Melbourne-based festival, Sugar Mountain, took a break in 2014, but it’s returned this year, rejuvenated and armed with its best lineup yet.
Sugar Mountain has previously hosted the likes of The Dirty Projectors, Action Bronson, Deerhoof and Shabazz Palaces, but 2015 sees it welcome its most diverse, jam-packed bill. Headlined by Nas, performing his iconic debut, Illmatic, the lineup also features Kim Gordon and Bill Nace as Body/Head, electronica’s most-hyped newbies Odesza, and oddball Ariel Pink. The festival, which combines music and art, will take place at the Victorian College of the Arts, providing a perfect backdrop.
With a startling lineup and a perfect venue, Sugar Mountain has the potential to provide some of the most memorable moments of the year. Here are our picks of what we think will make your spine-tingle:
1. When Nas drops the first line of Illmatic: “Straight out the fuckin’ dungeons of rap”
Nas performed his 1994 debut, Illmatic, in full for the first time at Coachella last year. Performing at the same time as the cosmic wall of sound that is Muse, Nas pulled a crowd of devoted fans. It may have been two decades since its release but as soon as the beat of N.Y. State Of Mind dropped, the crowds excitement was palpable. Nostalgia is one of the most powerful forces in music and the opening moments of Illmatic deliver that aplenty.
2. When both members of Odesza take to the drum-pad
American electronic duo, Odesza, released one of the most impressive debuts of 2014. In Return is a dimly-lit, shimmering record that has perhaps found more favour here in Australia than anywhere else. Imagine a warm, dusky Odesza set, as the duo simultaneously pounds at the drum-pad, stirring an all-in dance-off.
3. When Kim Gordon and Bill Nace take the stage together for the first time in Australia
Sonic Youth fell apart in 2011 with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore going their separate ways. One thing is for sure, though — Kim Gordon is still the coolest woman in rock. She has an effortless swagger to her that means every time she graces the stage the performance feels iconic. Sugar Mountain will see her tour Australia for the first time with Bill Nace under the moniker of Body/Head.
4. When How To Dress Well breaks your heart with Face Again
How To Dress Well’s last record, What Is This Heat?, was heavy, to say the least. It was an emotional amalgamation of RnB, folk and pop culminating in its standout, Face Again. The live arena always inflates sounds so you should expect throbbing bass that shakes the rib-cage, and dark, eerie undertones when How To Dress Well plays. Just wait for the chorus of Face Again when the instruments drop-out and you’re left purely with the vocals. That’s when the goosebumps will appear.
5. When the front man of Iceage, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, stares you right in the eyes
Danish band Iceage are one of the most intense bands around at the moment. While their latest record, Plowing Into The Field Of Love, signalled a slight change in sound, they lost none of that pent up anxiety that permeated the first two albums. Live, Rønnenfelt is known to look punters straight in the eyes as he screams his drawn-out words. If you don’t look away it will send shivers down your spine.
6. When you see what outfit Ariel Pink decides to don
(may tingle your spine for the wrong reasons)
Ariel Pink must have a very large costume cupboard. The oddball crooner has dressed as everything from a cowboy to a cheerleader, ensuring that you will definitely see more than you want to see live. Luckily it doesn’t change the strength of his tunes. His latest, Pom Pom, is arguably his best yet.
7. When you see a full-sized Leif Podhajsky artwork with your own eyes for the first time
Australian graphic designer, Leif Podhajsky is one of the music world’s go to artists. Even if you haven’t heard of him before there’s a chance that you’ll recognise much of his work at Sugar Mountain. That’s because Tame Impala, Foals, Lykke Li and more have all used his artworks. Sober or not, try to stop yourself from freaking out too much.
8. When Swans jam hard for over ten minutes on one song
American band Swans’ longest song on their brilliant 2014 record, To Be Kind, was over 34 minutes long with many others breaching the 10-minute mark. It may sound tiresome but not when it’s a band who have 13 studio albums to their name and are some of the finest musicians kicking about today. Expect raucous guitars and pounding percussion as the band builds subtle climaxes to blow your mind.
Sugar Mountain 2015 hits Melbourne on the Australia Day long weekend. Details below.
Saturday, 24th January 2015
Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne