Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parklife Sydney 2010 (StereoDan)

"As the Season's change, new beginnings are in the air... it's a time to be a part of something big. A moment in time captured forever with a soundtrack melody. It's about you, it's about me, it's about the sound of Summer. Parklife: Touring nationally!"  []

Catering to avid electronic and dance music listeners Parklife is touted as Australia’s biggest outdoor electronic/indie music event to kick-start the music festival season. Landing in Sydney music fans certainly didn't let the inclement weather get them down as they were treated to a selection of acts, ranging from established artists: Groove Armada, Missy Elliot and the Dandy Warhols, right through to local heroes Midnight Juggernauts and Washington.

As the weather shifted from blissful sunshine to cold rain bucketing down, the less prepared kids ducked for cover under anything they could find. Some went for rubbish bin lids and disused plastic liners.... the more sensible headed to the "Jager Cube" dance tent to enjoy some quality tunes and dance beats. Festival punters were in good spirits and enjoying themselves despite an uncharacteristic 80 police arrests occurring throughout the day.... mostly on drug offenses with one teenager woman being caught with over 200 ecstasy tablets!

Having met with Darwin Deez for a film shoot earlier in the week I was excited to head down and see what his live performance was all about. There was no shortage of entertaining stage antics as Darwin led a slightly bizarre line dance choreography that flowed seamlessly from the end of one song into his next. Think body popping meets it’s long lost country cousin and together they came up with some kind of crazy hoedown dance.

Theatrics aside, Darwin displays a well honed understanding of music composition with his ability to write catchy lyrics and music that jump out of your car stereo/iphone or latest musical gadget. His track "Radar Detector" garnered rave reviews on Australian radio earlier this year and recent release "Constellations" seems to be picking up pace thanks to a rather pondering music video that delves into the essence of time, reality and space. All in all it was a great live performance and I was impressed with his ability to continue performing without dropping a vocal note while he restrung his own guitar with one hand! Lets hope that we get to see and hear more from this talented fella soon.

[pop shake and roll!]

Over on the Sahara main stage Midnight Juggernauts were starting to kick off their set with a selection of songs from their recent album "The Crystal Axis." It's great to see these homegrown musicians continuing their blazing dominance on the indie-dance scene and not resting on the laurels of previous success. It was my first time seeing the lads in person and for an open air festival I was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm they evoked from the crowd. I'm very into the variety of sounds and styles that they've manage to inject into their music. It would be great to have a studio natter with them one day and just generally geek out about their production technique and studio toys! (HINT HINT!!!!) For now they are off overseas on a massive tour across europe/uk/north america/south america so catch them when you can.

Next up I scurried off to see the The Wombats in action which have managed to evade me up until Parklife. These very polite gentleman from Liverpool put up easily the most energetic set of catchy indy-brit pop that I've heard for a while.  Their new album "Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves)has been all over the airwaves recently so the crowds were singing along with Matthew Murphy's vocals (pictured below left) as he sung the tunes. 

When I took a quick look at the set list times for Parklife I was pretty amazed to see the multitalented Uffie (see picture below right) on the list! Born in Miami, educated in Hong Kong and now based in Paris this little entertainer pretty much does it all in the music world. From producing, rapping, writing lyrics and of course signing checks (not to mention designing her own stage outfits and fashion).... is there nothing she can't do? With a synth punk vibe she confidently glides around the stage punching out a respectable set of songs. I'm seriously in admiration and highly recommend that you go check out her amazing music videos.... seriously they are ace!

Off the back of the world breaking success of Bloc Party, Kele Okereke (pictured below left, below right is his seductive backing singer) has been forging his own solo career. Despite being a well know introvert there's no denying the sound of that powerful voice as he steps onto stage and lets rip with those vocal chords. There's no shortage of effects pedals and boxes scattered around on stage as ravey synth lines cut between solid sub bass lines. The overall effect was quite a crunchy electro sound which had the crowds stomping away like pig's in mud... quite literally. The track "Everything you wanted" was a musical highlight of the day for me, as it was also for much of the audience.

There was so many fantastic acts to see for a one day festival that I had to move on quickly to catch sets from Chiddy Bang (pictured below left) and live electronica legends Soulwax (photo below right). Soulwax I had seen quite recently at Berlin festival and in terms of crowd response I knew it would be pretty difficult experience to beat the Germans! Sonically there was a noticeable lacking in bass response as no doubt the organizers of Parklife were subjected to strict sound guidelines.

