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LIVE: SOTA 2021, Burswood Park, Perth, Western Australia – 7 June 2021

| 14 June 2021 | Reply

LIVE: SOTA 2021, Burswood Park, Perth, Western Australia – 7 June 2021
Review & Photography by Pete Gardner

There are not many places in the world right now where 6000 people can gather together for a day of free music (albeit with one or two restrictions in place), but here in Perth, our annual State of the Art (SOTA) Music festival, in celebration of Western Australia Day was back in all its live glory.

After last years highly enjoyable live streamed SOTA at the height of lockdown, it was good to see the annual showcase of West Australian artists back in front of a real audience. To conduct such an event in the time of Covid does bring some limitations. With fewer bands in the line-up compared to previous years, the event was all seated. Getting up and dancing was permitted, so long as you stay in place, and all attendees had to sign in with the Safe WA phone app, whilst a strict 7.00pm curfew was adhered to.

However, none of that distracted from a great day, with pretty much everyone acknowledging just how privileged we are in WA right now.

Proceedings started on time with the Welcome To Country by representatives of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, as everybody paid their respects to the traditional owners of this land.

The music soon kicked off with the biggest surprise of the day as Alter Boy took to the stage. Part Electronic Pop, part Arthouse performance the band set about immediately challenging perceptions, defining themselves as Queerlectro Pop, three of the band members are deaf or hearing impaired, and all the songs are performed in Auslan. For a band with several hearing impaired members the music itself is captivating and challenging, lifted by singer Molly/Aaron’s wonderful ethereal voice.

WAM Award winners The little Lord Street Band were clearly enjoying themselves on the big stage, with the country sound and some great guitar work going down well with the early crowd, who were soon bopping along in their seats as they played a selection from their album A Minute of Another Day, including the emotional Fighting for Air, before finishing strongly with the title track from the album.

Taking the stage after a few minutes, one of our favourite acts of the day, Theona Councillor, enthralled the audience inviting us to walk together. Singing in a mix of English and First Nation Naaguja language, a “sleeping language” never before recorded in song, Theona sang with wonderful melodies of family, country and loss.

Grevious Bodily Calm are an instrumental jazz funk group, who put me very much in mind of Brand X and Weather Report, most likely due to the amazing drum skills of Alex Reid. The complexity of his rhythms, combined with his perfect timing, is a rare skill, and I could have happily watched him alone on stage for an hour. Talent like this is rare, and I couldn’t help wondering if a soul had been exchanged at a crossroads somewhere… The band have a few dates coming up in the near future, and are well worth catching if you are in the area.

With probably the youngest collective age on stage, (apparently, the band were formed following an 18th birthday party) WAM award winners for best folk act, and a slew of other awards under their belts, Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks played a laid back set of guitar and violin driven folk, The Bush Chooks have gained deserved acclaim across the country, and it was easy to see why as the band charmed the audience while the sun was beginning to set, sending the crowd reaching for sweaters and jackets in the evening air.

If the day seemed weighted a little heavily towards country and folk, this only pleased the crowd as Burswood Park was now filling to capacity, just in time for Albany favourites, The Waifs.

After 30 years in the business, The Waifs are at the top of their game, with a set mixing old favourites and the best of their most recent album, Ironbark. The enthusiastic crowd broke all the rules and rushed to the front of the stage to dance, causing a pause in the music for a scolding to occur, and people very reluctantly were returned to their seats. It’s a reminder that events like this can only proceed under tight guidelines until we are out of this pandemic.

After a day of laid back vibes and country music, and the celebratory fireworks, headliners and Triple J Indie favourites Spacey Jane exploded onto the stage, exponentially raising the tempo of the day. Having taken out the number 2 slot in this years hottest 100, ahead of Tame Impala, the Hilltop Hoods and Billie Eilish, plus just coming off the back of a national tour, Spacey Jane delivered a sensational set as lead guitarist Ashton Hardman-LeCornu and bassist Peppa Lane hurled themselves around the stage, with Ashton seeming to spend more time in the air than with two feet on the ground.

Again the crowd rushed the barrier, causing another delay and break in the proceedings as security ushered the enthusiastic fans back to their chairs, prompting frontman Caleb Harper to address the crowd, explaining they cannot continue until everyone is back in their seats. With everyone now dancing along in their allotted space, and having lost several minutes, the band upped the tempo for the last couple of songs to complete the set by the 7pm deadline.

SOTA has always been a celebration of the musical diversity and culture the state has to offer, and this year that aim was achieved with flying colours. Queues may have been a little longer as everyone checked in, and seating was somewhat restricted, but in the light of events of the last year the organisers must be congratulated on a hugely successful event, possibly one of only a few of its kind around the world in 2021. We are not out of the woods yet, but fingers crossed, by the time SOTA 2022 comes around we may be back to some degree of unrestricted singing, dancing and social converging. We can only hope.

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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