Another year, another Southbound Festival and despite predictions of the opposite, attendance was up on last year, with the vast majority of the attendees opting to camp on site for the weekends festivities. Though this years line-up may not have been at its most buzz-worthy, it was still a fine collection of acts over the two days, with just enough variety to keep everybody happy.
Local’s Bastian’s Happy Flight kicked started my festival, with a great 80’s-tastic set. It was an upbeat set, the perfect warm up for the long day ahead. They drew a good-sized crowd, and got some of those early birds up and dancing. They played a mixture of tracks, some from their debut EP, including my particular favourite ‘You Keep Dancin’, as well as a couple of new ones from their upcoming EP.
Ball Park Music pulled a large crowd to the main Sunny Stage for what was a fun and entertaining set. With all his shimmying and gyrating around the stage, I was struck by how much frontman Sam Cromack reminded me of Jarvis Cocker, albeit younger and considerably more Australian. The band played a mixture of tracks from their two albums, with much of the audience singing along word for word.
Next, I headed back across to the Share tent for Melbourne’s Loon Lake, who entertained with a rocky guitar driven, closing with a great cover of The Darkness hit ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’. The band proved popular with the festivalgoers, drawing a sizeable and boisterous crowd that were cheering and singing along for most of the set.
Sharon Van Etten proved to be one of my favourite sets of the day. Though she kept interaction with the audience short, her performance was captivating, with a brilliant vocal performance that was backed up by an equally accomplished performance from her band. ‘Leonard’ from her latest album Tramp, was a distinct highlight, albeit one of many.
In recent years, the festival has begun adding comedians to the bill to varying degrees of success.. Initially I wasn’t a fan of the set’s compere Matt Okine, but he grew on me eventually, the same seemed to be true for the audience. Luke Heggie managed to get a few laughs out of the audience as well, but seemed to struggle a little at times. I’ve never been a massive Felicity Ward fan, and her appearance at the festival didn’t win me over. It just never seemed to really get started, with barely a joke before she was being told to wrap it up.
Local favourites San Cisco were next up on to the stage, drawing one of the biggest crowds of the festival so far. The band was at their usual upbeat and chirpy best, working through a set which was brimming with crowd favourites. It was the kind of set where sing-alongs were aplenty, and high on audience participation, especially for hit song “Awkward” and “Rocket Ship”, which saw the band joined by The Jungle Giants.
I’ve never really understood the inclusion of DJs at festivals like this, so it was mostly out of curiosity that I stuck around to watch Jurassic 5’s DJ Nu-Mark. It was a fun set, and for me basically came across as a kind of greatest hits set, albeit the greatest hits of a wide variety of music’s biggest stars. Can’t say I still understand it fully, but he certainly succeeded on getting plenty of people on their feet and dancing.
Boy & Bear drew a sizeable early evening crowd to the main Sunny Stage for what was a largely chilled and relaxed set. The band were on fine form, with some beautiful harmonies and their distinctive layered guitar driven sound, my favourite song of the set, their cover of Crowded House’s ‘Fall At Your Feet’ with snippets of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ chucked in for good measure. The band took the opportunity to try out a few new tracks on the crowd, all of which seemed to go well.
I nipped back across to the share tent to catch the tail end of Flume’s set; most to find out what all the recent hype has been about. Unsurprisingly the beat maker had amassed a sizeable crowd by this point, so I didn’t really manage to get much closer than the edge of the tent. I feel like that if I’d gotten there a bit earlier, and been amongst the crowd more, I might have enjoyed it, instead I felt a little disengaged from it all.
My plan had been to stick around and catch SBTRKT’s set, but ended up getting distracted by The Hives. It’s hard to keep on walking past, when you see the band’s leader singer dressed in top hat and tails jumping round the stage, mic stand in tow. They were undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festival. Undeniably entertaining, the band’s set was a master class in how to work an audience and put on a memorable show at a festival. My only complaint is that no one told me how awesome this band was earlier.
The Flaming Lips were tasked with closing the festival’s opening night. Having seen the band preform twice before I was looking forward to their set. They never fail to create a spectacle, bring a bit of cosmic chaos to the proceedings. I have to admit, however, I was a little disappointed by their set.
Certainly the bombast and spectacle were there, Wayne Coyne opening the set with his trademark dash above the crowd. The balloons and confetti were all there, but once you got past that, it all felt a little flat. It wasn’t a bad set, it just didn’t seem to be at the same level as the previous times I’d seen the band. It certainly didn’t seem an outwardly accessible set, with the majority of the set made up newer tracks, or material from Soft Bulletin. The occasion was also marred somewhat by the news that the band’s giant laser hands had been stolen after their set (though later retrieved).