The morning of the Good Vibrations festival the sun didn’t so much as peek its face out – you’d be rightly mistaken if you thought we were in the middle of autumn and not smack bang in the second week of February.
Considering gum boots which I wore at Parklife in late 2010, I decided to take a punt on the canvas foot wear of choice – Converse high-top sneakers and have faith the rain would hold off. It was a decision I would rue later in the day.
Heading into the festival I was amazed at the size of the venue. Five big stages spread out over what seemed like two thirds of Centennial Park. Breezing in through the two consecutive gates, the lines of police officers, security, more police with dogs and MORE security and undercover cops who would’ve looked more comfortable on the cover of Men’s Health, the punters who wanted ‘extra’ fun with their day didn’t look to have much hope of getting even Panadol inside. I don’t know if it was the size of the venue or the lack of tickets sales (I’d seen the day before tickets selling for half price and had seen $50 and FREE tickets floating around. Feel sorry for the punters who paid full price for tickets in the first place) but the crowd seemed small at 2pm or maybe just vastly spread out.
Aloe Blacc played the Mr J stage – open air and fancy free, many punters dancing away. Decked out in a beige and brown suit ensemble Blacc’s dance moves were reminisce of a young Michael Jackson as he took us through some of his better known tracks such Dolla Bill and he welcomed us to the church of Love and Happiness. The overcast day didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and there was a fair crowd to cheer on Aloe and his five piece band.
Heading out from Aloe Blacc to the obligatory pit stop and bar crawl we moved onto one of the two covered tents featured at Good Vibrations – the Roots stage. Erykah Badu was due to play at 3:40 (the set up ran almost 15minutes late), and was an act I was so incredibly amped for, I’d been waiting ten years to see Erykah Badu in Australia and we were minutes away from her first Australian show.
Erykah is passionate, grass roots, politicised, polished performer who had the capacity roots stage crowd eating from her hands. From the moment she strutted on stage in a tracks suit like ensemble and heels to when the stage manager was forcefully telling her to finish the set (as she ran 15 minutes over time and wouldn’t finish her last song) Erykah had the entire crowd eating up her energy and out of her hands.
Badu had control of her band with a tightness of which I can only compare to the legendary James Brown. Singing, also managing her laptop and a drum machine with three backing singers, key boards, bass, DJ and guitarist she dominated the stage and us.
Starting off the set with a cry out to Egypt and with The Healer (Hip Hop) Badu ran through a set list with no breaks including a cover of NWA’s Gangsta Gangsta she reappropriated the song and remixed it in with Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop), she can freestyle with the best of the best of the male contemporary rappers.
Finishing off the set with a cry for peaceful liberation of people and with Didn’t Cha Know. Leaving us all salivating for more. I for one hope to see this fierce icon of female empowerment back on Australian shores sooner rather than later. Definitely best in show.
The crowd emptied out and quickly refilled with those wanting a little New Zealand flavour to their beats with Kiwi stars Fat Freddy’s Drop. A close runner up for best in show was Joe Lindsay aka Hopepa – the trombone/tuba/harmonica player – was also the strip act, fascinating to watch. Every time I’ve seen FFD play Hopepa is energetically (one might say manically) running all over the stage and entertaining the crowd while simultaneously blowing his horn(s).
As the rain set in the lack of cover was apparent with the wet punters taking refuge under any form of garbage bag, poncho, tree and tent they could find. A side note to the promoters, rain or shine you may play but for fucks sake next year why not erect some coverings where people can shelter? Perth has their shit together with spare awnings spread out over the venue, so Sydney why are you behind the eight ball?
Nas and Damian Marley. At this stage we were so squished by the crowd and tired of being pushed around by wet, half naked men (note to all the guys who think it’s cool to take off your shirt – if you are moving through the crowd and want to make progress? A freaking ‘excuse me, coming through’ would go a long way to not getting punched in the back of the head) that we stayed for the opening of Nas taking the stage and got out when the crowd became too much.
In another sign of things going haywire for the festival – the first being ticket sales – was the booking of Kelis and Nas. If you know anything about these two it should be their strained relationship and child together has caused some considerable legal troubles for all involved. To say the least I was sceptical of both performers showing up to the GV gig in the first place. Praise to both parties being professional enough to honour their commitments to the festival and fans.
After getting out of Nas’s tent we headed over to see the diva Kelis strut her stuff. After first noticing the diva had definitely gone disco the second observation was the figure hugging blue patterned onesie she was sporting along with a pair of shoes whose bling had bling on them (and I point these two sartorial choices out as the big screen camera men seemed to be focusing on Kelis’s shoes, tits and arse more than my friends who are Queens of a different type were obsessing over them). We had missed the opening of her performance so I was left wondering if we had missed out on a rendition of I Hate You So Much Right Now.
The techno beat had the crowd bopping away as Kelis trolled through her commercial hits of 4th Of July and heading in to a cover of Madonna’s Holiday mixed through with Milkshake. Ending the show with a cover of Kylie’s All the Lovers I was thinking – does Kelis know the Gay Icon crown needs to be bestowed, and not placed by one’s own self so self righteously on their own head? I was later told we hadn’t missed I Hate You So Much Right Now, Kelis hadn’t included it in her set list. Bummer.
We hung out at the main Good Vibes stage (I mentioned before about the lack of shelter, it was really felt out here in THE MAIN PAVILLION where punters were at the mercy of the elements) for Faithless. I’m familiar with the pedigree of this pioneer electronic band, but I have to say I didn’t have the knowledge of their back catalogue as I did with Erykah Badu. But nether-the-less with the lights, Maxi Jaxx, Rollo and Sister Bliss took to the stage with extra percussion, and bass. The percussionist for Faithless’s touring band was amazing – she looked robotic in her precision exaction of everything from cymbal clashes and to the Japanese Taiko-esque style drumming.
We moved on after We Come 1 and Mass Destruction had played.
If this week has shown me anything it’s the art of hip hop is a finely tuned performance and it’s a damn great party. Ludacris has the art of stage entering down – he walked out to a capacity crowd chanting ‘Luda, Luda, Luda’.
He entered the stage with as much bombastic rappers delight as Erykah entered with understated cool. Again the roots stage was at capacity. Ludacris built the crowd’s energy higher and higher with every song. Although at the beginning of the show his inability to let an entire track play through to completion was grating on the nerves of those who wanted to pump up and dance out.
Jessica Mauboy guest stared with singing Saturday Night (a track which Ludacris features) on stage. I’m sure this will be a career highlight for the ex-Idol contestant. Luda played Move Bitch in its entirety and wouldn’t get off the stage until the plug was pulled sending the stage and crowd into darkness.
All in all Good Vibrations was a great hip hop/roots mash up this year. The under selling of tickets was a god send for I fear if the festival had sold out it, the crush of people would’ve been unbearable.
I’ll be back – and am anticipating what shenanigans will surround next year’s event and what line up gems (and faux-pas) will be unveiled.