Summer is officially over but tell that to the Weather gods who brought the sunshine and heat to the Farmer and the Owl Festival in down town Wollongong today. Upon arrival we were greeted by a wall of boys in blue with their sniffer dogs…private tents for those that looked like possible drug dealers to get a proper look see but other than that their presence was largely observational.
The venue- McCabe Park had space a plenty with large mounds providing great sound barriers to the four stages set up with precision turn around. The Record Room to chill out in, buy some records from the Music Farmers shop and watch ABC Illawarra work the festival interviews.
The line-up was strong with many up and coming local bands along with international guests here for the first time…we know this with their gushing praise of how awesome Australia is. Well anything would be if you lived in the US. The turnaround was tight and the 30 minute sets offered a chance for bands to curate their best body of work and as a result it was all killer no filler from most.
Amyl and the Sniffers delivered their powerhouse set with the aggression and humour audiences have come to expect of Amy Taylor. With her garish blue eye shadow, mullet hair and wife beater singlet sans bra she was shadow boxing and hurling herself into the crowd singing “She’s Not a Loser.” No she’s not, she’s Fifty kilos of Fun (her words) and the lyrics are a war cry for the down trodden- full of expletives you just want to hurl at your boss. We’ve all been there. That’s what’s so relatable about this post punk experience. We all want to give everyone the finger just like Amy does.
Party Dozen were the surprise of the night. Who thought a saxophone and drums could own the stage? Kirsty Tickle wearing a t-shirt that said “Arse” but was now covered in blood after she gashed her head open earlier with her microphone apologized for her disheveled appearance. Her hair was bloody and matted, her t shirt soiled which added the necessary cred to elevate this performance to another level. She jumped around, she blew into the other end, she pressed a whole bunch of pedals and that saxophone did things no saxophone has done before. Combined with the excellent drumming from Jonathon Boulet the set moved through improvised soundscapes that left us all wanting more.
Next up was the chaos that is The Pinheads also from Wollongong delivering their chaotic, shambolic and sweaty rock complete with charismatic lead singer in the form of Merlin Magneto. It didn’t take long for the chests to be bared and testosterone fueled craziness of Merlin scaling the roof of the stage made of flimsy poles and some sort of plastic roof. I was praying that he wouldn’t fall through it and at least finish the song. Luckily everything stayed in place and as he slid backwards without skipping a beat, foot dangling keeping it all together.
J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame knows his guitars. His fingers moved effortlessly producing complicated chords but I was remembering that sweaty time I saw Dinosaur Jr. and wanted some action on stage. Some movement,.some craziness but instead it was all in the music and age can weary them. Highlight was his version of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” with a few guitar solos thrown in to keep things interesting.
Ed Kuepper’s ‘The Aints’ with Peter Oxley on guitar and a horn section reminded us of where punk in Australia began in Brisbane in 1977 and where it had metamorphosed in the young bands we saw today. My friend commented that he hoped Ed was in a good mood and judging by tonight’s performance I think he was. Highlight was “Know Your Product”. A classic made even more powerful with the horn section rising and falling in crescendo with an important message for the youth of today. Fittingly a waft of smoke…. a smell that I didn’t think I would smell tonight made me smile. Someone knew their product and a way to get it in.
Wollongong’s favourite sons ‘Hockey Dad’ are back to their roots to deliver their soundtrack celebrating coastal life – the surf, the sand and piss ups in the park all the way from Windang ( try saying that a few times for kicks). The crowd knew all the words and delivered them back at the boys with “I Wanna Be Everybody” a sing along hit. A fitting way to end the night celebrating Australian music and local music. The music of the people that needs a space to be shared above the lock out laws and nanny state regulations. The kids need an outlet, a sense of purpose, a day to kick back and forget about their troubles for a few hours and today The Farmer and the Owl delivered in bucketloads.
Words by Sandra Bollocks
Check out the images by Peter Dovgan below.