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19 Apr Six Times The Charm – By the Meadow 2019


Words by James McNeice // Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska


If there was one phrase that was the unprecedented focus of the weekend it was “Oh my gosh, its so cold!’

As a thrifty boutique festival that’s soon to put Bambra Bowl on the map, By the Meadow returned for its sixth year running. Despite the rogue temperamental weather, its few hundred-odd partygoers still ventured out with raincoats, scarves and beanies to battle a cocktail of rain, sun, rain, icy wind, rain, hail, and some more rain. I knew little else about what to expect besides a dedicated crowd of reoccurring punters and an emu that frequented the perimeter of the grounds, namely an entertaining opportunity for people watching.


As I rocked up after dark still munching on lukewarm maccas (the Friday evening road trip staple), everything was breezy – no lines (not even at the toilets!), easy to follow instructions and a straight forward camping area. But in the few short minutes it took for me to pitch my pop-up tent, Mother Nature unleashed a preview of the icy wind and continuous rain that would unfortunately plague By the Meadow for pretty much its entirety.

As the thought sunk in that the only choice was to go hard or go home, I thought “fuck it,” grabbed a beer and headed to the where the action was. As I shivered my way down to the festival’s one and only stage, I could thankfully feel a sense of community flourishing – we were all in this together.


My first encounter was Melbourne based urban music guru Thando, who was getting things heated with her finger clicking soulful bops. In the midst of her set it became instantly apparent that standing deep inside the crowd was going to be the best source of warmth for the night. Next up, murmurmur‘s dreamy psychedelia shone like a sonic daydream of light, playing a tight set of articulately produced tracks. Yet the party didn’t truly start until The Vasco Era’s cheery opening song, an ode to the Elvis Presley classic ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love‘. The cover spawned a wholesome and hearty sing-along frenzy before Vocalist Syd O’Neil abruptly shifted gears, morphing the set into their noisy post-hardcore brand of mosh pit ready punk that had people shaking their bums and banging their heads. For someone who was not familiar with this act, it was a golden shocker to see this incredibly fun and joyous transition at the beginning of their set. It was also huge to see half of the festival suddenly going nuts – whether this was in the name of rock’n’roll or an exciting excuse to stay warm.


Bringing the stage to a close at a sensible 12.20am was Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange whose aesthetic of psychedelic visuals and deep-house-played-live was not only mesmerising but the most thought inducing set I have seen in a long while. There were many times I would fall into a deep hypnotic state, bopping my head and staring in a haze at the quartet – loving every moment of the music. It was the soundtrack for a million epiphanies at once, and just like that, night #1 had come to a close.

From that point forward, there were three options left – head back to your campsite to be rained on, the movie theatre showing back to back movies with sound, or join the renegade UE Boom party which emerged in a nearby shelter dome. Thanks to hearing a drunkenly sung version of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ wailing in the distance we politely opted for the latter. As we joined in on the sing-a-long, our mystery DJ’s role of selecting the next banger became one of immense pressure. The party’s population had just about tripled before the song had even finished. Thankfully they delivered, and after a few more tunes we decided to be sensible and hit the hay at the reasonable time of 2am.


Saturday morning kicked off with the inviting sound of light rain pattering on the tent top. Thank god, we had woken up dry. One coffee and a bowl of poorly executed Sultana Bran later, we found ourselves doing the morning admin by the car. As our Marie Kondo inspired campsite consisted of two fold-out chairs and nothing else, it quickly became our prime chill out zone, heater and all, where many front-seat tinnies were sunk in-between sets.

We got our shit together right in time to catch Hobson’s Bay Coast Guard in the early afternoon. Miraculously, the rain had fittingly cleared, and out came the most euphoric ray of sun that had ever hit my skin, perfect for the band’s progressive jam-sesh brand of indie surf rock. They kicked off the set with their ten-minute self titled track, which worked seamlessly alongside a unique harmonising blend of yell-y yet pop vocals that rode the sun-kissed twangy rhythms like a wave. If you haven’t had a chance to see these guys (whose debut album dropped literally a few days before the festival) then tack it on your to-do list. Hopefully next time we can see them as the Ronald McDonald quartet they intended to play as.


Brisbane’s Clea unluckily battled the relentless return of grim weather, particularly coming head to head with a seemingly never-ending gust of icy wind. Yet she still managed to lay down her lax chilled-out indie pop with a hint of mild psych. Her set was a haze of bliss, her vocals wistfully flowing through the nearby hills, like a solid glass of mulled wine by the indoor wood fire.

As the fierce rains reached their climax throughout the late arvo, watching the stage from the Marquee bar almost became a necessity, particularly for the people like myself who foolishly forgot to pack thermals. I sunk an espresso martini and kicked back to The Goon Sax, a band from Brisbane who could easily pretend to be from Brunswick and nobody would question them. Their fuzzy classically Brisbane indie rock was a perfect fit for that soon-to-be-dark evening piss-up vibe.

Another cocktail later and the marquee bar became a hideout for what felt like half the festival, and then the Sunset act began. This makeshift busking-like set had the whole tent at its capacity– whether this was initially planned for the main stage or not is a question that has gone unanswered. The band played an ode to Irish folk with some woodwind thrown in, reminiscent of something in between a cheery Christmas Day party in the trenches during the war and your cool Uncle’s 40th birthday party. It was this particular set that encapsulated what By the Meadow seemed to be aiming for – a communal, no shits given festival where you come across the same faces again and again as one big festival family.


As the rain had settled in for the night, Western Sydney’s Lauren brought a pumped-up set full of electro hip-hop bangers, at one point announcing that “this one is for the people who wanna fuuuck!” As a stark correlation, The Seven Ups followed, playing a largely instrumental set of groovy funk that commanded festival goers to dance. Headline act The Murlocs hit the stage in the midst of the fog which brought people out from under the covers to get up close and personal for their lively thriving set, aided with enough energy to direct a workout routine and an abundance of harmonica solos. Frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith ended each track with a signature yelp of ‘YOOO!’ to keep things amped up, and at one point indulge in a hands-in-the-air call and response of the Backstreet Boys classic ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)‘.

The night ended with subsequent trips between the stage and the movie theatre, where a screening of Die Hard drew in a surprisingly large number of people, as DJ Harvey Sutherland and Roza Terenzi pumped out thumping beats until the icy depths of rural 4am.


If you’re looking to make the move from other big league festivals then By the Meadow should be atop your list. The weekend felt like a once in a lifetime party your mate decided to sneakily throw on their farm while their parents were out of town. Rather than creating an atmosphere of competitive cliques that can easily be picked up in bigger festivals, By the Meadow felt always welcoming and never pretentious. People were there to see music; people were there to drink and dance and have a blast with their mates, and how these musicians managed to play dope sets in the freezing cold without their hands frosting over was a feat in itself. You’ll be sure to find me at next year’s festival, sporting a heavy rain jacket and new gumboots.


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The Ocean Party // Howler

02 Apr The Ocean Party ‘Nothing Grows’ Launch & Final Melbourne Show (23/3/19)


Words by Marcus Rimondini // Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska


“2012 Dolewave” as Lachlan Denton described one of their final songs, is officially laid to rest. The Ocean Party have put this particular project to rest after the passing of member Zac Denton. I won’t discuss his passing in this recap however, as I believe that’s a personal matter for his friends and family. This is simply a nice recap for one of my favourite bands this decade, as iconic of a Melbourne band as it gets. A band you’ll play to your kids in 20 years and say, “This pretty much sums up what the 2010-2020 decade felt like in our twenties.”


