Photography by Josh Groom @JoshGroom
With an epic lineup consisting of big names and local discoveries, a distinctively chilled vibe and a refreshing lack of dickheads, Yours and Owls festival reminded us that Wollongong exists and that it’s actually the perfect setting for a music festival.
Perhaps it was the strong winds or just the desire to maximise laziness over the long weekend, but Saturday began relatively quietly, with Triple J Unearthed Winners and local bands playing to small groups of wandering punters. And then Nicole Millar dropped ‘High’, her huge collab with electronic music duo Peking Duk, and the crowd came rushing forward.
For a moment, everyone forgot that it was a sunny Saturday, and danced like it was a late Friday night.
Having just returned from a huge tour of Europe, including the coveted Glastonbury, Tired Lion gave us quite possibly their tightest set yet, with their grungy 90s sound washing over the curious crowd. Harking back to the early days of Garbage, The Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins, the band’s fuzzy songs got curious punters quickly interested.
Latest single ‘Not My Friends’ was a definite highlight but new tracks, including a single dropping later this week, sounded equally exciting and suggest that the band are only just getting started.
Stonefield also gave a tight performance with their psyche-rock tracks taking on a far heavier feel in a live setting. Riff-driven tracks from their latest offering So Above, So Below were received particularly well and introduced an energised and enthusiastic crowd to this louder iteration of the band.
With her cries of “Ay wassup” and “I can hear you but I can’t see you”, Sampa The Great quickly got the crowd bopping and doing their best to keep up with her rapid fire vocals and complex beats. Breakout single ‘Blue Boss’ easily got the best response, with the crowd trying (and admittedly failing) to hum along to the track’s ear-wormy guitar sample.
Synth-pop/new-wave gurus Client Liaison never fail to get the dance party started, but they had particular reason to boogie down this weekend. “We just finished mixing our new album today” they shouted to the crowd before launching into favourites like ‘End of the Earth’ and ‘Feed the Rhythm’ and spreading their infectious energy.
With multiple outfit changes, synchronised dance moves and overwhelming swagger, the band have perfected their live show, and the new album is set to be one of the year’s best. Plus, their backdrop consisted of old school Windows screensavers which gets an immediate A+ in my books. With fist pumping and high stepping, I’ve never seen a moshpit look more like an old fitness VHS.
As expected, local legends Hockey Dad pulled a huge and vocal crowd, suggesting that they probably should’ve been placed on the main stage. If you could get past every second person bragging about how “I went to uni with the boys” or “I’ve never dogged the boys”, then it was probably the most exciting set of the day.
Locals have got something to brag about, and you can see why everyone is so proud of the two piece. Their surfy full-length debut Boronia sounded excellent live, and tracks like ‘So Tired’ and ‘Jump The Gun’ are instantly catchy. The boys are truly humble when performing and the presence of random mates running onto the stage for a quick dance truly made the set feel both familiar and welcoming, like watching a couple of friends at the local pub.
Cog closed out the first night and proved why their comeback is so exciting. Despite being eight years since their last album Sharing Space, the ‘proggers’ haven’t lost any of their appeal, with their hard hitting drums, bass and guitar still locking in perfectly to create a wall of sound and get the moshpit heaving.
‘My Energy’ was a definite highlight and proved what the music scene has been missing without these guys around.
With their typically chaotic live performance, climbing all over the stage equipment and shouting at the crowd, The Pinheads looked live they’d brought the craziest performance of the weekend. And then Totally Unicorn took the stage and made every other band look like toddlers playing in a ball pit.
Immediately stripping down to tie-dyed underpants and joining the crowd for intense circle pits, the band proved why they’re one of the most insane live acts in Australia right now (and also why they’re banned from so many venues!). Anyone keen enough to brave the moshpit emerged sweaty and beer soaked but happy.
American indie four-piece Chastity Belt couldn’t have had a more different stage presence, but their relaxed vibes made them the perfect choice for a Sunday afternoon. The mosh wasn’t huge, but punters sat back in the sun, slowly swaying along to the sultry tunes and getting some much needed recovery time.
New material was the flavour of the day for Big Scary and it went down a treat. Kicking off with ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Organism’ off their latest album Animal, it was a testament to the band’s success that the crowd already knew the songs well.
Although the two sole members of the band Tom Iansek and Jo Syme took centrestage, they were joined by a full band which helped them perfectly recreate the big sound of their new material. Tom was surprisingly energetic as well, frequently getting up from his piano to strut around the stage on guitar.
DMA’S easily pulled the biggest and most passionate crowd, proving what a huge album Hills End has been in the local music scene. Nearly every song drew a huge response and singalong, with ‘Delete’ being the particular (and expected) standout.
The trio’s backing band left the stage for the start of the song to allow the band to kick it off themselves in a personal manner before re-emerging for the song’s end and an energetic rendition of ‘Lay Down’. The band looked as awkward as ever onstage, but it only helped solidify their appeal.
With the opening two-punch of ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ and ‘DVP’ from their newest and second album The Dream Is Over, Canadian punks PUP showed how far they’ve come since they were last on our shores (supporting The Smith Street Band). They kept up their raucous energy the whole set, despite playing to crowd who didn’t know much of their material. Despite that, they managed to get everyone involved with their catchy and easy-to-learn singalongs and seemed to win many new fans.
Plus, bonus points for telling the crowd to be “nice and Canadian about this” when one punter lost his glasses in the mosh pit.
Fellow Canadians Black Mountain closed off the evening to a disappointingly small but passionate crowd. With a unique mix of Black Sabbath-esque riffs and spacey synth lines (created on old school Moogs), they had a huge sound but were unfortunately placed against Hermitude on the main stage.
The band still gave the set their best effort and mammoth tracks like ‘Mothers of the Sun’ and ‘Florian Saucer Attack’ from latest album IV made for a suitably epic end to a weekend of diverse bands.