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Southbound 2015

– by Aliza Caruso

Southbound Music Festival, 10th and 11th January, Sir Stewart Bovell Park

Ahh, Southbound. Always guaranteed to be one of the best weekends of everyone’s new year, and this year was no exception. People were flooding in from all directions to squeeze into the sold out event at Sir Stewart Bovell Park, resulting in massive lines at the gates and even crazier traffic flow issues throughout the Busselton city centre on the Saturday morning, including congestion along the Busselton Bypass, Bussell Highway and some serious traffic disruptions as far as Dunsborough. However, although it took me nearly an hour to travel the 10 minute trip from Geographe to Bovell  (still managed to catch the end half of Stagebound winners Apache though, thank goodness!) (Lucky) (I heart Apache), it was all totally and completely worth it.

The mercury was high, the atmosphere was chilled and the music was very, very hot. Midriffs and flash tattoos seemed to be the choice fashion trends of the weekend, as well an abundance of Roshe Runs (which seem to be taking over the world at the moment) (what’s going on?) (is this the footwear of the future?). Murdoch University was back again with yoga, face painting, flag making, silent disco-ing and op-shopping, which went down a treat. Head Studio and Uncle Joe’s were also popular go-to guys for braids n beards n all things hairy. There was also a cute little old man content with flying kites all day, which warmed my heart immensely. Everything was just dandy.

DAY 1

I saw:

Apache, Tkay Maidza, Crooked Colours, Kim Churchill, Safia, Asgeir, Vance Joy, Remi, Cold War Kids, Jagwar Ma, George Ezra, The Temper Trap, The Presets, La Roux, Empire of the Sun, Salt N Pepa

Pocket rocket Tkay Maidza kicked off the main stage with a (chitty bang) bang. Accompanied by some sweet Nyan Cat-inspired visuals, she delivered a high-energy set, rapping so fast that I was sure she was going to faint from lack of breath (she didn’t).

Part time one-man-band and part time heartthrob Kim Churchill wooed the crowd with his amazing voice and incredible multi-instrumentalist talent, showcasing tracks from his latest record Silence/Win including ‘Don’t Leave Your Life Too Long’, which (fun fact!) was written on his travels in Quebec, Canada. The more you know.

SAFIA drew an enormous crowd to the Lefty’s big top stage with their layered electronic beats and a voice like liquid gold. I mean, that voice. THAT VOICE. You’ve heard nothing of SAFIA until you’ve heard them live. Total groovers and total mindblowers; they were a definite highlight, no questions asked.

Icelandic love of my life Asgeir was everything I was expecting and more. His gentle and angelic voice was like a warm hug in winter (even though it was about 30 degrees at the time) (legit felt like I had teleported to Iceland for 45 minutes).  As well as playing hits ‘King and Cross’ and ‘Torrent’, we were also treated to a few songs in his Icelandic mother-tongue, such as ‘Higher’ and ‘In The Silence’. Asgeir and his band also did a sweet, sweet cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’. Ugh. I just love him.

Jagwar Ma was another highlight for me. Their explosive, yet, “chilled out kinda vibe” was “pleasing to the soul” as my pal would later describe. The Sydney lads were nothing short of fun and really got the crowd jumpin’ to Howlin’ crackers like ‘Come Save Me’ and ‘Uncertainty’. Happy days.

George Ezra pulled an absolutely massive crowd at the Lefty’s stage. In hindsight, he really should’ve been on the main stage, people were simply oozing out the sides of the packed big top trying to get a glimpse of the popular Brit. After half a set with his band, he performed a few songs solo on guitar, which was actually super adorable. Wearing long trousers on such a hot day, he stated the reason why he wasn’t wearing shorts like the rest of us was due to the fact that his legs hadn’t “seen the sun for years”. But is there such a thing as too pale? Who knows. Regardless, George is a 10/10 cutie and I will never get tired of ‘Budapest’. Not ever.

Whilst I love La Roux and her ‘Thin White Duke’ era David Bowie likeness, apart from closing hit ‘Bulletproof’ which got everyone singing and grooving along like you would not believe (I guess my intentionally limited exposure to mainstream, commercial radio lead me to believe the song wasn’t as big as it actually was. Proved myself wrong again. Typical.), her and her band’s live performance was rather underwhelming, in all honesty. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fantastic musicians and play brilliantly, but have a rather blunt approach when it comes to the performance/audience interaction/engagement side of things. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe my expectations were just too high. Either way, I still think she’s awesome.

Empire of the Sun pretty much cannot be described with human means of communication, they’re so out of this world and completely ridiculously wild that they need to be witnessed to be appreciated. In classic grandiose EOTS fashion, Luke Steele made a dramatic entrance to the stage surrounded by dancers dressed as some kind of squishy space eggs (note: I am short and my view was hindered slightly by three very tall men. Squishy space egg may be an inaccurate description). Donning a fabulously elaborate chrome crown and a rather flamboyant getup, he basically declared himself emperor of Southbound right there and then before he even opened his mouth. The whole thing was so over the top and extravagant; everyone loved it. Now, I’m not a huge fan of EOTS musically, but their live production is truly something else; it’s like an extraordinary time warp into outta space, accompanied by strange dancers, and an elaborate stage setup and visual accompaniment that would make anyone feel a little high.

