DZ Deathrays live at Famer & The Owl 2015 / Photo: Russell Privett

Farmer & The Owl Festival – University Of Wollongong 14/03/15

The glistening sun, clear blue sky and fresh green grass made for a perfect environment as far as Richard in Your Mind were concerned. The psychedelically-tinged quintet provided a lush set to kick off the day, becoming particularly prophetic for many when they whipped out Hammered, with its key lyric, “Me and my baby get hammered in the daytime”.

The pace picked up a little with the garage-indie stylings of Auckland’s Carb on Carb, showcasing their excellent new album that recalls the energy of fellow countrymen Die! Die! Die! while maintaining a keen eye for melody similar to duos such as An Horse and The Evens. A highly-recommended trans-Tasman experience.

“Fuck off, mate.” That’s how The Peep Tempel‘s Blake Scott replied to a particularly-annoying bloke that wouldn’t stop calling for their breakthrough single, Carol. It’s telling of how much of a double-edged sword triple j airplay can be, as well as an indicator of how little The Peep Tempel care. They were there to play rock & roll – nasty, sneering, seething rock & roll – and that’s exactly what they did. As a matter of fact, there are few doing it better.

Back at the lawn, Jeremy Neale powered through the first half of his double-duty with aplomb. His songs were sunny, his banter hilarious and his ability to get the masses to twist the afternoon away was borderline magic. Neale may well be the most irrepressible personality in Australia’s indie circle – you’ve just got to love him.

While we’re on the subject of love, there was enough in the air to satiate John Paul Young himself when Hockey Dad took to the stage. The Windang heartthrobs played all the favourites with a couple of brand-new tracks that allude to even greater things.

Los Tones play fuzzed-out, twangy garage-rock that shakes, rattles and rolls in equal amounts. Cuts from their debut LP, Psychotropic, were blended in with jams so new that the band’s Bodie Jarman admitted to not even knowing the words. Shout-out to Jarman’s mother too, who was celebrating her birthday and having a bit of a dance herself. Good on ya, mum.

Normally twelve strong, Velociraptor were a three-legged dog in a way tonight with just six members. Even so, said dog still wanted to play – and it did just that, bounding through a dozen hip-shakin’ jams with all the collective liveliness they could muster. Jeremy Neale was onto his second set of the evening, but he could well have gone all night.

There has never been a better time to see Bad//Dreems live. The quartet put on arguably the best showing of the day, tearing through each song and feeding off a crowd that was putting in as much as they got out. Even frontman Ben Marwe couldn’t help himself, leaping into the masses just as guitarist Alex Cameron played the unmistakable riff of God’s My Pal. It’s safe to say they’re well on their way to penning some classics of their own.

At the tail-end of a national tour with DZ, Bass Drum of Death played an effortlessly-cool set. Highlights included the kicking Bad Reputation and the fist-wielding Crawling After You. Elsewhere, Wollongong expats Totally Unicorn were inexplicably sandwiched between DJs at the Uni Bar. Their set, to be expected, was a complete mess – the mic cord was wrecked two songs in and the confetti sticks in the finale didn’t work properly. That’s all a part of the madness that ensues every time this band plays, of course. This city’s a better place for having bred this glorious beast.

DZ Deathrays are at the point of becoming an establishment on the festival circuit, and it was justified substantially during the final throes of the day. No matter what signalled the next song – the octave-pedal riff of Dollar Chills, the snare hits of No Sleep, the boom-clap of Reflective Skull – it felt as though each track received an ovation louder than the previous. It won’t be long at all before DZ are a certified global sensation. Last one to crowdsurf is a rotten egg.

Once you’ve landed a nickname as a band, you’re at legendary status in Australian culture. Jebediah – or “the Jebs,” thanks all the same – are celebrating their 20th year together, and their set allowed the festival to get in one last rousing sing-along. Hits came quick and fast, with both waved arms for Harpoon and raised fingers for Leaving Home. Throw in one last bunny-bounce for Teflon and you’ve wrapped one hell of a day for Wollongong’s live music scene.

Farmer and the Owl is a game-changer for the area, put on by some of the most devoted promoters around. Long may it reign.

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