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The Beautiful South

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SOUTHBOUND 2014
Sir Stewart Bovell Park, Busselton
Friday, January 3-Saturday, January 4, 2014

The annual New Year pilgrimage to Busselton was on again, with Southbound 2014 celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the camping music festival.

It’s been through some logistical changes and settled on a winning recipe that seems to have secured its place in the volatile festival market. It’s just a great festival, that doesn’t complicate things. With only two main stages in close proximity, the clashes are minimal and it’s easy to get around.

Being down south, and one of the only multi-day camping festivals in WA, Southbound attracts a certain type of punter. Music lovers, those up for an adventure and a good time. And the 12,000-odd folks in attendance were a top bunch that made for a truly great vibe. Everything seemed to align this year to deliver one of the best Southbounds in recent times. It was a solid and diverse lineup, with some singular performances and a few special moments.

Rising star Chet Faker played a great Friday arvo set that got things underway, but things really move up a notch when UK beats outfit Bonobo took to the stage and blew everyone away. Kicking off with Cirrus, the bass drop had everyone moving.

Simon Green is the main man behind the name, having created five albums of lush, layered, organic yet electronic grooves. Live, Bonobo are a full band featuring keyboards, sax/flute, guitar, drums, as well as Green on ‘bass and buttons’. Current vocalist, the striking Szjerdene, stepped up to the mic to perform Towers and Stay The Same, while Chet Faker made a surprise return to the stage to sing on First Fires.

Legendary UK guitarist Johnny Marr of The Smiths put on an energetic show with as much bravado as a man half his age. He featured some tunes from his debut solo album of last year including the cracking Upstarts, but it was his old band’s tunes that really set the crowd alight.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out had the crowd singing along. He covered Sonny Curtis’ I Fought The Law, and Electronic’s Getting Away With It – before ending on How Soon Is Now? Just brilliant.

As darkness fell, Grizzly Bear’s beautiful stage setup accompanied their unique brand of underwater indie with shimmering vocal harmonies best exemplified on Two Weeks and While You Wait For The Others.
The Roots came and conquered. A truly incredible live act of virtuoso musicians, they put on a real show. As anyone who’s seen them before knows – they’re not the sort of band to get up and play song after song.
They just jam. And it’s a joy to witness. With ?uestlove keeping the beat throughout and one of the best rappers in the game in Black Thought, the rest of the band take turns in the spotlight. Bass, keyboards, the amazing Captain Kirk on guitar, and sousaphonist Tuba Gooding Jr. What’s even more incredible is how they never miss a beat during their synchronised dance moves.

You Got Me was a highlight, before a mega-medley that blended together tracks including Sweet Child O’ Mine, Jungle Boogie and Move On Up.

Vampire Weekend have reached headliner status now and seemed comfortable with their position closing off the Friday night festivities (apart from a rather unfortunate salutation error, “Hello Bunbury!”). While the preppy boys might lack something in terms of stadium rock anthems, their infectious, upbeat melodies had the crowd bopping and singing along.

With three albums under the belt, it was a solid set, kicking off with new single Diane Young, they charged through the hits – Unbelievers, Horchata, Cousins, A-Punk and the one, two academic punch of Campus and Oxford Comma, before finishing with an encore of Walcott.

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Saturday saw a more weary looking crowd return. Early on Beyonce’s little sister Solange brought some smooth R&B sounds to the main stage. Meanwhile over in the big top comedian Dave Callan was performing his hilarious parody of Single Ladies.

Tame Impala brethren Pond rocked it out hard early on then moved on to more mellow psych-rock sounds. The boys seemed to be having a great time onstage. They cruised through a new country number, as well as Leisure Pony and You Broke My Cool, with a little bit of help from Gumby who came on stage to dance with them.

Emma Louise really immerses herself in her music. The rising Queenslander starlet gave an impassioned performance featuring Jungle, Boy and Pontoon, as well as a smooth cover of Alt-J’s Tessellate. The Violent Femmes seem to retain their appeal to every new generation of teenagers, and it was testament to their enduring popularity that crowd members from 18-40 were singing along to every word. The reformed group (sporting a new drummer) played their entire self-titled debut from start to finish, and it was glorious. They even threw in a few other favs including Black Girls and American Music.

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If the Femmes wasn’t enough of a nostalgia trip, then Neil Finn along with his band featuring his two sons and wife took us fully back in time, with a crowd pleasing set of Crowded House and Split Enz favs. All the classics were there sounding as wonderful as ever; Fall At Your Feet, Distant Sun, One Step Ahead and in a beautiful tribute to the late Phil Everly, Neil sang Don’t Dream It’s Over and blended it seamlessly into All I Have To Do Is Dream, as couples embraced and swayed in the cool night air. An inflatable dinghy appeared onstage which Neil decided to sit in to perform Better Be Home Soon, and was then carried offstage in it.

Over in the big top Hermitude were dropping bombs. These boys have real skills and deliver a huge live sound. Heavy dubstep basslines clash with electro and hip hop. They dropped a massive new tune, as well as their hit, Speak Of The Devil.

The Wombats are a fairly polished act these days, and the UK lads belted out a tight set featuring all their big tunes.

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One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend was that of London Grammar, and anyone who had any doubts about their abilities in the live arena would have been silenced, as they launched into Hey Now.
The trio of youngsters put on a captivating and dazzling show. The sparse, minimal beauty of their music was allowed to shine with the incredible voice of gorgeous Hannah Reid taking centrestage. Their cover of Nightcall sounded great live, as did Strong and the finale of Metal & Dust with live MPC. Reid sincerely commented that this last week in Australia has been their best ever, and introduced their ‘shy guitarist’ Dan Rothman, who countered “I’m not blushing, I’m just fucking sunburnt.”

Then it was down to MGMT to bring it home on the main stage, backed by psychedelic visuals. They didn’t waste time pulling out the big guns, Time To Pretend and Weekend Wars appearing early in the set, sitting comfortably alongside new tracks like Introspection, but their set lacked a little energy.

However things did pick up as some lucky contestant winners joined them onstage to hit a giant cowbell for Your Life Is A Lie. The effervescent strains of Kids saw vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden jump off the stage to mix with the people. Then they were joined onstage by Gumby, Neil Finn and Pond’s Nick Allbrook for a rendition of Split Enz’s Six Months In A Leaky Boat, during which Gumby was carried from the stage, to the crowd, in the inflatable boat, setting him free on a sea of hands. It was quite a moment, before they finished with Alien Days.

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Over in the big top Crystal Fighters were sending us off in a more triumphant and energetic fashion. The Fighters fusion of dance, rock and basque is performed with reckless, percussive enthusiasm.

They brought their set to a close with a joyous communal singalong to At Home, before returning with Hannah from London Grammar to belt out the frenetic Xtatic Truth to end things on a high.

Then it was off into the night, safe in the knowledge that whatever the year may have in store, it got off to a great start. Happy 10th birthday Southbound and here’s to many more.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Rachael Barrett

One Comment

  1. Amazing photographs! Was definately a festival to remember!

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