Photo: Ian Laidlaw - Yours & Owls Facebook
The beachside Stuart Park in Wollongong welcomed two days of sun and absolute madness over the long weekend with what was promised to be the best Yours and Owls Festival yet. Planned out by a local events company, the organisers mixed in a heap of local acts with some international flavour, as well as delivering on a promised 50/50 equal gender line-up that made music news headlines earlier this year. With a village of food stalls covering every possible craving, local art installations, a funky lagoon bar and a friendly energy that lasted the entire weekend, the boutique festival pleased punters and performers alike.
Saturday kicked off in the early afternoon with a talented line-up of performers on the bill. Triple J’s KLP delivered an energetic pop set on the smaller Jeb Taylor Stage that saw her seamlessly rap the verse usually left to Remi in her most popular single Recover. Similarly impressive performances from Nicole Millar, Remi and Kilter pushed the energy of the day up a notch over at the main stage after an intimate acoustic appearance from Thelma Plum. Despite a few sound and timing issues across the day that meant Nicole Millar had to cut her set slightly short, spirits were high by sunset when Sampa the Great and Client Liaison took to their respective stages. Luckily for fans of both, set times were arranged so that there was only slight overlap, meaning if you ran fast enough and sacrificed a rolled ankle or two, you could catch at least a bit of everyone. The electro-synth group Client Liaison drew an impressive crowd with their winning combination of costume changes and on stage flamboyance that translated into a fabulous dance party for anyone who could drag themselves away from Sampa the Great’s equally mesmerising performance.
With the night in full swing, a loose and mosh loving crowd welcomed Hockey Dad to the Jeb Taylor stage. Hailing from Wollongong these local boys seemed an audience favourite, delivering a lively set that attests to the healthy status of the current Australian surf-rock scene. The real gem of the night however was when a rock-n-roll band from Washington took to the stage. Kicking around since the sixties, The Sonics seemed a bit of an odd choice for a predominantly young line-up, but the organisers did us a massive favour by including them on the bill. The lead vocalist Gerry Roslie’s genteel introductions were in stark contrast with their heavy sound, and it seemed their enjoyment in playing together was entirely genuine. Combine that with an eclectic and friendly crowd and you have the set of the day. Closing out the night on an equally sweet note was Ball Park Music, whose set essentially became a sing-along as we were reminded of just how many excellent tunes this band has released over the years. They took us back to the heyday of indie-pop music with ditties It’s Nice to Be Alive and Literally Baby, as well as asserting that they’ve still got it with more recent tracks like Nihilist Party Anthem.
Sunday saw Bec Sandridge play Yours and Owls for the second year in a row, sharing with the crowd how pleased she was that more than just her mum and dad had rocked up this time. Despite the scorching heat, people stayed to watch Bec slay it on guitar and introduce her new single High Tide. The free fruit being shared about with wheelbarrows was a welcome relief from the high temperatures. The Belligerents heated things up again when they got people sweating to their psychedelic tunes. With fluid hip movements that would rival even the best whacky inflatable tube men, Lowis worked hard on the vocals, pausing only briefly to complain of a stitch. The band managed to captivate their audience throughout, particularly with Caroline, the most recent track from their album Science Fiction.
With the enthusiasm of an up and coming talent but the musicality of a seasoned musician, Vera Blue seamlessly navigated her way through an ethereal performance. If possible, her voice is even more striking and diverse live, which was particularly evident when she indulged the audience with her stunning cover of Jack Garratt’s Breathe Life.
From one powerful voice to another, Tkay Maidza danced her way through a bass heavy show, cementing herself as a festival favourite and one of the standout acts of Yours and Owls. Skeggs and DMA’s later delivered rock-solid performances, with the former treating their fans to a healthy dose of punk with their catchy single Eat It. As the grounds filled up and the sun went down, Melbourne rock veterans The Living End then took to the main stage. A wound up crowd of people who either lived through or grew up with songs like Prisoner of Society and West End Riot led to a lot of limb-flailing and confused yelling that was thoroughly enjoyable.
There was a palpable anticipation throughout the crowd waiting for headliners Hermitude to start their set and close out the weekend. Enveloping the audience with their frenetic beats and skills in all manner of percussion, the duo cut and moved seamlessly through their originals Speak of the Devil and The Buzz, adding in some of the Flume’s mix of Hyperparadise and serving up a good dose of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Keeping the festival enthralled throughout their set, the boys paused momentarily to recognise the efforts of the organisers for making the line-up a 50/50 gender split, which was met with huge enthusiasm from the crowd.
Despite the festival offering unbelievably reasonable ticket prices that were still available on the weekend, gronks jumping the fence were pretty much the only downside of the entire event. Otherwise, the conduct of both the punters, staff and musicians was testament to the efforts of the crew in putting together an epic weekend of music. Managing to create an atmosphere of a party put together by your mates, but with an incredible line up of diverse and talented musicians, Yours and Owls was everything a music festival should be.