If the ’90s in Melbourne were punk rock, the 2000’s were keyboard revivalists unafraid to dance again at a pub gig. The 2010-2020 had a fleet of bands inspired by ’80s Australian acts such as The Go-Betweens, bands not full of angst, not learning to dance for the first time, just bands trying to understand the world and feeling like they haven’t got much power all the way down in Melbourne. Bands that write about the feelings that come to mind walking from work to gigs to somebodies backyard drinks, to the morning after with lyrics such as “Every weekend’s always the same, Girl in my room, I don’t know her name, I’m high on Saturday, suicidal on Sunday, I’m wastin’ my youth away”.

Looking for people to connect with, and that’s what The Ocean Party did as well as anyone in Melbourne. They felt like your good friend, never above or below you. The Ocean Party were like the friend who you didn’t really know, but you knew you could trust them. Their intentions were pure, they were pure musicians, not accountants pretending to be musicians for financial benefits. As you could tell, the band never made much money (just look at the beloved touring van they once drilled together).


Despite emerging from the Dolewave label, that generally implied morals slightly healthier than stoner rock, The Ocean Party actually tackled world problems in their songs too. Their 2015 track ‘Guess Work‘ is about the gun problem in the USA and it’s one of their more memorable songs. The occasional acknowledgement of the larger world around them, meant that when they did just sing about ‘Chinese Takeaway‘, these songs served as stress release distractions that we sometimes need from the hectic life of the overbearing world at times. I think of S02E01 of the TV show High Maintenance, when all of New York finds out Donald Trump got elected, and immediately weed sales skyrocket. If I was soundtracking a Melbourne version of High Maintenance, I’d choose tracks such as ‘More To Run‘, that sings “Have to believe in more than myself / to keep hangin’ on”. A song really concerned with what’s happening socially outside of the northside Melbourne bubble. Or ‘Split‘ that sings “I’m torn between what I want and / what I have to do/ I am finding it hard / I am split”, the band also chose this to be their final song played in Melbourne on the 23rd of March 2019.


The final Melbourne gig was a brilliant and emotional homage to Zac Denton. The band brought on stage guest singers for different Zac songs.

Emma Russack for ‘Nothing Grows

Will Farrier for ‘Model Sheep

Ashley Bundang for ‘Useless

Amanda Roff for ‘Country Air

Dominic Kearton stepped in on ‘Rain On Tin

and Snowy stepped in on ‘We Should Do This Again

While many of them shed a tear or two, it was Zac’s partner Mashara Wachjudy singing ‘Birth Place‘ that was gut-retching and beautiful and not something I’ll ever forget. The band joked that you can tell an Ocean Party song from another one of their side projects, because “they’re the honest songs”. I think another word they could’ve used was “vulnerable”, The Ocean Party always seemed to unlock the confidence in each other to be honest and vulnerable on stage. Something rarely found in a band from all of its members. Sets sometimes felt like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where band members took turns being honest and vulnerable with strangers.

It was fitting that for their final song and performance of ‘Split’, they encouraged the crowd to come on stage and sing along together, groups of 4 or 5 people around each microphone, bringing the bands country community spirit to the city one last time. Combine that with the Howler PA system and a wonderful sound mix via Bonnie Knight, a mix as lush and defined as I ever heard The Ocean Party. Where the guitars glistened like The War On Drugs, and all the instruments’ special subtle interplay was clearly defined. The band, friends, fans and family made Zac Denton, where ever he is now, smile at least one more time.


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Julia Jacklin // The Forum

19 Mar Crushing Hard – Julia Jacklin Live at The Forum (14/3/19)


Words by Michael Choong // Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska


After the February release of her sophomore album Crushing, Julia Jacklin played to a sold-out crowd at iconic Melbourne venue The Forum Theatre whilst on her first national tour for 2019. Having recently moved to Melbourne, and on her last tour selling out two Corner Hotel gigs, she is clearly loved in her new home-town.

In the venue, the audience’s adoration was evidenced throughout the night – gentle humming and singing in the background of every tune. Nevertheless, Jacklin still seems surprised by her fame: “I’m struck by the absurdity of what I’m doing. I’m just playing guitar on a stage with my friends.”

And that is exactly what she does. Jacklin’s live show doesn’t rely on any distractions or tricks. Instead, her performance is one that is understated yet immense. The instrumentals are sparse and restrained, but powerful in the way they fill the space. This allows Jacklin’s voice to be the centrepiece, and the acoustics are clear enough to showcase her skills as a classically trained vocalist.


Her music is the perfect fit for a venue this size or smaller: its lyrics are intimate and thoughtful, reflective in nature and tending towards self-examination. With the Forum’s cerulean-blue ceiling lit to imitate the evening sky, the overall effect is breathtaking and powerful. This was felt particularly moments before ‘When the Family Flies in‘ as Jacklin recounted for the audience the loss of a friend, and to whom the song was dedicated – “this song isn’t pleasant at all.”

However, the entire evening was punctuated with more moments of humour than seriousness. Not long after this sombre moment she gave a shout out to “Ryan The Sound Guy”, recalling a time when they had a night out which ended with her waking up, covered in fries. She is everyone’s secret spirit animal.

Stories aside though, Jacklin’s music is immersive and captivating, uniting her audience as one big-love-entity. As the night came to an end, with her eyes closed, head rocking back to the sky, crowd singing along to ‘Motherland‘ and hearing “And oh I’m good, I think I’m good; Will I be great, will I be great?”… well, we believe the evidence is clear that Julia Jacklin is and always will be “Great”.



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19 May A Night at the Museum – Nocturnal x Our Golden Friend (04/05/18)


Words by Nick Fabbri // Photos by Kamilla Musland


Held on the first Friday of every month, Melbourne Museum’s Nocturnal has established itself as a highlight of Melbourne’s live music and cultural scenes. On Friday 4th May, guests were treated to a special offering hosted by the Museum in collaboration with the independent record label and management collective Our Golden Friend. The artists on display included Jade Imagine, RVG, Jess Ribeiro and Totally Mild, each of which is managed by Our Golden Friend. The ensemble recently concluded a tour across the United States in March, giving Nocturnal the feel of a happy family reunion which happened to feature some of the most unique and promising talents in Australian music.

 

Before recapping the performances, it’s worth reflecting on how extraordinary Nocturnal is as an interactive venue and immersive experience. Located in the Edenic Carlton Gardens, the postmodern Melbourne Museum is transformed into an otherworldly “adult playground” with an impressive array of bars and other dining options. The exhibits are open to the public for exploration between sets, including the stunning Vikings: Beyond the Legend, Te Vainui O Pasifika, and Dinosaur Walk. We are encouraged to re-experience the childlike sense of wonderment, awe and discovery that children have when they step into a museum.

With summer in the rear-view mirror and Melburnians now bracing for a bitter winter, cultural offerings such as these have never been more important. They represent little oases of colour, pleasure, and abundance that sustain us through the desert of the working week. Melbourne Museum and Our Golden Friend should be congratulated for this outstanding event.

Jade Imagine

Keeping the themes of discovery and contemplation of the sublime in mind, patrons flocked to the main stage to see Melbourne indie staples Jade Imagine take the stage. Resplendent in her pink power suit, black RM Williams boots, and orange polka-dot socks, lead singer Jade McInally (Teeth & Tongue) created an ethereal aesthetic and atmosphere which suited Nocturnal perfectly. She was brilliantly supported by guitarist Tim Harvey, his brother James Harvey on drums, and bassist Liam ‘Snowy’ Halliwell.

