All Tomorrow's Parties.
In a word, awesome.
A review in the Sydney Morning Herald said it was a big day out for grown-ups. The average age for the average punter was good 10 years higher than your usual festival like The Big Day Out. A boutique sized crowd of 7 to 8 thousand too. Good natured and relaxed for the most part and they had plenty of room to spread out over the island between the four stages. During the Saints and Nick Cave's sets all the other entertainment took a break so almost every single punter on the island congregated in front of the main stage and there was still no crowding or pushing and shoving.
The queues for booze and toilets were quite manageable. I didn't feel the urge to buy more than one beer at a time at any time during the day - no binging required. Well, that is, except for the time I went to the bar and bought a couple for a long stint at the front of the main stage. I also bought a couple extra for the guy I asked to hold my spot at the fence. Speaking of beer. The beer was a step up from ordinary swill served at festivals. Little Creatures Pale Ale and Little Creatures Bright Ale were the beers on tap for the day. Still a bit rich at $7.50 for a plastic schooner sized cup but a better beer than normal.
The bands. Like all festivals, too many bands and too little time. Because this was a two day thing you could go both days and see almost everything you wanted or needed too. Next time I might just do that but the bands I did see though were...
The Stabs are a rockin' grungy 3 piece from Melbourne that were an easy introduction to the day.
After a side trip to the bar I wandered over to the main stage to catch Bridezilla. They're 5 former school girls (edit: 4 girls. The drummer is a guy) that really have grown up in the last year or two. Having a sax and violin really help contribute to the big sound. Melodic energetic power pop with dark overtones. They finished their set with a guest artist, iconic Aussie actor Jack Thompson, on harmonica. I'd seen him watching from the side but I thought it was just someone who looked like him. Well bugger me when he was introduced.
Afrirampo the quirky Japanese duo, a guitarist and drummer, were up next. These girls are weird, crazy, energetic, entertaining and wonderful. I got there just as they were starting a chant "We go to Nick Cave house to party". Then it was screaming and unintelligible lyrics (maybe not if you speak Japanese) and thrashing guitar and crashing drums. They ended their set jumping into the crowd with a drum and getting a dance and conga line going. I bought the CD from the merchandise tent.
The Laughing Clowns are fronted by Ed Kuepper. This man is a deadset genius. Every project he is involved in is gold. The Laughing Clowns were formed by Kuepper back in 1979 after The Saints broke up. The Clowns broke up in '85 and Kuepper went solo. They're older now but they sound the same as I remember. I love the post punk sound - there is melody and harmony and jazzed up rock. They also sound, unsurprisingly I suppose, like Kuepper's solo stuff. When someone shouted to turn it up Ed replied with, "We're a pretty
highbrow outfit up here and the Kiss army is out there." Laughed a bit I did.
I didn't know anything about Spiritualized before ATP. Apparently he's been around for about 15 years with this blend of psychedelic, gospel, spiritual rock'n'roll. I liked it.
I'd managed to score myself a position on the fence at the front of the crowd for The Laughing Clowns and Spiritualized and I didn't want to give up my possi for The Saints and Nick Cave. Drinking all day does take its toll and you do have to go and relieve yourself. Luckily for me a couple, a guy and a girl, had just plopped themselves down next to me. He'd just come back from the bar with a beer so I thought he's a drinker, cool. There's my opening. "Excuse me mate", I said, "Would you mind saving my spot if I bring you back a beer?"
His eyes lit up and he said "Really?".
I said, "No worries", and I was able to keep my spot for the rest of the evening.
Being at the front of any gig enhances the experience no end and it doesn't often happen, to me, especially at these big out door events.
The Saints were Australia's biggest punk export. They beat the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash to releasing what is considered the first punk single and are considered as influential as The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. I remember front man Chris Bailey from the eighties as a big big man. These days he is a shadow of himself. I wish I knew his secret. But, his voice is the same. Ed Kuepper is back playing with the band for the first time since they broke up in 1978. Maybe it was having Ed back in the line-up that invigorated the guys but they rocked. Powerful punk backed up by the signature brass section. Hearing (I'm) Stranded live for the first time was a highlight. Chris introduced it by saying the next song would be in fluent Queensland.
The big draw for the day was on next - Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Nick Cave came on and strutted, kicked, prowled and growled. He was at his swaggering best. I mentioned when I posted the first pictures that four songs into the set that this may well be the best gig I've ever been too. In the cold light of day it was. Definitely one of the best 2 or 3 performances I've ever seen. It isn't just Nick Cave either. They're Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds for a reason. They belt it out with gusto. Warren Ellis, especially, is great to watch. From his tiny guitars to when he on his knees whacking some instrument laid out on the stage in front of him. They played a mix of stuff from their back catalogue right up to the new critically acclaimed Dig Lazurus Dig. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face if you tried.
Normally that would be it, but this is All Tomorrow's Parties. There was one more act to come. Eighties electro pop glamour boys The Reels. Dave Mason is a lot older and more stout than the skinny anaemic looking kid he was in the 80s. He's obviously not as energetic as Nick Cave but he and the band still gave more than adequate versions of all their hits. From some of the best covers I've heard, reinterpretations of Bacharach and Creedence Clearwater Revival, to the sublime original hit Quasimodo's Dream. The Reels were the gentle warm down from the intense work out that was Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and they left the crowd wanting more.
Sounds Of Seduction, a DJ and go-go dancers, played us out as I wandered out to the ferry home. The DJ was pretty enthusiastic and reminded me of the days back in the 90s when I used to DJ. I could have done with the go-go dancers back then too.
I can't wait for next year. I hope the curator for the next one is a good as Nick Cave. I took some slides with a small 35mm camera as well as the dodgy mobile phone photos below. If any turn out I'll post them here too. In the meantime The Big Day Out is on Friday headlined by Neil Young and The Prodigy. At least I'll have a drinking buddy for the BDO.
Sydney Morning Herald pictures here.