A couple of Saturdays ago I headed to ‘On the Bright Side’ – the first music festival I’d been to in a long time. Conditions on the Perth Esplanade weren’t ideal (a downpour during set up had turned the ground into mush) but with a big tent, some great acts and a very reasonable ticket price, it turned out to be a great day.
We arrived during Foster the People’s set, which I didn’t pay much attention to, though it was hard to ignore the excitement in the crowd when they pulled out their hit song Pumped Up Kicks – probably the catchiest song about a shooting spree since I Don’t Like Mondays.
We then moved to the sparsely populated All Ages section to get a good view of live favourites The Grates. With a new face behind their drumkit (Alana, their maniacally smiling pixie drummer quit earlier this year), and an apparent desire to be taken more seriously (Patience appeared in all black and the band are now a 4-piece) there were a few fears that this fantastically immature band had grown up on us. Luckily they were still full of child-like energy, as evidenced by Patience’s impressive crowd surfing efforts. Current single Turn Me On was a slight anti-climax as a closing song, but a great version of Burn Bridges just before (my personal favourite) meant I was still very satisfied.
The hunt for food, drinks and toilets took priority over watching The Kills, and I didn’t see much of Tame Impala’s set either – just enough to notice they still don’t bother putting any effort into crowd interaction. Admittedly it does kind of work for them though. Their massive popularity still puzzles me but what I saw left me slightly less critical of them than before – undoing some of the damage done by their set at In the Pines a few years ago.
Modest Mouse are another act that like to simply play their songs without the frills of a big stage show, but in their case the songs are so good that it hardly matters. There were some obvious exclusions from the set list such as Ocean Breathes Salty and Dashboard but in comparison to their performance at V-Fest years ago it was far more enjoyable – mostly due to the sound not being the equivalent of aural faeces (as it was at V-Fest).
Of course, The Hives are a band that have never had a problem with putting on a good show. From the moment they came out on stage in top hats and tails it was clear the audience were in a for high energy rock’n’roll show of the highest calibre. The new songs they premiered didn’t impress much on first listen but old favourites such as Walk Idiot Walk had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. At one point between songs, lead singer Pelle simply shouted “Yeah!” over and over at us – something that would have seemed stupid coming from most front men – but with The Hives the response from the crowd became louder and louder each time, even after the ridiculous game had been going for at least a full minute.
Finally Pulp had the difficult task of closing the night – difficult because they were following The Hives, but also because their popularity peaked almost two decades ago. These days a Pulp cover recorded by the Star Trek guy is probably better known among festival-goers than anything the band actually recorded. Still, if they didn’t outperform every act of the day they came pretty darn close to it. Their quirky sense of humour was displayed early on by a laser machine that displayed typical messages like “Make Some Noise!” interspersed with bizarre lines like “Do You Want to See a Dolphin?” Then as the band emerged it became obvious that front man, Jarvis Cocker, had lost barely any of his energy, charisma and vocal ability over the years. Highlights came from the expected songs, ie. the anthemic pop of Disco 2000, the epic atmosphere of This Is Hardcore and of course Common People, which closed the night in fine fashion.
Let’s all hope the festival will be back next year with even more big-name acts from Splendour in the Grass and a bit less mud.