LIVE: Southbound Festival 2016
Sir Stewart Bovell Park, Busselton
Wednesday 28 & Thursday 29 December, 2016
Reviewed by Daryl Emmet
Photography by Paul Dowd
Arriving at Sir Stewart Bovell Park early in the morning on the second day of Southbound 2016, we got a little confused on the way and found ourselves in the awkward position of asking for directions to the box office to collect our tickets. In an age where asking such questions usually gets you the run around, surprisingly the bloke manning the camping gate was more than well briefed on the layout of the venue, and we easily found our way to the Box Office and were welcomed with enthusiasm by staff oozing positivity for the days ahead – a mood that was shared by all the staff throughout the following days of the event.
Entering the festival as a camper was nothing short of a military operation as they lined the cars up in groups and pack released them into the grounds. It gave a sense that these guys were taking the safety of their patrons and the event seriously, and although some words were said in jestful scorn of the process, you were set at ease to enjoy the weekend confident that you were going to well looked after. Allocation of the camping site was extremely well organised with plenty of space for all, with regularly cleaned and maintained toilet facilities and hot showers.
Once set up, we made our way to the main area to see what was in store for us. Unlike most festival setups in the past Southbound’s outer areas had been set up to be more like a market place with a vast array of food stands, craft beer pop up bars, and market stalls, providing a much wider selection than the usual cattle grid bar and microwaved chicken roll many would be used to.
As the day started to make its transition from the gentle cool of the morning to midday heat, the sun made its presence well known as the back of the legs and neck began to tingle. The crowd had nothing to fear though thanks to the Red Frog crew, with regular posts around the venue supplying a constant flow of cool water and sunscreen for everyone. With their people regularly passing by through the crowd ensuring that you were reminded to reapply, this reviewer and vast number of other punters avoided the usual ass kicking the sun deals out on these festival days.
Before heading to the main stage area, we stopped to listen in to the Rock and Roll Karaoke. We didn’t stay long, but there was a vibrant crowd in the tent with a mosh pit all their own, and although the temptation was there to join in to the enthusiastic rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, the call went out ‘Tired Lion, Mainbreak stage’.
Perth troupe Tired Lion blessed the crowd with their pounding rock. Sounding like a combination of Smashing Pumpkins and Jebediah, they’re fronted by Sophie Hopes, who brought to mind vocalists like Courtney Love and Adalita. Hopes comfortably interacted with the crowd and although they were thankful to be back at home, they seemed surprised that Perth liked them since they had been spending so much time over East. Starting with Figurine they blistered through a set of well crafted rock numbers and vocal hooks, a cover of Blur’s Song 2 and wrapped up the set with the radio favourites I Don’t Think You Like Me and Not My Friends. Tired Lion set an admirable precedent of what to expect for the rest of the day.
Montaigne has a unique vocal style that really can’t be imitated, with a remarkable range and vibrato, creating a sense of anxiety gracefully breaking through to serenity. Enhanced by beautifully atmospheric music, her songs are at times is elegantly simple, at others sonically large. Throwing herself into her music, the passion Montaigne exudes is palpable. Numbers like I’m a Fantastic Wreck, Because I Love You, What You Mean to Me and In the Dark had the crowd dancing and singing along. Montaigne is a young talent that is destined for a long career.
Understated yet popular Aussie favourites The Smith Street Band bounded onto the Mainbreak Stage with their latest single Death to the Lads. Their brutally Australian sound injected with elements of 90’s Brit Rock and punk. Wil Wagner’s crafted lyrics combined with the band’s flawless transitions from gentle guitar and vocals to screaming crescendos, The Smith Street Band capture the spirit of Australian pub rock in their own unique way. The usual favourites were in there, Surrender, I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore, and Young Drunk. Throughout the set, it was blatantly obvious that the whole band were just having a great time with the smile on Wil’s face never shifting, and it permeated through the whole crowd.
Frank Sinatra’s A Kick to the Head echoed over the grounds as Catfish and the Bottlemen wandered onto the stage, decked out in all black. Catfish and the Bottlemen have a very catchy post punk sound, venturing from that unmistakeable Brit Rock sound through to a sound more proggy, and at times reminiscent of Bloc Party without the electronica and better vocals. A great sounding band but not very talkative and a little stiff on stage Catfish and the Bottlemen took a bit of effort to watch until the end of the set amidst such a party festival atmosphere.
As nightfall descended the crowd poured into the Mainbreak stage as Safia and a full band took to the stage amidst a near overwhelming light show. Safia have a great handle on splicing their live show and staying true to their electronic sound. The crowd bounced and danced through the whole set until, from out of nowhere, someone unleashed the innards of a large duck down pillow. The feathers floating through the air added to the perfectly time light show.
The closing act for the day was Sydney’s Sticky Fingers, with their reggae-laced fusion rock. Throughout the show not a word was uttered by vocalist, Dylan Frost, and hardly a word from the rest of the band other than the obligatory song name or thank you. One couldn’t help think that the recent announcement of their indefinite hiatus has severely hampered the mood of the band. Sticky Fingers presented a set of wondrously constructed pop rock songs and the crowd loved every moment of it. You can appreciate why they are so adored: they took the crowd on an eclectic journey. It truly is a shame that this will be one of their final shows, and one can only hope that they will return in some other reincarnation. There is too much talent within this band, too much energy proven in this show, that even their sombre mood couldn’t stop the audience from losing themselves in the music.
