Live Review and Gallery: Island Vibe 2009 – North Stradbroke Island : What a fantastic weekend!

Review: Cody Alexander and Jon
Photographer: Cody Alexander

Island VibeFriday: The weather gods have smiled upon us, after a week of much needed rain the clouds have parted and the sun is beaming down on a collection of camper vans, cars and kombis, most filled with reggae fans eagerly waiting to be loaded on to the Stradbroke Ferry. Island Vibe 09 awaits!

As the ferry pulls away from Cleveland port there is a collective sigh of relief & one’s first taste of what Straddie’s Island Vibe Festival has to offer is found sailing across Redland Bay meeting fellow festival goers. I can hear three different cars pumping reggae beats whilst other passengers take in the fresh air and scenery. Cars are packed to the rafters with tents, hammocks, pets and kids.

Arriving on the island, it is a short 20 min drive to Point Lookout where we have plenty of time to unpack and unwind with a swim in the clear cool waters of Point Lookout’s beautiful beaches before heading towards the festival grounds.

Things kick off at 4.00pm with a traditional Opening Ceremony/Welcome to Country by the local Indigenous population. The first act to take to the Jandaiwal (Big Top) stage is Yeshe the World Citizen Trio. Yeshe’s music was a cruisey and relaxed way to kick start the day, however, it was another story altogether on the Biki (Sunshine Stage) where Tanuki Dub were setting the dance floor on fire! Theirs was a most energetically contagious beginning to the weekend! For something a little in between both acts festival revellers were gathered round the intimate Winjerribah stage where Gnibi was giving the crowd a taste of his nature inspired roots tunes.
Island Vibe    Opening Ceremony

Following on from Gnibi was the Island Rhythm Jam, fronted by Nicky Bomba who was joined by a multitude of fellow festival performers. If one found them self at this stage while these guys were on stage; they found themselves either dancing along with the rest of the peace loving crowd or on stage playing an instrument with the highly charismatic characters busting out the beats!

The Upsteppers were an act most festival goers were familiar with it seemed; Upstepper shirts were getting around left, right and centre. Unfortunately for these guys they had the unfortunate task of competing with the high energy performance that is the Chocolate Strings. These guys literally blew the socks off of the Island Vibe crowd; mixing soul, funk and reggae into one amazingly memorable performance. There wasn’t a still body in the crowd; all were taken over by the Chocolate Strings fever!

Over the weekend, in between acts at the Big Top, were breathtaking and at times awkward circus acts to keep the crowds happy. No one seemed to captivate the crowds better than Saritah though; who held the attention of everybody (or at least the guys anyway) with her playful diva charm. Saritah proved herself to be a most talented performer; indulging the crowd with a mix of roots, reggae and soul. Saritah was a most relaxed and welcome interval between the high energy acts that had just finished at the Big Top and perhaps the most anticipated act of the day; Laneous and the Family-Yah.

Thanks to their recent nationwide exposure on ABC’s Triple J, Laneous and the Family-Yah had a decent sized crowd awaiting their arrival, however, most it seems were dedicated fans of the crew whose presence on the Brisbane live music scene has been a steady crowd pleaser for some years (whether by the name of Laneous and the Family-Yah or as one of the other multiple projects this team of eclectic muso’s hail from). Their one hour set was definitely a roaring success; helped along by the playful shenanigans of a close friend whose butt naked performance will no doubt be a talking point for Island Viber’s for years to come!

Laneous and the Family-Yaha Ngaiire

Back at the Sunshine stage the gorgeous Ngaiire graced the stage. ‘Grace’ is most definitely the best way to describe talented performer whose collaborations with Paul Mac and Blue King Brown have given her the star power to make her a ‘soul-friendly’ household name.

Closing the first night of celebrations at the Big Top were the unmistakable reggae and dancehall tunes of Mista Savona and his eight piece band. What better way to finish the first day of celebrations than with these guys! I’m sure plenty of Island Viber’s will be trying to track down a copy of Mista Savona’s Melbourne meets Kingston album, with its Jamaican influenced beats; long after the festival’s come and gone.

