Yours and Owls Festival: Day 1
30th September, 2017
Stuart Park, Wollongong NSW
Feat: Trophy Eyes, City Calm Down, Donny Benet Showband, The Preatures, Dune Rats, Northlane and more.
It’s spring once again in Wollongong (probably for the rest of the southern hemisphere too) and that can only mean that outdoor music and schmoes drinking at the beach will soon overrun your cities. Kicking off this festival season in all of its pageantry and flair is Yours and Owls, snowballing into an even bigger incarnation than last year, which was, if I might say, spectacularly large. The event really is gaining traction: there is a the marked increase in international acts travelling to the humble ‘Gong, as well as an addition of an entire extra stage for those up and comers. Wowee. So get your duct tape, get your glitter, and get your dodgy wristband on. It. Is. Party time.
Kicking off the festivities (for me anyway) was the overwhelmingly popular Trophy Eyes. I say that because every man and his dog loves this outfit, or at least has heard brilliant things about them; the latter applying for myself. So it was quite a shock when song after song was played that sounded like bonus tracks off any Violent Soho/Blink 182 record. Not being a huge fan of punk rock probably works against me for this one, but I really find it hard to quantify this sort of success. Their rampant fame could possibly be attributed to their lyrics, which whilst hard to hear, I’ve been told are quite emotionally driving and poignant, so the band have that deep, emotive pull working in their favour. Whatever it is that is so appealing for Trophy Eyes seems to work anyhow, as the crowd was heartily singing along and tackling each other right up until the band stopped playing.
Next up is a band that was recommended to me by a friend who said that City Calm Down sounded like Joy Division. But what he failed to mention is that when he said “like” he meant “same vocal stylings, but none of the personality.” I do really like that deep gravelly croon though, it sucks you in and kind of transports you to a slower plane of time where it’s perfectly fine to wave your hands around your body in slow motion. This sort of aspect works exceptionally well in a personal setting, like their own concert partnered with a subtle light show, but fails to really do anything in a festival setting, where at 5pm, half the crowd is falling all over themselves and the other half is thinking of how “fuckin’ sick” Northeast Party House will be in about half hour. The crowd was shaken out of their reverie with City Calm Down’s last song, the inclusion of “Jonno and Finn” on saxophone and trumpet injecting a much needed boost into the band’s overall stage presence and added a unique layer into their sound. If you ask me, they should be mainstays on any future productions.
The best thing about festivals is walking around and finding new acts that you’ve heard nothing about. It’s exactly how I became a huge Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats fan, and how I discovered He Is Legend in the good ol’ days of Soundwave. I was buffeted with nostalgia for those moments when I stumbled onto Donny Benet Showband. Sporting a hideous pink suit over the most casual of white tees, the eponymous frontman looked out of place amongst his dapper compadrés, but that did not stop the show from roaring ahead. Bass laden grooves, Sade-esque 80s rhythm and one smooth saxophone player combined to deliver the most entertaining show I could listen to all day. Absolute gems like ‘Working Out’ and ‘Sophisticated Lover’ show off the interplay between the keys and bass, before the sax’ takes front and centre, blowing everybody’s mind and pants to the ground. New single ‘Konichiwa’ even saw a number of (decidedly more attractive) dopplegangers take to the stage and pepper the crowd with cannoli. What else could you wish for?
As the night took full hold of Stuart Park, the light above the main stage kicked into life and a band took their places amidst enough smoke to give the 2013 bushfire season a run for its money. This band was (as the subheading above would lead you to believe) none other than The Preatures. Wearing a jacket made entirely of silver sequins, Izzi Manfredi shucked and jived around the stage to the stylings of the smooth grooves behind her, the crowd attempting to mimic her every move in the frankly crammed confines of the crowd. We were even treated to new single ‘Yanada’ which means “moon” in the local Indigenous language of the band members’ homes. As an outsider to the band, I couldn’t help but feel a few misgivings; chiefly that they don’t belong in a festival setting. Much like City Calm Down, the music just doesn’t feel like festival music. It’s not like I expect every band to shit in a plastic bag and fling it into the crowd Puciato style, but it helps if your music is upbeat. Nonetheless, half of the songs had upbeat sections, and those that were familiar with the other music seemed to be transported to their own little slice of the groove afterlife where they twirled around the grass until the band exited stage left.
I had a bit of time to kill so I took the time to look around the festival grounds and just kind of check out all the extra stuff that was going on. Besides the exorbitantly priced foods and the ridiculously long line to top up your wristband money, there were some really cool places to check out. My favourite was the tent full of live art, poetry slams and karaoke – basically just a place to take a breather and gather yourself before you went back out there. Poetry slams aren’t really my thing, but free toast sure as fuck is, so I hung out there for a bit and listened. In addition, there was a recycling centre, where you handed in your (and everyone else’s that you picked up) old drink cans and cups for money! Such a good idea. Outside of the festival supported spectacles, I saw a lot of ladies looking like reptiles that had traded in their scales for glitter, and for the men, glitter beards. Must be a new thing. Saw someone with a suit jacket duct taped to their ass because their dress had been ripped off. Also saw a group dressed in pyjamas comprised of images of alcohol. Fun.
After my much needed but all too brief respite, I was back at it again, this time seeing the punkish lads from Brisbane, Dune Rats. Say what you want about their music, but the group know how to get an audience riled up. Due to their diligent touring and relentless music ethic, the boys have cultivated quite a… well, cult following. As soon as they were visible on stage the entire crowd lost their minds (possibly because they all started simultaneously blazing up but who knows). Newer tracks like ‘Scott Green’ and ‘Bullshit’ went down a treat with those gathered in front, as did the wonderfully playful back and forth that everyone engaged in. Despite not liking their older music, tracks off The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit was still quite entertaining. Their sound is nothing super unique but they do what they do with a lot of consistency and overall they have great chemistry and tons of energy; the band have duly earned their spot on the festival lineup and they intend to show everyone why.
On to the headliner for Saturday! I haven’t had the time to see Northlane since Adrian Fitipaldes exited the band, so I was more than a little curious to see how the project all works together. Northlane was once lauded as one of the forefront progressive core bands and as I watched ‘Quantum Flux’ I could see why – the instrumentation is spot on and the tone of the bass and the reverb of the drums is absolutely chest crushing. It creates perfect contrast to the twinkling melodies that are sprinkled throughout. Yet as the discography tilted toward the more current, it was odd to see the energy and creativity kind of dribble out of the stage show. The music became less interesting and more simplistic and the vocals became a lot less aggressive. That type of music is fine for some people but it’s not for me. I mean, if you’re going to chuck a Contortionist, you’d want to make sure your music is still progressive as all hell, otherwise it just comes off as boring. ‘Citizen’ and ‘Obelisk’, regardless of my feelings, were crowd favourites, with moshpits happening throughout the entire song, even the soft parts.‘Colourwave’ also a pretty good song live, so that was actually a treat to watch.
Overall, Day 1 was interesting. The culture shock of such a festival crowd took a lot of my attention, which was in itself its own enjoyment. But of course festivals are there for discovery of new music and to have a good time; for the former, I found Donny Benet, and the latter… Well let’s just stick with it was a good day. If anything, it made me quite excited for Day 2.
Review by Dylonov Tomasivich