Sunset Sounds 2011 – Day 2, Live Review

Review: Lauren Sherritt
Living EndDay two of Sunset Sounds 2011 arrives, bringing with it steady rain and a forecast of nothing but. Organisers have spread sand over some of the affected areas, but when I arrive on Thursday afternoon the damage that the combination of thousands of feet and a whole lot of rain did to the grounds yesterday is easily apparent. Areas that were grassy are now plains of squelchy mud ready to snatch unsuspecting thongs from feet and disappear them forever and the paths we traversed yesterday are now boasting small streams of rainwater.

Generally, the hordes are better prepared today, arriving to battle the conditions with gumboots, raincoats and ponchos in tow. Some have still decided to brave the elements in their fashionable festival garb, but today I can’t see the point in ruining a good pair of shoes and it seems the majority are with me.

As I walk in I see one guy decked out in a full scuba suit complete with flippers and snorkel set, and I’m glad to know the crowd haven’t lost their sense of humour in all the damp. Feeling heartened to be a part of it all again I begin my musical day by heading down to the River Stage for Charlie Mayfair.

The second group of Foster the Band winners are already well into their set when I arrive. Life Music Media’s foster band Charlie Mayfair are giving it their all and it’s plain to see from a fair way off that the gathering crowd are enjoying themselves. I’ve seen the band live before and expect their harmonies to be stunning and their beats infectious, but today they have a whole new energy and I’m glad to see that they’re taking full advantage of the rewards of their win. Around me groups are separating and beginning to dance, Charlie Mayfair’s upbeat folk pop making a good impression. They end their set with a riveting percussion section, with all six members working to create an intense beat that the audience goes crazy for. Drumsticks fly through the air and into the clutches of new-made fans and everybody leaves with a smile.

The beats of Ash Grunwald’s distinctive brand of the blues puncture the air as I wander back up the hill and I round the corner to see a large crowd gathering beneath his stage. The man is a delight to watch and for a minute I don’t care about the quality of the music, captured as I am by witnessing someone who just seems to be so incredibly happy with everything, all the time. His music is good too though, the sound solid, and his band is tight. He launches into ‘Breakout’ and has the audience bouncing up and down as one. From the height of the stage it must be quite a sight to see and Grunwald and his band play with a furious energy to match their fans. Grunwald is a generous performer and with his cheer it seems the crowd are hardly noticing the soggy conditions at all, which must pleasing for organisers, who I notice have widened the audience platform and levelled it out in attempt to not repeat last night’s Angus and Julia Stone Lake Extravaganza.

For many it seems Boy and Bear are one of the big ticket items of the day and as they set their stage the smaller audience area begins to fill quickly with excited fans. Room to move quickly becomes a very limited commodity and in the wet conditions a number of poor but amusing sardine jokes are made. Known for their distinctively dreamy harmonies, the five piece take to the stage with hits such as ‘Mexican Mavis’ and have everybody singing along.

One of the joys of live music is the opportunity to sing along with your favourite band, demonstrating your passion for the music and its makers. Boy and Bear’s fans sure have passion, but alas their singing skills aren’t all quite up to the task of matching lead singer Dave Hosking’s impressive vocals. In particular the girl in front of me, beer in one hand, chiko roll in the other, does not seem to be one for worrying about getting the lyrics either note or word perfect, and as underneath her large brimmed sunhat she dances she slowly draws the attention of those surrounding her away from the stage. Halfway through the set she turns, blinking. “I don’t even know who this band is,” she cries, and dives through the crowd. This is definitely not the common reaction of Boy and Bear’s listeners though, most are rapt with attention and the band should be pleased to know that they have definitely drawn the largest crowd to the Hibiscus Stage for the festival.

Children Collide play as I eat my dinner; a serving of the most remarkably good hot chips I’ve come across in a long time. There is nothing like a cup of warm and salty potato on a very rainy day, and in this instance the deep fried carbohydrates nearly completely distract me from the music. The band, however, really are good too, good enough to reclaim my attention, or at least equally divide it, from the food.

The first to admit that I know Children Collide mainly from 2009 hit ‘Farewell Rocketship’, I have come prepared with the knowledge that their other songs are a slightly different feel. Their punk rock sounds crash through the air, and for the first time the head-bangers of the festival really get to show their stuff. As the band launches into my one known song, I cheerfully join in the chorus with thousands of others. Sung en masse, ‘Farewell Rocketship’ offers an entertaining show for an observer, in that midway through the tune comes the scream section which apparently nobody really knows the words to. I get a lot of amusement watching half the crowd turn into daft posers pretending they know what they should be screaming, and the other half just scream for the sake of it and dance wildly in small circles.

After Children Collide I run into a scheduling dilemma. Next highlighted on my timetable is Washington, but she won’t be on stage for another hour. Now, those who know the festival timetable will shake their heads in disbelief, knowing that The Living End will handily play a set in between, but at this point I find myself wandering a bit aimlessly around killing time, to the point that I ponder getting in line for the soggy, soggy port-a-loos just to move a few minutes. In retrospect this is all very lucky, however, as had I hung around for the boys from Melbourne I would have missed what I firmly believe to be my tie for festival highlight.

As it happens, I wander right into the middle of Peaches DJ set and from this moment on am swept up into her maniacal and engrossing show. Flanking her position at centre stage are set two dancers both clad in black leather and fishnets, gyrating dramatically and swinging long black hair around and over their faces. It doesn’t look choreographed; the dancers interact with Peaches, with the music and with each other, and it’s simultaneously confusing, dirty and fun. Further into the show the male dancer performs a strip tease, revealing he is wearing far more lycra g-strings than could possibly be comfortable and the audience cheers for more.

