Harvest Festival live in Australia
- By Emily Smith -
- Nov 21, 2011
Australia is overwhelmed with music festivals this summer, creating a commercial and competitive vibe that has diminished ticket sales and tainted the Aus love affair with the summer music scene.
The Harvest Festival is one of Australia's newest one day music events and promised something different: to "take the line-up of your typical European multiday event" and "cut out the acts everyone has seen one too many times".
Headlining was legendary trip-hop outfit Portishead, alongside The Flaming Lips, Bright Eyes, The National and TV on the Radio. Seduced by the promoter's sentiments and a killer line-up, thousands flocked to Parramatta Park to rekindle their love for Aus festivals. I went to Harvest's Sydney debut to check out if it could really reignite the romance.
The venue was an undesirable distance from the city, but perfectly vacillated a chilled out and Australian vibe. Small in size with plenty of eucalyptuses, Parramatta Park quickly set the mood. However, the most accurate way to swiftly measure the quality of a festival is to assess portaloos. Patrons were all smiles after their post line-up dunny dash, so Harvest was immediately destined for great things.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble were first on the main stage and their African American grooves ensued an auspicious start to the festivities. Closely followed was The Family Stone, with members who are Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees, the band produced mature funk melodies that all patrons could enjoy.
In true Aus festival style the day began to swelter, but fortunately the acts began to heat up too. TV on the Radio introduced a heavier vibe to the main stage, pumping up the crowd, and even Wayne Coyne who filmed the band on his iPhone side stage.
With true Bright Eyes wit, frontman Conor Oberst attributed a late start to a "ghost in the machine". The band proceeded to captivate a huge audience with their humble and energetic disposition. Oberst's emotional commitment to his lyrics and interpretive/literal dance moves affirmed why the musician is internationally adored. Bright Eyes were a Harvest highlight.
Matt Berninger, The National's front man, poured himself a plastic-cup of Australia's finest red to set the mood of his band's set. 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' was a highlight; the song showcased the band's songwriting talent and Berninger's beautiful baritone.
The Flaming Lips kept punters waiting half an hour and I questioned why I gave them priority over other scheduled bands. "You haven't seen the Lips play live before?" asked a smug festival veteran. "You just wait." I'm glad I listened to this strange bearded man because The Flaming Lips were a f*cking spectacle. The band entered the stage through a semi-animated psychedelic vagina, released giant balloons into the crowd, Coyne crowd surfed in a plastic bubble, naked girls danced on screen, and giant hands beamed lasers. Harvest taught me that seeing The Flaming Lips live should be on everyone's bucket list.
Portishead was the final act. The band's hypnotic rhythms epitomised the overall vibe, creating the perfect finale. Returning to Australia after a 14 year absence, the Bristol outfit were the only band playing at 9pm so all festival goers showed to see these trip-hop artists. Parramatta Park was silent during a stunning rendition of "Wandering Star", a testament to the lead singer Beth Gibbons' unbelievable vocals. Personally, their set was fabulous, however, to enjoy the whole set you needed a serious fan…or high. Some songs failed to reach their recorded glory and dragged, tempting people to leaving early.
Wrapping up, there is no doubt Harvest promoters achieved their goal and "packed all the greatness into one incredible day for discerning music lovers". I'm not sure if I've reacquainted my love with Australian summer music festivals, but I sure am smitten with Harvest.