We continue our full, 3 day coverage of Southbound, complete with eye-popping photos of the talent artists and crowd!
The Money War wavered slightly, those gentle indie vocals not quite holding up on the festival main stage, however all confidence surfaced when it came time to play their newest single Recall, the jangly tune blending in nicely with the morning festival vibe. With two singles currently released, I was intrigued to see what The Money War would bring to the table for its 45 minute set. Fronted by Perth duo Dylan Ollivierre and Carmen Pepper, the two provided lush vocal harmonies that meshed well without overpowering or being overpowered by their three bandmates. A mix of electric and physical drums provided a solid start, with Ollivierre accompanied by a keyboard drone for an ear-catching introduction. In Recall, the tambourine from the keyboardist made for a nice bit of variety, while the there was a solid sense of synergy between both vocalists and bandmates. Between the fuzzy guitar work, dreamy vocals and cheeky keyboard stabs, a decidedly retro feel permeated the air. Both singers were talkative and cheery, Ollivierre incredibly humble and appreciative of the opportunity to play at the festival. The Money War’s work evokes visions of cruising on a coastal drive in the summer. It makes you feel wild and free, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the ride. If this is how solid The Money War is with just two singles under its belt, I can’t wait to see what it can do with an album’s worth of material.
Verge Collection were pulling in the fans at the Lefty’s tent stage, the barrage of tie dye shirts highlighting the psycadellic undertones to their aussie suburban rock as they poured through the set with a cheeky gusto. Postcodes and Our Place had the crowd singing along, blokes on shoulders cheering to the modern Aussie romantic ballads.
Tired Lion pulled in a significant crowd, the local Perth heroes returning to WA after an intense year of touring to a hearty welcome. I’ll get this out of the way first: the most satisfying thing about Tired Lion’s performance was the feeling of “fuck” the gentleman in front of me no doubt felt when he heckled lead singer Sophie Hopes to remove her clothing… a minute or so prior to the revelation of her age. At just 16, Hopes shows a maturity and finesse you’d be hard pressed to find in bands headed by those twice her age. She was charming, sharing her joy at being at the festival with the crowd in an endearing display of adoration. Anyway, onto the music. A light start of drumming preceded a cacophony of noise that soon evolved into something clear and easily defined. At first, I thought Hopes’ vocals were too harsh. Fast forward a few tracks later and it had really grown on me. Sophie Hopes is the Gordon Ramsay of music: loud, hard hitting, and relentless, yet under the tough exterior is an amicable soul preaching exactly what you need to hear. Tired Lion effortlessly succeeded in getting the crowd amped up, a cover of Blur’s Song 2 sealing the deal in what was a tireless, balls-to-the-wall session of sleekness.
In the Lefty’s tent the crowd were far more quiet for Olympia, the set time clash going against their favour, but that didn’t prevent a great performance. The closing bars on This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things was just pure ecstasy as Olympia slayed her guitar in that glittering blue jumpsuit before finishing off with her Like A Version of Beck’s Dreams, mixing in a a multitude of instrumental genres including a country melody style outro.
Sublime. That one word best describes Montaigne’s immersive performance. Decked out in a flashy outfit made of cardboard, the singer showed sizeable command over the crowd, utilising her exceptional vocal range to unload her infectious energy onto us lowly peons. As the much-revered figure repeated “Would you love me?” during highlight I’m a Fantastic Wreck, she descended into the crowd to fervent fanfare. Her lyrics had an incredibly pleasurable flow, the perfect accompaniment to the lax keys and easygoing drumming. The hype built to astronomical levels during What You Mean to Me, where sustained keyboard chords built the hype as Montaigne danced towards the audience. Her cheery demeanour flowed swiftly into the audience, making for a relaxed, upbeat setting. When combined with her sick dance moves, cheeky keyboard flourishes and a drumming effort that anchored the performance, Montaigne left me with a high that was unshakeable. She entertained in every sense of the word, spiralling across the stage amidst cascading vocals as she ran through each track with unstoppable dedication. From rolling across the stage floor to smearing her lipstick across her face it was clear Montaigne does nothing by halves, and the crowd happily voiced their adoration.
