We arrived to the Dean Turner Stage in incredible heat just in time to hear the MT WARNING hit, ‘Forward Miles‘. A favourite of mine from the past year, I was very much looking forward to hearing it live and glad that I arrived in the nick of time. The boys from Northern NSW were better than I could have expected and are definitely someone I look forward to seeing again.
Next up was The Growl, another Aussie group from Fremantle. I had no idea what to expect from these guys and their opening song was not my cup of tea. In a word, I would say that they just sounded too “angry”. However, after succumbing to the idea that I was in for 45 minutes of music I wasn’t going to enjoy, they really mellowed out and made for a good listen.
Finally, before the big five had their go, Aussie artist Adalita hit the stage. It was fitting that she was to perform on the Dean Turner stage as she and the late Dean Turner were bandmates in the now defunct Magic Dirt. Dean also helped to support Adalita’s solo career and produce her debut album. As far as her performance went, she was very popular on the main stage and deservedly so. Easy to listen to with an amazing voice, she put on a solid performance that was pleasing even to someone that didn’t know her music.
Before Adalita had even finished her set, the crowds flooded to the Dean Turner stage to see heartthrob and Hottest 100 winner, Vance Joy. The excitement could be felt throughout the massive crowd; there was a noticeable buzz every time he made an appearance. Impatience grew after the crowd were forced to hear from the festival director, the CEO of Footscray Community Arts Centre, and the Mayor of Maribyrnong (the crowd even booed Mayor Grant Miles before he quickly won us over by dropping the f-bomb incredibly casually) until James Keogh finally appeared, ready to perform.
The local Melbourne boy has quite a following so it was not surprising when the most dedicated fans were able to sing along to the lesser known songs from his EP, ‘Emmylou‘, ‘From Afar‘, and ‘Snaggletooth‘, while others in the crowd just breathed in the jubilant atmosphere. Even his song ‘Red Eye‘, not on the EP, received a hugely positive reception from the adoring fans. However, it was what happened next, when he put away his guitar, that really ignited what was to be a great evening of incredible music.
When James picked up his ukulele, the crowd knew exactly what was coming up and the buzz amplified to astounding proportions. That familiar riff at the start of his hit song, ‘Play With Fire‘, immediately got the fans up and moving; by the chorus, the entire audience was singing and dancing along. Saving the best ’til last, he played number one voted hit, ‘Riptide‘, which was welcomed with a rare unison of literally thousands singing every word as if they’d written the song themselves. The atmosphere just about exploded when he took a step back from the microphone while the entire festival sang one of the most well-known choruses of the past 12 months.
One of the most pure voices in music right now, Vance Joy played the perfect set to help the crowd chill out for the remainder of the afternoon before lighting a spark with his fiery ukulele, exciting us all for the evening to come.
With the mood having switched from chilled to excited intensity, the time was right for Glaswegian trio, CHVRCHES, to take the stage. What followed was the biggest and best build-up from any of the day’s acts for one of my favourite songs, ‘We Sink‘, before disaster struck. Technical issues, followed by the power being blown, brought the performance to a halt. The hype of the build-up was mindblowing, making the deflation all the more extreme. It was a huge disappointment to the crowd but even more noticeably so to front-woman, Lauren Mayberry. Additionally, it meant we lost two more songs from the setlist, ‘Night Sky‘ and ‘Science/Visions‘.
After about a 15 minute wait, and plenty of frustration from the crowd and roadies alike, they were back. The well-known synth intro to popular song (and my favourite song of 2013), ‘Gun‘, managed to bring the crowd around. The energy was immediately brought back for one of the most amazing sets of the day with Lauren pumping her fist at every opportunity.
The incredibly deep bass during ‘Lungs‘ could be felt in the heart and lungs of everybody anywhere near a speaker. Then ‘Lies‘ and ‘Recover‘, forced back-to-back by the culling of other songs, ended up amplifying the energy even further before another favourite, ‘Tether‘, kept the crowd in it.
The next song, ‘Under the Tide‘, saw synth player Martin Doherty take the vocals. He began by asking the crowd to call an ambulance if he collapsed; a strange way to start things but it would only get stranger. The song began with Martin singing intimately into the microphone but, about two minutes in, he got the chance to dance. His dancing was like nothing I, or anyone else, had ever seen! His legs were moving, flailing even, in ways that I didn’t realise were mechanically possible and his arms just seemed to join in. It was the most energy I have ever witnessed and the crowd absolutely bought into it.
With Lauren back on vocals, they played ‘By the Throat‘ before ending with another popular hit, ‘The Mother We Share‘. It was, without a doubt, one of the best sets of the day and probably my favourite.