Sunday, January 13, 2008

Southbound Festival @ Sir Stewart Bovell Park Busselton, 04.01.08 & 05.01.08

Southbound is an annual arts, camping and music festival held at the Sir Stewart Bovell Park in Busselton. With an astounding line-ups of names like Kings of Leon, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Groove Armada, The Pipettes and Jose Gonzalez, this year's event was a sold-out. I was tempted to attend but the idea of camping got me think twice, then not long later it was announced sold out. I thought I would have to miss it, but something flipped over when I found out about their volunteer role offer. Work a couple hours as a wristbander and get a festival ticket in exchange, does sound fair to me. So off I go to a place 3 hours south of Perth, where I spent a thrilling weekend of some good rock and roll and camping.

Over 20,000 music lovers, seasoned festival-goers, fluoro kids, hippies and indie kids descended upon Busso over the weekend. Campers were treated to some early camping entertainment on Friday. Straight from my wristbanding shift, I headed to the Big Top tent to catch the folksy acoustic sound of Angus and Julia Stone. I enjoyed quite a bit to the brother-sister duo's delicate harmonies and distinctive vocals where Angus and Julia took turn at lead. Their songs are simply hypnotizing, there was a warm vibe among the crowd especially when everyone sang along to Paper Aeroplane. Next up was Lior which I missed because it was time to get some drinks and dinner. It was The Beautiful Girls's turn when I headed back to the stage. Everyone was dancing to the band's signature harmony of roots, rock and reggae sound. Then The Waifs took over the stage to close off the night. It was my first time listening to The Waifs, their music did not really do for me. Playing at home was a great plus for the band, the crowd seemed to love every minute of the set.

Saturday saw 2 main stages (This Stage and That Stage), a smaller undercover stage (The Other Stage) and a DJ Stage (Coconut Club).with around 3o acts playing. The day started off at 11am with The Dirty Secrets playing at This Stage to the earlycomers. The local boys played an energetic set eventhough the crowd seemed to be a little just out of bed. The band pumped up the amp with the Triple J's heavily played 5 Feet Of Snow and My Heart Is On Fire.

We stayed at This Stage for The Pipettes to come up next. At the same time The Panics and The Paper Scissors were playing The Other Stage and That Stage to which both we wished we could see if not for the timetable clashes. The all-girl retro-indie-pop group was a fun to see with their harmonic vocals, polka-dot dresses and synchronised choreography. The girls also demonstrated some dance moves and asked the crowd to follow. Crowd favourites were We Are The Pipettes, Pull Shapes and Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me where everyone just got up and danced away.

Next up on This Stage was Angus and Julia Stone, but we headed off to That Stage to catch the Queensland teens Operator Please. The band has set for bigger stage and things since I last saw them opened for Kaiser Chiefs, winning ARIA, having song played on commercial and debut getting rave reviews. They entertained the crowd with their brand of infectious sugary pop, the set of course included their hits Just a Song About Ping Pong and Leave It Alone which induced some sing-along.

Then we ventured over to The Other Stage for Jose Gonzalez. That undercover small stage was not big enough to cover all the fans wanting to see the Swedish indie folk songwriter, the people outside the undercover area tried to squeeze in for a better view, plus the heat under the canvas made it more uncomfortable. Frustration grew among the crowd as there was a late start due to sound system problems. After 20 minutes delay, Jose Gonzalez finally took on the stage with his trademark acoustic guitar. He serenaded the audience with his soft vocal on amazing covers like Heartbeats, Hand On Your Heart and Teardrop, and also his original works. We were left a little disappointed after the set as we stood up front near the tall stage, we could only see his head popping in the air and missed all the finger actions of the fine guitarist.

We caught a little actions of The Beautiful Girls and The Go! Team at That Stage and This Stage while going to get lunch and sit down a bit. Then we headed back to The Other Stage for Gotye who had same problems as Jose Gonzalez, the stage is too small for the onlookers and a delay due to sound issues. Before the set started, we decided to walk off and turn to This Stage in order to get up front for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It was a real shame we had to miss the drummer boy Wally DeBacker works his soulful voice and drum kit off.

Peter Hayes' hair was unexpectedly slicked back ala Johnny Cash for the much anticipated set of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. As usual the band was clad in their signature denim and leather outfit, even under the summer heat. The band played a short but perfectly executed set of gritty, bluesy rock. They kicked off with the explosive Took Out A Loan and Weapon Of Choice, which got the fans instantly pumped up, then great earlier works like Love Burns and Spread Your Love generated even bigger crowd response. Their song selection was a mix of latest album 'Baby 81' and previous albums, I thought it would be nice if they could have played more of the stripped down folks from my personal favourite 'Howl'. Hayes and Robert Levon Been took turn at lead vocal, both provided some brilliantly intense performance. Like every other gig of the band, Hayes was seen smoking cigarettes between songs, then tucked the cigarette butt between his guitar strings. They closed off with the garage theme Whatever Happened To My Rock and Roll (Punk Song), at this point Been got down to the barricade and caused a little stir among the fans.

We stuck around at This Stage for the mighty Kings Of Leon, so we caught Spiderbait as well, unintendedly. I was not impressed, hoping to get over with the set quickly. But the excitable crowd was having a great time, especially those drunken bogans who seemingly sang every word to the band's staple hits like Calypso and Buy Me A Pony.

As the sun started to set, it was finally time for some jangly Southern rock 'n' roll. Everyone swelled to near capacity to see the Followill siblings. Caled sported a new clean short hair cut, unlike the usual lengthy style the band is known for. The band hit it off with the perfect opener Fans, a song that pay homage to the band's fans. The set included songs from early albums Youth & Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbreak, but a strong focus was on their latest album Because Of The Times. Older hits like Molly's Chamber and The Bucket was treated with positive reactions, but materials from Because Of The Times triggered some even bigger response, suggested that the current album is probably the band's most successful to date. On Call was highlight of the set with a massive sing-along, and Charmer was another hit with Jared's plodding bassline awkwardly complementing Caleb's woman-esque squeal. The southern goodness that Kings Of Leon ozzed indeed went down well with the Southbound's laid-back down-south feel.

Most of the crowd kept its place at This Stage for Groove Armada, but we quickly headed off to The Other Stage to catch the remaining set of Midnight Juggernauts. As soon as we reached there, the atmosphere was a complete 180 from Kings Of Leon with the laser light and synth. The electronic act may not be as big as Groove Armada whom they are overlapping with, but they sure got the crowd dancing as hard as they could. I am all pumped to see them again at Big Day Out. While getting dinner after Midnight Juggernauts, from far I caught a bit of Groove Armada's set with a full band and astonishing laser show. It seemingly pulled the biggest crowd, but I did not regret leaving to The Other Stage instead.

It was spectacular music event that I will long remember, and I certainly hope this will not be my last Southbound.

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Blogger benjimite said...

Wow, another quality Perth blog, love your work mate. How good was Southbound btw? Go Team! were a definite standout!

11:07 PM  

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