With their dream-pop, low-fi and folksy sound evoking The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, and Sibylle Baier, Jade Imagine were spellbinding to watch live. As an ensemble, they have gone through many incarnations, but this line up of performers feels just right. Each band member also performs as a vocalist, which Jade Imagine used to great effect on stage through harmonization to create a dreamy wall of sound, which feels like they’re wrapping you up in a big hug. Their musical style supports the band’s deeply evocative and poetic lyrics, which sometimes border on magical realism.

RVG

One of the most anticipated acts of Nocturnal was RVG, led by the sensational frontwoman Romy Vager. Despite Romy battling through sickness, RVG put on an electric and rollicking performance which had the crowd in raptures. Having released their debut album A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend/Island Records) in August 2017, the band has already picked up a suite of awards including four nominations each for The Age Music Victoria Awards and the AIR Music Awards.

One is struck by the sense that RVG is on the brink of a very special career, spearheaded by Romy’s unforgettable and deeply moving voice, which transcends genres and eludes definition. Punters revelled in the power, goth and glam of the performance, which recalled the brooding and melancholic stylings of Joy Division’s Ian Smith. Romy’s lyrics are pared-down, hardboiled and often monosyllabic, which lets the profundity of the words hit you in the chest like a hammer: “I used to love you / but now I don’t / and I don’t feel bad / we’re just not the same any more / we’re just not the same”. *dies*.

Jess Ribeiro

When enigmatic Jess Ribeiro took the stage patrons were enveloped by the smoky texture of lead-singer Jess’s voice, which is informed by the diverse hinterland of her travels and musical background. It’s been a remarkable personal and creative journey for the talented frontwoman, ranging from the outback and tropics of the Northern Territory to the urban wintriness of Melbourne. Along the way, Jess has found critical acclaim with My Little River (2012), which won the ABC Radio National Album of the Year and Best Country Album (AIR). This dusky country feel came through at the Museum, where the band performed tracks such as ‘Hurry Back to Love‘, ‘Slip The Leash‘ and ‘Strange Game‘.

Jess Ribeiro is getting ready to release their next record in 2018. Jess has worked with some impressive producers in her career, most notably Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds) who helped Jess rediscover her muse after a three-year hiatus to produce the critically-acclaimed Kill It Yourself (Barely Dressed Records, 2015). She’s recently spent a lot of time in New Zealand collaborating with producer Ben Edwards, who has worked with other emerging Antipodean sensations such as Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, and Aldous Harding. One has the feeling that big things are on the horizon for Jess Ribeiro as a collective, and I also suspect that lead-singer Jess will one day make a brilliant producer herself.

Totally Mild

Rounding out the evening was Melbourne lush quartet Totally Mild. Frontwoman Elizabeth Mitchell was sublime and at her charming and magnetic best. Her angelic and versatile voice enchanted the crowd, and one could feel the influence of her choral background coursing through her. She was brilliantly supported by the intricate sounds of guitarist Zachary Schneider, the subtle indie drumming of Dylan Young, and rolling bass of Lehmann Smith. Totally Mild make for disorienting performers. You’re so beguiled by the heady, atmospheric sweetness of their musical stylings and by the band’s extroverted stage presence that you miss the dark and brooding nature of their lyrics, best exemplified by their biggest hit ‘Christa. I think this makes their music more impactful and compelling, as it enables Mitchell to speak about highly-sensitive topics such as depression and loneliness in subtle, disarming ways.

It was fitting that the night closed with Totally Mild, who released their second record Her in February. It’s a thoughtful and complex meditation on the experience of being a woman in the 21st century, which was a powerful acknowledgement of the fact that Nocturnal was headlined by four bands which each featured creatively confident, highly-intelligent, and empathic frontwomen at a time when the Australian music industry is being criticised for inadequate representation of female artists at music festivals. Speaking with Elizabeth over the phone, she informed me that Her “speaks to the tension between independence and the sense of having unlimited potential as a young woman, but also still being bound by structural oppression and other personal limitations, such as mental health and other social roles”.


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21 Apr A Wholesome Music Festival – By The Meadow 2018


Words by Marcus Rimondini // Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska


The drive to By The Meadow doesn’t feel all that different to the drive to Meredith or Golden Plains. You head towards Geelong, you take the bypass and at some point, you take a turn off away from Geelong for 40 minutes. The first main difference that caught our attention was instead of going through a small town with a pub like Meredith, you read a green wooden sign that says Bambra Bushland Reserve – Removal Of Forest Produce Illegal. This sign sets the tone early, you now know you’re entering nature with some music inside, not a music festival carved into nature.

 

It feels like the location of the Shady Cottage 2016, on a farm in Trentham, except upon entry to Shady Cottage you went past the house on the property, reminding you that you’re on a farm. At By The Meadow, it took until 7 pm on Saturday for me to notice the location of the house on the farm, hidden back up the hill behind the back of the camping area. For 24 hours I could’ve easily have been in a National Park instead.

When you enter the festival site, there’s one woman checking the car for glass, but instead of the reasonably thorough search one would get at Meredith or the very thorough search at Falls Festival, there’s a trust by the woman. If you say you don’t have glass, she trusts that you’re telling the truth, no search is actually needed. This trust is important, like leaving your clothes by the side of a public pool; you’ll enjoy your swim more if you don’t consistently think somebody will steal your stuff.

 

By The Meadow has all the nice aspects of other Victorian boutique festivals. The area feels expansive yet close like Camp Casual 2015 in Gippsland. The divide between the tents and car area brings the friendly neighbour tents closer together like Inner Varnika 2013 in Ruffy. There’s an endless view as the sun descends like Paradise Music Festival on Lake Mountain. There’s a valley drop facing the sunset like Sunset Point at Meredith, except at this one you can also camp on it and make it your morning view from your tent. In the words of two overheard early comments “fuck it’s fucking nice” and “this feels like home, very calming.”

But no festival is perfect and there’s still some work in progress elements for By The Meadow. But first, the tunes:

Unfortunately, I missed Tram Cops, but he’s definitely an artist I’m curious to follow the progress of as he plays more live shows. The first band I saw was Totally Mild. If you were new to any of these artists, but you had some understanding and appreciation for hearing four individually talented musicians working together as a cohesive unit, creating something bigger than the sum of its parts, then Totally Mild would confuse you as to how they are still playing 500 people festivals. In another world where dream pop is pop, By The Meadow can’t snatch Totally Mild, because they are too busy headlining festivals worldwide. But instead we don’t live in that world, and lucky for us, because we get to hear them up close, with a quiet appreciation around us, on a sound system that’s 10 out of 10. Yes, the sound system was that good — it made hearing bands you’ve heard many times before a whole new experience.

Cameron Wade (who is behind By The Meadow) said in his interview that the sound was the most important thing to get right. I won’t get too technical, but essentially the sound system was the XD15 series by Martin Audio London with 3 stack X118 series (I think) subs on both sides. What that means was that bands had a full range of highs, mids and lows, and the wide frequency distinction was clear up close or up on the hill. You could hear separation between guitars, between different toms, it wasn’t quite like monitors in a studio, but it was an ear pleasure nonetheless. But the really impressive part was that because of the 6 subs, the electronic acts at night had a powerful low-end to work with, throttling your gut into the early hours. That’s hard to do and is rare at small festivals, to make both bands and electronic artists sound even better than most small venues in Melbourne.

