Sydney Festival kicked off on Saturday in traditional style, with a huge, city-centre party which was free for everyone. As is traditional with Festival First Night, the afternoon is for the families before the prams make way for the partygoers as the sun descends.
An early treat came in the form of the simply delightful Holly Throsby (below), who performed songs from her children's album, See! (which would certainly make a good companion to Kimya Dawson's cheeky yet life-affirming Alphabutt). Playing with a full band and with a couple of cameos from Darren Hanlon, the singer/songwriter found herself faced by an audience whose average age was about 20 years younger than her usual demographic. However, it was hard to believe that this was the first time she had ever performed such a show, as she managed to comfortably and completely engage the collection of toddlers that stood before her in wonderment.
Not only did she have their undivided attention for the duration, but she even evoked some enthusiastic audience participation. Her songs were educational, catchy and fun, while offering enough in the way of melody to keep the parents happy too. If you missed it, you can catch the show at The Famous Spiegeltent during the festival. If you have children/younger siblings, this would be an awesome first ever gig to take them to.
Bookending Throsby's wonderful show, Casper Babypants did a similar job in keeping the younglings entertained. Who he? Well, Mr Babypants is Chris Ballew, the twice Grammy-nominated songwriter and lead singer for the four-times platinum rock'n'roll band The Presidents of the United States of America. You know, Peaches and all that. He has since written four albums aimed at a new knee-high audience.
While his set was going on, across Hyde Park legendary UK DJ Norman Jay was getting the party started from atop his bus. His set - which ran from early afternoon until 11pm, would take in pretty much every genre imaginable and it didn't take long for a dance-off to ensue. While plenty fancied themselves as being a bit tasty on their feet, it was this dude (below), that stole the show. He stepped into the circle looking like a Mathlete yet emerged a hero, having busted some SERIOUS moves. Don't believe it? Just look at the faces of the people watching.
The day continued with all manner of street theatre while across the many stages was a broad spectrum of musical talent , including Washington, Manu Chao, Electric Empire and Jamaica’s mento masters The Jolly Boys (pictured, top). The festival runs until the end of January, so check out the full schedule of events here. Oh, and here are a couple of handy tips for you. Firstly, download the Sydney Festival app. It's good. Secondly, if you missed out on tickets to anything/are poor, then you should utilise the Tix For Nix booth in Martin Place. A limited number of tickets for EVERY SHOW (sold out or not) go on sale at 8am on the day of the performance for just $25. We lined up overnight to see Lou Reed a few years ago and it was an incredibly rewarding experience.
Here are a few more shots of the Festival First Night:
Words and pictures by Bobby Townsend.