I jump on the shuttle bus at Gosford Station. It veers onto Kangoo Road and the sing-along begins. The buzzing passengers scream Shannon Noll’s What About Me and Nicki Webster’s Strawberry Kisses in choral unison. I am on the magic school bus. Fuelled by the the noughties classics of my youth, I glide off the bus.
A group of bronzed boys in matching overalls stomp past me at the entrance to the 2016 Mountain Sounds Festival. Artists lean on bales as they paint and graff against the back fence. One carefully traces the outline of an eye and the fence stares back at me.
The market stalls flutter with tie-dye cloth. I walk to the back and find ‘The Tunnel’, the entrance to the UNDR ctrl Secret Stage. The pathway is draped in hessian curtains, covered in homages to Bowie. The Secret Stage itself is adorned with Mad Max-esque sculptures made of bamboo bent into large wonky helixes. Lanterns dressed in linen hang above us and twirl in the wind. Everyone moves like jagged puppets to the off-kilter tunes of Dreems and Kato, to name a few. I close my eyes and move without thought.
I make my way to the dance tent, where Set Mo’s deep and funky sensuality ripples through the space. A girl kitted from head to toe in chain glitters like a futuristic goddess. All of us bend and twist as Pick You Up Darling’s groovy bass line melts the floor.
Motez starts playing, and the air vibrates with the heavy grime of his music. He pushes each song to its sonic apex and then demolishes it. Tryna Shake It rises and falls, and the crowd follows suit, dropping to the floor and hovering inches above the trampled green grass. Motez’s new song with Tkay Maidza, Down Like This, is a bloody banger.
I stop by a food stall and help myself to an enormous ba minh sandwich, before relaxing on a bale next to a tree wrapped in fairy lights. At the Unicorn Stage, The Delta Riggs blast their idiosyncratic sound at the summer sun. Frontman Elliott Hammond’s rocket-fueled voice rasps beautifully on Supersonic Casualties, Rah Rah Radio and many more. The band wind and soar recklessly from song to song, dragging the crowd along for a nearly-out-of-control ride. I love their reckless abandon and so does everyone else. It is freeing.
The mood softens as Holy Holy grace us with their music. Timothy Carroll flings his flying-falsetto about as the band strum out Sentimental and Monday. Faces in the crowd become introverted and emotive as the duo fight with their guitars and voices. You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog enmeshes us all in a thick wall of riffage as Carroll’s warbles glide through the song’s sonic architecture. The spell is cast.
Alpine swing onto the stage. Singers Lou and Phoebe spin past each other like twin spirits. Their voices and mic cords tangle as they move through Foolish, Gasoline and Hands. They weave together these beautiful dream-pop soundscapes and then flip at breakneck speed into the hard-hitting grooves of Damn Baby. Something has to be said for the contagious charisma that pours into the crowd as they scream, “I’m here.”
Albert Hammond Jr. waltzes onto the stage. I’ve heard much about The Strokes’ guitarist and heir to an immense musical legacy, but have never seen him live. I watch as the seasoned performer ricochets effortlessly between punk rock, new wave and the more familiar alt-rock grunge of The Strokes. In Transit lifts me while Spooky Couch keeps me floating, with its genteel and soft musicality. Touche’s new wave rasp has me scratching the sky as I dance. Hammond is good.
Violent Soho‘s set tosses the crowd into pandemonium. A manikin rises onto the shoulders of the crowd, its golden head shines under starlight. It sinks back into the masses, who spread and cheer as a reveller lashes the manikin’s face with his tongue. The boys play Covered In Chrome, Viceroy, Dope Calypso, and with each song the crowd’s musical-fever heightens. It starts to rain. Fur Eyes lulls the crowd into a gentle, smiling sway. Everything and everyone is beautiful.
Thanks Mountain Sounds Festival. It was great.
Gallery: Mountain Sounds Festival 2016, 20.02.16 / Photos: Annette Geneva