Interestingly Facebook keeps telling me I should go listen to alternative hip hop band Chiddy Bang so I made my way down the front to see what all the marketing hype is about. There was a nice balance of freestyle and prepared rap but stylistically they didn't stray too far away from a contemporary hip hop sound going down on radio at the moment. The crowd response was overwhelming as they quickly swelled to plague proportions around the stage in support of their music.

I caught the first few tracks of Missy Elliot and from where I was standing she was giving it her all. I've heard a number of grumblings about her set from people but I guess there must be a direct correlation between proximity to the front of stage and audience enjoyment. For the songs I heard I thought she put in a quality performance and it was nice to see her up close and personal. Her tracks are undeniably classic and I'm pretty happy to have got the chance to tick that box.

Post and photos by StereoDan

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mudlife AKA Parklife, Sydney

As the rain bucketed down in the early hours of Sunday morning, facebook sprang to life with people trying to flog their Parklife tickets last minute. And, although by midday the paths at Kippax Lake were swarming with eager festival goers, this year’s turn out was timid in comparison to previous events. Perhaps it was the weather? Perhaps in was the early 10pm finish? The steeper ticket and drink prices? Or even the crowd its self?

Each year the festival seems to gain more and more punters who care less about the music and are simply there to be seen and to get off chops (unless you were one of the many who had a little run in with the authorities and their dogs on the way in). Even Big Day Out is loosing its legit music fans but Parklife and Good Vibes by far are the worst offenders. Guys with their shirts off (or wife beaters on), their roided bodies out and girls with their orange tans, mini shorts and even the odd bikini; Jersey Shore eat your heart out.

As the rain continued to piss down at brief, unexpected intervals the grounds around Moore Park soon turned to mud and the clouds remained an over head threat reminding us not to get too comfortable.

Hearing the unmistakable pop hooks of Washington as the entrance lines were battled through, the Melbourne starlet, Megan Washington played to an excited sea of ponchos. Although an odd selection for a festival previously renowned for being dance orientated, this was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unusual additions to the 2010 line up (ahem Dandy Warhols and Missy Elliott). Playing the Atoll stage Washington had pulled a legitimate crowd especially given the early time slot. If this early festival finish had one advantage it was that people made an effort to get there at a decent hour this year, rather than rocking up around 4pm. Bolting past this set I made my way over to Kakadu stage to catch four charming UK lads also known as Wolf Gang.

Fronted by the charismatic Max McElligott, new kids on the indie-pop block, Wolf Gang, put on a killer set that enticed more and more punters over to their stage with each track. Crowd favourites The Kings And All Of His Men and Lions in Cages went off and were the perfect sound to start the festival season. Having recently finished working on a debut album with New York with producer Dave Fridmann we can expect big things from this band. Also, keep your ears out for fellow Parklife artist Memory Tapes’s remix of this track. Until then sink you teeth into this stripped back version.

Catching the final tracks being dropped by UK DJ/producer Greame Sinden over at Sahara stage I got in prime position for our very own Midnight Juggernauts. The deep and almost haunting vocals of Vince Vendetta echoed across the fields, later being brought to life by the bands signature synth hooks and the occasional shift to falsetto. Playing in capes and against a surreal psychedelic backdrop, Midnight Juggernauts’s set did little get the audience enthralled, this crowd would have been better off with a Ministry mix and being left to munt out on their own. Singles, Vital Signs and This New Technology, off the bands most recent album The Crystal Axis hardly even registered with the horde and it wasn’t until old favourites Into the Galaxy and Tombstone of their 2007 debut did people actually begin giving the band the attention they deserved. 

Back over at the Atoll stage, Brooklyn based DJ/Producer AC Slater was cutting up the dance floor with some heavy electro beats while UK lads, The Wombats were taking to the stage on the other side of the lake at Kakadu. 

 (Photo by Stereodan)

For the first time in this festivals history organisers have made clever use of the lake and presented us with a pirate ship stage that floats on the water. Offering an unusual mix of relatively unheard artists, the only bar with basically no line and chocolate gold ‘treasure’ coins (bar tenders were not amused when we ordered a round of drinks, payed in chocolate and tried to walk off) this became a highly entertaining meeting point for any stray punters trying to re-group. 

Liverpool Lads, The Wombats, hit the stage after some seriously shit MC’s attempt to excite the audience – “ DO YOU LIKE MARSUPIALS?” This is another new feature of the Parklife festivals that more than once resulted in a barrage of bottles being thrown.

