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LIVE – SOUTHBOUND, Jan 2013, Busselton, Western Australia

| 29 January 2013 | Reply

4-5 January 2013, Busselton, Western Australia
Reviewed by Dani Deville

Southbound 2013

I thought I understood music festivals: Festivals are events music lovers go to, braving the elements, be it scorching heat if you live in Australia, rain or snow if you live in the motherland, to see the bands they love play some amazing music. You plan your day methodically, you schedule food and toilet breaks between the bands you really want to see, mapping the perfect circuit around the festival grounds. That was my perception. Then Southbound happened and suddenly I’m not so sure.
I started the day off with my usual strategy in place, open to the idea of checking out some bands of which I’d only ever heard a couple of songs on Triple J, and strategically securing a good spot for the bands I really did want to see.

After giving the grounds a quick once over, I planted myself in front of Matt Corby who, by all accounts, is the indi-pop answer to Jesus or something.  He’s a quiet unassuming bloke who plays to a crowd of a thousand people the same way one might play at a mate’s barbeque.  He seems shy and doesn’t make eye contact with the crowd, even when everyone goes nuts when he busts out his most radio-friendly hits. He even ended his set with a mere “thank you very much for listening”, which, I’m pretty sure is how Jesus ended the sermon on the mount. Fuck me maybe he is Jesus! Matt Corby certainly wouldn’t admit to being the messiah.

We now move on to the portion of this review where I offend a bunch of people and, I can assure you, not a single toss will be given! For the next thirty minutes or so I put up with being a human shield during Django Django, frantically trying to save my ever tolerant and supportive festival buddy from getting dry humped to death by some tool bag carrying not one, but TWO redbulls… Never have I seen a man with so many redbulls that CLEARLY had so little need of either of them given the pre-existing motor-mouth and flop sweat. No really, that’s as much as I have to say about Django Django.

I was too busy filling myself with booze in a frantic bid to make the blandness of the music bearable to notice that The Vaccines had even played and Hot Chip were more or less as remarkable as any random 80’s cover band.

The biggest physical challenge of the day came from watching Coolio. Now, and be honest with me, tell me a song that Coolio has released that ISN’T Gansta’s Paradise. You can’t can you… I’m practically certain that you and 99% of the crowd in that tent are in the same boat.  Sure I was faintly amused at Coolio doing a cover of Michael Jackson’s “See You When You Get There” to a backing of Pachelbel’s Canon.  It’s not so much that they played that cover with that backing track, it’s more having witnessed bunch of gangsta rappers directing an inebriated and predominantly white Australian crowd to SING Pachelbel’s Canon during a saxophone solo (in the manner of a crowd of football hooligans singing some football related anthem). What has been seen cannot be unseen. Skipping ahead to Gangsta’s Paradise, the only part that most of you reading this (and most of us attending the set) are going to care about, no sooner had the lyric “HOUR AFTER HOUR” exited our collective gullets, people started filing out of the tent and back to where the Southbound wizards store all of their fizzy grown up beverages. That behaviour, pretty much sums up what I’d been witnessing during the day: A bunch of people sitting through bands they don’t really know to hear the one or two radio hits they DO know, the only songs they really get excited about, and then go back to drowning themselves in vats of cold beer.

Granted, by the time the sun had gone down and The Hives took to the stage, the crowd had swelled exponentially.  All of a sudden I was back in familiar territory with my habitual festival feeling.  After an intro of grandiose piano arpeggios they all come out wearing a coat and tails.  Standing on a speaker at the front of the stage, singer Pelle Almqvist looks almost like a ring master at a circus or like a gospel preacher in the church of rock. Between songs he just keeps on talking. As he says himself “If I stop talking it’s extremely quiet. We cannot have extreme quiet at a Hives concert!” He has the crowd in the palm of his hand. He tells us what reaction he wants and we give it to him. As a large inflatable Santa Clause gets belted around the audience like a beach ball Almqvist executes giant broken-limb-defying leaps from the top of the bass drum. During “Tick Tick Boom” the whole band stops, playing statues for what seems like several long eternities. The crowd is losing its mind waiting for them to start up again. Do these Swedes know how to put on a show or what?! FINALLY some people who actually know how to perform!! After Almqvist has introduced every band member in his trade mark random and rambling manner, he tells the crowd that, by now, we should have built a bond of trust with him. He asks us to prove this fact by telling us to sit down. Without thinking, everyone does. Photographers are pouring out of the media tent to get snaps of thousands of people sitting on the ground and getting talked at by a mad Swede in a suit. Not only a Kodak moment but one for the memory banks as well. The crowd leaps back to its feet as Almqvist ends his ramble and the band burst back into life for the last few bars. This was the first time I’d felt alive and musically enthralled all day.

