Festival Review: Southbound Festival, Day 2 – Sir Stewart Bovell Park, Busselton (02.01.11)

Day 2 shall now forever be known as the Day of the Clash, so many great bands and not nearly enough time to see them all. It’s also the day a special shipment of Strongbow had to be shipped down because the bar had managed to run out after only one day.

Up first on the Paper Stage were local favourites The Brow Horn Orchestra who managed to pack an incredibly respectable number of people into the tent given the early billing. A Brow Horn set is definitely a good way to start the day, full of energy and enthusiasm it’s very hard not to look forward to the rest of the day. The set seemed a little more rap/hip hop heavy than usual, not that it was to the band’s detriment, instead showing how diverse a band they can be. In terms of tracks played, “Goliath” and “We Were The Heart Is” shone out, with the former getting better and better each time I see it.

Up next onto the same stage was buzz band of the moment, Boy & Bear who as expected drew a fairly sizeable crowd. They played a number of the crowd favourites whilst slotting in a few new tracks, with the new ones getting a great response from the crowd and rightly so. The band have certainly gained a lot of confidence in the months following their meteoric rise. I didn’t stay for the whole set, but what I heard I loved, and it was only after leaving the tent you really realised just how many people were watching them.

Up next for me was Charlie Parr, a sort of mix between Steve Earle and Seasick Steve. Unfortunately he didn’t draw all that much of a crowd, when I arrived I think there was about seven of us, though that number did grow. Armed only with a guitar and a stomp box, he powered through a collection of fantastic bluesy and countryesque songs, all the while showing off his prodigious talent on the guitar. Parr was wonderfully at ease on stage, telling a joke to the audience, but mostly letting his music and songs do all the talking. The set’s highlight for me was his take on the traditional song, “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down” which he sang with no accompaniment other than the stomp box.

Sticking with the same stage it was time for The Morning Benders to take to the stage. Again they didn’t quite as much of a crowd as I would like but that didn’t seem to stop them putting on a great show. They were great fun live, with a great live sound. They played mostly their own material but chucked in a pretty sweet Fleetwood Mac cover as well. At times I would say they were slightly Vampire Weekendish, but they do have their own sort of sound which is uniquely suited to them. On the whole it was a great guitar driven set, with a nice dash of keys here and there to balance the whole thing out.

Back to the Paper Tent it was time for The Middle East; unable to get into the packed out tent, I unfortunately had to listen from the outside, all the while avoiding the blistering heat. But from what I heard it seemed like a great mellow and chilled out set, perfect for the hot summer afternoon. Vocally they seemed spot on for me, and the snippets of instrumentation I heard come my way sounded fantastic and has definitely made me want to try and get to see them live – and well actually see them.

Up next on the Paper Stage was ARIA award winner Dan Sultan. He was a good as I have come to expect, indeed this was probably one of the best festival sets I have seen him put out; with everyone in the band seemingly in high spirits and energy, impressive given the heat. It was a set that leaned heavily towards his faster and more upbeat numbers with the likes of “Fear of Flying” and “Cadillac and Mustang” getting outings; though the fantastic “Old Fitzroy” got an outing too. Given the heat, there were a fair few calls to remove his shirt which were all taken in good jest, though I think some in the crowd would have like him to take those requests more literally. It was also nice to see an artist care about his audience, chucking some water into the crowd and reminding everyone to look after themselves.

Then it was back across to the unfortunately un-shaded Scissors Stage for Melbourne band Big Scary, who were considerably rockier sounding than I remember them being last time I saw them play. This is no bad thing though, and it was more than enjoyable enough. They reminded me somewhat of a rockier An Horse (though with roles reversed). They showcased a fair bit of new material (but then it could just have been new to me) all of it which sounded great and got a great reaction from quite a respectably sized crowd. A great solid and confident set, definitely would like to see more of this band.

After a short dinner break and sound check, it was time for Californian rockers The Soft Pack to take to the stage. This was a no holds barred Rock and Roll set, no frills or fancy technology, just a handful of guitars, some drums, and some vodka. It had that proper garage rock feel to it, with the guitarist seemingly managing to lose about 3 strings by the end of the first song. As a band they weren’t particularly talkative, just announcing the names of the songs, instead choosing to play as many songs as possible. The audience really seemed to enjoy it, with many of them rocking out, the high energy set rejuvenating them after being stuck in the hot afternoon sun. A great set from a great band.

Up next was The National and their set was quickly going to become one of the highlights of the festival. Somehow I had managed to miss them at Glastonbury earlier in the year, so this was my first main introduction to the band other than a few listens to their latest album, and boy did they not disappoint. They were incredibly engaging with lead singer Matt Berninger looking dashing in a three piece suit, literally roaring into the crowd in a bid to energise them. And he sure knows how to win over a crowd, announcing that he was drinking the produce of a local winery. As a front-man he definitely led from the front, with the whole band doing an excellent job breathing new life into the recorded material in the live format. The band really managed to create a sense of intimacy despite the size of the tent, and the fact that it was split between the drinkers and the non drinkers; though this was no doubt helped by Berninger’s leap into the crowd, literally bringing the music to them, it was really one of those fantastic moments when the audience and artist really get to connect.

After a short trek back to the tents to gather some supplies it was time to head over to Joan Jett & The Blackhearts to catch the tail end of their set. As I am sure most of you are aware Joan Jett is of Runaways fame, a band which is undergoing a bit of a revival thanks to the recent film. From what I heard of the set there was a slight country rock vibe to sound, despite the bands best efforts to look all punk and rock and roll. I don’t know why I think that, but there was just that little bit of a twang every now and then. It seemed like most of the crowd were there for one song and one song only, so unfortunately when Jett didn’t save “I Love Rock and Roll” for the final song there was a bit of a mass exodus. But then that’s the danger I suppose of having a classic rock song in your back catalogue. Other than that, Jett mixed it up between her own work with the Blackhearts and her earlier work with The Runaways. All in all it was a great performance with Jett looking every bit the rock chick, whilst her band were very much trying to do the same. There has been some criticism around that Jett was not really a suitable headliner for the festival, given that its largely a younger demographic – but that being said she still managed to pull a healthy crowd, much better than some of the band suited to the demographics. Plus it’s not as if you didn’t have plenty of other musical options to choose from.


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.