Concert Review with PHOTOS: Yours & Owls Festival

The Jungle Giants performing at Yous & Owls Festival - See the galleries below by Amy Halpin

The Jungle Giants performing at Yous & Owls Festival - See the galleries below by Amy Halpin

By Kim Rudner

Date / Venue: September 29-30th, 2018 - Stuart Park, Wollongong

You can’t go wrong at a SOLD-OUT two-day festival that has 70ish musical acts not entirely dedicated to any one genre. There is always something to see, do or discover.

Yours & Owls is a camping optional annual festival located in Wollongong 90 minutes south of Sydney, situated next to the beach - the perfect backdrop to kick off festival season. With the warm weather vibes we are all pining for after enduring winter, it’s a time to be shared with mates and a beer in hand as Australians know how to do so well.

With a chock-full line up of hot Australian talent, this is the perfect festival to catch up on all the bands you’ve been meaning to see but haven’t yet caught.

If bands aren’t really your thing and you just turned up without a plan not knowing what to expect there were two brand spankin’ new stages to keep you going. ‘Das Schmelthaus’ was consistently busy featuring an all day (& night) dance party and plentiful happy faces, and ‘The Local’ doing just what its name says and featuring an array of local talent – from photography exhibitions to Drag Queen shows situated within a dome structure which served a dual purpose – warmth.

If you accidently purchased weekend tickets not realising it was Grand Final weekend for both AFL & NRL, you too were catered for with games shown live on the big screen in a specially dedicated bar with a large reception present.

Yours & Owls Festival 2018 certainly had the theme of shimmery shiny things running through its veins. On Saturday in the form of hypothermia blankets and after thawing out on Sunday morning in delicious sunshine rays, body glitter. We certainly got those delightful warm weather vibes on the Sunday, but Saturday was another story entirely.

It’s not so easy to pick musical highlights of this festival as wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere is just as much a part of the weekend as is the music & art and it’s easy to be distracted by the environment. What would a festival be without people watching, outfit appreciating, or should I say judging? With that said, it’s often the crowd response and interaction that makes you appreciate a band’s set even more and etch some memories into your brain and that is exactly what was experienced all weekend at the two smaller stages in particular the smallest stage, the Rad Stage where it took no effort for any band member to get amongst the crowd.

Saturday was headlined by the likes of Peking Duck and Jungle Giants on the main stage. I arrived in time to see beaming smiles of punters flock to the main stage to see 20 year old Mallrat and her infectious pop tunes infiltrate the festival, however, as I moved on I was more impressed with the more intimate nature of middle & smaller stage which were adjacent to one another and kept me hanging out at that end of the festival. Due to the change of design for this year’s festival after last year’s perfect design, spaciousness and ease at moving between stages in record festival times, certain problems were presented which made it easier to congregate at one end of the festival or the other and stay there. Contending with a poorly lit bottle neck situation with a sold-out youthful crowd whose motto is generally to go hard, made navigation difficult encouraging many near head- on collisions post sunset.

With that said, the string of six bands on ‘And The Restless’ stage on Saturday beginning with punk rockers Dear Seattle and ending with post hardcore band Hellions closing the stage for the night was my seven hour highlight. Giant singalongs (and screamalongs) took place with Dear Seattle, rock band Tiny Little Houses, melodic metallers Polaris and punk rockers Luca Brasi clearly loved by locals. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets who have long attracted punters by their questionable band name performed sans (expected) gimmicks and absolutely rocked out their set with their psych-rock while Polaris fans spent much of the set keeping themselves warm pulling out every little last move in a giant circle pit. I wish I’d joined in as I couldn’t feel my toes by this point. Combine this with interspersed visits to the Rad Stage whose roof nearly got blown off on more than one occasion while witnessing such gems as Press Club, and a run over to the main stage for a peek at surf rockers Ocean Alley who pulled a massive crowd and that made for a very full day.

Sunday’s first pit stop was to check out highly recommended Kansas city’s Listener, a solo spoken word outfit turned rock band with a punk edge and trumpet. Sweat rolled down the faces of the band in the sun and we all gave thanks for a much warmer day and quite the engaging way to begin it. Followed up by what I thought was going to be a metal band called Destroyer, who turned out not to be a band or metal but solo acoustic performance by Vancouver’s Dan Bejar. The crowd grew exponentially under the afternoon sun and I went to explore the festival grounds in the daylight before they packed out.

Stumbling across another VIP area, it didn’t take long for a friendly volunteer to explain the intention behind the commendable operation within the tent. Play Safe’s ‘Down to Test’ tent provides festival goers with clean flushing toilets, mobile charging stations and a glitter bar all free and available throughout the festival after a quick, easy, confidential, no-questions-asked STI chlamydia test – with nurses on site to answer any questions. Chlamydia is the most prevalent STI in under 29 year olds, generally without symptoms. Play safe are here with the intention of raising awareness and directing you to a GP to fix any sneaky issues if necessary – all curable by antibiotics FYI. Easy.

It felt as though the crowd peaked during Alex the Astronaut’s folk pop set making it difficult to manoeuvre through the hordes of standing festival goers, those seated all over the grass and quite the number with friends on their shoulders singing along to every word in the crowd. Sarah Blasko was a last-minute replacement on the main stage so I needed to get through to see her. She was captivating as always though many hadn’t received news that she was on the line-up now, but hard pressed to miss her name splashed across the giant screen backdrop. Surf rockers Hockey Dad, Wollongong locals filled the arena after Blasko, taking the main stage sunset slot much to the delight of nearly the entire festival. I eventually escaped the crowd to the small stage to catch Jess Locke who’s been on my list for a while. Jess had her band in tow this time, performing her melancholic folk pop tunes and gosh was she delightful. Looking forward to catching her solo show asap.

The night came to a close quickly with the intensity building up with each act on the Rad stage, crowd surges and beers plentiful the tent was packed like sardines as people squirmed their way through the cracks to rock out to the bangers lashed out from Johnny Hunter, Scabz, and a grand wild finale with Pist Idiots. This was certainly the best spot in the festival.

Meanwhile Drones frontman Gareth Liddiard’s new band Tropical Fuck Storm were putting on a powerful show on the stage next door – far more energetic and captivating than Angus and Julia Stone over on the main stage with their snoozy tunes who should have had a lunchtime spot rather than a primo night slot before the magnetic force of Alison Wonderland. Earlier this year Alison Wonderland played Coachella and became the highest paid female DJ in Coachella history with such crowds never seen before for the stage she was performing on. By now my feet were ready to pack it in but we knew Alison was going to pull out all the stops, which she did, and more. The crowd were waiting the whole day for this and they got an absolute treat and no better way to end the night than with fireworks.

As I walked out the gates towards my car I only had one thought on my mind, where was the food stand that were selling the haloumi fries that I ate last year? I sure hope they are back next year.