Gig Reviews

Secret Garden Festival, NSW – 27/02/16

As many roll out of their tents on this overcast Saturday morning, chilled electric vibes wash over the greenery. Patrons are sprawled out on the grass sunning their already reddened skin, indicating that their care factor, much like their SPF-50, is absolutely minimal.

Inhibitions are also below zero. Across this clearing you can see fully-kitted rivalling netball teams, tennis players, a couple of walking tacos and a suspiciously German-sounding Batman (or “Baat-Maan” as he so enthusiastically declares) who defends those seated under the dining tent from a couple of masked nuns yielding plastic firearms. A sight to behold.

For all of this drama, the music is definitely there to take down the tension. Canowindra girl Gordi is set with the task of opening today’s festivities, emanating downbeat electro-pop sounds in tracks ‘Taken Blame’, ‘Can We Work It Out’ and ‘Nothing As It Seems’. There is also a magical solo performance of Courtney Barnett’s ‘Avant Gardener’ but it doesn’t seem to entice those embroiled in a rather unruly game of mixed netball.

Sydney’s L-FRESH the Lion is rapping his socially conscious messages out across the Garden Stage, while inner west rock quartet Jody strum jovially on ‘The Brain’ stage. But we head for the trees, uncovering the boogieing bodies and trance vibes at the Carbonation Nation area. Wandering even further through the growth and you’ll come to the ‘Rave Cave’, where around 10 people cram into a black box and bust their finest moves. If all of this is a bit much for you, then you can head to the Jungle Boogie Stage, where a guided meditation takes place to the rhythm of a basic hip-hop beat. There is literally something for everyone here.

We stumble back to Ella Thompson’s chugging electronic set back at The Brain stage and boy is her voice huge. Sounding far more soulful live, she belts out those long notes during tracks ‘Hold Me Still’ and ‘Gave It All Away’ with great fervour.

While many have taken to the newly opened Camp Queen stage to bump and grind to as much R&B, hip hop and club hits as their heart desires, Bad//Dreems have just taken to the Garden Stage and if the trio of red-wigged David Bowie impersonators are keen to check them out then that’s definitely a sign. Chucking in a couple of new tracks, hits ‘Hiding To Nothing’, ‘New Boys’ and ‘Cuffed and Collared’ all fuel the crowd, only pausing to hear vocalist Ben Marwe reveal that guitarist Alex Cameron pierced his ear, explaining the dangling silver hoop that hits his shoulder.

Pop vocalist Jess Kent has everyone moving over the other side of the paddock, but Saskwatch, or the West Pymble Netball Team as they are dressed today, blast the main stage with their bluesy-soul sound. Nkechi Anele possess some powerful pipes, swaying through paced tunes ‘Down The Stairs’ and ‘Spitting Image’, then transforming into a raucous rock scream on ‘A Love Devine’, ‘I’ll Be Fine’ and ‘Hands’. A truly dynamic set.

Moving into the evening and international visitor Raury is visibly excited. “I didn’t bring a costume, but I stole these from a guy,” he says, running from the stage-left shirtless and wearing white angel wings. They’re soon to be lost again though, as he thrashes and dances his way through tracks ‘Trap Tears’, ‘Crystal Express’ and ‘Devil’s Whisper’.

Back at The Brain stage and Sampa The Great is performing a DJ set, a presence that proves way less exciting than her full live band shows, but as always her flow is immaculate.

Gang of Youths rile up the crowd with hits ‘Magnolia’, ‘Restraint & Release’ and ‘Vital Signs’ on The Garden Stage, with lead singer and charismatic hip-shaker David Le’aupepe introducing a brand new song ‘Native Tongue’ to the delight of many.

Not such a gleaming picture for World Champions, who are having the worst set of the entire festival. Sound issues plague them on The Brain stage, with all unable to hear any vocals without piercing microphone feedback. Things only get slightly resolved during ‘Avocado Galaxy’ at which the crowd cheers supportively.

Special guest Matt Corby and his band don Ghost Buster outfits and perform a set comprised mostly of new songs on the Garden Stage, with his flawless, impassioned vocals ringing out for tracks ‘Resolution’ and latest single ‘Knife’s Edge’. No performance of ‘Brother’ tonight though, much to the disappointed chants of the crowd.

As for the rest of the night it’s all about the DJ’s. Moonbase Commander hits some heavy hip-hop beats over at the The Brain stage, while Hayden James closes the main stage with his optimistic house bangers.

Secret Garden Festival is pure, unabashed silliness. But, when even the security dudes look like they’re having fun, you know you’re onto a winner.

Gallery: Secret Garden 2016 / Pics by Maria Boyadgis

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