Orchestrating the whole spectacle, Peaches stands behind the deck clad in what can only be described as a boob suit. Over her shoulders sit the many stuffed breasts, nipples topped with Barbie doll heads, and they bounce up and down ridiculously as she moves. At one stage she stands on the security rail and showers the audience in champagne, taking a large swig herself on the way down. Suddenly though, the hyped up club music softens and the breasts are off, as seemingly from nowhere Peaches surges into a passionate rendition of Tina Turner’s ‘Private Dancer’. It is in this moment that I am shocked back into my senses and reminded that Peaches, for all her love of spectacle and show, is at core a mind-blowingly talented musician. It doesn’t last long, but the intensity of her performance in this instant completely wipes the floor in comparison of everything else I’ve seen at the festival so far. Then, just as suddenly, she is back to mixing, the show ends and the crowd put up a half hearted call for an encore, though they know they’ve already gotten more than they could have expected.

Megan Washington and her band are lined up next on the Gardens Stage and she begins her set just as the sun starts to go down. For a brief moment the clouds above us have cleared and everything is washed a golden pink as the waking bats make sharp outlines against the sky. Here, finally, is the weather we’ve all been waiting for, the idyllic evening setting for which the festival was named.

Definitely the break out artist of the year, Washington has pulled a big crowd and she pleases with a string of her well known hits, including ‘Clementine’ and ‘Sunday Best’. Her too cool for showbiz attitude has the crowd eating out of her palm as she exhibits her skills on the keyboard and with breathtaking vocals. As quickly as it came our magical weather is snuffed out with more light rain, but Megan plays ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ and the audience couldn’t be happier. She produces a rousing version of ‘Rich Kids’, a song ironically written about leaving Brisbane before delighting us all with Divinyls cover ‘I Touch Myself’. Thanking the audience before her final number, she ponders why we aren’t all at Joan Jett instead. “Because,” the man next to me cries, “you’re playing freaking Divinyls covers!” and those of us surrounding laugh at the truth of it.

From one new Mistress of Rock to a full blown legend, when I arrive Joan Jett has already stripped down to a bikini top and is giving the audience an education in just what rock and roll is all about. Jumping between songs from The Blackhearts, her long lasting and current band, and numbers by The Runaways, Jett proves that there’s a reason she is still being booked around the world. Flirting with the audience between songs, Jett and her band keep it classic with big guitar sounds and heavy bass. The band play superbly and the old school feel is a perfect contrast to some of the newer, more pop sounding bands that have played during the day. The crowd sing along to ‘Cherry Bomb’, the song newly re-made famous in the biopic The Runaways, and go wild when Jett announces her biggest hit ‘I Love Rock N’Roll’.

The rain has stopped again and the night is drawing to a close. Paul Kelly has taken over the Gardens Stage from Washington and he’s captivating to say the least. I’m lucky to have arrived in time for a stirring rendition of ‘Everything’s Turning to White’ which Kelly performs with Linda Bull and to hear old favourites ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ and ‘To Her Door’.

Sitting under the same tree I found myself shading under while watching the very first bands of the festival yesterday, it all seems to be winding down peacefully. Before me hundreds sway together under the golden lights cast off the stage, singing along to treasured songs. Behind me, people emerge through the thick fog billowing out of smoke machines dotted through the trees, glowing faintly as their pastel coloured ponchos catch the lights. The atmosphere has turned soft and surreal and even the mud has taken on a dreamlike quality as people fight to keep their balance in the sinking slipperiness.

Kelly draws to a close and I have in mind making my way toward where Klaxons will soon play the River Stage. As I pass the Hibiscus Stage, however, I am drawn in by the fabulous set being put on by the Yacht Club DJs. The boys are uniquely skilful, and once trapped in their audience there is nothing you can do but dance. All thoughts of moving on are swept from my mind as the DJs Guy and Gaz pump out a purely fantastic mix. In no other place would you hear The Beatles’ ‘Twist and Shout’ up against The Simpsons’ ‘See My Vest’ Beauty and the Beast parody. And then, just when I think that it must be nearly over, on comes Toploader’s ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ cover and it really is the perfect way to end the festival.

When the music is finally all over and we all wearily begin the trudge home it seems as though the festival has lasted for a long, long time. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I won’t have to pull on gumboots and find a way to waterproof my phone, and that I won’t spend the day wandering between stages drinking in incredible music. Even though the majority of us are in good need of a shower and a long lie down, spirits are still high as we splash our way out of Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens. I feel, like many around me, like I’ve survived some kind of battle with the elements, like my willingness to stand out in the torrential rain to listen to music has proved something. More so, however, I feel privileged to have experienced such fine music played by so many hardworking musicians. On the whole, I have loved my time at Sunset Sounds, I know without a doubt that I’ll be trying to make it back next year.

Sunset Sounds 2011 – Day 1, Live Review
Joan Jett And The Blackhearts @ Sunset Sounds – Photo Gallery [by Stuart Blythe]
Sunset Sounds 2011 – Day 2 Photo Gallery [by Stuart Blythe]
Sunset Sounds 2011 – Day 2 Photo Gallery [by Matt Palmer]
Sunset Sounds 2011 – Day 1 Photo Gallery [by Matt Palmer]
Sunset Sounds 2011 – Day 1 Photo Gallery [by Stuart Blythe]