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Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Essential Festival, Sydney

I spent my Anzac day at Sydney's Essential festival, which takes place across three indoor stages in the city centre:With ticket prices perhaps seeming a tiny bit steep, pre-sales clearly didn’t take off amazingly well, judging by the fact that the three venues did feel quite empty in the early part of the day, but those who were there were treated to a lovely set from Cuthbert and the Nightwalkers in The Gaelic Theatre. Conversely, Centipede started proceedings on The Madison Stage with female-fronted poppy electronica/noise that lacked charisma and charm and at times was clunky and ugly.

Following Centipede was Erin Marshall (above). Now, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the singer/songwriter continues to impress with every performance. Today, a beguiled audience was won over by her acoustic ditties, which went from being powerful and gutsy when accompanied by her brother on drums to being pretty and delicate when she performed alone. The highlight was the beautiful Once Upon a Time, during which you could hear a pin drop amongst the crowd. Just remember, when Marshall inevitably becomes absolutely massive in the not-too-distant future, you heard it here first.

Watching Bird Automatic was a nice enough way to fill half-an-hour, not least because they have a frontman who, in a dark room and from distance, looks a bit like David Walliams. Meanwhile, in the upstairs Gaelic Club, The Seabellies were also perky and pleasing.With a sound that included elements of rock, electro and dance, Bluejuice (above) flew the flag for Aussie hip-hop better than most. Admittedly this isn’t too hard, but there can’t have been a person in the increasingly busy Gaelic Theatre who didn’t get a kick out of their energetic performance. Vocalists Jake and Stav clearly absolutely love being on a stage and their infectious high-energy filtered though to a crowd that had so far found little on the bill to dance to. Stirring stuff, and fucking loud too. The day belonged to Bluejuice, no question.

Sydney boy/girl duo WOW won the title of being the weirdest band of the day. With a frontman who looks like a futuristic incarnation of The Young Knives’ House Of Lords and hacking out crazy garage-electro-disco-punk-lunacy to the bemused handful in attendance, it’s hard to tell if they were the best thing in the world or the worst. One thing’s for sure though, Nathan Barley would love them.

While American band Ratatat impressed with their beautifully-crafted and layered instrumental indietronica, local lads The Kahn Brothers offered sweet acoustic harmonies to a much smaller crowd on the Madison stage. Sure, it was incredibly twee and fairly bland, but pretty enough in places.Up in The Gaelic Club, an ear-busting turn from Cassette Kids was as far from twee as it is possible to be. In vocalist Katrina (above*), they have a captivating frontwoman in the mould of Be Your Own Pet’s Jemima Pearl or Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O. She stamps, stomps and screams her way around the stage, hollaring through a mop of blonde hair like she is having the most fun tantrum ever. Sometimes their songs do kinda blend into one, but the band does have some really interesting guitar effects up its sleeve and what the set lacked in variety it made up for with sheer fucking raw energy. Theirs was one of the highlights of the day, even if the turnout to watch them was undeservedly low. On this display though, 2008 might just be their year.

With Regurgitator and The Holidays wrapping things up, another Essential Festival could justifiably call itself a success. A low-key success, but a success nonetheless.

(*I actually took this photo of Katrina two days later at Oxford Arts, after all the ones I took of her at Essential were of poor quality. Incidentally, they put on another awesome show)

6 comments:

Eff said...

I saw Ratatat and thought they were amazing. Bluejuice were great but it needed some more mports on the line-up I reckon. Didn't see Erin Marshall or Cassette Kids but will try and chack them out.

Anonymous said...

last year was better

bobbysix said...

I think they were about the same. A few great performances dotted about. Last year you had Laura Imbruglia and The Young and Restless. This year Bluejuice, Erin Marshall and Cassette Kids. Hopefully the festival will keep growing and there will be a few more internationals in the future. I reckon they should try and close the road off and have market stalls and stuff...

Anonymous said...

Was okay.

Dave Anderson said...

What you went and saw a local festival instead of the MTV awards...Bobby come on what's happened? Apparently a friend, who sponsors the awards, said it was worse than last year. Not possible I said.

bobbysix said...

I went to the MTV awards too. Of course I did! In fact, the MTV Awards was quite possibly the worst thing I have ever seen in my entire life. So so, so, so terrible. It made last year's seem like the slickest event ever. It was so lame that I didn't bother with the afterparty and I simply can't bring myself to blog about it.