And speaking of highs, the nostalgia went through the roof as the hip hop queens of Queens Salt N Pepa closed the Saturday night, bringing back the beats that defined an era and secured them their fame. Their setlist consisted of hit after hit and non-stop grooving. “They’re still alive?!” I overheard one festivalgoer exclaim in genuine shock. Well into their 40s and pushing on 50, these ladies had more energy, panache and oomph than most twenty-something performers I’ve seen in recent times. Between the hits, DJ Spinderella was spinning the decks with iconic tunes from the past few decades including Beyonce, Nirvana, Guns n’ Roses, Run DMC, and Michael Jackson; it was quite the party. At one point, the gals invited men up from the audience to get down n jiggy with ‘em. It was interactive and fresh and fun and fantastic until they abruptly left the stage without playing their #1 hit… Then returned. “Wait. Did we forget something?” Ah, that old trick. ‘Push It’, of course, closed the night with a bang and ~those~ jackets made a much adored appearance. Salt N Pepa brought the vibes and the beats. I wouldn’t have wanted to end my night watching anyone else.

DAY 2

I saw:

Methyl Ethel, DMA’s, Kite String Tangle, Milky Chance, Wolf Alice, Glass Animals, Joey Bada$$, John Butler Trio, Bluejuice, Alt-J

It was pretty rad to start off my Sunday seeing one of my Perth favourites, Methyl Ethel, taking centre stage. And they even played my fave song ‘Architecture Lecture’ which always makes me gooey inside, it’s just too good. Ahh. Some crazy kids up front seemed to have come sprinting straight from the flag-making station at the Murdoch tent, as they were clutching a rather spirited, hand-painted banner asking drummer, Chris Wright, to engage in coital relations with them, which caused the band to all start laughing mid-song and a security guard with no sense of fun to tell them to put the banner away. Sadly though, there were a few minor sound issues during the first song of their set and the original 30 minute slot was reduced to 20 minutes. Bad move, Southbound.

Ironically, the cute little kite man was flying kites above the main stage when The Kite String Tangle was playing, which made me smile. KST was like a cool glass of water on what was a very, very hot day out in the sun. The smooth beats and soft grooves were exactly what everyone needed at midday on a 35 degree Sunday. There was also someone blowing bubbles, which was lovely. KST did a cover of Lorde’s ‘Tennis Court’ too, which was actually pretty cool. Kudos to him.

Milky Chance were actually amazing. I hardly knew any of their songs except ‘Stolen Dance’, but was pleasantly surprised with their repertoire, and I’m now a massive fan (although I never really warmed to ‘Stolen Dance’ and probs never will, sorry not sorry). They’re massive crowd pleasers and all around good guys who had everybody on their feet, dancing along, clapping, singing along – you name it.

Well, well, well, if it isn’t my favourite act from the entire weekend – Glass Animals. Holy. Moly. These lush lads from ol’ Oxford, England truly know how to put on a genuine live show, with no strings attached – just music and some crazy (peanut butter) vibes. If you think Zaba is a pretty sweet listen as is, then you’d have been blown away hearing even just a handful of the album’s tracks live. Gee whiz, they are one neat setup. And frontman, Dave Bayley, is one big cutie pie whose adventurous antics and wild dance moves onstage created such an ecstatic atmosphere amongst the crowd I was sure nothing would ever top it (and for the moment, nothing has). And they did a cover of Kanye’s ‘Love Lockdown’ which is one of my favourite covers of all time (if you haven’t heard it, you’re leading a rather dismal life, my friend). The way I see it, if you say you came out of that gig not completely dripping with sweat from head to toe from extreme grooves n tight crowds n wild vibes, then you’re lying because every single person was soaked and loving it. My rating: 10000/10.

Thank the lord for John Butler Trio though. I mean, come on. I knew little Johnny was talented, but whoa. I’ve never seen so many eyes, like thousands of eyes, glued to one person, unflinching, for such an extended period of time. Seeing John Butler play guitar (and banjo too) is something special, and completely awe inspiring. There was this one song he did solo on guitar, which lasted about 10 minutes or so, that stuck with me for so long afterwards that I had to google it to find out what it was called – ‘Ocean’. I’ve never in my life seen anyone play a guitar like that and judging by others around me, neither had they. It was a true privilege to watch.

Something also a bit special was being there to see Bluejuice close their final ever show. What a party that was. The band aptly dedicated their career and final show to none other than George Costanza (you know, the Seinfield guy) (yeah, classic). The big top nearly lit up with the amount of energy coming from that stage, the boys really gave it their all. They played all the ones you’d expect – ‘Vitriol’, ‘Act Yr Age’,‘Broken Leg’ and, well, ‘George Costanza’. Everyone gave them such an amazing send off for their final goodbye, it was actually so heart warming and a little sad. I feel kinda bad for SBTRKT, who was playing at the same time on the main stage… They had power issues and I think Bluejuice stole half of their crowd.

And finally, the cherry on top, Alt-J. Most around me seemed to be mesmerised, while some seemed a little bored. I, for one, thought they were fantastic. The night air was cool, the moon was glowing, the smoke machine was ready for action, and there seemed to be a never ending flow of glow sticks circling throughout the crowd. Oh, and the cute little kite man had a special kite flying with pretty lights on it that changed colour. The mood was just so right. Alt-J played out the end of the festival and it was perfect. A choice mix of newies like ‘Hunger of the Pine’, ‘Every Other Freckle’, and ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’, and oldies including ‘Tessellate’, ‘Fitzpleasure’, and ‘Breezeblocks’ made for a flawless setlist, and their delivery was smooth and tidy. Perhaps underwhelming for a few, but I couldn’t think of a more magical way to draw Southbound 2015 to a close.

Thanks for all the g times and sunburn, Southbound, it’s been ace.

Photo Credit: Matthew Picken (more available on our Facebook page)

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