Come Together (Day Two) @ Luna Park, Sydney (07/06/09)


If the first day of Sydney’s Come Together Festival had been characterised by a relaxed atmosphere, there was a noticeable tension in air on the Harbour locale by mid-afternoon of Day Two. The punters had turned out in large numbers, and security and police had responded in kind. Where the Saturday had been all about coming together, Sunday was destined to rip it all apart again with thumping hip hop and a welcome run of guitar bands.

After running the yob and security gauntlet, where even my trusty playing times list was treated with suspicion, Phrase was busily building a spaceship inside. This ship was packed already, which was a stark contrast to the first day. It was clear that the audience of the day was all about the beats, with the Aussie hip hop never failing to fill the room. Adelaide’s Funkoars picked up on this vibe and bounced with it. Despite a sense of sameness at times, the old school beats of three MCs and one DJ kept the mob with their hands in the air at all times.

Numbers Radio brought guitars back to the stage, but emptied the floor at the same time. The indie-rock set was a welcome change of pace on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They were soon followed by the brilliantly-named Philadelphia Grand Jury (or the ‘Philly Jays’ to their friends). Opening with I’m Going to Kill You, the Unearthed band ripped through an incredibly tight set, despite one of the freakiest drummers ever (he didn’t stop staring dead ahead the whole time, and proved to be more frightening than the clowns outside). Throwing gifts to the audience, the band were an early highlight on the bill.

Behind Crimson Eyes failed to impress with their –  “post-hardcore’ stylings. Met with some early guitar problems, frontman Josh Stuart took easy refugee in ‘Chk Chk Boom’ references to recent incidents in Sydney’s Kings Cross. To their credit, they did manage to pull the crowd back in a little bit, finishing their set with a high level of energy if nothing else.

Spiderbait’s Kram emerged to a half-full venue, every bit the rock god. Indeed, with his long tresses, beard and trademarked mirror-shades, he’s what Jesus would have looked like if he’d played rock music. A veritable one-man band, Kram leapt from instrument to instrument, at times playing drums, guitar and singing simultaneously. All kudos should go to Kram’s backing players, who collectively made this a divine outing indeed. A definite highlight of the evening – it is a pity all those hip hop fans didn’t stick around for more.

A similarly small crowd were there to witness Sydney’s own Red Riders, although they were as good as ever. Playing a selection of songs built up over their already impressive career, we were also treated to some tracks off the forthcoming album Drown in Colour. Early indications are that this will be a winner as well, although most of the audience got off to the more familiar Slide in Next to Me.

Muph & Plutonic brought audiences back inside, once again filling the Big Top out with hip hop fans. Plowing through their set in about the same time it took to eat a vegetarian roll, the group left the audience on a high again. Then the audience just left.

Wolf & Cub played to a diminished crowd, but an enthusiastic one. At times mystical, the Adelaide psychedelic collective played a number of tracks from their new record Science and Sorcery, as well as some old favourites. One of the few bands around that makes the saxophone look cool again, their set was nothing less than powerful.

Something with Numbers bucked the day’s trend, creating a buzz of excitement in the crowd for bands without samples or scratches. Far more interesting was the scene outside in the bar, where no less than three security, several ambulance officers and seven (!) police officers encircled a single partygoer who had perhaps been having too much of a good time. While this incident resolved itself quickly, it typified the heavy-handed presence of the day. One was forced to wonder if some of the security moonlighted in prisons when not working festivals.

Given the trends of the day, it was no surprise that Bliss N Eso drew a massive crowd as the last act on the bill. Going from strength to strength of late, the hip hop group opened with old film reels and other multimedia clips. In this vein, the group delivered a very old school set that vibrated the floors of the Big Top. Aussie hip hop may once have been derided as inferior or marginal, but today was a reminder that the scene has found a legitimate presence in Australia.