I made the drive up to Kariong early Saturday afternoon with my set times highlighted and brimming with anticipation. Some unexpected traffic meant that I made it to the carpark with only minutes to spare before Daniel Lee Kendall took to the Unicorn Stage. All I had to do was walk up to the artist entry, grab my accreditation, and enjoy the Central Coast native’s indie vocals. Unfortunately, there were two very separate artist entries and, you guessed it, I was at the wrong one. I managed to wander aimlessly, asking questions to anyone who would listen, for the entirety of DLK’s set. Lucky for me, I was within earshot for almost the whole thing and managed to catch my favourite of his, “Under A Spell”, from fairly close (albeit through a fence). Not the greatest start…
After a day’s worth of walking and running around, I made it in and wandered over to the Nuvo Dance Tent in time for a pretty sweet DJ set from ODD MOB. With Robbie and Harry shouting orders to the packed out tent and their audience obeying like a well-drilled army, people were jumping up and down with their hands going everywhere and the kind of crazy energy you wouldn’t expect at 3pm on a sunny afternoon. Highlights included Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” and Flume’s remix of Hermitude’s “HyperParadise”, but the tune that really got the crowd going was their own “Is It A Banger?”.
Back to the Unicorn Stage (I’d be going back and forth all day) for a recent favourite of mine, Jinja Safari’s front man and his new solo project, Pepa Knight. I managed to get a spot right up the front, allowing me to fully immerse myself in Pepa’s catchy Indian vibes. He and his band juxtaposed a unique and wide range of Indian instruments, and matching India-inspired outfits, with 3D glasses that just about everyone onstage and in the audience was wearing. Although I think his whole EP is great (seriously, check it out), “Clams” won the day for me in a groovy set that just made you feel good.
Before I move onto what came next, I want to make a quick shout out to my new mate Aiden, who was a fellow lone soldier at the front of Pepa Knight. His friends, who clearly lack the impeccable music taste that he and I share, had ditched to go see someone else. I now had a companion for remainder of my stage-hopping adventure.
We had twice spotted Tkay Maidza before making our way over to the Tent to catch her set, once through the fence to backstage and the other time walking literally right in front of us. Our artist spotting game was on point. Still, it was the third time we saw her, up on stage and putting on a show, that was the most important one. Her composure and control over the crowd were well beyond her 19 years and it was made obvious why she’s already such a big deal. Already with three hits to her name, the dancefloor went nuts for “Brontosaurus”, “Switch Lanes”, and finally “U-Huh”. Being near the front and centre for that last one (after a lot of crafty squeezing and shuffling) made for one hell of an experience.
Another short hike and we were back at the main stage for Melbourne boys, Northeast Party House. Multiple big tunes, including “Sick Boy”, “Haunted”, and a cover of Violent Soho’s “Covered in Chrome” had the crowd jumping, dancing, and singing along. But it was the crowd, as much as the lads on stage, that caught my attention. One guy in a nun costume and his priestly friend were performing religious rituals on friends and strangers alike with a makeshift bible and a bottle of water (potentially holy). One very tiny girl screamed the entire “Covered in Chrome” in a disturbingly believable metal impression. And, to top it all off, people started throwing items of clothing up onstage for vocalist Zach Hamilton-Reeves to wear. One person even threw a shoe! (Technically, three shoes were thrown throughout the set but two missed the stage by such large margins that I’m not sure they count.) Despite Zach slowly losing his voice throughout, they finished their high energy and wildly entertaining set with “Youth Allowance” to some of the biggest dancing and loudest singing I saw all day.
The rush was on! Due to clashing set times, we had to race back to the Nuvo Dance Tent to catch the last 15 minutes of SAFIA’s set. I’m sure what we missed was good but what we managed to be there for was simply epic. “Take Me Over”, a remix of The Aston Shuffle’s “Tear It Down”, and “Paranoia, Ghosts & Other Sounds”. Back-to-back-to-back. I don’t remember stopping moving (which is why this set is photo-less – only the blurriest of snaps on my phone) and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in attendance who did. “Holy fuck!” is the best I can do to describe it.
Unfortunately, for me, that was it. I had an interview with Alison Wonderland before rushing back to the city to catch Montaigne and Megan Washington. I’d have loved to have caught The Kite String Tangle, The Jungle Giants, and Alison Wonderland’s sets (seriously, what a ridiculous lineup!) but, alas, it was not to be. Mountain Sounds, that was sick! Let’s do this again sometime.