 

Next up was The Harpoons, and despite having to restart one song due to I think laptop problems, they came home particularly strong and worked seamlessly as a segway into the Daydreams DJ set. Which is in part due to their latest album Amaro carrying a stronger house structure than their previous work, likely influenced by member Jack Madin’s latest side project Shouse, which dives into a variety of house genres.

Max and Mark of Daydreams (no Luke Pocock) know what time it is. They didn’t waste any time pretending this was a Sunday daytime Daydreams set at The Gasometer with light-outside house or disco. They got dark and hectic quick, taking turns whipping this party into shape. Then as soon as you thought you were in for a session of hard techno, they starting dropping lots of ’90s tracks and pop songs. Which isn’t my personal taste, but it’s a wise move to make at a festival, where people are generally more social and silly than in the club environment, but dropping Jimmy Barnes was surely too far. I know he’s relevant again due to that Kirin J Callinan collaboration, but I’m calling them out on that one, a very rare mistake. Almost as if they knew they pushed the boundaries a little too far, they won me back by dropping ‘On & On’ by Orbital, which again, on that sound system, had me lost in my head for at least five minutes

 

It also helped that the lighting technician was dialled in on every track drop and mood change. What a lot of big festivals do, is they tend to use their best technicians on the bands because they have a lot of pressure to not miss a cue, but then they generally tend to sub out and sleep when the DJ’s come on stage late at night. Usually, it’s either a young tech told not to use the best lights and save them for the bands or the sound guy takes over. Which often leads to bland and boring lighting just scrolling on a loop for the rest of the night. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when the lights are cued throughout the whole night, the highs are way higher — after all, there’s not much to look at during a DJ set, so the lighting is how we process the journey. This minor detail brightened many sets throughout the weekend.

As the Daydreams set continued beyond its intended finish time of 1 am, the crowd began to walk on to the stage, with no objections from Mark or Max. After all, everyone at By The Meadow felt like family (or at least felt like they could be trusted like family). With smiles on every face, the pin was finally pulled on the Daydreams set after they finished with ‘Call On Me’ by Eric Prydz, everyone began the “big” 2-minute walk back to their tents. If night one was meant to feel like an opening ceremony, then they hit the nail straight bang on its shiny head.

On the walk back to the tents, there were some security guards present, but so far back and away from the crowd of people that you never noticed them during any of the sets — but you could easily find them just in case you needed too, which is how it should always be. At the tents, there was condensation, it was cold, but I guess being on a hill near the sea lends itself to those sorts of conditions. It wasn’t Lake Mountain freezing, but I do recommend bringing solid sleeping gear if you plan on going in the future.

 

In the morning we went for a walk down the hill, past the By The Meadow sign, opened the gate and meandered the Kangaroo track. I don’t know what counts as a Kangaroo track, but my friend who lives in the country assured me that it was one.There was a creek maybe 20 metres further down the steep ditch, but we decided to do some brief yoga instead. After all, the sun was out, and we had some pleasant shade under a tree with no wind, and not a person to be heard near us. After around 30 minutes we ended up back at the campsite — it wasn’t quite the exploration you can take at Lake Mountain, but at least you can escape, unlike the current Inner Varnika location. It’s probably not further of a walk than the one you can take at Hopkins Creek, but at least people can’t still see you at By The Meadow, especially when you just need some escape time that’s not sitting on a public toilet.

Back to the stage action and it felt like Stella Donnelly was the headliner, or at least the name most talked about. She’s been generating attention in the US market and that appears to be helping her exposure back here in Australia. The crowd was all over the hill, sitting down with both ears pointed at the stage, like a school assembly by a guest speaker. After opening with a respectful stolen land speech, she played huge singles during her set such as ‘Mechanical Bull’ and ‘Boy Will Be Boys’. Even threw in a short funny song about the negatives of Sportsbet, that got plenty of laughs. Even told the funny story of explaining the EP title Thrush Metal to her formal Welsh family. This is where Stella is very impressive at such an early stage of her career — she commands the stage and people are just locked into everything she says. I haven’t seen a crowd more quietly locked in at a festival since The Tallest Man on Earth at Golden Plains 2013.

To help process Stella’s set, we took a break about 30 metres away on an open section of the hill to play Finska. Yes they had Finska, freely available for anyone to take and play anywhere they wanted. It was a great way to stretch the legs, meet a few locals confused by the game, and then clearly see when the Dianas were about to take the stage.

 

This is where I found myself scratching my head and shaking it at the same time. How is one of the countries best bands and best live bands, still completely unknown to even the niches of boutique festivals. Dianas had one of the smallest crowds of the entire weekend, maybe the crowd used the sunny afternoon as a chance to explore the festival campground, I don’t know. But what I do know is that Dianas are like punk angels from another world, almost telepathic with their on-stage musical chemistry. The kind that makes other bands watching say to each other “we need to get more in sync like them”. They’re the kind of band that wouldn’t work if they were missing a member, and despite it clearly being very hot on stage with the back wall all sealed up, by the end of the set the crowd was watching in awe (based solely on the look on their faces). Even when member Caitlin accidentally kicked her volume down via her guitar pedal, during their final song ‘Somebody Else,’ she kept her cool and managed to recover for the final explosive finish to the song — like a skateboarder messing up a trick, yet still managing to remain standing on the skateboard, pure class. My only advice on both the band’s end and the audio technician’s end would’ve been to lift the vocals, they were buried a tad too low in the mix (and this is coming from a fan of low vocals in mixes).

The next activity of the day had the right intentions but needed a little more originality. I’m not talking about the Welcome section, where Cameron and Ruby thanked all the workers, punters (for not destroying the stage during Daydreams the night before), bands and general vibe of the festival, which was all very cute. I’m talking about the running race up the hill in order for one man and then one woman to win a free pass to next year’s festival. The gender separation wasn’t the only awkward part, it’s the fact that this activity is something Meredith has held since the ‘90s. So any real exciting enthusiasm was mixed in with comments of “they took this from Meredith.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s very generous to give up two free passes, but there are so many ways this could be more creative. A stage talent show perhaps, or how about a wholesome activity course without gender separation, or clothes swapping, even — always hilarious, especially with strangers. At festivals like Camp Casual, they would have had dance circles and moments of musical yoga. You could take it one step further like Dan Deacon, and curate those spiral dance circles. Ground participation is so easy at a small festival, there’s nowhere to hide. If anything they should break up the sets with a few more activities throughout the day. Make the crowd very intimate with each other. Even before any music on the Friday, why not start with an activity down at the sunset point area — but I’ll speak more on that area soon.

I’ve seen Suss Cunts a few times now, and this probably wasn’t their best set. I’m guessing a combination of the heat and something else, like having to rush back to Melbourne, because the songs felt a tad rushed, even considering the already short length of them. However, even to fresh ears, the songs would’ve come across tightly constructed, led by their singer Nina Renee, who doesn’t mess around with half cooked ideas — she knows exactly what she wants with every song. This assertiveness makes you a believer in Suss Cunts, a quiet confidence, that they can weather any storm, and that this is still only just the beginning for the band. Or they might flame out at any moment, which makes each set even more vital.

Then came perhaps the favourite moment of the weekend, a real grounding reminder of how lucky and fortunate we are in Melbourne, and it didn’t really have anything to with the strength of our music scene. Recently, Pitchfork posted an article about how artists in the US are leading a trend of running their own festivals, small festivals with a communal feel, moving away from the generic commercial ‘play the set, get paid, and leave’ festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. This article would be really exciting for people in the US, but as someone from Melbourne, where we’ve had small niche communal festival all around Victoria for this entire decade, you almost had to feel sorry for US music fans.

