When a friend asked me to
Harvest Festival in 2011, I gave an answer that many of you who are a bit older
can relate to, that is, that I wasn’t into festivals anymore. In my mind
festivals were for people who liked to wear clothing displaying the Aussie flag
(which they’d often take off during the day) and who were willing to stand in
long lines for smelly toilets and crappy, overpriced food and booze. But lured
by a line-up of golden oldies and golden not-so-oldies I allowed myself to be
dragged out west to Parramatta Park, and boy was I was impressed, the acts were
great, the quirky setup was brilliant and I don’t think I stood in a line for
anything for long enough to notice that I was in a line. With an equally
eclectic and awesome line-up was announced for 2012 I was keen to go back to
see if it could meet that same standard.
First up on the windmill Stage (the second biggest) I checked out a few songs from Dexys Midnight Runners or simply “Dexys”, as they are now known. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting (denim overalls maybe?), but it was a charismatic and fun performance from what I saw and it was a bit of a shame to miss ‘Come on Eileen’ after heading off to the Great Lawn (the main stage) to see the Dandy Warhols. No doubt large parts of the crowd (myself included) have a big soft spot for the Dandys, particularly at their early noughties power- pop perfection peak, and I’ve seen them several times over the years. A friend later told me he thought their hearts weren’t really in it, but I didn’t really get that; I thought their form was good. Maybe it wasn’t their best ever, maybe they were not so happy to be playing early in the afternoon, maybe they were still suffering a bit from a big night at World Bar the night before. Maybe they should have kept that last part to themselves. Then again they’re not from Sydney, they probably don’t know any better than going to World Bar.
A quick dash back to the Windmill stage got us up pretty close to the Silversun Pickups. Like many, I’ve been a fan of these guys and gals since first hearing the opening bars of ‘Lazy Eye’ many moons ago now. To say they were impressive and were well received is a huge understatement. They looked great (and like they were having a great time), sounded tight and with Brian Aubert’s distinctive and screeching voice and 90’s-esque power chords it was one of the highlights of the day.
Now Mike Patton is a god and everyone who says otherwise is clearly lame, but despite the bucket loads of talent on the stage it seemed that many people found it a little difficult to get into Mondo Cane’s orchestral versions of old pop songs sung in Italian. True diversity is one the strengths of Mr Patton and Harvest festival in general, but I was just internally sooking a bit that I was watching Mike Patton but not watching Faith No More…. or Mr Bungle…. or Peeping Tom.
I wasn’t really fussed between Cake and Ben Folds Five and at the suggestion of the people I was with, I stuck around at the main stage to see Cake. In hindsight it was probably the wrong choice. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t get into it, I’ve read and heard many describe it as a surprising highlight but their newish, more country sounding material (which was by far the majority of their set) didn’t do a lot for me. There was also a bit of a rant about their former record company, I mean, a rant about record companies? I know Harvest is aimed at an older demographic but please, it isn’t 1996 anymore, and if you’ve got a profile like Cake why would you even need a record company?
Beck was next up on the main stage and with the sun going down he delivered a stomping set that had everyone up on their feet. He played all the well-known stuff for the casual fans as well as some more obscure numbers, all delivered with a raucous swagger. Everyone I could see was moved, literally and figuratively. At the top of his game.
Back at the smaller stage we managed to catch the back half of Grizzly Bear next and, as expected, the harmonies were seamless; they’re a fantastically talented group that deserve all their success and, importantly, can deliver live. Fab.
The choice between Sigur Ros and Santigold to close out the day was like choosing your favourite
child… you know, if those children were full grown fantastically-talented
performers who you’d never met before. I’ve appreciated Sigur Ros since Ágætis
byrjun and there probably isn’t a more beautiful, atmospheric and ambient band
around. Then again I’ve loved the offbeat, catchy, electroclash synthy goodness
of Santigold since her debut; nothing has drowned out horrible gym music and
got many of us exercising this year like her Master of My Make Believe album.
Deciding we wanted an upbeat finish to the day to Santigold we went. I’ll just
say “wow”; the costume changes, the moves of her backup dancers (and a backup
dancing horse) and the sheer simple freaking hook-y fun of it all. Not one
person in the crowd stopped dancing the whole set and most of the way to the
train station too, where we met up with friends who had seen Sigur Ros and were
on a similar high (though one which involved less dancing). So it seems there
really wasn’t a wrong decision of who to see last.
Just on the train station though, someone clearly hadn’t factored in the reasonably-obvious fact that there might be… oh a few thousand extra people there at 10.30 on a Saturday night, so it was pretty unpleasant ride home for many. That was literally the only problem with the day.
Oh wait, at one point I saw a guy with his shirt off, drinking bourbon. But apart from those two things it was pretty awesome.Lincoln and Matt