The band opened with an energetic performance of Kill The Director before moving on to Patricia The Stripper, Let’s Dance To Joy Division and a stand out version of Moving To New York. New tracks were welcomed as much as the old and Tokyo set the audience into a mild hysteria. Seeing the boys whip out a banjo for their newer material was a little unexpected - just because it worked for Mumford and Sons doesn’t mean everyone can pull it off. Either way this dance-pop set was highly infectious and the trio have improved ten fold since the last time I saw them. 

  (Photo by Stereodan)

Back across the mud Uffie was attempting to strut her stuff across the Atoll stage only this time electro rapper was not so much the Hot Chick. Performing in a loose gold number (that still managed to show off her new figure) and black stockings that kept sliding down – the French MC looked well partied out. Despite playing an average set, her performance did pick up when she closed with Pop The Glock and Hot Chick although disappointing fans by walking off and not rapping the final lines of the song.

(Soulwax - Photo by Stereodan)

Catching only a few tracks of Soulwax (having seen them plenty before) I opted for a much needed bar stop then explored the other side of the festival, entering The Cave for Holy Ghost!

Despite an arsenal of remixes that include Moby, Phoenix, MGMT and Cut Copy, Brooklyn duo, Holy Ghost, have only a few tracks up their sleeves. Playing material off their recent EP Static On The Wire, Nicholas Millhiser and Alexander Frankel were backed by a full band. Although a relatively new routine for the guys, this performance was well polished and simply mesmerizing. Its suave disco with an unmistakable nod to the ‘80s, enough pop hooks to keep the kiddies happy and the perfect amount of synth. Another dance act to keep your eyes on!

Crazy Frenchman and God Father of Ed Banger records, Busy P, did his best to entertain audiences and make their ears bleed. Throwing down remixes of everyone from Mr Oizo and Justice to Metallica the set was epic. Visually, new project ‘Busy Pictionary’, brain child of Ed Banger graphic designer and illustrator So Me, kept punters engaged through out the set.  Busy told In the Mix

I will bring So-Me on stage with me and we will plug in his computer while I’m DJing so he can react live to the music I play and what the crowd do. He’ll be drawing, photographing and doing some more stuff that I can’t tell you about now and translating that feeling and the energy onto the screen…So-Me with his digital screen having fun with the crowd and probably making fun of me a lot. I really just want to interact with the crowd and do something completely different in each city. It will be fun”

It went down a treat at Parklife on Sunday and surprisingly this is something they only want to do with OZ audiences, they don’t think it will work in Paris or Europe. Sick, go Australian audiences!

As the rain pelted on and off people bolted for trees, bins, chairs, whipped out ponchos and did whatever they could to stay dry. 

Finally much anticipated Missy Elliott took to Sahara stage at 7pm. Although this artist/producer has an ear for music and can make a killer beat, live, she’s awful. Relying heavily on dancers and other MC’s, Missy’s set was unbelievably  disappointing. The performance opened by Missy’s DJ playing tracks like Empire State of MindJay Z, and a serious of tracks by other artist, we finally caught sight of Misdemeanour just as One Minute Man began to play.  Playing her most well known material, that included Get Your Freak On, Pass The Dutch and Work It, early into the set, the rest of the performance was filled with Black Eye Peas covers, regular breaks in the music to shout “What Up Sydney” and other just as shit antics. Although HER tracks went off, people even cheered and danced to the covers (why?).  We can say safely thanks for nothing Missy Smelliot.

   (Photo by Stereodan)

Finally, my most anticipated act the Dandy Warhols! Despite hearing a few disappointing reviews I headed over to ‘em out only this time from a side of stage vantage. Looking out at the audience from the stage all I could think was where the hell was everyone? …..     At Groove Armada!

The turnout was pathetic, only slightly larger than what Richard Ashcroft stormed off stage over at Splendour In The Grass earlier this year. Sadly their set was disappointing. I had been warned. It was slow, melancholy and heavy with their shoegaze-ier numbers. Not hanging around to catch the rest of this set (regrettably  missing Horse Pills, Shakin and Bohemian Like You, which I later discovered they play) we headed to see what else was on offer before committing to the idea of helping Wolf Gang finish their rider.

Although many things played in favour of Parklife being a shit festival this year, it was the opposite, incredibly fun and probably still has a few good years left. Fuzzy can feel good about yet another successful festival to add to their tally and if you’re in Sydney over New Years make sure you get along to Field Day – It is BY FAR their best festival!

Post and other pic by Bec Clark