Joe Wilson and Jai Price got into the spirit of WA Day at the State of the Art Musical Festival down at Perth’s Elizabeth Quay. They were treated with the best of WA live music, from folk soloists, to electronic beats, to old school rock.
The people of Perth braved the cold, wind and rain to catch a glimpse of the musical spectacle that was State of the Art Music Festival. Across four stages dotted around Elizabeth Quay on the Swan River foreshore, local acts had the chance the showcase their talents. From club tunes, to quiet solo sets, there was something for everyone at the festival; with it being a cross-section of the vibrant and burgeoning – even growing – local Perth music scene. Decked with large marquees to prevent the punters from drowning, the tracks played by many of talented performers left the crowd high and dry, rather than drowned and disappointed.
Morgan Bain kicked off his set with some bluesy, folk tunes. Adding a underlying element of heady rock and roll to a familiar roots set, his music payed homage to the artists like Matt Corby and even Ed Sheeran when he dropped into a rap mid-song. Illustrating his talents, his rap was akin to an impressive guitar solo, an unexpected party trick which you wouldn’t hear otherwise from a pretty regular set, the punters enjoyed it all the same; warming up to Bain and sauntering side-to-side to his husky vocals.
The Merindas were an unexpected delight; they burst out on to the stage in a sweet mixture of funk and girl power. Something which really acted as a backbone for the group’s performance was the chemistry between singers Candice Lorrae and Kristel Kickett who’s charisma and enthusiasm seemed to bounce off one-another. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the St John ambulance on the festival grounds were used to treat those who may have suffered from an overdose on some serious funk. Smashing out covers of hits like “We are Family” and “I Want You Back”, their set was both simultaneously crazy and happy-go-lucky.
Luke Dux was a pleasant change of pace from the bombastic performance by Morgan Bain that preceded it. Stripped back to an acoustic guitar and double bass, I was impressed with just how much layered sound Dux and bandmate Leon Pratt managed to produce. The steady, measured thrum of the double bass helped to keep Dux’s simple yet effective guitar-strumming anchored, as his voice (which had a very Ryan Adams feel to it) brought forth dark lyrics. With lines such as “my possessions keep my world turning/ and I dance around as I burn them” you may think his performance self-indulgent, but the reality is it created an atmospheric experience unlike any other I had that day. It was raw, yet there was also something pure about simply seeing a man with a guitar lay his feelings bare against the backdrop of an overcast sky.
Maybe it was in part due to the sudden downpour that occurred upon entering the stage tent, but to begin with, something didn’t sit well with me about Joel Barker‘s performance. The opening song felt a bit derivative and the band looked like they’d rather be anywhere else. It wasn’t bad, per-se, just bland. As the set progressed, I gradually became hooked. Barker’s harsh, soulful voice warmed both body and mind, having a solid range that could go from ragged to mournful in an instant. He shined when performing Shoals, a piece that felt much more intimate, as it began with his soft crooning with straightforward guitar picking. When the rest of the band joined in partway through, the song maintained its minimalistic tone. Impressively, Barker and company managed to have a steady jam while despite quite a few songs having depressing backstories. A song based on the Fremantle cranes certified Barker’s WA born-and-bred status, as yet another acoustic melody was driven by the vagrant thumping of bass and drums.
Our Man In Berlin was the most surprising act of the day. Utilising reverb on vocals and heavy sonic effects, the band created a chilled, laid back atmosphere. The addition of an ever-changing video in the background helped lift the performance to a surrealist plane. Lush keyboard tones added a serene ambience to the stage, while sustained electric guitar notes flowed ever downward. The drummer, headphones in, with an look of intense concentration, stolidly kept things grounded, while lead singer Haydn Mansell swayed alongside the rhythm of the music. It felt as though each member were lost in their own world, and yet it all gelled together. Spirit Down was the highlight, the blistering pace meshing surprisingly well with the dour atmosphere.
We sat down with Our Man in Berlin for a quick chat, which you can find here.
Fledgling rockers Mosquito Coast really hazed up the atmosphere back on the main stage; rolling along to a slow form of blue-rock. With a larger crowd picking up, when Mosquito Coast started to play, it was hard not to imagine you were not in some large hotbox in the Netherlands; it was certified A stoner music. Dutch lucidity aside, the band pulled through the general motions with tracks like “Call My Name” and “Commotion” and a few new hits artfully illustrated by Naomi Robinson’s hallucination inducing vocals; if you are a sweaty Harrison Ford currently on the brink of insanity, residing in the jungles of Panama, then this is the set for you.
