A play-by-play of one punter’s experience at Yours & Owls festival 2016.
The corolla tumbles down the Princes Motorway. The electric life of Wollongong dances on an ocean made opaque by the night – human residences stipple sea and land. Trucks lumber in the left lane, their tonnage swaying with each crook and turn.
I look out the car window. Traffic and light meld. Solange’s Cranes in the Sky whistles paradisiacal in my ear. A stop light bleeds red through the windscreen. A few figures gander in front of us, a trouser hem glides the bumper.
I walk into Three Chimneys. There is a two-wall mural – two Jazz Age figures. A saxophonist closes his eyes as his lips pinch the mouthpiece and a man in a red bow-tie combs his hair. I have a pale ale.
A young Syrian refugee, Sako Dermenjian, sits on a stage in Howlin’ Wolf Bar. The dim lanterns cast their half-light. A crowd stands in silent unison. Sako animates the wood and metal and string in his hands. Albeniz’s Asturias pours from the neat bob and hop of his fingers as they twist rapid across the frets. Everyone dances to death.
I remember what it was like to be 18.
I stand at the festival’s entrance. Behind me, the ocean noisily tousles her waves, iodine rides the wet air and dunes blush sand-gold. In front of me, a squabble of seagulls circle over of what they believe to be a metropolis nest – it is, in fact, a numberless gathering of hair extension hives and buns. Such is the biomimicking beauty of music festival garbs.
I look to my left to see the main stage standing in all its brilliance. An oil-painting of an omnipotent, Rosella atop a mountain forces me to stoop on one knee. How could this impressionist colour-scatter in worship of Australian avian might not have me swooning?
I am all woozy, and Remi gives me rhythm. Sangria’s loose-flow has everyone bending in the wind. Remi bounces back into the staccato backdrop woven by his band. A flute pipes and whines mockingly at the god-Rosella.
The tiny word-warrior, Sampa the Great, shuffles onto the stage. The two syllable-smiths begin their worded exchange. Both effortlessly climb For Good’s groove. Everyone bumps up and down.
A small, remote-controlled vehicle timidly moves through the crowd. Its camera-lense eye blinks in fluorescent flashes. The confluence of dancing bodies tempt the machine to break its rigid metallic form. It is unable to do so.
I ripple with nervous energy and excitement as Sampa the Great daintily makes her way through her compendium, The Great Mixtape and all. Blue Boss’ ghost-soul, its underhanded, almost-quiet instrumentation sneaks into our spines. Blessings’ old-crackle-motown moment invigorates my inner-pace. I feel Sampa’s bubble-voice, the way that it pops inconspicuously into the ear’s mind without violence or imposition.
I run through the market stalls with a pork belly taco in my hand. I pass freshly made donuts encased in sugar and cinnamon. I pass people waving wooden javelins festooned with potato chips. I feel like Aladdin as I tuck and tackle my way through bindis, tie dye shoals, hair, patterned co-ords, eyes, fake gold bracelets and muscle.
I arrive in time to see Ball Park Music. The wind shakes the stages side-banners. The god-Rosella begins to flap and fly, as pop-rock pulses the night. This set is soaring.
Primary colours dot the sky above us, skydivers hemmed in parachutes glide the sea-air. The open wings of their chutes kite plumes of vapour and sunlight. They slowly reach us, their colour brightening, and glowing with the music.
The parachute ‘art installation’ complements the immaculate harmonies that Little May’s songbirds, Liz Drummond and Hannah Field, coo. Boardwalks begins with its unabashed guitar glitter, and has all of us floating. The organised clatter of the song’s tail is utterly joyous. I have not felt this happy in a while.
A skydiver and her pink parachute lands.
Vera Blue has a fucking ridiculous voice…like stupidly and frighteningly ridiculous.
I dance in the crate-club. Screens of football players buzz around me. Boys cheer and jeer as the Australian titans try at tries. I spin against the wall, notice the manga, its large-eyed caricatures and hyperbolic super-attacks. I hear Tkay Maidza in the distance, feel my muscles tighten and then exhale. I shoot, hyper-speed, through a gap in the gazebo; I see a naked dancer, flaccid and pale, as I fly by.
My feet fire at the timing of Tkay’s machine-gun rapping. I feed off her freneticism and become a mindless romper. Tkay is the furthest thing from mindless; she sways stable and then flings bundles of words, all with a linguistic symmetry. The god-Rosella nods in approval.
I realise that The Living End is still one of Australia’s greatest rock acts.
The sheer magnitude of their punk-machismo, their louder-than-loudness swagger, equally stuns and enlivens us. The crowd shifts between states of rock-paralysis, thunder-thrashing and body-banging. Keep On Running results in the music festival equivalent of a carpet bomb. Everyone is floored.
I am turnt. Everyone around me is turnt.
The masters of the Aussie music festival scene, Hermitude, whip us into an earth-shattering paroxysm.
Behind me an Adidas lad inverts his joints. His arms and legs twirl into non-human tangle.
I can no longer locate the different parts of my body. In a microsecond, I feel the back of my knee slide against my chin, notice my elbow flat against the sole of my foot. My lumbering housemate throws his entish body through the air, five of us duck as his 7-foot arm hurtles past us.
A girl in front spins her head. Her tight plaits whirr through space like a cat o’ nine tails. Her upper body a veritable whipper snipper, she rips up the grass at her feet. Tufts of turf and dirt fill our aghast mouths.
The power of Hermitude is undeniable.