Live Review: Southbound

SOUTHBOUND FESTIVAL
Stewart Bovell Park, Busselton
Mon 2nd January 2006
Review by Rohan Hewson

Southbound is an all-day and night festival much like Rock-it or the Big Day Out, with one obvious difference: it’s held in the south-west coastal town of Busselton. This is the second year it’s been held.

The entry to the festival was a bit chaotic – the separate camping entrance wasn’t signposted that well, so I ended up going in the wrong gate and ended up having my bags searched half a dozen times by the time I got in. The security guards made everyone tip out all bottles, apparently it was the rules – no opened bottles of anything whatsoever. There was also plenty of Johnnie Walker, goon etc being poured out – what a waste of perfectly good alcohol. So eventually I got in, and then had to wait for 20 minutes in a line to fill it up again at the tank, with warm water. Once in, though, everything was fairly well organised.

I heard the Grates while I was arguing with the dopey door people, having my bags searched etc – they sounded pretty good, and I heard from a bunch of people who were closer that they were great, so I guess that’s a thumbs up. After them, Dallas Crane played fairly standard Aussie pub rock, heavily influenced by bands like Cold Chisel and AC/DC. They get that worst, most boring kind of review… yeah, they were OK.

The Panics played in in the big top, the smaller stage in a huge dark blue tent. The played quite a good set, but the heat in there was unbearable – next time, the festival organisers need to get a few large fans in there (the blowy kind), or open up more flaps of the tent. The bass player made himself extremely popular with the crowd by spraying cold water out of his bottle over the crowd. They played mainly new stuff, but finished with ‘Fire On The Hill’ like they always do. I heard them described by someone in the crowd as ‘Oasis with keyboards’, which is kinda right, but they’ve definitely got their own unique sound.

What I saw of the Beautiful Girls wasn’t that great… I like them, but they seemed to have been smoking up a bit before the show. The main guitarist especially messed up the solo bit from La Mar, so it sounded pretty average instead of awesome, like on their album. So I went to the mixup tent for a while, and listened to DJ Dan Stinton playing some nice funk, soul and groove tunes. That tent was much cooler and better ventilated, making it a nice place to chill out for a while.

Xavier Rudd was pretty cool, if only for his ability to play half a dozen instruments at the same time – he had three didgeridoos, a couple of guitars which he alternated between, a harmonica, various percussion and god knows what else. It was just starting to cool down outside as he played, and his blues’n’ roots was quite nice late afternoon music.

Over in the big top, the Shins were fantastic. They were one of the main drawcards for a lot of people, so the tent was pretty full. They played a lot of songs from their first album ‘Oh, Inverted World’, and also a few newer ones including one that’ll be on their next album. They had a few technical problems, but one of them ended up being quite cool – something went wrong with the drums, so ‘Pressed in a Book’ got a 3 minute intro on keys and guitar while they fixed it. They finished up with an almost unrecognisable but quite good rocking-out version of ‘One By One All Day’.

The Hoodoo Gurus played to one of the biggest crowds of the night on the main stage, and didn’t play any new songs at all; with a back catalogue of some of the most memorable Australian songs of the last 25 years, they didn’t need to. The crowd sang right along, especially to ‘What’s My Scene?’ where Dave Faulkner held the mic out into the audience for a couple of bars of the last chorus. It was an absolutely awesome performance, and everybody loved it.

The Dandy Warhols were OK, starting with one of their long, droney songs. Their set was quite weird – they alternated between the long fuzzy psychidelic songs they do so well, and the crowd pleasers like ‘Junkie’ amd ‘Bohemian Like You’, which they didn’t quite do justice to. They played a lot of old stuff too, including a couple of album tracks which I really didn’t expect to hear, for example: ‘I Love You’ from their 1997 album ‘The Dandy Warhols Come Down’. The old stuff was good enough, though; their new stuff isn’t anywhere near as good as what they released in the late 90’s. They finished with their very strange cover of ‘Hells Bells’ by AC/DC, with a trumpet doing the main riff. In fact, there was too much trumpet in the set… it was there in almost every song. It’s great in ‘Godless’, but that’s where it should have been left. And that last song degenerated into howling feedback that really hurt my ears… I had to walk away a few minutes before it finished, for the sake of my hearing.

Ozomatli were great, with their mixture of hip-hop, funk and many other styles being a lovely way to finish the 12 hours of music. However, the best bit was at the end. Anybody who was there will remember this… the band walked off, but suddenly the trumpet and trombone players were in the middle of the crowd, and everyone sat down on the grass to watch the brass section tooting away. Meanwhile, Ian Brown and some other guy were taking photos from the empty stage. Then the rest of the band appeared out of nowhere with the other two, and it turned into this huge messy conga line full of people clapping in time and all the players dancing along while playing their instruments (the drummer had a couple of people holding his drums). This mess ended up in front of the artist signing desk, and did this impromptu little jam for a couple of minutes, and then finished for real. I haven’t done that justice… you basically had to be there, and not many people who were will forget it.

There were some flies in the ointment, but on the whole this festival was really good, much better than Rock-it (a similar large festival). There was plenty of sunscreen in the camping area, and it was free (and very useful), and there were plenty of toilets. Sure, they got a bit grotty by the end of the night, but that’s only to be expected, and there were stil good ones left next morning. The food was a bit pricey, but at least it was supporting the local sporting clubs, Variety club etc, as well as chains like Chicken Treat. The coffee van was especially nice… apparently they were from the Wray Cafe in Freo, and their chocolate brownies are still the nicest thing I’ve eaten all year. The price of alcohol was absurdly expensive, as it always is at these large events – $7 for a beer is overkill. Next year, if they have more shade and more water taps, and don’t shut down the camping fun early at 2am, it’ll be pretty much perfect.

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