 

Which brings me back to the sunset gathering at By The Meadow. The location and the view would’ve been magical even in a windy gusty storm, but luckily for us we scored a warm gradient sunset spectacle. Painters couldn’t paint how magnificent the sunset was. The stroke of genius move by BTM (By The Meadow) was having a classical duo including a Cello, playing delicate arrangements including the Game Of Thrones theme song, that forced the gathering to keep chatter to a low volume and really take in this special country land we are surrounded by in Victoria. Even after a festival season that started all the way back in October and took me all around Victoria, by early April we’re still able to wear shorts and t-shirts at 7pm. This special secret world for 600 people did make you wonder how we got so lucky, and reminded us that we shouldn’t take any of it for granted, and that any missteps we could accuse of the festival of making, would really be us just being incredibly selfish.

I decided to leave behind my new found elderly friends drinking wine well outside my price range to check out Flowertruck‘s set. When I think of Sydney bands that I wish would make the permanent move to Melbourne, Flowertruck is definitely one of the first who come to mind. A lot of that is because I want the lead singer Charles Rushforth to reach his full potential, unleash his personality and get weird in ways he hasn’t yet achieved. He’s got the stage presence, the character, the vocals, the lyrics — he just needs to embrace weird, surround himself with madness and get lost in it. He’s just a bit too clean, a bit too tight. If those screws get loosened, he could become one of those lead singers that’s great in 20 years.

A good example of his confinement was his bewilderment of somebody bringing a couch down to the stage. Then his following bewilderment from the lack of crowd reaction to his comment. Now maybe he’s been to Meredith or Golden Plains before and forgotten, but it sounds more likely that he’s never been to either festival before. In that case Charles, there’s literally 100’s of couches down at the stage there and they feature everything from personal bars, to totem tennis poles, to popcorn machines. The stage comment that was however very funny, was when he described the feeling that all the festival’s millions of crickets must be experiencing down at their ground level. Comparing it to the end of the world or 100-foot tall Slipknot Monsters blasting music above us and then proceeding to dedicate the next song to the crickets. Then they finished with my favourite song moment of the weekend when Flowertruck emphatically played ‘Come Across’, a song I already featured on several of my Spotify playlists, but live on that Maxim PA it was another experience altogether. It couldn’t have felt more from the heart. Throw on top that keyboard hook by Sarah Sykes, which is as vintage as any Depeche Mode keyboard hook, and I looked like the take-all-my-money Futurama meme up on the hill.

 

If ‘Come Across’ was my favourite live song of the weekend, then The Senegambian Jazz Band were my favourite band of the weekend. There were numerous reasons why. They managed to ride that fine line between fun festive big band and tight, interesting, dissectible, headphone-worthy music. Then there was their noticeable pure enjoyment and smiles across all the members, the kind that comes from enjoying their own music and seeing the crowd’s warm reaction to it. Simple, but the enjoyment was mutual across everyone in the area. The real festival MVP however was the singer and Kora player Amadou Suso. He may be one of the coolest musicians in Melbourne. I have no idea what he’s like off stage, but I don’t want to ruin that illusion of just how cool he is. He automatically makes the band almost a must on every festival in the country, which would actually kind of suck, because I don’t want to get sick of The Senegambian Jazz Band, which could happen if everyone booked them, like they really should. They just spice up not only the Melbourne music scene, but the Australian music scene.

With an evident West African influence in his rhythms and flows, he makes you want to get down and be silly. More impressively the set never feels tiring, there’s enough variety in the arrangements that it makes you actually never want it to end, or at least for it to go a little longer. Whether it’s turning the Kora upside and playing it like a magician or covering a ‘90s song — of which I sadly can’t think of title, despite it being a very famous song (I’m better at naming obscure B-sides). Please DM me the song title if you were there.

I had to gather myself for a moment and went to get some food, $10 small pizzas to be exact, which hit the spot. On the way to the toilets I walked past a classic Australian scene. On the left people were watching Jaws in the movie theatre inside a country hut (props to the selection of movies including Trainspotting, Spirited Away and Kill Bill: Vol 1). Jaws may not be Australian, but a film about a killer shark is more Australian than any other country could claim. Then on the right I could see inside the First-Aid RV, yes a mobile home First-Aid (something you would see rock up to a country footy match), people watching the AFL live on Channel 7. Felt like a scene dropped from The Castle’s final edit. It was all very endearing, and because there was never any lines for the toilets in the toilet truck, I didn’t feel guilty sitting on the toilet for a while, while I typed down all my notes. A nice pause, something you don’t get at big festivals, where you know there’s a busting line outside the door and the guilt gets to you, forcing you to hurry up and not actually gather yourself for a few minutes. Or maybe that’s just me.

 

Outside of Billy Davis and Pjenné, the rest of the Saturday night set times could’ve been reworked more effectively, and again this is something BTM were aware of, and sometimes it’s unavoidable due to scheduling clashes and stage criteria etc. Firstly, Tiny Little Houses felt like somebody pulling you away from a dance floor (The Senegambian Jazz Band) for a serious D&M. I’m all for D&M’s, but the timing was off, the mood was too positive, those two bands should’ve switched set times. GUM was actually more interesting than I expected, a one-man show like D.D Dumbo, but more focused on snyth and guitar layering. But honestly I wasn’t expecting much — I’m surely not the only person a bit tired of Tame Impala members getting so much exposure (over far more interesting Australian musicians), simply because Kevin Parker is a genius. Jay Watson tried his best — he comes across as a good dude, no ego. Apparently, he was originally meant to have a band, again he would’ve worked better before Senegambian and Billy Davis. Darcy Baylis was also his usual hard-to-pin-down self, twisting and turning from ‘90s electronica to hip-hop to PBR-RnB. It was more noteworthy and discussion worthy than party mood. Which is how Paradise used him when he played upstairs in clubland, while there was an option of basement party DJs at the same time downstairs. Giving punters an option. The crowd was a little confused at BTM by the set time pacing at this point and started to thin out.

Which was unfortunate for Pjenné, who was 100% from the get go. The lighting guy made a big no-no by sitting tight on the lights for like 20 minutes — FYI, DJ set lighting must be 80% go-go from the start, very different to lighting a band or group. This really hurt the early momentum of loosening up the crowd, which was evident by the time the lights got moving and the crowd finally appeared to be back in full party mode, but a good 4 hours later than the full party mood during Billy Davis. For those who hung around, it was a genre world tour experience hour, with the only blemish being playing too much Kylie Minogue, again another trend I wish Melbourne DJs would stop, trying to be too cute and full-circle self-aware, playing pop songs we’ve already played too much for the last 20 years. There’s so much amazing music out there, new and old. Keep it exciting, please. It’s really hard to not get behind Pjenné, who sings along to many of the songs dropped, and chats to everyone in the front row.

The music stopped at 4 am, and for most, it was late enough, however as someone who loves dancing until sunrise at festivals, I had to take the UEboom down the hill to continue the party. Only 8 other people came along, but it’s when I started to jog down notes on how the festival’s identity needs clarifying. By finishing the nights with DJs, some punters come along thinking each night will be a loose party. Instead the DJs need to be advertised as a little boogie before bed or just spread out between the bands, and they had the right lighter DJs to do so. I think to advertise the festival as a day and evening festival, a summer season winde down, would help its market and would leave punters a little less confused at the end of the night. A lot of this was also my fault, naturally assuming the nights should finish the same way, just like every other festival, instead of viewing By The Meadow differently.