Just as I finished saying “wow” about 572 times in a row, the Flaming Lips stormed the stage and my fragile little brain melted… The set opened in an explosion of confetti and streamers and with frontman Wayne Coyne in a giant plastic bubble crawling over the crowd. Here is a list of some of the crazy things I saw at the Flaming Lips set in no particular order: A guitar in a an illuminated bubble which looked like some sort of miniature neon UFO, confetti guns, a keyboardist that repeatedly said “thank you” in a high pitched voice like a ventriloquist’s dummy, a camera on the end of the singer’s microphone which gave a very weird view of the action as he spoke to the crowd, people in eight foot inflatable alien costumes dancing around the stage, what looked like the entire lineup of Where The Wild Things Are but with neon reflective fur, a mass of giant colourful balloons being passed into the crowd bouncing gracefully over everyone and exploding in a flurry of confetti, a giant gong which flashed with a dozen kaleidoscopic lights when hit, Wayne Coyne singing through a megaphone which shoots out deep, blood red smoke, a public service announcement style endorsement for drugs, giant on screen naked psychedelic dancing ladies, the inside of a lot of scary animal mouths and a giant green eye watching the crowd… My tiny tiny mind was blown into a million billion pieces of colourful confetti, balloons and naked kaleidoscopic women. I was rapt beyond words!!

I would have thought that for a spectacle of such gargantuan proportions the punters would be out in force, swarming all over the place, climbing up stuff and going bezerk. I would be dead wrong for thinking that. The crowd was the smallest I’d seen it all day. What is the POINT of going to a music festival and then missing out on the stand out act of the day?? Where WAS everyone? I’ll tell you where! They were in a tent, watching a DJ press play. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not necessarily in touch with the kids, especially not since that restraining order which stops me being within 50 feet of one, but I felt that I was clearly missing something and I was determined to find out what… as long as it didn’t involve dancing.

The next day I put on my investigative journalist cap and decided to just do whatever I saw everyone else doing to try and get more of a feel for this thing they call Southbound. After putting on the only t-shirt I own which isn’t black, I spent the first hour of the day getting braids put in my hair, getting a henna tattoo and getting my face painted to look like a deranged, aging hippy with some kind of fungal disorder. I bought a colourful pork pie hat, bright coloured thongs and drank my own weight in cider. Was I having fun yet? No… But I did look like an idiot, which, after walking past people dressed as Indians, fairies, various cuddly animals, members of the lolly pop guild and a plethora of other strange things, did kinda seem like the point. Maybe it would make the music on the main stage better.

Then Rodrigo y Gabriela came on… “EUREKA!!” I thought happily!! “It’s worked!! This is amazing!! This music is wonderful!! I’m finally enjoying this festival!!” They were electric! Their flamboyant, flamenco fury was working magic on me. I was dancing!! I was ACTUALLY dancing!! I found the formula to festival fun… and all it took was an hour getting into character and about $200 worth of shit that would either wash off or never use again.

Unfortunately as soon as Rodrigo y Gabriela’s set was over and Beach House came on the black magic had worn off. It turns out that the only cure to indi music is not listening to indi music.
The end of the day sort of fizzled out music-wise. I like hip-hop (especially Australian hip-hop) even less than I like indi. Nevertheless I will say that the Hilltop Hoods worked the crowd like pros and put on an amazingly energetic performance, running around the stage and keeping the crowd engaged. I’d heard good things about Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, but couldn’t make it past the first couple of tunes. The most astonishing part was that he wasn’t actually a dinosaur, he was normal sized and very much alive. We then caught a few minutes of Two Door Cinema Club and very nearly turned them into Two SNORE Cinema Club, deciding that going to bed would actually be a lot more entertaining than having to endure the rest of their performance.

I didn’t intend for this article to come out as a rant against indi-pop. It’s not actually the music I dislike. Like everyone else I enjoy hearing a catchy song on Triple J. The thing that bores me so much is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a real performer amongst them.

Clearly I am not the only person that thinks this way. I spoke to a LOT of people that afternoon, both locals and city slickers, asking them why they come to Southbound. Not ONE of them said they came for the music… I’m serious! Not one!! The main reason anyone goes to Southbound, or so I am told, is to get completely munted and hang out in the shade with a group of friends, waiting for the sun to go down so it’s cool enough to go and have a dance. Out of everyone I spoke to that day, the average number of bands people saw was four… FOUR!!! Out of two days of music!! It’s not that people weren’t into the bands, it’s just that they weren’t into the bands enough to stand in the sun all day and watch them.

Yet people flock from all over for this most unique of festivals. The locals love it because it’s a chance for them to come together, not only with people they see all the time over something that’s a bit different, but also to meet new people that they wouldn’t usually get the chance to meet. Perth people love it because it’s a chance to get out of the city and hang out somewhere beautiful doing something a bit out of the ordinary. And that’s just the people from this State! I spoke to a young woman from the US who had timed her trip to WA specifically to coincide with Southbound! I met another girl from Adelaide who flew over here to visit her friends specifically at this time so that she could experience the festival.

It’s perhaps ironic that, in my quest to find out what Southbound was all about, I ended up having the exact experience that everyone goes there to have: I met new and very interesting people, I played with face paints, I unleashed my inner hippy, I got pissy and had a laugh… So I didn’t go all gaga over the music. So what? I was out of the city and in a beautiful part of the State, working on my tan, drinking some cool drinks at a variety of different stalls. I got photos taken in a converted VW Combi, I danced at a silent disco, I got my groove on at the Coconut Club with people I’d NEVER MET and I bonded with one of my best friends over a new experience. And it WAS an experience!
Southbound does a great job at being what it is. My only regret is that I didn’t have a few more days to just relax and enjoy it.


Category: Live Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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