Music

Pyramid Rock Festival @ Phillip Island, Victoria (30/12/2007)

Day 1 – Pyramid Rock beckons…

10:35am: “Good morning and welcome to Pyramid!” Dardanelles’ vocalist Joel greeted his fellow fans in the crisp morning sunshine. The main stage was perched high above Pyramid Rock before a stunning oceanic backdrop to cap off a picture-perfect start to the annual Pyramid Rock Festival pilgrimage. Dardanelles refused to stall their 10am start as rumbling drumlines oscillated high above the crowd. Atmospheric strings scaled the sprawling acreage, underlining the native, almost primal, feel to our location. ‘Alone Is Not’ emphasised Josh’s Bowie-esque vocals as he jumped around the stage for his early rising fans.

11:40am: The Exploders were next to launch into Pyramid’s Day 1. Raspy, blues inspired vocals rallied an upbeat procession of staggered guitar/drum combos caught the attention of the crowd instantly. Later, country –  “n blues laced The Exploders’ impressive appearance as wailing guitars had the crowd exploding with excitement earlier in the day than expected; even the odd chicken dance and bootie shaking could be spotted on the fringes of the pit!

12:50pm: Generous changeovers so early in the day allowed punters a chance to pace themselves before the stampede of bands throughout the afternoon and evening. Enter the haunting harmonies of Howling Bells, which kept the crowd in a relaxed mood and gave the crowd something to awe over. Angelic jangling of guitars of ‘Cities Burning Down’ heightened punters’ spirits and proved to be immaculate sound-wise. There’s no better way to spend a summer’s day than being perched high on a cliff overlooking the pristine blue sea while absorbing world class tunes.

1:15pm: And Burn came out swinging at about lunchtime to jump-start the day in the Pharaoh’s Annex for those in need of a sonic jolt. With driving riffage, shout-outs and melodies galore, And Burn put the “f—k” into the –  “Rock. A small army of dudes in shaggy beards and wigs caught the most attention from onlookers as they proceeded to belt each other with foam water noodles. Whatever rocks your Pyramid!

2:00pm: By this stage, the water was going down a treat as the sun rose to its zenith. So it was up to the mighty Airbourne to speed up the rawk. “You wanna here some rock –  “n roll?!” Joel O’Keefe screeched to the excitement of a massive mosh pit. “Then stand up for it!” As bullhorns blazed from the barrier worshippers, Airbourne surged through a blistering rock show. Battling it out in the sweltering heat in their trademark stovepipes, Airbourne refused to compromise their energy and presence. It was enough to make any person standing still sweat until they bled. Nothing less than a pure rock effort, Airbourne were a collective hell-fire which ripped through Pyramid fields and instigated an impressive sandstorm from the moshing raucous near the stage. ‘To Much Too Young’ and ‘Diamond in the Rough’ remained prominent during this almighty 45 minute set.

2:55pm: As the heat pressured many to take refuge under marquees, some opted for the ambient soul rock of Sydney’s Sparkadia. With a spring in its step, Sparkadia was found to be one of the true gems of the Pyramid weekend. An authoritative stomp emerged throughout the track ‘Animals’, then later an accordion and grating riffs exemplified the band’s brooding, secretly dark, presence.

3:15pm: While Kisschasy wooed the masses with their hook-laden pop punk, The Currency were the preferred choice in this timetable clash. Vocalist Justin Moore won my “you gotta be sweating your sock off” award for the weekend as he bound the stage in a three piece suit. Man, that’s dedication! The Currency’s folk-rock convict odes of pick-pockets, the “nick” and lost love grabbed the modest crowd’s attention who rewarded the band with a dance-floor jig which resembled more a cross between King Fu and the Melbourne Shuffle. Still, there were pints of fun in the air as ‘Gates of Hell’ and ‘888’ reigned supreme. But I guess it was drummer Travis Demsey who had the final say: “We’re not American, we’re fucking Australian!” Cheers to that!