This was a notion I didn’t fully grasp until the next morning with a lush closing combination of Leah Senior (who Lachlan, during the following The Ocean Party set, claimed to be his favourite set in a long time) and The Ocean Party. It’s an unfortunate situation Leah Senior find themselves in. Their calm, angelic lulling atmosphere is ideal for festival recovery mornings, I can honestly only think of one other equal option in Australia, that being Dannika. The unfortunate part is that Leah deserves a later time-slot, a bigger audience. Maybe that’s why two of the band members started the more upbeat and fun band Girlatones, trying to break their typecast.
Having said that, Leah Senior looked liked she had grown up on this farm, her music embodied the purity of the country community.

 

Despite some strong wind kicking in and knocking down the fences around the stage, nothing could prevent the sound during The Ocean Party. I question every PA I’ve ever heard them play through, and there’s been a lot of PA’s I’ve heard them play through. I sat on the hill thinking “oh, this is what they must actually sound like in the studio.” Almost like a jump from Earbuds to $1000 open headphones. They introduced a guest pan flute player as Aldani, which I still find funny typing this up weeks later and I don’t even know the story behind the joke. I think he’s from the band Cool Sounds. Then after reading on Facebook that Snowy (their Saxophone player) couldn’t find his Saxophone the day before, in true dolewave DYI fashion they closed with a local classic ‘Head Down’ with Snowy bringing it home via somebody else’s Saxophone. Please never change, The Ocean Party.

And that’s it, really. By The Meadow is a few slight adjustments from being a flawless wholesome weekend. Add some gripple wire across the stage, hang some ferns. Get rid of the gap between the stage and the crowd, no fence needed, bring everyone together. Add one more vegan option and group activities between sets. Open the gates earlier on the first day, give people a couple hours to set up their tents before the first band. Really minor adjustments, that’s just how impressive By The Meadow truly is.


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02 Mar A Night at the Museum – Nocturnal (02/02/18)


Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska


It was a stroke of absolute genius whoever decided to combine music, a museum and an all-time Australian favourite – booze.

Heading down to the Melbourne Museum on the first Friday of every month to see a fantastic line-up, go exploring (including just standing in absolute AWE of the blue whale skeleton) whilst enjoying a glass of red… Well, as the saying can go, money CAN buy happiness.

It was an absolutely packed affair at the last Nocturnal when the folks behind the planning of this stellar Melbourne event had Total Giovanni, Sampology, Francis Inferno Orchestra and Kate Miller grace their stage.

The stronghold of people (and I say stronghold because there was A LOT of people) was a true testament to the sensational line-up and organisation of one of, what I would call, Melbourne’s more unique music offerings.

Only occurring once a month means it truly stays as a special evening that can be enjoyed by anyone. So although a lot of the booze-happy-crowd was perhaps, at times, over-indulging on the service of full wine bottles (I mean lines, who wants to wait in them – get a bottle) it was still highly enjoyable. Happy, dancing faces could be seen for miles as the people had absolutely flocked to enjoy a night at the museum.

 

For the month of March (and being the first Friday it’s happening TONIGHT) they have again organised a line-up to be reckoned with – Jordie Lane & The Sleepers, Ainslie Wills, with support from Sean McMahon and Hollie Joyce. Tickets are still available and we couldn’t recommend heading down to Carlton highly enough. Supporting the live-music ventures that happen in Melbourne is exactly why we get to see these dynamic and exciting new things.


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20 Dec A Community That Challenges and Informs – Off The Grid 2017


Words & Photos // Blake Creighton


A festival dedicated to zero emissions, zero waste and one that runs 100% on solar power, Off The Grid preaches a future of sustainability. It prompts the belief that as humans we can collectively piece together our skill sets, ideas and characteristics to create a community that challenges and informs. Plus, music.

Such topics discussed in the morning talks were; sustainability in your local community with Allison Rowe, Kate Nicolazzo, Michelle Isles and Taryn Lane, sustainability within business with Michael Alyisse, sustainability within construction with Prof. James Murray Parker, Dr. Jackson Clarke, Adam Styles and Prof. Yu Bai, and sustainability and Indigenous heritage with Linda Jackson. All of these talks where not limited to only sustainability, with each addressing critical discussions, and all of them leaving the audience well informed.

 

Jaala vs Man, perched behind her laptop and pieces of hardware, through droning synth, swirling ambience and field recordings, enclosed those who sprawled themselves underneath the solar panel stage design and beamed us up into space. For twenty odd minutes, whilst working challenging yet melancholy soundscapes, she had us orbiting through deep, dark space before strong screeching sounds had us pummelling back to the dusty gravel setting of the VCAA.

Dianas tenderly moved from electronic ambience to gracious indie rock. Rickety guitar, rhythmic bass, percussion and gleaming joint vocals harmoniously resonated throughout the small courtyard, accidentally interrupting the talks going on behind — the only incident of the day.

 

A trickle of punters waltzed through the gates as the second allocation of tickets allowed people in from 1pm to be apart of the remaining four hours of talks and ten hours of music.

Local favourites and down right gifted musicians Krakatau had the afternoon sunshine and near lush settings (all we needed was some greenery below our feet and in our peripherals) to themselves for a strong 45 minutes. Evocative saxophone, melodic synths, humble bass and teasing percussion worked the airwaves and settled the many who congregated in mere relaxation, in preparation for more dance unified music to stream out of the speakers.

Chee Shimizu’s tribal percussion fuelled the empty dance floor, building a set around left-field rhythms and sounds. The Japanese born DJ settled into his hour and a half as if it were an all day set, graciously weaving experimental tracks that created a vibrant dance floor.

Kaiit, with support from a bass, guitar, piano, percussion and three backing vocalists was entertaining to say the least. Her charisma and vocals encapsulated an atmosphere yet to be explored throughout the day. Tender Hip-Hop rhythms and sounds backed Kaiit’s phenomenal singing, before experimental house, techno and disco were to form a dance floor as the sun pierced through the solar panels above.

 

Melbourne’s own Toni Yotzi buckled everyone in for the next hour and fifteen minutes. She worked through dance heavy and eclectic percussive grooves, acid synth lines and intriguing melodies, all of which were, aside for a couple moments of wonkyness, mixed organically. Pacing herself and working the gathering crowd, the evening sun shimmered with our bodies and a transgression from dance floor four by four beats into eccentric disco came just in time for Sydney’s Ben Fester to see us through a sunset.

Track in track out, flowing off of Yotzi, Fester continued the rhythmic and eccentric grooves. Not conforming to any set genre and playing up to the now bustling crowd’s energy, a concoction of near flawless mixing and charisma paid respects to the last rays of sun that supplied the day’s electricity.

 

As the solar panels’ day of work harbouring the festival’s energy was done, so was Ben Festers, and Jay Daniel took the decks to close out the now crisp evening. Daniel is house music. And he is good house music. Just after a day of a mixed genres it was difficult to be engaged by the seamless four by four percussion and earthy bass. Welcomed by the majority however, and fuelling a riveting dance floor, Jay Daniel spurred the party on and closed Off the Grid in his own way.


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11 Dec Another Stellar Weekend in the Crater – HOPKINS CREEK 2017


Words by Sam Chesbrough // Photos by Kathleen Mary Lee


The months leading up to Christmas can be an absolutely tiring time for some. Between festivals that go loud and large like Strawberry Fields, time honoured classics like Meredith and a slew of other events, it’s easy to get lost among the big names. Hopkins Creek not so much managed to get its foot in the door for summer festivals, as it did firmly kick the door down. While only sporting two international headliners, Hopkins Creek nailed so many things in its second year that larger and more established festivals still seem to fluff up.

