skeptical. I’m a self-confessed city snob and I don’t like venturing too far out. But half an hour on a train and a ten-minute walk from the station to a venue as impressive as Parramatta Park was worth it.

9. There are people in Sydney who dress well at festivals.
At most other festivals, even when it’s cold, you see guys walking around shirtless and girls in shorts and bikini tops. I didn’t see one bikini top or any shirtless guys showing off Southern Cross tattoos at Harvest, something I’m very happy about.

8. You won’t see the people you plan to meet up with but will always run into someone you didn’t know was coming, or don’t really want to see.

7. It’s possible to disappoint one city but have another love you.
There was a lot of negative feedback for various reasons after Melbourne, which was held the day before, but everything was fantastic in Sydney. I’m interested to hear what Brisbane think next week.

6. Matt Berninger from The National likes to go walk-about.
The first chorus in set-closer ‘Terrible Love’ had him jump off stage and wander through the crowd. And then disappear.

5. The Flaming Lips put a lot of effort into the visuals in their show.
But apparently, not a lot into walking on stage quickly when they’re half an hour late. They released confetti and balloons into the crowd, and Wayne Coyne walked over the crowd in a huge bubble. This took fifteen minutes.

4. Weather forecasts are not accurate.
Despite being told all week that it was going to rain, it didn’t. It was very sunny and I felt silly carrying a raincoat. But, of course, if I hadn’t brought it, it would have rained.

3. Drinks are still, and always will be, over-priced.

2. Portishead are divine live.
The sound was perfect, Beth Gibbons’ voice is amazing and they created a beautiful atmosphere. They didn’t need to do anything except play their music to be, in my opinion, by far the best band of the day. One of the balloons from The Flaming Lips’ show drifted over and everyone was so captivated by what was happening on stage, it went un-noticed until it hit someone in the head. Portishead hadn’t been to Australia in 13 years, so having them here on Sunday was special and something I will always remember and appreciate.

1. The first Harvest was fantastic and they should have another one next year. Congratulations on your first time!

Live Review: British India – The Gaelic Hotel (12.11.2011)

British India walk out on stage to a welcoming Sydney crowd and kick into ‘Black and White Radio’, the first song on 2007 debut album Guillotine. It seems everyone wants to follow the instruction in the chorus to: “Report to the dance floor, go go go go!” and I have to move away from the rough-looking people in the middle whose dance moves threaten to bruise my feet.

Lead singer Declan Melia is wearing a jumper, despite the Sydney heat, and looks like he’s going to take it off mid-song. He gets about halfway, with the jumper covering his face and sings through it for a few lines before pulling it down again. Popular singles from Guillotine ‘Tie Up My Hands’ and ‘Run The Red Light’ get the best reception, with people crowd surfing and pushing through the moshpit to get closer to the stage. Even walking to and from the toilets becomes a calculated adventure in a crowd like this; I misjudge the timing of someone’s jumping and spill half a beer down my top.

Melia explains he has a bit of a cough, but cough or not his vocals are strong and he only sounds croaky when he talks. They create a lot of energy while they’re playing but lack a little between songs. That’s not to say they give the impression they don’t want to be here, quite the opposite, as Melia reminisces about playing here years ago. The lack of energy might be more to do with them travelling from Adelaide and only arriving in Sydney this afternoon.

Catchy new single ‘She Prefers Older Men’ is a fun addition to the setlist but it’s older songs ‘Teenage Mother’, ‘Outside 109’ and a fun singalong to the sexy ‘You Will Die and I Will Take Over’ that stand out as highlights.
They throw in a cover of ‘Flagpole Sitta’ and Melia makes sure we know it’s a Harvey Danger song, not Green Day or Blink 182. “It’s pop-punk so it’s a bit uncool but we’re going to play it anyway,” he says before all of us show how “uncool” we are by jumping up and down and screaming: “I’m not sick but I’m not well and I’m so hot, cos I’m in hell.”

Things slow down during ‘Vanilla’ and crowd-requested ‘Council Flat’ so the people moshing around ease off a bit. Ironically, it’s when they play ‘I Said I’m Sorry’ that the trouble starts again and I notice two guys pushing each other, only to be held back by their girlfriends. ‘March Into The Ocean’ finishes the set and the band walk off without an encore.

Seeing British India is always a memorable experience, they give their all on stage and always play old singles as well as new ones. I look forward to hearing their new album when it’s released and hope they continue the fun on the rest of the tour.

Live Review: You Am I (Secret Show) – The Annandale Hotel (10.11.2011)

You Am I arrive on stage at The Annandale Hotel half an hour late. It’s fair though, they’re here after supporting Cold Chisel at Allphones Arena, a venue about 15 kilometres away. The Annandale weren’t promoting You Am I tonight, instead calling them “Thee Convicts”.

The band didn’t give any clues about this secret gig, there’s nothing on their Facebook page or website. Annandale owners, Matt and Dan Rule, emailed fans who had seen You Am I here before about the show. The people attending are all about the music, man, rather than being seen and it’s a refreshing feeling.

Frontman Tim Rogers appears as a white screen covering the stage is lifted. He’s sweating heavily, obviously supporting Movember and for some reason wearing a girl’s school uniform. They’re quick to start playing and a simple “Oh, hello!” between the first two songs is their only introduction.

Even though they released an album in October last year, You Am I get the best reception when they play hits off 1995’s Hi Fi Way. ‘She Digs Her’ has everyone bopping early on and hearing everyone sing along to chorus: “Do you need somebody, to feel somebody?” from ‘Purple Sneakers’ was a beautiful moment of unity.

Rogers is energetic, bantering with the crowd and his band mates. He’s a passionate front man and guitarist, evident from the sweat pouring off him, but I’ve seen them live enough times to know wine can sometimes get the better of his stage presence and professionalism. Not tonight though. The wine is there but Rogers is in control, laughing and playfully pushing guitarist Davey Lane around between songs and solos.

A cover of ‘Cinnamon Girl’ is a surprise and Rogers does Neil Young justice with his gravelly voice note-perfect singing: “You see your baby loves to dance…”

Ballad ‘Heavy Heart’ is another highlight. Rogers moves his microphone stand from the stage to the floor and leans over to serenade the first few rows of the crowd. All you can see during the chorus is a mess of people reaching to touch him and his face moving around between words.

It’s getting late but they show no signs of slowing down, playing hit after hit in a cracking encore. ‘Minor Byrd’ starts it off and before kicking into a furiously fast version of ‘Thank God I’ve Hit The Bottom’, Rogers demands us to keep supporting the Annandale. He says he loves the Rule brothers and “…they are like our fucking family.” Old favourite ‘Cathy’s Clown’ and poppy sing-along ‘Mr Milk’ finish things off. They bow together with their backs to the crowd and leave us sweaty punters to shuffle out onto busy Parramatta Road.

I haven’t seen You Am I play so well or engage an audience like that in years. It was such a shame they had to finish when they were really firing up and showing us why they’re still one of the best live bands in Australia.