Day 3 – Thursday 29 January
Up early on the Thursday, we ventured over to the Lefty’s tent to catch local festival new comers Lilt. Marred by technical difficulties at the beginning of their set due to resetting the generator which in turn played havoc with their programmer’s computer, Lilt’s show was cut short by twenty minutes. Surprisingly, the show could go on, to a grateful crowd of early risers.
Lilt are a three piece percussion based electronic act. Their very full and atmospheric sound could easily have been a part of a score for one of those dystopian young adult fantasy/science fiction movies. Fronted by vocalist Louise Penman, whose soaring voice combined with Matt McLean’s synth work, and Brett Walsh’s solid drumming created a hugely ambient set. Gracefully flitting between gentle and melodious to a sonic point where the goose bumps were literally jumping off your skin, their set peaked during the song Powerless, which truly left you weak at the knees.
Back to the Mainbreak Stage, Perth rapper Mathas was nigh on unrecognisable dressed up to act the part of the fat corporate charlatan perfectly satirising those of us in this world focussed on the superficial and turning over the bucks. Joined by a full band which really filled out his sound, and combining his show with a bit of theatre performance, especially in his first song, Mathas launched into what was to be a most entertaining show. Mathas has a brilliant talent to make the words that he delivers so malleable that they portray exactly the point he wishes to get through to his audience, and the wit and intelligence to entertain at the same. Every song has some sort of comment on the political, ethical, and social. All the favourites were there, Doctorshopping, Interplanetary Relations, a hilarious rendition of White Sugar, and new single Enforce Less (an apt comment on over-policing minor offences in Western Australia). Mathas wrapped up his set by thanking the traditional owners of the park and performing his commentary on Aboriginal relations with Nourishment.
One of the stand performances of the whole event was Melbourne’s The Bennies. From the moment they walked on stage, and with a promise that they were going to keep it going throughout the rest of the day, these lads were ready to party. With their infectious take on punk and their party themed lyrics the fun loving members of The Bennies were sure to please. With Anty bouncing around like a cricket on a pogo stick the crowd followed suit and didn’t let up until the bitter end. Launching the set with Highrider the energy didn’t let up while they dropped Detroit Rock Ciggies, calling an early New Year celebration with Party Machine, and followed an impromptu ‘shoey’ with Knight’s Forever.
Seth Sentry performed a blistering set, at one point calling a member of the audience to jump up on stage to play her tambourine along with him and his DJ and drummer.
Norway’s Highasakite played through a majestic set. Vocalist Ingrid Håvik fluttered about the stage looking like the Daenerys Targaryen. At any moment, you were waiting for the dragons to burst forth just as the music was meeting its critical point.
Fremantle’s San Cisco sailed onto the Mainbreak stage. They have a very laid back and nautical feel to their music. Yet another band that let the music do most of the talking for them except for the odd utterance from Scarlett Stevens from behind the drum kit. San Cisco were a pleasurable cruise ride to lead into the evening of the final day.
A quick moment to stop by the Lefty’s tent again to check out the start of Canadian artist Peaches. As she set her sampling machine and jumped up onto the desk donning a remarkably pink jump suit, made from what looked like the heads of those brooms with the weird little fingers, Peaches was soon joined on stage by two dancers with what looked like large African face masks. But they weren’t face masks, they were large dancing vaginas, made obvious as Peaches performed her single from 2015, Vaginaplasty. Stripping down to a skin coloured leotard with oversized pink fluff covering only the necessary bits, Peaches segued into Talk to Me. Peaches doesn’t cease to push the boundaries of art, music, and good taste, and is guaranteed to shock. With our jaws suitably dropped, we made our way back to the Mainbreak stage.
The Cat Empire blessed the ears of the audience with the their easy going Spanish jazz-infused folk rock. Running through favourites like Wolves, Bulls, Daggers Drawn, Two Shoes and Still Young. Like most bands that float in this genre they took the time to show the musical prowess of each member of the band, a special moment shared from each. Most especially when Ollie McGill laced the crowd with his piano solo during Daggers Drawn. Felix Riebl lashed us with a breathtaking percussive solo and DJ Jumps had the audience drooling with his precision on the decks.
The Southbound Festival was something to be rivalled as far the presentation of the whole event was concerned, with the copious selection of decent and affordable food vans, the market stalls, the much more palatable selection of beer and wine, and a great selection of bands that brushed on most of the popular genres, but you couldn’t help but notice that this event was nowhere near capacity. Not that this was such a bad thing for the ticket holder though. There were no long waits for drinks and food, or the toilet. The staff weren’t stressed out and crabby, and it genuinely made for a much more intimate and enjoyable few days with like-minded music loving patrons compared to other capacity filled festivals. Not once was there any evidence of malice or overly bad behaviour, and if there was it was quickly seen to away from the eyes of the masses. And as easily as we arrived, we could leave the grounds, with no funnelling lines adding that unnecessary anxiety before a long drive home.
Overall, a great few days. With a couple of thousand more people it would be the perfect event for the organisers, the bands, and the punters alike.
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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE