Easter may not sound like a particularly musical time of the year, but Bluesfest and Bad Friday are doing their best to change this! Luckily, for those unable to make the trek to Byron Bay, Bad Friday offers a damn good alternative. This was the first year that the event had been held outside of the Annandale Hotel, and the Street Party vibe was just perfect. There was good food on sale from Fancy Banger, Mary’s and more, and the line-up was stellar.
Hailing from the coastal town of Austinmer in North Wollongong, NSW, Shining Bird are reminiscent of earlier Aussie acts like The Church and Icehouse and their music and stage show reflect this. The set began with their best Midnight Oil impression ‘I Can Run’, and it’s a strong start. They have a unique take on classic Australian rock infused with 80’s electronica and mid 2000’s indie. A particular highlight came a few tracks deep when they produced a soulful saxophone solo to soothe the crowd, growing into a slow-building, RNB groove that got the crowd bumping and grinding.
“Let’s resurrect this godforsaken sad-ass city!” screams one of the festivals’ organisers as he introduces the next act. Something of a mystery and unique to this year’s Bad Friday, A Band is an amalgamation of multiple acts, a tribute to the organisers’ favourite film The Last Waltz. It consisted of members of Sticky Fingers, The Delta Riggs and The Preatures, and special guests, including Joyride, Hayley Mary from The Jezabels, and Tony Hughes of King Tide. They play what someone near me describes as “hillbilly music”; a series of The Band covers that members of the crowd know to varying degrees. As the sun sets over Sydenham, A Band deliver their most soulful cover of the night, a beautiful rendition of ‘The Weight’. The crowd sings along to the famous refrain “Take a load off Fanny, Take a load for free”, not quite nailing the harmonising over the ‘and’s’ at the end. The 14 musicians on stage however were quite stunning, and this was truly a memorable and unique experience.
Sampa the Great
Sampa the Great is a welcome change; by this point the night has set in and people want to move. If A Band had the crowd singing, Sampa has them bumping. She has the crowd going off to the heavy beats, her unique hard flow slicing and dicing through the darkness. With her hypeman and producer DJ Rodriguez in tow, Sampa’s live show is truly something to be witnessed – reminiscent of 80’s acts like Run-DMC or Eric B & Rakim. A highlight of the set is her cover of the Fugees’ ‘Fu Gee La’. As smooth as Lauryn Hill and as hard as DMX, Sampa truly is the Great.
Absolutely blasting onto the stage, Royal Headache mix traditional punk stylings with modern Australian indie, a unique combo that works in this case. It seems to me that it would be hard to maintain the same energy they open with throughout the entire set, but lo and behold, it is done. Lead singer Tim Hall storms around the stage like a man possessed, igniting what could possibly have been a weary crowd at this time of day. Towards the end of their set, a slow song changes things up, and fan favourites ‘High’ and ‘Psychotic Episode’ truly win over the crowd.
Sydney natives The Jezabels are on home turf in Sydney’s inner-west, having formed at nearby Sydney Uni roughly a decade ago. Playing a string of shows to make up for their cancelled tour dates in 2016, they’ve lost none of their power, especially Hayley Mary on lead vocals, who spends part of the show climbing scaffolding and entering the crowd, maintaining her vocal performance the whole time. She also gets my personal award for the festivals Best Dancer. The Jezabels’ music carries the ability to be simultaneously unique and empowering; they’re an incendiary live act and one of Sydney’s greatest.
Newtown favourites and Dad-cap enthusiasts DMA’s take the stage to roaring applause, they enter with a swagger not seen since Oasis in their heyday, and their dress sense isn’t far off either. Supporting their 2016 release Hill’s End, DMA’s have a dynamic feel brought out by the use of acoustic and electric guitars, a rich sound that echoes all the way down Railway Parade. The perfect end to an epic day of music.