Festival Review: The Farmer and the Owl - University of Wollongong, Wollongong (14.03.2015)

Going down to Wollongong University to attend Farmer and The Owl is an absolute joy. The trip which is only a touch over an hour’s drive from Sydney is an ease and the festival is filled with laid-back easy-going coastal vibes. That is despite the healthy helping of raucous rock that filled out the line-up.

Wollongong is so close to Sydney it seems amazing that the area has cultivated such as strong scene over time. Farmer and The Owl really is a showcase of the growing culture of the town and its slow transition from a working class mining and shipping port to a modern cultural centre. On show outside of the bands were quality food stores set up by local businesses and art installations provided by local artists, including Michael Cusack’s infamous ciggie butt brains Damo and Darren.

The local band scene has cultivated an impressive set of bands with The Walking Who, Step-Panther and Hockey Dad all playing sharp sets to large crowds. Hockey Dad may have the largest profile out of the groups, with the recent support from Triple J but it is Shining Bird who are the true local legends. The group’s expressive, expansive music soaking into the crowd over the course of their late afternoon set. It run the line between being introverted and celebratory even inspiring stage invaders and crowd surfers.

There were few stages as busy as Shining Bird’s six members, Velociraptor's party rock group trimmed down from nine to only six, still delivered a rollicking set. Two piece groups dominated throughout much of the day with The Mess Hall making a welcome return to stages, having been rather quiet. Thankfully Jed Kurzel and Cec Condon have lost none of their edge, with the bluesy stomp of "Pills", "Keep Walking" and "Disco 1" aging admirably.

Tour mate Bass Drum of Death and DZ Deathrays have both added a second guitarist to fill out the overdubs of their most recent records. DZ Deathrays delivered the beer soaked thrash filled headline set that they have become renowned for across the country. If you aren’t having fun at a DZ Deathrays show, you have become tired of rock or just not drank enough. Bass Drum of Death have developed their sound a lot from the scrappy pop-punk of their debut album into far more fully fleshed out songs on their latest record. While there was a clear distinction between the two both had their own merits cutting between paper thin thrash and full bodied rock.

Earlier in the day The Peep Tempel played a set drawing from their highly regarded album Tales. Their grizzled set felt somewhat like watching Gareth Liddiard fronting Future of The Left. Blake Scott’s deep Australian drawl adding a sense of menace to tracks like the wry, crowd favourite "Carol".

The night was closed out in classical fashion by Jebediah. The group relishing the opportunity to blow off some cobwebs themselves before embarking on their 20th anniversary tour in May. The nostalgia trip of reliving classics Jeb tracks like "Harpoon", "Animal" and "Teflon" proved a perfect way to close out a day filled with good classic Austrlian rock (with some internationals). With a thriving local scene, great food and well priced beer and not to mention the great venue that the University is we should hope to see The Farmer and Owl develop into an annual event.