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Homebake festival Review

Homebake Festival @ The Domain, Sydney, 3.12.2011


Having made the trek down to Sydney the night before, I marvel at the spotless sky and light breeze as I walk up Crown St towards the leafy Domain. Contrary to the rather unappealing earlier forecast, it’s an absolutely stunning Saturday afternoon – a circumstance that makes Homebake 2011 (dubbed the “classic edition”) all the more special. 

Clad in a summery white dress and with matching feathers in her flowing blonde hair, the swaying, sweet-voiced Brooke Addamo of Melbourne’s Owl Eyes proves she’s more than the girl on Illy’s It Can Wait. Catchy Triple J hit Raiders sees plenty of cheers from The Dome gathering, yet the set’s unquestionable highlight is the “Like A Version” cover of Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks, with the whistled hook replaced by a glockenspiel solo.

Judging by the Main Stage crowd reaction, 360 is going to play many more festivals in the future. I practically expect him to quip “it’s good to be an Aussie hip hop artist!” Mel Brooks-style, but sadly, that never happens.

Performing in a three-piece format, festival circuit regulars The Vines do exactly what they’ve been doing since 2002 – no-frills grungy rock, amplified by the Main Stage’s fearsome PA. The perma-pasty Craig Nicholls appears to be in a better physical shape than at Splendour and likewise mostly “keeps it together” while bashing out staples Highly Evolved, Get Free, Ride and the requisite Ms Jackson.

By the time I get to the Rowland S. Howard tent (emblazoned with the late songwriter’s image), it’s chock-full of Big Scary fans – and suffice to say, the party-friendly, Triple J-approved Melbournians are just as enthralled as the crowd. Cranking out a number of guilelessly upbeat ditties, the drums/guitar duo successfully boost their “new Philly Jays” cred.

Following an irritating 20-minute wait at the Big Top, Kimbra arrives in an explosion of red (dress; lipstick; tambourine) and proceeds to give her already-famed vocal chords a good workout on the breezy Settle Down. The NZ-cum-Melbourne pop star is absolutely loving being in control of thousands; her bluesy take on Nina Simone’s Plain Gold Ring goes down a treat, but it’s the omnipresent Cameo Lover that has the entire tent singing and dancing.

The confusing typo in the commercially-available program means Drapht is on a whole hour early, however hometown heroes The Jezabels are certainly not to be missed today. Capping off a huge year with their biggest Australian gig to date, the four-piece roll out a polished set ticking all the right boxes – Endless Summer, Try Colour, Mace Spray, Easy To Love et al, Nik Kaloper’s drum work positively scintillating.

A big draw for the over-30s, 80s icons Icehouse treat the Big Top gathering to a (reshuffled) recital of their debut album Flowers – or Icehouse, depending on how staunch a fan you are. Relishing the attention after a lengthy absence from the big stage, the silver-haired Iva Davies powers through the still-rocking classics We Can Get Together, Sister, Walls and I Can’t Help Myself and throws in a couple of unexpected covers – namely Iggy Pop’s Funtime and T. Rex’s Get It On.

With the majority of the kids at the moment-riding Gotye – who starts with a booming Eyes Wide Open, incites a singalong on “that song with Kimbra” and finishes with the effervescent Learningivinanlovin – Homebake’s older contingent assembles to watch panoramic Aussie rock legends The Triffids.

Performing their 1986 classic Born Sandy Devotional in its entirety with a revolving cast of singers, the Perth collective have the fans enchanted from the first note of The Seabirds (led by the ex-Bad Seed Mick Harvey) onwards. Graham Lee’s singing pedal steel is crystal-clear in the mix and the anthemic calling card Wide Open Road is given a beautiful reading, however it’s The Blackeyed Susans’ venerable Rob Snarski who resolutely steals the show with an impassioned Life Of Crime. In contrast, Alex Gow (sporting a loud 80s shirt) gives off an awkward vibe and only manages a passable rendition of Estuary Bed. The original keyboardist Jill Birt nonetheless makes up for the Oh Mercy frontman’s stilted cameos with the forever-young Tarrilup Bridge and Tender Is The Night.

Appearing late like nearly every other post-4pm act, veteran psychedelic crusaders The Church open their shortened set with the slow-burning Aura from 1992’s fan-favourite Priest=Aura, gradually building to full-sonic-assault mode on rockers You Took and Tantalized and leaving many mouths agasp much like they always do. Due to play 3 of their classic albums later this month, Steve Kilbey and co finish on a sweet note with the still-captivating double of Under The Milky Way and Reptile. You know Pnau are not an option when you’re watching a legendary Australian act weave their magic in close proximity.

Closing the day on the Main Stage, Grinderman Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos – make it their mission to drown out Eskimo Joe’s mainstream pop-rock and Cut Copy’s slick electro with liberal amounts of fuzz & buzz. Climaxing with the mammoth No Pussy Blues, the hirsute quartet are even louder and meaner than they were at BDO, ol’ Nick yelling, roaring and screeching like a man possessed. Alas, I’m running out of power and head towards the exit before the clock hits 11pm – but not before promising my first-ever Homebake I’ll be back.


Denis Semchenko - AAA Backstage

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