However, for some festival goers, the night was only just beginning. Back at the Sunshine stage Nomad was offering a mix of heavy reggae and transient beats. With only half an hour left before the bar closed for the night and with the bar being conveniently located next to the Sunshine stage; there was a fair sized crowd gathered to enjoy Nomad’s beats (who did nothing to aid the Island Viber’s transition from festival to bed).

Also closing the night was a cabaret performance back at the Jungle Bar; Spaghetti and Meatballs. This was a most interesting and humorous performance which, despite protests from the crowd, had to be completed acoustically due to council’s regulations regarding sound pollution. They did, however, complete it acoustically and had everyone engaged in a sing along to “looking in your big brown eyes”.

Island Vibe 2009

Patrons who’d just finished watching Nomad made the short 50m walk to the beach where several gatherings made the most of the clear night. Fires dotted the beach and the sound of drums, guitars and saxophones could be heard from several groups. After a few hours here my fellow festival goers and I retired to our accommodation, tired but eager for round two.

Saturday: After another swim to wash out yesterday’s cobwebs, we make our way to the festival again and are greeted by the wonderful harmonies of the Straddie Island Singers wafting towards us from the Minjerribah (Jungle Stage). After enjoying some cappella singing we skip on over to the Big Top where it is no surprise to find another band made up of members from the Family-Yah crew; Pear and the Awkward Orchestra. Fronted by Steph Barros Lees, Pear and the Awkward Orchestra had the early-bird crowd enthralled by her lovely voice and whimsical songs encompassing folk, pop, roots and jazz.

New Zealand band, Spacifix were next on the menu with their amazing, fusion of reggae, funk, hip-hop, pop and rock. Their high-energy set had the whole crowd dancing up a storm and laughing at their on-stage rock n roll theatrics. The boys also took a chance later in the day to plug their CD after a more traditional performance in the opening ceremony, drawing stern looks from the elders and chuckles from the crowd.

After a short stroll through the maze of tempting food stalls with mouth watering aroma’s we find ourselves at the Minjerribah (Jungle Bar) stage where Juzzie Smith took us on a journey of a musical kind with his fantastic array of Harmonicas and his cruisy mix of folk and blues.

Following Juzzie we hopped back over to the Biki (Sunshine) stage to secure a spot for the much anticipated Oka. Oka’s dub and electronica beats had the raving-hipsters dancing up a dust storm which rivalled those seen along the east coast of Australia in recent months. As the air cleared at the Biki Stage a traditional welcoming ceremony coated those gathered with another layer of dust during an hour long welcome to country and ceremonial dances of the Australian and Pacific Island region.

Following the welcome to country, local Stradbroke act Pippi Lips took to the stage to get the party started again; their punk/roots/rock sound proving impossible NOT to mosh to.

Island Vibe After another quirky circus performance, Kingfisha took to the Big Top stage delivering their usual high standard of reggae grooves. Hailing from Brisbane, Kingfisha are another act busy touring the south east coast and a performance one should not miss! Next up, Sunshine Sound System pumped out some very danceable tunes but seemed to rely very heavily on their backing DJ and not enough on the lyrical styling’s of the MC brothers, KP and Switch.

By 8:30 that night, with the biggest crowd the festival would see all weekend, the beer was flowing fast and fresh. Punters were only permitted to drink within the fenced off bar area at Island Vibe which meant less rubbish throughout the festival site and that revellers looking to catch music and a drink were limited to what was playing on the Sunshine stage. Not that the array of music was limited at all! Lotek just so happened to be playing at about the same time our crew was ready to down a few beers and provided everyone at the bar and on the dance floor with some impressive hip-hop; both Jamaican and UK styles combined.

