Gig Reviews

Harvest Festival Sydney – 13/11/2011

A breezy pre-summer Sunday in Parramatta Park was the perfect setting for the NSW leg of Harvest Festival, a relatively new Australian tour bringing with it an array of fine international heavyweights.

We entered the picturesque grassy knoll (yes, Parra can be quite pretty) to the grooves of The Family Stone. Sly may have left us for a higher place, but funk is well and truly alive, and it’s staring us right in the face.

The Great Lawn lived up to its name, providing hours of back-to-back musical and visual entertainment, from strolling robots and golden nymphs to the tightly-wound performances of The National and TV On The Radio. When Bright Eyes hit the stage, feverish attention shifted as the crowd stood (and sat) mesmerised by Connor Oberst’s unrelenting sincerity and natural apt for storytelling. When he launched into a heart-ripping, prolonged version of Landlocked Blues, more than a few eyes could be seen watering.

Tearing ourselves away from the wonders on stage, a brief exploration of the site revealed more than a few cute festival nuances … a Kate Bush mime in a circus tent; a troupe of brass musicians atop a caravan; digital graf artist and the (kicking myself that I missed it) wise words of musical philosopher Craig Schuftan. In the (not so) Secret Garden, ladies clad in flowy dresses lounged in giant birds’ nests whilst hip hop beats flowed from the ones and twos and stand-up comedians gave their all over in the corner as more than a few delighted in fresh vegan eats and cold ciders.

Rejuvenated and ready for minds to be blown, dusty feet descended on the Windmill Stage (you’ll be glad to know there WAS an actual windmill, complete with blazing fire torches) for the mighty Flaming Lips. Anticipation mounted as time ticked by and roadies manically set the stage, but eventually our collective curiosity was quashed when the Flaming Lips burst onto the stage through the ultimate doorway to humanity … a vagina. A giant, neon, pulsating digital lady-bit. Keeping with tradition, Wayne Coyne crowd-surfed inside an inflatable ball before launching into a set full of psych-rock sing-alongs, iPhone solos and arrangements of epic proportions. Oh, and streamer cannons, did I mention there were streamer cannons? Cool shit.

Back over at The Lawn, the weary crowd was lulled into a veritable trance by Bristol-based legends of trip hop, Portishead. I swear you could hear a wheatsheaf drop in the silent moments of the set, as the crowd stood in awe before unassuming vocal powerhouse Beth Gibbons, back dropped by fittingly psychedelic video footage of herself. A nearly 2hr long set full of iconic jams was the perfect way to end a brilliant day as the respectful crowd, devoid of all basic festival fuckwits, waltzed away … leaving the park for the other girls to play.

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