Author: Duncan McKimm
In a supreme tease to office workers across the CBD, Sunset Sounds opened its gates for a second year to accept the swarm of humanity buzzing around the Botanic Gardens mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, as I hold the excruciating dual-citizenship of office peon and festival-goer, my entry time didn’t allow me to see either the ethereal north Queenslanders The Middle East or local noisemakers DZ.
I was, however, in time to see some nouveau disco from Brooklyn’s Phenomenal Handclap Band, who brought the funk to the Gardens stage right on time for the thickening crowd. Radio favourites like ’15 to 20’ were on beat, on point and pitch perfect – while ‘I been born again’ nailed the vaguely hippy atmosphere you get from standing under the majestic figs listening to music in the afternoon. Nothing like a funky jam out to really kick a festival off right.
With Jamie T not far away, the Riverstage gradually filled as the grey sky dimmed (nature’s shout out to the Brit?). Also in this time (between five and six thirty) it seemed the whole crowd had become very, er, animated… Jamie came on stage to a warm welcome – possibly fans from his recent tour, or possibly just pumped festival folk (see earlier animation remark). He and his Pacemakers launched into a set evenly split between his two albums – with the newer material really hitting with the crowd. Whether that’s a result of those songs having been written with a band instead of solo, or the crowd being new fans (T birds? T bags? ) I’m not sure. Unfortunately in something of an omen for the rest of the bands that night, his set lost focus midway through, with a solo rendition of ‘Back in the Game’ killing off the momentum. He wrangled it back with some good banter and a pleasantly loose ‘Sticks and Stones’, but overall the result was a bit of a near-miss.
Over to the Hibiscus Stage for a bit of Seasick Steve where my first thought was of where to best go to find some music that wouldn’t put me to sleep. Luckily I’d simply stumbled into the Sunset Sounds mid-set slump, which the formerly homeless entertainer exited with some exceptional blues guitar riffing. “We’re gonna play for the whole hour they gave us – I don’t give a fuck whether the band before us went long, we’re playin’ the whole thing, you can come tear me off the stage if you want”. Nothing like a menacing rant to the stage manager from a man that, let’s face it, may still carry a shiv, to really add a bit of excitement to the set.
Burning away from the last of Seasick Steve to catch Art Vs Science but my good lord – the crowd! The Gardens stage was packed out to way past the sound tent. These boys must be having the time of their lives riding the crest of the Triple J wave. ‘Parlez Vous Francais’ predictably had the crowd going nuts, but again, they followed with a mid-set slump! Now someone like Seasick Steve or even Jamie T you can probably forgive, as they’re not simply about getting a dancefloor moving (although I’m sure they’d enjoy it if it happened). But when your primary aim is to have the crowd moving non-stop, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE SOME NOISE FELLAS! Tuning of guitars should be done while the rhythm section keeps the beat cranking away, not while they sneak a quick mid-set ciggie. If in doubt look at the girls in the front row – if they aren’t dancing you’re not doing your job right. The VERY animated crowd was leaving in droves before AVS could find the accelerator again for ‘Flippers’, most trying to secure a spot for Moby on the main stage presumably.
For a bald vegan midget, Moby certainly knows how to rock a show out. If you maybe aren’t the biggest fans of his work (I’d defy anyone to like everything he’s done), believe me – his live show is essential. It shows some of his greatest tracks in a new light – more punch, more verve, more…balls. Crass though it may be, ‘ballsy’ is the best adjective to describe the show. The man wore his guitar like a rock star and fronted his band like he owned the joint (which he may well do – he has quite the property portfolio). Tracks like Porcelain swam hauntingly around the amphitheatre, washing over the crowd with clarity and precision. Body Rock was suitably beefy, although the volume could certainly have been cranked up some. Even as close as the sound-tent the music was on the quieter side of things. His set is always eclectic and this one was no exception – dropping a thrashy punk song (“the first song I ever wrote”), before asking the crowd if he could add “three completely over the top disco tracks, if that’s alright?” – Moby nailed his banter, chatty but without losing momentum. There were no objections from the crowd to his setlist as the dancing spread backwards from the pit and up the hill. By the time he decided to hit us with his trancier material at the close the entire Riverstage was “Haviiin’ iiiiiit” (as a nearby Pom exclaimed). As the man himself summed up – “I’ve made a lot of different types of music in my time, but at the heart of it, I’m still a little raver. Some of the greatest times in my life have been spent with my hands in the air in some field listening to techno as the sun comes up”. Amen to that.
And so concludes Day 1 of Sounds of Spring 2010.
Sunset Sounds Day 1 January 6 2010
Live Review: Sunset Sounds 2010 – Day 1
Live Review: Sunset Sounds 2010 – Day 2
Photos: Sunset Sounds 2010 – Day 1 by Matt Palmer
Photos: Sunset Sounds 2010 – Day 2 by Matt Palmer
Photos: Sunset Sounds 2010 – by Stuart Blythe