Festival Review: Southbound Festival – Day Two (08.01.12)

Whilst the first day of the festival had its undeniable highlights and a number of memorable music moments, it became clear fairly early in the day that the second day wasn’t going to disappoint either. Whether it be discovering new bands, insane dance circles, or enjoying an ice cold cider whilst listening to some great folk music, there was something for everyone on the final day of the festival.

My day started off with Melbourne native Gossling, who drew an impressive and attentive crowd. Joined by her brightly and sharply dressed band, Gossling proceeded to play through tracks from her EP whilst slipping in a great cover of Ou Est La Swimming Pools “Dance The Way I Feel”. Gossling’s distinctive vocals and melodic and pleasant pop music were the perfect start to the chilled out sun kissed day.

It was then across to the main Sunny Stage to catch the first half of rising Melbourne band Alpine, who put on a solid performance replete with enchanting and ethereal vocal harmonies. Main issue however being that on the outside stage the slight wind carried away and distorted some of the vocals marring the performance somewhat. All in all, the band produced pleasant and quirky pop performance, albeit one that was slightly repetitive on the vocal front.

I then headed back to the Share Stage just in time to see the tail end of Emma Louise’s set. Unsurprisingly, given her currently popularity, she drew a large crowd. Having only really heard her song Jungle I was expecting a more upbeat set, yet many of the songs she played towards the end were full of folky introspection, about loves lost and friendship; though she did close with ‘Jungle” much to the audiences delight.

After a short turn around it was time for Grizzy Bear member Chris Taylor to take the stage with his side project CANT. I couldn’t quite catch what he said, but there was the odd technical difficulty during the set, which seemed to stem from the band not using their usual instruments, instead borrowing equipment from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Though this didn’t really impact too heavily on the crowd’s (or my) enjoyment of the set. Taylor was both a charming and engaging performer on stage, with just the right levels of indie aloofness.

Next on the Share Stage were instrument lenders, 2011 buzz band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, how put on an energetic and entertaining set. It was a largely upbeat set, with the band mostly playing straight through and only occasionally stopping to chat to the audience. Particularly impressive was the drumming, which was solid and really set the tone for the whole set. As with most of the sets other the weekend they seemed to be over too soon. Hopefully it wont be too long before they are back on our shores again.

In a slight change of tack up next on the Share Stage was comedian Josh Thomas and his “friends”. His friends being a compere, whose name unfortunately I never quite caught, and Mo from the Amazing Race. The set had some funny moments, with majority coming from Thomas, who was at this awkward best, working through all his usual topics, from his sexuality, his relationships and his pet dog. The compere had quite a few funny moments, dealing with hecklers and engaging the audience well. The set also had plenty of unfunny momemts, replete with awkward silences, unfortunately many came at the expense of Mo, who despite his enthusiasm, never really managed to get the audience on his side.

Whilst the majority of the festivalgoers flocked to the sunshine for Missy Higgin’s return to the stage, some, myself included hung around the Share Stage for Dan Deacon’s set. Those who stayed were treated to a set that was energetic, entertaining and at times just downright insane. As soon as you get him on stage Deacon is a force to reckon with, joined on this tour with some members of his ensemble, electronic beats and sounds were mixed with brilliant live drumming to great effect. Deacon is a mesmerising performer, ducking and weaving to the music; equally mesmerising were the drummers who impressed both with their stamina and ability. The highlights of the set however were probably the moments of audience interaction, from the opening moments of blowing covert kisses to complete strangers, to the mass dance circles that have come to be a staple of Deacon’s set. A definite highlight of the festival, and one, which wont, be easy to forget or improve upon.

After a short break to get some food and head to the bar, it was time for Fleet Foxes to take to the main stage. This was the second time I had seen the band in less than a year, having seen him play the Other Stage at Glastonbury back in June. Whilst the set remained fairly similar, with a nice mix of tracks from latest album Helplessness Blues and their self-titled debut, they were nothing short of impressive. Whilst they may not be the most mobile of bands, they are still somehow incredibly captivating. I was initially concerned that they’re music somehow wouldn’t work so well, or have the same impact on a hot summers day. Helplessness Blues has an atmospheric quality that seems better suited to long drawn out nights than 30-degree days; by midway through the first song, all those concerns were swept aside. The band put on a fantastic set, stopping only briefly to chat to the audience about the perils of jellyfish. Whilst some may complain that they didn’t interact much with the audience; I was personally happy that the band used their limited time to play as many songs as they possibly could. The highlights for me were a beautiful rendition of “Mykonos” as well as great versions of “Helplessness Blues” and “Sim Sala Bim”.

Up next were Brighton band The Kooks. Having been a fan of their debut album it was great to finally hear tracks from the album played live, and even better to have them live up to expectations. Despite local favourite Drapht playing on the other stage, the Kooks drew and impressive and enthusiastic crowd. Frontman Luke Pritchard was in his element, jumping all over the stage and bantering with the crowd (though not to everyone’s delight, something was thrown on stage just before the band launched into Seaside). Not being particularly familiar with any of the songs of Konk or Junk of the Heart, the highlights of the set for me were tracks off their debut album, especially “She Moves In Her Own Way”, “Naïve” and “Seaside”. All in all it was a great upbeat set, which has made me want to hunt out their other two records.

I must admit I was a little cynical about the John Butler Trio’s position as headliners. They have been regular attendees at most of the major WA festivals of late, either in one form or the other, and headlined more than a few of them. But every little bit of doubt and suspicion was quickly dispelled once Butler and friends took the stage and I was reminded of the kind of musical force that they are. Whilst he may not have been completely his usual self, he was battling illness by all accounts; he still managed to put on a fantastic performance that got the whole crowd on their feet and dancing. Not one to pull his punches when it comes to issues regarding the environment, Butler again lamented the WA State Government’s decision to disrupt the natural landscape of the Northern Kimberly region. Yet for the most part he allowed his music to do the talking, playing a mixture of tracks from his career including a mesmerising rendition Ocean which had the audience captivated from start to finish. Other highlights included a “Funky Tonight”, complete with extended bluegrass banjo intro, and a rocking version of “Treat Yo Mama”. Butler closed out his set and the festival with “One Way Road” and an impressive three-way drum off with Nicky Bomba and Byron Luiters.

Then all too quickly the festival came to a close, and the two main stages fell quiet for another year. Despite the reduction in size from the year before, Southbound showed it’s possible to downsize but still put on a festival to be proud of, giving punters a weekend of great music, and many a memorable performance. Here’s to doing it all again next year!

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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.

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