Last but not least we finished our night with a performance that had the New Zealand contingent at Island Vibe on their knees with their heads bowed in respect. House of Shem had something to offer the rasta’s and the ravers and left us spellbound with their harmonies.

We began our ‘beach partying’ perhaps a little prematurely on the Saturday night; missing out on a French Butler Called Smith. By all accounts they were very good and gave the crowd something to write home about in days to come.

The beach party that night was definitely a lot bigger with an array of drummers leading the Island Vibe crowd down to the beach where even bigger and better bon-fires were lit. Most revellers chilled out here with a beer or two and/or practiced their tribal dance moves for the final day of celebrations!

Sunday: We wake up to rain which is most needed; as the island is a bit parched and tanks are getting low. Fortunately it is short and sweet for the Island Vibe crowd with the clouds clearing just in time for the first set of the day; Umkancho. From Zimbabwe; Tichawona Mashawa’s performance as Umkancho was a beautiful and relaxing way to start the day and kick off celebrations in the Jungle Bar. The performance was made all the sweeter when Tichawona invited his heavily pregnant wife on stage to provide backing vocals. Umkancho was a most popular act for the young families whose kids could dance freely to the delight of Umkancho and the rest of the crowd.

At the same time Bonjah was getting things started at the Big Top. As with most ‘first bands of the day’ Bonjah began their set with a small crowd at first, but quickly filled the tent as they picked up the tempo. This faster, more energetic tempo was carried on by the following act; Darky Roots who provided some of the earthiest island reggae of the weekend.

In between Darky Roots and Natiruts we took the opportunity to take another swim at the beach, just in case the weather fouled up again and we missed out on one last ‘festival swim’. It seemed that we weren’t the only ones; as down on the beach there were naked people everywhere, frolicking in the crystal clear water leaving little to the imagination!
Island Vibe 2009  Island Vibe 2009
We made it back in time for another beer and something to eat before Natiruts arrived at the Big Top much to joy and excitement of the Brazilian contingent of this time. The crowd was ecstatic; with Brazilian flags hoisted high above the bouncing sea of people.

Following the closing ceremony over at the dancing ground, probably the most high profile and most anticipated act of the entire weekend graced the festival with his presence; Chali 2na! One fifth of the international phenomenon that is Jurassic 5, Chali 2na is touring Australia for the first time promoting his solo album Fish Outta Water. This was the loudest the crowd got all weekend and Chali 2na and co were understandably blown away by the reception they received (perhaps a little surprised that a crowd of mostly hippies could be so raucous). The set was an amazing success leaving punters energised and ready to party for the final act of the night; Nicky Bomba and the Island Vibe All Stars!

Nicky Bomba had entertained the crowd earlier in the weekend at the Jungle Bar and was back with vengeance; inviting musicians and dancers up on stage to deliver the final dose of reggae and ska. A delightful character and talented performer; Nicky Bomba and his Island All Stars were a fantastic choice to close the festival.

What a fantastic weekend! This was our crews second time at Island Vibe and it most certainly won’t be our last! Island Vibe’s beauty is in its community feel; a feeling that has been all but lost in festivals such as Byron Bays Blues Fest and Splendour in the Grass. I loved that artists could freely walk through the crowd and join them in the celebrations without any fuss and that families felt comfortable enough to bring the kids along. Unfortunately its success will mean that it inevitably gets bigger as demand for tickets grow over time (there was noticeably more people this year than there was a couple of years ago). However, while it is still a relatively small celebration of reggae beats, with that community feeling still intact, I will still be going and I hope the (so far) regular performers will remain a constant fixture as well.

This is not to say that the weekend was over as soon as the final band closed shop on the Big Top. For punters eager to continue partying the local pub was hosting the after party while the ravers camped up on the beach with their poi and danced into the wee hours of the morning with a multitude of dj’s at hand to keep the beats flowing and the people bouncing.

Review: Cody Alexander and Jon
Photographer: Cody Alexander
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