As a teen growing up in Cairns, nothing was more exciting than the time of the year you’d slap P plates on your mums car and drive four hours south for Groovin the Moo Townsville. As an adult it was a two-and-a-half hour drive from Melbourne to memory lane (Bendigo) where we did our makeup in the car, drank room temp wine, and inadvertently mooned the customers of the local IGA while changing in the carpark. Suddenly, I was sixteen again.
The sun was a’shining as we got to the festival in time for Methyl Ethel, the Perth outfit responsible for that banger of a tune sung in the face of anyone who has cut their hair recently. Like a lot of WA bands, Methyl Ethel are coolness personified. They delivered a palatable display of eccentric yet enigmatic indie-pop that wasn’t much to watch, but where the band lacked lustre the crowd more than made up for. Fun fact: methylethyl ketone is a clear substance that smells like butterscotch - a no brainer of a name choice for a band so sweet and unassuming.
A glittery influx of punters in the Moolin Rouge tent told me that Northeast Party House were about to start. The band and crowd (now packed to the pegs) played catch with the vibes during an adrenaline-charged set, bringing out special guest Nkechi Anele from Saskwatch to recreate their recent Triple J Like A Version of Childish Gambino’s Redbone. Throw in confetti canons, t-shirt guns and a Blink 182 cover for good measure and you’ve got the perfect festival band. I’d be happy both starting and finishing my day with Northeast Party House.
*Cue Pacman wuh-wuh-wuh game-over sound* as we left the tent to a blanket of white sky and a temperature that was well and truly Victorian. Energies were still high unless you were one of the 3,000 people in line for the bathrooms… let’s just say I was not prepared to pee in a relatively open area while strangers held out their long skirts as makeshift curtains, but such is life. Even at a festival, girls in the bathroom are still the real MVPs. The Toilet Fiasco would have been the biggest injustice of the day if we hadn’t legged it to the Cattleyard Stage to see Tash Sultana, only to watch as Amy Shark took the stage instead. Big ups to Amy anyway; her voice was as strong as her presence and it feels redundant to mention that Adore was a particularly nice moment of the day.
We passed a healthy chunk of time with the usual festival things: lines for toilets, lines for beers, lines (just kidding). At some point we ran past the main stage as Will Wagner boomed Death To The Lads, a buoyant and riotous anthem by the The Smith Street Band that had thousands in singing in unison despite lyrics like “things get better but they never get good/I don’t do anything I said I would.” Thanks to Wagner and his advocacy for mental health, stumbling through life has never felt more human.
The late afternoon gave us Brisbane’s The Jungle Giants and moooove on over Ubu by Methyl Ethel because their latest track Feel The Way I Do came in as a top contender for Banger of the Day. The indie-rockers hurled me further down memory lane with She’s A Riot and I wondered why I hadn’t kept tabs on them in more recent years. Within an allstar lineup, The Jungle Giants stood tall. Milky Chance left little intermission before starting up the neighbour stage with Down By The River, to which I very excitedly realised that I knew more than that one song. Cocoon and Blossom made a dreary day feel like a summery one, just as the sun made its swan song with a final golden peak over the horizon. When Stolen Dance finally began it was as if they’d shoved the sound into a sock and thrown to the bottom of the laundry basket; if the duo was trying to shake the shadow of their biggest hit, it worked. “Blossom by Milky Chance: F**KING YES” was the only note I took down that day. #journalism
Dance act PNAU was a kaleidoscopic soundtrack to nostalgia with an energetic set filled with timeless dance floor favourites and headed up by the ethereal Divine. Baby and Wild Strawberries were still exhilarating and infectious a decade later, while the ubiquitous Chameleon told us that PNAU are back for good. Saving the best for last, Embrace was the hand-to-heart, sing-it-like-you mean-it song of my youth and I’m still smiling at the thought of it.
But sadly, PNAU’s embrace was the last time I felt warm that evening. There was no depth to the mosh pit, nor tall people to surround myself with, that could prevent the dipping temp from reaching Dante’s ninth circle of hell. We stuck it out for glam-rock legends The Darkness, but only for I Believe In A Thing Called Love so I could just listen to the rhythm of my heart in squeaky falsetto with a few thousand others. Frontman Justin Hawkins wore a metallic blue jumpsuit and that’s about the gist of the memory before the frost took over my mental faculties.
If there is such thing as a standing foetal position, I was in it. Leaving the toasty inside of the shed/rave cave, known as The Plot, required a pep talk and a few jumping jacks, but missing The Wombats wasn’t an option. Their set is a bit like playing roulette but knowing you’re gonna win; they played hit after hit across A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation, This Modern Glitch, Glitterbug and a few other back catalogue gems. I almost warmed up for Jump Into The Fog and while singing Kill The Director in my best Liverpool accent.
Some come for the DJs, some for the bands, but at the end of the night they’re all there for Violent Soho. As the Mansfield rockers chisel their way into rock n’ roll history, each hit track like Saramona Said, Like Soda, In The Aisle, and Covered In Chrome, is just another chip away at the stone. Never do you feel more proud of Australian music than in a Soho crowd with a raised fist, empty lungs and your arms around a sweaty stranger… but having regretfully not packed my Violent HoHo Christmas sweater, I decided to tap out. We Hell Fuck Yeah’d while running out the gates - straight to the warmth of the RSL Club across the road with a flask of vodka we found stashed in a bush out the front. Kids these days.
Reviewer: Tianna Harris
Photographer: Natalie Jurrjens