Our interview with Mosquito Coast can be found here.
Hussy brought about something sharp, quirky and punkish to the Barrack St stage; giving away delectable hints of Suzi Quattro in the vocals and instrumentation. Almost collectively coming together as an audibly pleasing F*ck you, it was the element of quirky defiance which emanated from the band, to which the crowd oh-so enjoyed. With peak sass being reached with a cover “Milkshake” by Kelis, the only frustrating aspect of Hussy’s set was the mysterious brand of woolly hat lead singer Shin was wearing; if only we knew.
With a name that is certainly a prelude to greatness, Verge Collection were a thoroughly entertaining experience, creating a solid rock performance during which they rarely seemed to come up for air. The screeching vocals of Ben Arnold flowed well, ensuring the audience remained engaged. While there’s nothing too complex about the instrumentation, it was well-rounded and certainly never dull. The band were always upbeat, with a dashing pulse, complemented by the most Aussie lyrics imaginable (“I found love two suburbs across” and “Hey baby what’s your postcode?” being the most poignant”). It was a performance that felt incredibly real and intimately relatable.
Mathas definitely wins the awards for most intriguing entry, and most prominent stage presence. Accompanied by a band, disjointed stabs of sound from dual laptops and bass heralded the arrival of the man himself. Walking onto the stage clad in a suit, pipe hanging from his mouth, Mathas proceeded to pick up an ancient telephone and have a very one-sided conversation, before spewing forth mad rhymes. I rarely had a clue about what he was saying, yet I went away grinning all the same. Each song could have easily sounded similar, were it not for the variation provided by the two laptops (although manned by a real person, it reminded me of that Arthur episode where Francine is replaced by a drum machine). These added lots of variety to the comforting constants that were the deep bass and measured drumbeats.
Koi Child brought about the cross-roads between brass, grandeur, jazz and hip-hop; all neatly wrapped up into a theatrical, eccentric bundle. Lead rapper Shannon Cruz Patterson busting out memorable rhymes and even more memorable dance moves across the stage, the live brass playing members of Koi Child behind him pressed his wordsmithery forward into a tsunami and deluge of hip-hop strewn jazz, with the crowd drowning the resulting musical maelstrom the band had created.
Ta-Ku emerged onto the stage with a talented crew of producers, featuring vocalist WAFIA on some tracks. Opening to some relaxed, low-key electronic music; he slowly eased his way into headier beats. Cheekily addressing the North/South divide and Midland, his won soulful vocals complimented his production; illustrating the light and wispy auspices of his crisp, soft music. A highlight of his set was “American Girl”, to which the vocal duet between himself and WAFIA managed to give to rise to something classy.
Much anticipation and excitement had been bottled up by the crowd in anticipation for San Cisco’s set, with the band emerging on to the stage with great fanfare. With some members of the band appearing more country western than ever (looking at you Nick Gardner), it would’ve been epic to see them emerge on horseback; perhaps next year, barring OHS issues. Going through old favourites like “Beach” and “Awkward”, new tracks were also given credence to like “Magic” and “Too Much Time Together”. With lead singer Jordi Davison charismatically sauntering around on stage, it was hard not to be drawn in by the bands energetic charisma, being led on into some inescapable indie-pop euphoria.
We sat down with San Cisco to talk about how scared they get being a headline act and Jordi’s crying.
Jebediah was an explosive end to an already adrenaline-pumping day. As someone who wasn’t even born when the band first set foot on the music scene, it was an honour to see them live. Audience interaction was top-notch, with lead singer Kevin Mitchell jokingly berating the audience for cheering at the announcement of an old song, when they likely weren’t even alive at the time. The alternative-rock band pulled no punches in a balls-to-the-wall onslaught, where its members seemed to be having a blast themselves, Mitchell twice playing his guitar while laying on the floor. Highlights of the night were Leaving Home and She’s Like a Comet, two pieces that showcased how the band has grown over its long lifespan. The performance would have been perfect, were it not for dickheads pelting the band with beachballs every 10-15 seconds, but I suppose things like that can’t be helped at that stage of the day. Finishing of the festival with a good, honest, one-hundred-percent concentrate rock n’ roll; the crowd just went loose, be it crowd surfing or moshing; the punters found their own special interpretive way to celebrate WA day.