Southbound wrapped after 3 days of sun (and rain), sweat, cold showers and great company. We finalise our full event coverage and get ready for the next big festival.
Lilt was an explosive way to kick of the third and final day of Southbound. The drummer blasted straight into it, backed up by the steady sound of the keyboard weaving around your ears, much like the smell of freshly-cooked waffles wafts through your nostrils. An emotional track about a friend with depression was serene, with heart-wrenching wailing and a slow chord transition. Lead singer Louise Penman lives up to her band name, singing “Don’t you know I would never judge you/I’m just here to help you when you’re down” with a gravitational intensity.
The light ping of keys reminiscent of raindrops rounded out the performance in a sorrowful way. Penman’s movement around the stage was captivating, her movements like those of a snake. Powerless gave an impression entirely contrary to its namesake, with harsh sonic snatches from the keyboard and forceful, stonewall drumming. A slow build to a crescendo kept things engaging, making a solid counter to what came before it. Lilt provided a strong opening for the day, with its mix of soulful lyrics and tight-knit electronic backing, my opinion of them was not lilting, but positively assured.
Death by Denim is a grand contender for ‘best band name at the festival’. A potent purveyor of funk-rock, the four-piece band absolutely shredded their guitars in brutal breakdowns, the bassist totally embracing the name by wearing denim overalls with a broken strap. The rugged, true to life image the band presented helped the drive home their earthy vibes reminiscent of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Things swiftly slowed down to a more lax pace, with languid, climbing guider and poignant lyrics (“You break my heart/But what do I stay for?”), before things were locked down to business as usual. Duelling guitars played over the top of what was simply a damn good jam, as the crowd sang along to the refrain of “Everywhere I go I see people stop and stare/They tell me I look like I just got laid”. have it all: an eye-catching name, luscious locks and attire to match, and a variety of styles to mess around with, making for a highly enjoyable experience.
I have but half a page of notes written for Mathas. He is not someone who can be figured out by putting pen to paper- they must be visually experienced to get the most out of them. The man himself was suited up, seeming to undertake deep breathing exercises before his songs. It was a quaint visual touch that added a slick bit of humour to the affair. Utilising an old Australian radio broadcast to begin and end one of his tracks gave a delicious bit of homegrown reverence, while his works were about such snide subjects as making love on the beach. Backed by exotic keyboard stabs and smooth drumbeats, Mathas never seems to come up for air, constantly assailing the audience with truth bombs. The highlight was his descent into into the crowd, whereby a ring was formed around him by his eager fans. After grinning and galavanting with those gathered, he attempted to reclaim the stage with a bemused comment of “how the fuck do I get back up there?” With his cheeky lyrics set against airy keys and unorthodox radio banter, Mathas breathed new life into Southbound.
Am I allowed to quickly vent about how hard it is coming up with new adjectives and analogies at this point? Cool. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’d like to say that Nicole Millar was a stellar performer, equal parts calming and haunting in her vocal delivery. Millar had a defining presence, propped up against an electric setpiece of stoic keys and lamentable drumming all while sporting a swanky black outfit with rose sigils, topped off with a sleek black cape. The scattered percussion, dour keyboard and swaying synth made for a melancholy, but invigorating, ambience. Millar’s solemn vocals meshed well with the mix of electric and physical drums to add a unique sonic flair. She lapped up the audience’s adoration, reaching out as the drums pounded in a frenzy, giving a hectic, doting weight to proceedings. Throughout Love Like a Lover, Millar showed limitless energy, so much so that it was impossible to not be wrapped up and, at the very least, bop along, if not outright dance.
“Highasakite is dope as fuck”- Sam Garstone
“We’ll be back here for the next 10 years when we are 42”- Jimmy McGuire
Don’t take my word for it. These passionate fans found much to inspire them on the journey that was Highasakite’s set. A smokescreen created a sense of mystery, while a tame beginning of synth and keyboard alongside smooth backing vocals soon ramped up events. The combination of dual keyboardists and vocalists ensured the crowd was constantly on the move, the hopeful tone of its songs helping to keep things positive. Mixing it up for the finale, a softer, pianoesque keyboard aided lead vocalist Ingrid Helene Håvik as she sombrely sang “I learned a lesson”. It was personal and deeply affecting, her impressive vocal range on full display. A slow tempo outro ended a mystical performance on a solitary, satisfying note.
I don’t know why I was so hyped for Ladyhawke. The only song of hers that I knew prior to Southbound was My Delirium, however the video for it has always stuck in my mind. I suppose based on that, I expected a pretty sweet performance. That’s exactly what I got. The New Zealand native was reserved and modest in her interactions with the audience, although frankly this was a welcome change of pace from the hyped up showmen and women that came before. A glowing mic stand and blue smoke haze set the scene for surreality. Short, sharp keyboard jabs and to-and-fro guitar stylings complemented the ‘Hawke’s retro vocal work, giving a very Fleetwood Mac vibe. The nature of the game was a constant throughout the set, allowing the audience to settle into a nice groove whereby they knew what to expect. Paris is Burning was the highlight, featuring persistent guitar licks, catchy, free-flowing lyrics and a snappy bassline. Capping off the night with My Delirium was a fine choice, one that was obviously appreciated by those gathered, who kicked their reverie up a notch. This was, to quote my one-word note, badass. Confident, driving guitar laboured swimmingly against a euphoric electronic soundscape, and made for an exciting, toe-tapping way to round out Ladyhawke’s gripping stage show.
Hearing nothing but good things about witnessing The Cat Empire live, I was incredibly pumped to see them in action. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. A musical menagerie of double bass, keyboard, drums (the conventional kit and a duo played by lead singer Felix Riebl), trumpet and trombone. These alone would be enough to make them stand out, but TCE also shares its vocal workload between Riebl and trumpeter Harry James. This variety in both instruments and singers meant you never really knew what to expect, but you quickly came to observe a high level of finesse. Extended instrumental sections allowed each member to shine, whether it be a sassy burst of trumpet or a funky spell of keyboard, right down to my personal favourite of a whack of the ol’ cowbell. Overall, The Cat Empire far exceeded my expectations, and were undoubtedly my favourite act of the festival thanks to the pure energy they displayed in their songs.
Drapht was pretty much the perfect way to finish off Southbound. Featuring the irrepressible Morgan Bain on keyboards, and taking a page from The Cat Empire by utilising a saxophonist and trumpeter, Drapht brought a layered, nuanced air to his sweet rhymes. The intensity never let up, and indeed, Drapht was never intended to let it die, making sure to pump up the crowd after each song, as one would a balloon at a birthday party. Even though I personally find hip hop to be neither here or there, I can’t deny that Drapht was a thoroughly mesmerising entertainer, his skilfully crafted, immaculate beats surging on top of brass, percussion and Bain. This was one of those cases where the music may not have been my cup of tea, but I still found a lot to enjoy in the craftsmanship of it all, and went away feeling fulfilled all the same.