Gig Reviews

Harvest Festival Melbourne – 12/11/2011

“Thank you Victoria,” AJ Maddah, Harvest Festival’s outspoken promoter, tweeted on Friday. “It is unheard of for a new festival to sell out in its 1st year,” he continued. On Saturday, November 12, 15,000 music fans made their way to the beautiful grounds of Werribee Park in Melbourne. With clear skies and a maximum temperature of 25 degrees, this day was poised for greatness from the start.

Upon arriving at the festival, one was greeted by scenes of punters excitedly pouring out of taxis, buses and even a Hummer Limousine. If you’re going to catch a ride to a festival, why not do it in style, right? After a short walk through the lush gardens, the magnificent Werribee Mansion rises up from behind the trees. The massive, domineering building, built more than a hundred years ago, would watch over the day’s proceedings from behind the main stage. The festival, complete with its very own lake, was pretty spread out. Dotted around the gardens were six stages. The two main stages were at opposite ends of the gardens, with stage two, known as The Windmill Stage, housed in a paddock of sorts. Across the lake was an eclectic array of art exhibits and roving performers and The Garden Stage. The Big Red Tractor Stage and Le Boudoir were both under cover of marquees while The Campfire Stage was tucked snugly amongst the trees.

Over the course of the day, audiences were treated to sublime performances from artists both old and new. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was amongst the first of the bands to start the day. This band of brothers’ sound is unique; an old-school brass band fused with hip hop beats and rapping. They were followed by the legendary Family Stone. That would be the same Family Stone that used to be attached to Sly. As mentioned by the youngest member of the band, these guys played at Woodstock ’69. Well, at least three of the members of the band did. They sound exactly as you’d hope them to. Needless to say, there wasn’t one person in the crowd not dancing. Sydney band, Dappled Cities, deserve a mention for being in the minority of local bands on the line-up for the day. They definitely held a candle to the international artists. TV On The Radio and Mercury Rev both put on enjoyable performances in the late afternoon with the latter proclaiming “we’re playing late night music to you while the sun goes down”.

Alt-country and indie-folk provided the soundtrack to the early evening with Bright Eyes and The National soothing the crowd into the night with stellar performances. By the time Portishead arrived on stage, every single person at the festival, bar those still waiting in line to get drinks, was on The Great Lawn. The heroes of ’90s trip hop delivered a mesmerising set enhanced by projections. The biggest cheers were received when songs off their 1994 debut, Dummy, were performed. Finally, it was the co-headliner, The Flaming Lips’, turn to perform. Although their set was scheduled to begin directly after Portishead’s, they waited for fans to filter through from the former’s set. Vocalist, Wayne Coyne, bestowed upon himself the duties of MC telling the crowds that they should not stress about not getting home as there would be buses leaving until midnight. After this he said “I know a lot of you have been drinking and doing drugs all day. I just want to warn you that our set uses lots of colours and flashing lights. If you feel that this will bother you, then the best way not to be affected is to not look at it. Also, I’ll be coming out in my space ball. Let’s all touch each other.” And that he did. Shortly before 10pm, the band entered through a door in the screen and made their way to their instruments via a ramp. Coyne bounced over the crowd in a massive beach ball as confetti shot out at the crowd. What ensued after this was 50 minutes of sensory overload filled with psychedelic rock ‘n roll, confetti, lights, colours, dancers and giant mushrooms. It was a real trip.

Although marred by long queues, traffic and lack of beer, this festival was a complete win. The line-up was incredible, the venue beautiful and the vibe fantastic. This is definitely a festival you’ll want to return to next year.

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