Ahhh SOTA, the one-stop WA Day experience. Held on the half-constructed Elizabeth Quay grounds, turning a glorified duck pond into a fully-fledged music festival for just one day, it was a total sight to behold.
Two stages under two large gazebos, thousands of people motioning from east-to-west upon every set change – it was a surprise the body friction wasn’t a fire hazard. Even the smell of the festival was pungently Western Australian, with the physical experience being akin to being an office-worker sardine on a Joondalup line Transperth train in the mid-morning rush-hour, Swedish sauna’s smelt nicer.
But cynicism aside, and a tiresome reviewer’s negativity being chained, it was a show that celebrated the diversity and prominence of the WA acts that had made it and the acts that were just in the process of making waves. Headlined by the likes of Drapht, Karnivool, Gyroscope, Tired Lion and many other stellar WA acts, there was something for everyone.
The day kicked off with a visit to the food stall quarter – but sadly the bao stall was closed, things were already off to an already disappointing start. Bao-less stomach in tow, The China Blue Experiment ailed any hunger-induced woes. A tight rock set, with a hint of old-school Australiana pervading throughout their set, it was a decent malady of acoustic guitars and entertaining drum beats, it gave ample opportunity for the local band to impress the early oncoming promoters.
Elli Schoen spread her thunderous vocal from the across the stage with her live band being just as impressive. With her support guitarists shredding away in a crescendo of guitar solos, a funny moment was when Schoen made a comment about her having to tone down by abolishing any swearing in her set – its ok Schoen, there will be plenty of opportunities to express the beauty of a gutter that the English language is. Providing a nice cover of INXS’s Tear Us Apart, Schoen totally raised the roof.
The Money War is always fun to see – seeing them play a set is a bit like a band’s show and tell with Dylan Olivierre and Carmen Pepper musically stating ‘look what we’ve done’. Playing songs from their self-titled EP The Money War, there was something retro and breezy about their sound, with a crisp, jangly guitar-pop pleasantly enveloping the crowd into ease. With the first manic-dancers to emerge at the front of the stage, one group of teens dressed it what seemed to be Barbie fashion on steroids danced vividly The Money War’s delicious blend of rock.
Jarringly knife-edge politics were felt with Indigenous rapper Ziggy’s set. Fronted by a live band and accompanied by fifteen-year-old MC Mali, the duo was a poetic ambit for indigenous pride on an otherwise day historically associated with colonialism and imperialism. Not afraid to address the contemporary issues that indigenous Australians face, be it overrepresentation in the justice system or life expectancy, Ziggy was sure to wrap it up into a conceptually sharp, observational hip-hop package.
For the old-school rock stalwarts who denounce everything on Triple J as heresy (basically everyone over 29/30) Rag N’ Bone were sure to offer opioid relief to a music scene that surprisingly changes. From the loud chants of lead singer Kiera Owen to the brooding power chords and Black Sabbath feel, as they say in metal-head France, the inner-rock god was le satisfait.
If there is a secret to flying cars or anti-gravitational travel, then POW! NEGRO lead singer Nelson Mondlane is sure to know the secret. Dancing to such glorious heights when hyped up on stage, the sass and vibe of the live band were probably what fuelled Mondlane’s biblical levitation. Thankfully his feet could reach the ground again – lest he would meet the same fate as those beer cans tied to the SOTA balloons, unwaveringly drifting for eternity…
Crooked Colours singer crooned to the crowd while looking as cool as a cucumber. The warping synth and penetrating bass hit me in such a way that I couldn’t help but have a groove. It has been a while since Crooked Colours have performed in Perth and they failed to disappoint. Their brooding electronica embodied a darkness that hit me in a blast of fat bass riffs, echo-chamber-affected samples and sweet sultry vocals.
Katy Steele had a badass style as she jaunted around the stage in her shiny leather jacket delivering high quality pop. Her band, a drummer and 2 keyboardists put out such a big sound considering the simplicity of the instrumentation. Steele, the lead singer of indie-rock group Little Birdy, swaggered around the stage with great showmanship that comes with being a seasoned performer.
As soon as Katy Steele’s set was over, the crowd surged across to the right in force for Tired Lion. Far from being a sleepy act (cat?), they were lively and the crowd for the first time in the evening became rowdy, rocking out to some awesome local lords. At this point in the evening, the grass underfoot had been trampled to the point that the air had a distinct mown grass smell which is why I found it strange when the singer Sophie Hopes mentioned how she “missed that fresh Perth air”. Hopes followed this with the segue of the millennium with: “incidentally, this next song is called ‘Fresh’ “, a song that I thought sounded like a energetic heart-wrencher, if such a thing is possible.
Bob-Evans (AKA Kevin Edward Mitchell, or otherwise the batman of contemporary Australian Folk) or-that-guy-from-Jebediah crooned the crowd with some rustic fingerpicking. At one point serving as the optimal OST to waiting for that long-overdue-overpriced Latin American food you couldn’t pronounce the name of, it made that wait just a bit more bearable. Serving as a change of pace to the hyperactive hip-hop and rock acts that preceded him, Bob Evans soothed with that bohemian relaxed vibe.
Abbe May impressed and rocked out with her insane guitar soloing ability. A saucy aficionado, when her well-known cover of Ginuwine’s Pony kicked off, it made the entirety of Elizabeth Quay feel like a sweaty (tick) retrospective porno. All her set needed now was a hairy Burt Reynolds look-alike and a ethically-fake bear rug. Smashing out one last intense guitar, the crowd were mesmerised, if not a bit all sexed out – dammit Abbe May.
Member of the local, musically royal Steele family, Katy Steele brought her own blend of quirky and electric to the noticeably larger crowd. Engaging with the crowd with an entertaining, sassy charisma her evident evolution into a live musical stalwart was evidential with this performance.
It was at this point when SOTA played host to a few of WA’s rock veterans, with the likes of Gyroscope leading the charge. With leader singer tearing at the crowd shirtless and coveted in tattoos, it reminded the crowd of that classic Gyroscope anger which screamed from their guitars and the punkish antics of noughties rock. Nostalgia was particularly felt when the band finished up with Baby I’m Getting Better. With such electrifying band chemistry and Lead singer Daniel Sander’s terse vocals, Gyroscope had the whole crowd singing along to hits such as ‘Doctor, Doctor’ and ‘Snakeskin’ as well as a rip-snorter cover of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds are Burning’ .
The experience of attending DRAPHT’s was one that was akin to being a sardine. But braving through the large crowds and claustrophobic togetherness was worth experiencing the rappers witty, party-like raps which were ever-so humorously pierced the flute. Mouthing off the lyrics to Mexico and John Doe in unison with twelve thousand was particularly awesome. With hits such as Jimmy Ricard, Bali Party and Don Quixote the Perth hip-hop prince had more hands in the air than a nazi convention. Like each artist of the night, Drapht was very vocal about his love for the Perth live music scene and encouraged everyone to get down to local venues and support the scene.
-Words by Mont Lloyd and Joe Wilson
-Photography by Aaron Rebeiro