The set by the Smith Street Band was as hectic as could be anticipated, the audience carving each other up as they leapt on shoulders and fell into churning mosh pits, all the while belting out the lyrics to each track. Watching all the die-hards sing along to Surrender and fawning over frontman Wil Wagner as he jumped down into the pit is always inspiring. Teasing out the opening chords of Young Drunk and joking about leaving it at that just egged the crowd on further as they exploded for the indie rock anthem.
Tkay Maidza appeared next in her glittering shorts combo, but unfortunately it was hard to grab the speedy lyrics she was throwing out as the heavy basslines drowned out a lot of the vocals. Having been an opener the last time she appeared at Southbound it was great to finally see her electro hip hop moving up in the set times.
KUČKA was the most surprising act of the day. Utilising a synth-based performance with electronic tones blaring from a laptop, producer-cum-vocalist Laura Jane Lowther utilised her cutesy voice to great effect. Her movement around the stage was fluid, while the accompanying video projected in the background turned the experience into something out of this world. It was a performance that allowed me to forget, for a time, that I am generally not a fan of the genre, as I was lost in the soundscape of slick beats and smooth vocals. The lone figure standing onstage against the everchanging background, beside a warped microphone stand gave the experience a futuristic feel, and allowed the dreamlike quality of the music to shine.
I had no clue what to expect from Catfish and the Bottlemen, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The men in black instantly pulled the audience onboard with a constant stream of keyboard heralding its arrival. Seamless transitions between its feel-good rock tracks that sported hard edges meant the momentum was never quelled. 7 was the standout, a light drum intro soon joined by grounded guitar work. Lyrically, the band are reminiscent of The Gaslight Anthem, most apparent in the chorus of 7. As frontman Ryan Evan McCann sings “I’ve tried to ignore it/Every time you phone/But I never come close”, his resigned tone is clear. A solid instrumental breakdown that starts small, before building to soaring heights partway through, raises the song to exceptional levels. Catfish and the Bottlemen was hugely enjoyable thanks to its relentless guitar and drum usage, mixed with lyrics that had real feeling behind them. In a festival largely dominated by the funky, the surreal and downright bizarre, it was refreshing to see a straight-up rock band without any superfluous bells and whistles.
What does SAFIA stand for? I’ll tell you what it stands for; SAFIA stands for crafting a poignant, immaterial landscape through its uplifting electro craft. It stands for utilising confetti canons to make a multicoloured cherry on a sumptuous aural layer cake. According to Wikipedia, the name was actually borne of a song they wrote called Sapphire, and has no sentimental meaning. Go figure. SAFIA is the band that changed my mind about electronica, allowing me to see it as a full-fledged art form, as opposed to having an uninitiated, thoroughly wrong (yet adamantly immovable) opinion of it as something primarily borne from sitting behind a computer. Its crowd interaction was top-notch, lead singer Ben Woolner getting the festival goers to sing along, creating a sense of unity. After Woolner imparted a homely message to “look after your friends”, a finale began with a solemn moment of a lone keyboard, soon backed by the synth squad. Woolner’s soulful crooning matched perfectly with the at times subdued, other times pumping tones. It may be dramatic, but witnessing SAFIA live was a profound experience, that changed my outlook on the electronica genre. If a band can do that, then they’re truly something special.
Zhu was all theatrics as the freezing night time temperatures were well and truly upon us. Paired with a guitarist and saxophonist standing either side in fluttering sheer capes, it was a minimalist performance from the stage floor but the sounds kept us warm.
Thundamentals rolled in with way too much energy for the pre-midnight slot, slamming the Lefty’s tent with uproarious verses and singing along to tracks like Noodle Soup, Quit Your Job and their original Paint the Town Red. Complete with live trombone solos, the energy was just goddamn palpable from the get go, MC Jeswon and Tuka becoming maestros in human movement as the crowd jumped along to every beat.
Words: Steph Payton and Jai Price