Gracing the Werribee Racecourse at the weekend was this year’s Now & Again Festival. A strong line-up headlined by the comeback of Empire of the Sun meant it was going to be a day of fun across both the main stage and the side stage: a dance tent. The weather was perfect for the event, meaning everyone was out in force.
Opening act The Velvet Club put on a great set and allowed the energy to rise early. It was great to see all the locals arriving early to the festival. So, even right from the start there was a relatively heavy presence from punters.
RnB sensation Becca Hatch followed before Peach Prc and Running Touch wowed the crowd with their electronic pop sounds. Crooked Colours were up next and their electronic sounds made their way to the afternoon. “Flow”, “Do It Like You”, and the set’s closing track “Perfect Run”, were the highlights of their performance and really helped to keep the energy levels high at the mid point of the day.
Tones & I was up next on the main stage. This time sporting a band to drag her away from her keyboard. It made a huge difference to the engagement of her set as it released her to spend more time at the front of the stage. Of course, this wasn’t to last the whole set, with the star eventually getting back behind her keyboard to play some songs herself. Though, the addition of the band helped give those songs that little bit more, filling out some of the sparseness that could sometimes be a sonic staple of her live performances.
While it was disappointing to see that the festival’s promise of an “untapped experience in (…) art installations” did not come to fruition, the music throughout the festival arena more than made up for the lack of art. On top of that, there was an amazing selection of food across the range of food trucks.
The dance stage went off with large crowds under the dance tent for most of the day. While some were in there to escape the heat, most were there is listen to a ‘bop’ and have a boogie. They were helped along in the form of DJs who ran the stage until Empire of the Sun arrived on the stage. Early DJs Casey Leaver, Tina Say and Torren Foot kept the party pumping until big names Michael Bibi and Sven Vath kicked the dance tent’s party into overdrive.
Gang of Youths were simply incredible back on the main stage. Most of their festival sets are. The band played the hits from across their albums. But, apart from a couple of favourites off of Angel In Realtime they mostly stuck to tracks off of Go Farther In Lightness.
“The Heart Is A Muscle”, “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out” and “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” went off without a hitch with a cultlike mood falling over the crowd willed on by the tempting energy of Dave Le’aupepe at the front. As usual, Dave’s energy was contagious and while we don’t get to see them as often since the band’s international move, they still felt very much at home on a Melbourne festival stage.
Empire of the Sun was undeniably amazing. Even after a two-year hiatus, they had lost none of the fire that has made them such a brilliant performance act over the course of fifteen years.
Lead singer, Luke Steele was a revelation, both vocally and throughout the performance. With three costume changes, some incredible vocal work and a swarth of dancers to accompany the set, meaning their performance was the perfect finisher to the day of music.
Well-known tracks and long-time fan favourites, “Alive”, “We Are The People” and “Walking On a Dream” all made an appearance on a setlist full of nostalgic hits. Steele didn’t talk too much throughout their set, preferring to leave it to the music. But, the journeyman musician still had a sense of presence on stage, one where he didn’t really have to talk to command the audience’s attention.
Overall, the festival felt like a great success. The music was fantastic and while the art felt like a bit of an omission, the energy from the punters, the wide selection from the food trucks and the beautiful weather surely made up for any disappointments.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Now & Again Festival is over for another year. But hopefully, we’ll see it again grace the racecourse in Werribee in 2024.