If you’ve kept your ear to the ground you’re sure to have picked up a bevvy of track IDs from the weekend – so rather than a comprehensive list of every act, we decided to go with Hopkins Creek’s top five moments (in no particular order). Hopefully, if you were there you might agree – and if you missed out, maybe this will encourage you to get your act together and come along next year.

 

CC Disco smashing out “Great Southern Land” by Icehouse

If you follow Melbourne’s disco darling on Instagram you might have seen a great clip from under the tent of Courtney pounding out an Australian classic. In a set typical of CC’s fondness for definitive disco cuts verging into housier gems, it’s hard to pick out a song or two. However, closing up her set as Saturday night ticked over was a track that got everyone singing. Other noteworthy numbers would be “Dance Ritual I (Lipelis Dream Dance Remix)” by Auntie Flo, but nothing quite compares to a track that would have my parents dancing as much as I was.

Mount Liberation Unlimited teasing out “Double Dance Lover”

The two Swedish maestros brought a brimming live performance to the crater this year, the first international act to play for the festival. Stringing the crowd along with the chipmunk vocal snippets of their most popular track, Mount Lib kept punters going with a fifteen-minute epic.

 

Sunnyside bringing the funk on Sunday morning

Bringing some balance to the electronic skew of tracks, Sunnyside’s psychedelic jazz performance was the perfect balm for those who might’ve gone a bit too deep in the crater the night before. Proving once and for all that the clarinet can well and truly be an instrument of dancefloor destruction, the quartet swung effortlessly through tempos and some bonus lyricism, bringing some hip-hop swing to their jazz.

Brian Not Brian singing along to Vera’s “Take Me To The Bridge”

Coming in hot from the UK was certified crate digger Brian Not Brian to headline Hopkins Creek. Slotted with the closing set for Hopkins, Brian Not Brian came on after a phenomenal closing track from Pjenne (Kings Of Tomorrow’s “Finally” if you’re interested). Opening up with a spoken word piece announcing that “peace is the word, the word is peace. Peace,” Brian brought in the healthy kick drum, bells, and whistles of Beautiful Swimmer’s “Oh Yeah”. With plenty more percussive belters like “Trummor” by HNNY, Brian Not Brian guided dancers through an exceptional sunset over the crater. As darkness settled and the end of Brian’s set came rolling around, a scarily familiar slap bass line came crawling over the speakers. There was a palpable energy as everyone grabbed their closest friend and sung the hook to “Take Me To The Bridge”. Clearly, Brian was vibing it too –
having an absolute ball in his gumboots (clearly well equipped) and it was enough to get an extra half an hour out of his set.

 

Hopkins Creek DJs, playing pretty much every classic under the sun

Whispers had been floating around that there would be an extended bar set after Brian Not Brian from the organisers – and after such a stellar effort from the team, they had truly earnt themselves that dream closing slot. Not one for subtleties, things got started with Tears For Fears‘ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. Between Todd, Olly, Ryan, Josh and James Keys there was a bit of one man upmanship over some hours, maybe being a bit disjointed sometimes but certainly entertaining. Everything from some deeper cuts (Dense & Pika’s “Colt” and Fort Romeau’s “Saku”) to soulful disco numbers (Jocelyn Brown’s “Somebody Else’s Guy” and Mary Clarke Jr’s “Take Me I’m Yours”) to the downright classics (Eric Prydz “Call On Me” and Groove Armada “Superstylin’ ”). Arguably it would be “Retro Grade” by Moda that burnt the house down, heavy on the effects and a nostalgic throwback to the parties that incubated the idea of Hopkins Creek. For me, that would have to be a personal highlight for Hopkins Creek 2017.

 

Of course, there were plenty of other exceptional moments that deserve a mention. Andy Garvey playing some electro bombs like “My World (Night Drive Mix)” by Sunday Brunch would have to be a hit. Also props to the annoyingly rare “Do I Do” by Maurice McGee getting a spin by Barry Sunset and Fitz-e (Rayko’s edit to be specific, a gem that teases out the vocal for oh so long). Also Claudia Jones – you guys were so much fun and exactly what Hopkins needed to get everyone dancing that Friday night.

All in all, Hopkins Creek proved that bigger isn’t necessarily better, during a time where Australians seem to steer towards smaller and more boutique festivals. The organisers held it together despite any inclement weather (I was feeling nervous camping in what was essentially a giant bowl during a one in a hundred year storm).

Everyone looked like they were having a good time, and from what I heard their policy of inclusivity and calling out any unwanted behaviour was held up. Facilities were ace; staff, sound, and light all did a fantastic job – as did Rhys Newling on the visuals. Not to mention the setting in the crater was sublime. Checklists aside, it was simply an incredibly fun weekend, and hats off to the crew who put it together. You can count me in for the crater next year.

 


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07 Dec Our Top Five – Strawberry Fields 2017


Words by David Collins // Photos by Justin Mclean


November means two things: Summer isn’t far away, and the wildlands of Strawberry Fields are calling. For many, Strawberry marks the official start of bush doof season. A time to break out the glitter, dust off the parasol and put on your finest disco kit. An eclectic mix of music nerds, Instagram it-girls, hippy ravers, and excited backpackers converged on the tiny town of Tocumwal for the weekend, keen to escape reality in one the most scenic (and uniquely Australian) festival locations in the world.

 

Compared to the searing heat of last year, the 2017 edition of Strawberry was much milder. A big downpour on Thursday night meant that the site was less dusty. And while there were a few patches of rain across the weekend, it didn’t seem to dull any enthusiasm. Now in its ninth year, the organisers at Strawberry should be applauded for creating a great atmosphere that continues to set the tone for the rest of the summer. A beautiful setting, carefully considered stage-design and world-class musical lineup culminated in a memorable weekend for many. Here are five key performances from across the four days.

 

OPTIMO

Greeting punters with a warm Glaswegian hug on Friday night were Scottish legends Optimo. Over two hours, the duo showed off the diverse, all-encompassing track selection that they’ve become famous for over the last decade. Drifting between techno, disco, electro and rock, there was definitely something for everyone, regardless of taste or mood. Highlights of their set included a swag of festival favourites like the KiNK remix of ‘Unit 2’ by Sunshine and Bicep’s latest single ‘Glue’. It was also nice to see the guys showcasing some locally produced music — raving along to Coober Pedy University Band’s anthem ‘Kookaburra’ felt even more special when amongst the gum trees, while Ram Jam’s 1979 classic ‘Black Betty’ gave any closet-rock fans opportunity for a quick headbang. Although Optimo’s genre-bending set lacked the musical cohesion most are used to seeing on the Strawberry mainstage, it was an inspired choice by festival organisers. The raucous energy of their tunes was the perfect way to get the party started and help the crowd lose any early inhibitions.

