Image via Facebook / Sydney City Limits (Pat Stevenson)

Sydney City Limits – Centennial Park, Sydney 25/02/18

Thousands of music lovers gathered in Centennial Park to toast the last weekend of summer with the very first Sydney’s City Limits Festival on Saturday. Boasting one of the biggest line-ups of 2018 (or at least until Splendour is announced), it was a mixed bag of genres where you could see local legends Gang of Youths and French electro-pop duo Justice rock the same stage in one day.

Extra keen festival-goers were welcomed by the likes of Bad//Dreems, Ziggy Ramo and Pist Idiots when the festival kicked off at midday. Freemantle’s own Stella Donnelly was another standout opening act. Armed with only her guitar and stella-r pipes (I’m so sorry), she fired through tracks like ‘Mechanical Bull’, ‘Mean To Me’ and the haunting ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. Who knew you could get music-induced goosebumps on a sweltering 31-degree day?

Although Young Thug pulled out of the festival last minute due to Visa issues, punters didn’t seem too upset that Tkay Maidza had to sub in instead. The hip-pop princess pulled out some of her best dance moves while she rocked out bangers like ‘Tennies’, ‘Simulation’ and ‘Switch Lanes’.

The Libertines brought the ’00s indie rock nostalgia with ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’. And yes, Pete Doherty looked as weathered as you imagined. It was great.

Speaking of enthusiasts of illicit substances, stoner rockers and permanent fixtures of almost every Aussie festival Dune Rats were another drawcard to Sydney City Limits. As you’d expect from a quintessential Dune Rats show, the set list featured ‘Scott Green’, ‘Red Light Green Light’ and ‘Bullshit’ with cameo appearances from crowd surfers, mini circle pits and a giant, inflatable tinnie. One brave fan even managed to dodge a handful of security guards to jump on stage with the Brisbane trio for approximately five seconds of glory.

Unsurprisingly, Sydney-siders Gang of Youths also drew a massive crowd for their hour-long set. As soon as they opened with ‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?’, the crowd sprouted with fans jumping on mate’s shoulders. As they charged through ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’, ‘The Heart Is A Muscle’ and infinite crowd-pleaser ‘Magnolia’, front man Dave Le’aupepe commanded the crowd’s attention with every flip of his hair and gyration of his hips.

Singer-songwriter and Melbourne sweetheart Vance Joy also bewitched crowds on the triple j house stage. As well as the usual hits (like ‘Riptide’ and ‘Georgia’), he also treated fans to a bunch of tracks from his new record, Nation of Two. Along with his latest singles ‘Lay It On Me’ and ‘We’re Going Home’, ‘Saturday Sun’ was a standout of the set. An honourable mention also goes to his unique mashup cover of Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’.

While he crooned away, The Avalanches pulled a massive crowd at the Park Stage. Although the trio smashed through hits like ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and ‘Subways’, something felt a little off about dancing to their electro-pop in broad daylight.

Clashing set times are always an inevitable downside of a festival. So while I was able to catch American singer-songwriter Beck perform a couple of tunes like his monster hit ‘Loser’ and ‘Black Tambourine’, I couldn’t miss seeing the style icon, controversial trailblazer and all round queen Grace Jones in the flesh. And unsurprisingly, the now 69-year-old was just as energetic, bewitching and statuesque as I’d ever dreamed.

Covered in intricate, white body art, she made a costume change for almost every song. Each one as fabulous as the next, they ranged from a billowing, black chiffon cloak and a gold skull mask topped with black-feathered plumage to her iconic bejewelled bowler and a white Alien-looking headpiece with a long, platinum wig. Although the killer set included jams like ‘Libertango’, ‘My Jamaican Guy’ and a short but haunting cover of ‘Amazing Grace’, it was ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ that really had the crowd boogying (INCLUDING DITA VON FUCKING TEESE WHO WAS DANCING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! WUT U DOIN’ HERE, GIRL?).

If you want to feel unaccomplished the next time you’re at a festival, make sure to check out Tash Sultana. The 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist hypnotised a packed big top tent as she played everything from the guitar, keyboard, synthesizer and trumpet to the mandolin and a panpipe while beatboxing at the same damn time. And let’s not forget those magnificent pipes of her own, which she showboated to her best ability on bangers like ‘Notion’ and ‘Jungle’.

As night fell, France was well-represented as the festival closed out with Justice playing on one stage and French disco-rockers Phoenix commanding another. Between the spectacular light show, conducting the audience to sing happy birthday to their tour manager and lead singer Thomas Mars diving into the crowd after the last song, Phoenix were particularly fantastic.

And now, less than 48 hours later, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is sunburnt, slightly dehydrated and dizzy with post-festival-depression. That’s how you know the inaugural festival fucking killed it. Until next time, Sydney City Limits.

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