A one day festival on a Sunday seems like rather a strange idea for an Englishman. Australian’s do have a penchant for Sunday drinking in the Sun that we English seem to be confused by, well, I do. I hardly used to leave the house on Sundays, because Sky Sports would tell me it was ‘Super Sunday’ and I’d be hungover so watch and wait to see if they were right. They usually weren’t, but I would still sit in front of the TV and watch (up to) three football matches, cook a roast and then watch a film before turning in. Standard Sunday, not exactly Super, like yesterday was.
If I were running a one day festival it’d be on a Saturday, so everyone could go out afterwards, to post festival DJ sets and parties, leaving Sunday for hangovers dealt with in the comfort of your own bed, rather than sat in an uncomfortable swivel chair staring at a monitor trying to muster up some kind of motivation to do the job that allowed you to spend so much money just the day before on enjoying yourself. It somehow felt unfair that Melbourne got that, the after parties you could attend without concern for your wellbeing in the office the following morning, just like it seems it’s unfair they are getting Uni Qlo and H&M. Still, Sydney is getting a Marks & Spencer’s, so instead of spending money on clothes, I’ll be spending it on Percy Pigs and Fizzy Fish. But, I digress, back to yesterday.
As what seems to be ‘the norm’ for most activities I do on a weekend, I failed to properly prepare, waking up tired and hungover from the previous night’s festivities, which had taken a while to get going as I was overcoming the hangover and tiredness from the night before that’s festivities. “At least I have an active social life” I thought as I dragged myself out of bed and made some lunch to line my stomach and give me the energy required to make it over to Rozelle. The thing with me and hungover decision making is that I am terrible at it. I have considered crowd sourcing my decisions in times like this, but when it comes to making the decision as to whether to crowd source a decision (asking FaceBook or Twitter ‘friends’), I can’t make a decision. It’s a horrible snowballing spiral of a disaster and a sentence with far too many ‘decisions’ in.
I spent a good 40mins deliberating whether to get a taxi or take public transport. Knowing the latter would be expensive and the former a potential sweaty nightmare which would only be slightly less expensive. I opted for the sweaty nightmare, as penance for my previous night’s ill deeds (nothing more sinister than tequila shots), but failed at the second hurdle and ended up getting a cab instead of my connecting bus. However, said cab ended up costing as much as it would have done if I’d got it from home, and I arrived at Laneways 45mins later than Google had told me I would arrive if I had done the whole thing on Public Transport. It nearly broke me, but the sun, the sound of music and people in a joyous mood walking towards the entrance lifted my spirits, as did the thought of that first thirst quenching beer.
Surprisingly easily I found my friends, with Kate making me feel slightly better about being hungover as she was similarly feeling the pain from the previous night. She’d had Alica to nurse her better, take her to breakfast and make her decisions for her, and I hadn’t even managed to make myself a coffee before leaving, even though I’d boiled the kettle twice.
We headed over to the main stage area for what was going to be for many, the ‘song of the festival’, and after being crowned Triple J’s Number One in the Hot 100, Australia’s song of the summer. Vance Joy, the first person to ‘win’ the number one spot without having released an album, and the first person I’ve seen completely suck at an Australian festival (note. This was my first festival and he was the first band I saw). He quite literally and figuratively sucked the joy out of me. I had been picked up by a delicious steamed pork bun, a beer and (for alliterational purposes) banter, but he brought me back to earth with a bang. His voice was all over the show, he then admitted to the crowd that he wasn’t ‘the greatest guitarist’ before messing up a song half way through and having to spend a moment composing himself before kicking it off again. He just looked a bit uncomfortable on the stage being adored. Maybe the weight of expecation felt heavy on his shoulders. The final nail in what I hate to say could be the coffin of his career is that he messed up some chords on his ‘hit’ song and it seemed to me maybe he messed up some lyrics? I guess the rocket trajectory his career took after being the song on an advert for insurance was too fast. I hate writing bad reviews, I honestly wish him well, he’s probably a nice person, but when compared to who he shared a stage and a festival billing, he just wasn’t up to scratch.
Not to be put off, Frightened Rabbit were up next. I loved ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, was possibly kind of obsessed by it, but I tempered my anticipation and excitement, I shouldn’t have. Coming on and saying ‘you’re going to hate us, we’re fat and have beards’ then bemoaning the heat immediately endeared them to me, and without question, the rest of the crowd. I got goosebumps when they played ‘Fast Blood’ and was taken back to driving my car to work in cold wet mornings through East London and into Essex, a gaping juxtaposition to the scorching sun that was beating down on me. It was over too soon, as most good things are. I don’t have tickets, or the additional monies available to buy off a tout to see their solo show, and while not envious, I am filled with a burning jealousy at all those going. “Next time…” I thought to myself as they exited stage left “there’s always a next time”.
Daughter were up next, we went from one stage to another, and from Scots to Swedes in the Sydney sun. Strange. I hate being descriptionally lazy, (spellcheck says that’s not even a word) and it’s probably one of my most overused words when describing certain bands, but they were ethereal. The sound was amazingly full and clear, even in the scolding sun which required me to reapply sunscreen, I felt like their sound wrapped me in a blanket of musical warmth. It was lovely. Then a quick food/booze run left me standing at the top of the hill looking down across the masses as they launched into ‘Youth’ which was easily my favourite. Vocally and musically perfect, you couldn’t have asked for more from them and from the guitarist’s interaction with the crowd, neither they from us.