MALL GRAB

It’s been a busy 12 months for 23-year- old DJ and producer Jordon Alexander, aka Mall Grab. The New South Wales native managed to crack Resident Advisor’s prestigious top 100, grace the cover of Mixmag and headline some of Europe’s biggest clubs and festivals. With over a year between sets on home soil, it was a triumphant return to Melbourne as he graced the Wildlands on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Playing to the first big crowd of the day, there was clearly quite a few punters curious to see what all the hype was about. Full of energy as he bounced around the stage, Mall Grab played a set that seamlessly moved between funky hip-hop beats, jacking techno and lo-fi house. Alan Fitzpatrick‘s unrelenting ‘Beshektas’ was an early highlight, while Blaze’s classic house track ‘Lovelee Dae’ was the perfect soundtrack to a raving, sun-drenched crowd. I love seeing a DJ who is genuinely enjoying himself behind the decks and Mall Grab looked like he was loving every minute. The second hour of his set was full of big party tunes including the Switch classic ‘A Bit Patchy’, his own cut ‘Catching Feelings’ and a festival sing-a-long to ABBA’s ‘Lay Your Love On Me’. Watching Mall Grab perform live, it’s not hard to see why he has become one of the fastest rising names in dance music. His Strawberry set certainly didn’t do his reputation any harm — delighting his old fans and probably gaining a few new ones in the process.

 

CLUB COCO (CC: Disco, Simon TK, Chico G)

Meanwhile, down at the Beach stage, Melbourne trio CC:DISCO!, Simon TK and Chico G played a joyful B2B2B set under their Club Coco moniker. The daytime slot was the perfect remedy for anyone keen to escape the heat, take a dip in the river or dance off Friday night’s hangover among the gum trees. From midday to sundown, Club Coco brought 6 hours of power with a relaxed set that was big on good vibes and low on formality (bath robes were the uniform of choice). All three DJs showed off why they’ve individually earned a reputation as some of Australia’s best selectors. Cycling through an eclectic collection of happy disco edits, dreamy piano house (Latin Blood‘s ‘Deseo’) and cheesy 80’s Eurodance (Sabrina‘s ‘Boys Boys Boys’), it was very tempting to stay at the Beach stage all day, despite the bevy of internationals on offer elsewhere. As their set crept to a close, Toto‘s ‘Hold The Line’ gave the crowd one final hands in the air moment before the night’s festivities kicked off.

 

TIM ENGELHARDT

There was a distinctly German flavour about the festival on Saturday night. For those keen to get their techno fix, a world-class lineup awaited them on the Wildlands stage. After a chilled live set from Berlin’s Monolink, Cologne’s Tim Engelhardt was the next man to take to the decks at 10pm. With just a 90 minute time slot, Engelhardt wasted no time getting down to business, immediately setting the tone for the rest of the evening. The ominous breakdown of his track ‘No More Words’ sounded monstrous on the Funktion-One sound system with its rhythmic, rumbling bass. Engelhardt’s brand of lush, melodic techno has made his original productions a staple in the sets of industry heavyweights such as Tale Of Us, Andhim and Patrice Baumel in 2017. Fortunately for fans in the crowd, he showcased lots of his own material (old and new), including his hypnotic remix of Superflu’s ‘K5000’ and the immense ‘We Didn’t Talk For A While’. For his final song, Engelhardt teased the unmistakably wonky chords of ‘Reality’, the title track from this year’s standout EP. Slowly letting it build for what seemed like hours, he unleashed a wall of sound for one last dance. It was a masterful performance from the 19-year-old, who showed he’ll be a mainstay of festival lineups for years to come.

FRANKEY & SANDRINO

Continuing the German theme on Saturday night were Berlin residents Frankey & Sandrino. In recent years the duo have made a reputation for themselves with a string of killer releases on Dixon & Ame’s forward-thinking Innervisions imprint. With Frankey busy touring in Europe, it was left up to Sandrino to fly the flag for the outfit on their first appearance in Australia. Taking over where Engelhardt left off, Sandrino played a top-shelf techno set, full of new and unreleased tracks that struck a delicate balance between dark, sinister melodies, basslines and emotional builds. The stomping, drone-filled sounds of labelmate Trikk’s new track ‘Voltaire’ set the pace early, as did the Redshape remix of Rampa’s ‘Newborn Soul’ with its terrific, rising vocal. In the final stretch, Sandrino dropped Kienemusik’s soon-to-be-released single ‘Muye’. With a sea of smoke and lasers covering the crowd, the melancholy piano track gave the crowd a genuine goosebumps moment and one of the night’s top highlights.

Musically, attendees were spoilt for choice across the three days. Amongst a host of talented locals, there were great sets from Moopie, Ben Fester and Francis Inferno Orchestra. Other highlights across the weekend included Daniel Avery’s characteristically dark and brooding sound, a crowd-pleasing set from German hitmaker Lovebirds, and Yothu Yindi who played a brilliant 1am set in tribute of the late Dr G Yunupingu. Despite the bush doof calendar becoming increasingly crowded over the last few years, Strawberry Fields yet again showed why it’s one of the premier festival experiences not only in Australia but the world. I’m sure I’m not alone in echoing those famous words… ’Strawberry Fields Forever’.

 


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27 Nov Face The Music 2017: Recap


Words by Elvis Walsh


From Ariel Pink’s ‘scatological’ cycle of creativity, to the deeply intertwined cultures of Krautrock and the Aussie music scene, Face the Music 2017 was as interesting and educational as it was diverse and expansive in topics. The two day Australian music industry conference, annexed by Melbourne music institution The Push, is in its 10th year, marking a milestone in public arts and the local music industry. An absolute Mecca for aspiring youth craving to cut their teeth in the music scene, as well as seasoned veterans willing to explore the infinite facets of an ever moving culture, Face the Music prides themselves on their scholarly speakers and the spectrum of expertise brought with them, ensuring a fascinating experience for attendees with a plethora of musical backgrounds.

This year’s was based out of the grand St Paul’s Cathedral, an iconic central Melbourne landmark in its own right. The conference took place over eight separate venues, often running over four sessions at once. The breadth of topics and range of geographic, gender, racial and cultural backgrounds of the over 100 speakers is obvious draw card for the conference’s continual turn out, with purple lanyard sporting conference dwellers to be found in every corner of the CBD.

Kicking off the first day was a keynote panel featuring the ever exciting and enigmatic Ariel Pink, offering intimate insight into his creative processes and influences, including the unusual and poignant story behind his latest album Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. Later, and certainly a highlight for the day, the panel ‘Whitewashed’ tackled the prominent issue of the misrepresentation of people of colour throughout the industry, spawning debate and praise throughout conversations overheard around the cathedral.

Taking an international perspective, through the Victorian Govt.’s brand new ‘Music Passport’ program, there were a range of German guest speakers representing names such as Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Fest and German label Kontor Records. These speakers gave interesting advice for Australian musicians regarding the mega yet obscure market of the German live music scene. Concluding the first day were local artists Body Type and Press Club supporting the ever invigorating Kirin J. Callinan on the St. Paul’s stage for a free show, accessible to anyone so inclined.

Day two began with Herald Sun’s musical ex Mikey Cahill with a nostalgic retrospect of Melbourne music. Simultaneously, talks on artist management essentials such as exposure and accounting took place across the seven other venues. Later on was the hugely popular Planet Radio featuring Cheryl Waters, globally renowned DJ, programmer and host for Seattle’s KEXP radio station. You may be familiar with our own King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s numerous appearances on the station. Spread amongst the remaining day were numerous discussions and panels, including Marky Ramone, who featured in conversation on the ins and outs of the dense yet rewarding and expressive industry. Again, to top it off was ‘Cookin’ with Kirin J. Callinan, an interview/showcase of Kirin’s culinary skills and inner thoughts as an artist, cooking and divulging live from the carpark.

To mention every standalone event held at the conference within one article would result in a short book. This year’s event has topped its previous year’s yet again, with a larger turnout every iteration, and a continually impressive lineup of speakers.
For any person even remotely interested in music or behind the scenes of your favourite artists, festivals or labels, Face the Music is an amazing resource at your disposal.


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