Archive for November, 2011

November 17, 2011

A vintage crop for first Harvest!

Harvest Festival – Parramatta Park, Sydney.  13/11/11

Once the bastion of the counter-culture movement summer music festivals have inexorably turned into corporate parties of late.  A playground for the bourgeoise, where product placement and profit margins rub shoulders with homogenized cultures and increasingly formulaic music.   Harvest Festival promises a new dawn, music reconstituted as music, not packaged as a lifestyle choice.

What of the inaugural ‘Civilised Gathering’.  Weather was kind, officials smiled, queues were acceptable, toilets endurable, beer (low strength) was tolerable – it was Coopers – Independent brewer – after all.  The park was pleasant, although an elongated site rendered one half of the festival quiet and superfluous – however much the organisers extolled the importance of the art and theatre spaces, The Secret Garden and Bootleg Alley – while the back-end was overloaded with sound clashing stages – all three were almost side-by-side.  Only the experienced, the canny and the lucky escaped the sound spillage.  The juxtaposition wasn’t fatal and helpfully assisted the capricious or the curious.

The music was embellished with a predominantly music loving crowd, not always a certainty at any festival filled with day trippers!  Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and the Family Stone brought the funk early, sun and cider assisting the chunky bass licks and dirty grooves.  TV on the Radio pulled a large crowd for their own particular brand of cerebral indie soul & funk,  after a bright start the layered and complex sound  lost its way at times with a fidgety, distracted crowd, although a storming finale of: ‘Red Dress’, ‘Staring at the Sun’, ‘Repetition’ and ‘Wolf Like Me’, stirred the crowd into a frenzy of pogo dancing and eventually won everybody’s rapture.  Bright Eyes soon followed with their set full of introspective Americana.  Tales of nostalgia, political injustice and world-weariness swooned the sparse audience, most notably the majestic, ‘Landlocked Blues’, passionately recited by the engaging, Oberst.  Death in Vegas ushered in the evening with their recently re-tooled trance – inspired electro pop, Richard Fearless taking lead duties for the first time and singing with such an effete style it was hard to discern whether he was actually conscious.  A total miss-direction from Vegas and an embarrassingly cringe worthy set, especially on a stage named, ‘The Red Tractor Stage’.

Then came the battle of the headliners.   Well, originally only one headliner was conceived, but through contract wrangling and counter argument a very bizarre incident played out.  Flaming Lips turned up 45 minutes late, Wayne Coyne annoying the crowd instantly with his contrivance to over compensate.  Why does he feel the need to stop every song half way through to rally the crowd?  If the energy is right the audience is never in need of a prompt, the former tripper should know this more than most!  Meanwhile Portishead, official headliners, wait on main stage – 25 mins – for Flaming Lips to finish………Many driven away by Coyne’s constant irritation or a greater need to watch an enigmatic Portishead were rewarded with a set of intense and ethereal splendour.  A pin could be heard in the outer field, the craft and consummate professionalism were matched by the sonic thrills.  Comprising songs from all three albums, the spine of the set hung heavy on the more recent industrial rock driven, Third.  But it was the contrast between the melancholic beauty of Dummy with the apocalyptic storm of their later work that startled most; undoubted highlight, the moonlit delicacy of ‘Wandering Star’ followed by the earth shuddering ‘Machine Gun’.  Gibbons voice entranced while Barrow led the way with the aural assault, set closer, ‘We Carry On’, managing to sound chaotic, taut, precise and loose all at the same time.

A day that was high on promise delivered spectacularly.