A brief respite from switching between the two main stages and we headed over to see what all the fuss over Jagwar Ma was about. The movement, walking up a hill and through crowds after being hungover in the sun took some of the sheen off my improved mood. It was very crowded, even more so than later at Fout Tet’s headlining DJ set, and after only about 15mins and me thinking ‘they’re a bit like a shit Klaxons, and I think the Klaxons are shit’, we were off to get a spot for what would be my highlight of the festival. Haim. After settling on a position I left the comfort of the group and grabbed another drink, then failed to find my way back so befriended a bearded man who was interested in my leg hair and we joked about how my small bottle of wine made me look like a giant. I guess if I wasn’t writing this hungover I could write something witty about ‘perspective’ but I’m hungover, so make one up yourselves. The three sisters were awesome. Sound was ballsy, the beating of the drums whilst not Lykke Li levels of tribal black magic awesome, was intoxicating and breathed new energy into me. The 5 mini steamed pork buns I devoured 30mins prior could also have had something to do it. Having a jam with some good ol’ fashioned rock that felt like an homage to Zepplin half way through the set was an awesome surprise, out of character when sandwiched by tracks from their album. The bassist taking off her top to play in just a bra was also a surprise. There’s probably some reviews writing how it is empowering to women, and others saying it was a sad state of affairs when a girl takes her top off on stage to get people cheering, but it was super hot in the sun, so maybe she just wanted to cool down? Closing with an awesome rendition of ‘The Wire’ and, as with Frightened Rabbit, they were finished too soon. We slunk across to the other stage to ‘get in position’ for CHVRCHES. Who were awesome.
Following on from such an energetic performance by Haim would have been hard for any band, but with two guys stood behind computery techy wizardry and a elfin like lead singer one would say on paper, they’d be screwed. They weren’t. Building on the energy like a steamtrain gathering momentum they worked up the crowd and dare I say had *everybody* dancing? With the sun going down and the music playing, it was a perfect setting to have a bit of a dance and enjoy live renditions of tracks from my favourite album of 2013. They were awesome. Just awesome.
I’ll be honest; my memory of the sequence of events next is a little hazy even when looking at a line up. What I know is this.
• I didn’t really see much of Lorde, she’s not my thing. That ‘Royals’ song annoys me due to forever being associated with that terrible Samsung ad with kids and Lionel Messi. It also makes me think of Reading FC, the ‘Royals’, and knowing I can’t just shoot home and go watch a game at the Majedski makes me sad.
• I ate some delicious sweet potato crisps which had amazing guacamole on, most of which ended up on my face.
• I had a hot dog which was supposed to be ‘chorizo’ flavour (whatever that means) and it was terrible. It upset me, but I should know by now that in general, getting a decent spiced/cured pork product is problematic in Australia.
• Savages were pretty rubbish, but the lead singer did have a nice outfit on. I haven’t got into their album and whilst eating my terrible sausage, I couldn’t get into their live show either.
• We all bailed on Cloud Control. No one else seemed to though. I have some weird relationship with them where I hate them for no other reason than an ex having forced their album ‘Bliss Control’ down my throat, well, ears, years ago. At that moment, I had a strange feeling of anger and/or resentment which coincided with my friends deciding to call it a night. It was obviously not directed at their decision to depart, but it did leave me on my own, feeling contemplative.
The rest isn’t hazy, I decided to grab a drink and check the line up to see who was left to see. Sitting on a bench a couple sat down next to me, we got chatting, they handed me a GumBall Festival flyer and told me it was another awesome Australian festival and we headed off to the Courtyard Stage to catch Unknown Mortal Orchestra. They were certainly unknown to me, but not for long. They were absolutely killing it when we arrived, and maintained that level of energy throughout the remainder of the set. I was extremely thankful to my newfound friends for making the unknown known to me. It was way past my second wind, maybe my fourth or something, I made a quick decision to depart my newfound friends and go check out Four Tet. I was in the mood to cut up a proverbial rug rather than stay and sway and watch Warpaint. I have tried to get into their albums but aside from ‘Billy Holiday’ things just don’t seem to click for me. After the failure for Savages to connect with me live, I didn’t want the last band to dampen my mood so tried and tested and success(-ed?) Fout Tet was the call I made. It was goooooood, darkness abound around the walls of the Red Bull area complimented with lashings of smoke and flashing lights. I danced away the last hour or so of the festival in a great mood surrounded by likeminded happy drunk people and left with a grin on my face.
As my brain wandered as I meandered through the crowd I thought of lots of things, but mostly what a bloody great day it had been. Then, just as I had a quick moment of panic and disorientation as to where I was and how I would get home, I realised that I had been shepherded into a queue for a free shuttle bus to town. Then followed the easiest decision I had made all day, there was no hesitation of thoughts of crowd sourching (even though I would have a whole bus to ask if I so saw fit to burden them with my question). It was this, yes, I would get a taxi straight back from town, simple. I climbed into a cab on George Street and slid back in the seat, I thoroughly enjoyed the drive back home in a far greater spirit and with a better sense of purpose than when I had departed my house hungover all those hours ago. Home, bed, sleep, worry about tomorrow when I wake up….