4:30pm: By this point, The Getaway Plan drew the biggest crowd to the Pharaoh’s Annex. Ripping up the stage, The Getaway Plan impressed the crowd with melodic hooks and multi-layered drives. Audience numbers elevated despite the growing temperatures and were treated to Matthew Wright’s new-look vocals. It was encouraging to hear Matthew’s newer stylings which showcased his omni-faceted vocal range; a more matured standing since the days of sharp screams. New material including ‘The New Year’ provided fans with an enticing taste to the band’s forthcoming album and confirmed that The Getaway Plan are not afraid to try new avenues in their sound rather than sticking to the stock-standard abrasiveness they’re renowned for.

5:25pm: New Zealand’s Kora brought their mellow roots styled sound to the Island but the blood needed to be pumping just that little bit more at this late stage of the day. Indie synth stylists Damn Arms kept the stamina going with ‘The Boss’, further elevating the crowd’s increasing party spirit. An encompassing aural experience with a pinch of psychedelia kept the arvo’s tunes flowing.

6:40pm: With a shake of her booty, Natalie Pa’apa’a encouraged the early evening party with the laid-back vibe of Blue King Brown’s rich flavours. Pa’apa’a really worked the crowd into a body-moving state for the soothing flow of ‘Water’. Blue King Brown thrust themselves into the late afternoon momentum with jams aplenty, further exemplifying their organic energy and captivating stage presence.

7:55pm: While Scribe was called upon to bring the beats sea-side for the crowd, it was time for a quick rest in the VIP bar. From the flat screen TV those revelling in the cool confines were treated to Scribe’s shout-out grooves, a quick rendition of Tupac’s ‘California’, and the crowd favourite ‘Not Many’.

9:00pm: A rest was well worth the effort, recharging the batteries for a stellar performance from Bondi’s Cog. ‘Anarchy OK’ hypnotised the crowd into singing along to every word, transcending a crimson sunset which set the scene for ‘Resonate’ and ‘Real Life’. The bottom-end heaviness of drummer Lucius Borich and bassist Luke Gower accentuated Flynn Gower’s husky and at times tortured vocal style and added to the eeriness of Pyramid Rock at dusk. It was a truly inspiring and tribal experience – punters joined shoulder to shoulder in a celebration of Australian music at its best. This, as Flynn suggested in more or less words, was a sense of normality; what life could be like if we allow it. And this was an experience which highlighted the simple essence of Pyramid’s spirituality.

10:30pm: Groovy anthems such as ‘Music is the Language’ from The Cat Empire kept the rhythm of the weekend in freefall and punters converged in the front of the Main Stage in their thousands. The Cat Empire are the type of band that can hit the stage and immediately resonate a sense that they’ve already played two hours. Stamina and charisma are essential for The Cat Empire to ever succeed in the live setting and these are two elements which flow in copious amounts and more. After an hour of moving the body, it was time for a bit of a snooze. Sleep is the key to reaching the New Year’s pinnacle of Pyramid Rock so it was lights out for this happy camper.

Day 2 – Out with the old and in with the new…

10:00am: “Wake up Pyramid!!” screeched Young and Restless vox vixen Karina Utomo who sported a brazen fluro orange leotard. Shit, if that isn’t enough to raise you from your slumber then nothing will! Her echoes of “bleeding till there’s blood” instantly roused weary heads into a sudden state of alertness. Karina confirmed that it’s a big ask to “get out of bed and shred” but she still put in a champion effort and wasn’t going to let a lethargic crowd put a dampener on her reign. Heart-starters including ‘Dirty Kicks’ and ‘Police Police’ sent early risers into overdrive and rolling drumlines kept the punters yearning for more of Young and Restless’ alt-punk antics. The distance between the barrier and the stage resembled a canyon and you could tell that Karina was out of her comfort zone; she needed to be in sweating distance of her followers. Still, Young and Restless put in one hell-ov-an appearance. Case closed.

12:05pm: Mammal rallied the crowd for a “rock –  “n fuckin’ roll” show. But the promise of a 40 degree day was realised early and many punters sought refuge under marquees. Whoever was left at front of stage threw their hands in the air to mark the arrival of Mammal’s heavy-end funk and muscling stage presence. Frontman Ezekiel Ox battled with those seeking shade to increase numbers in front of the stage, only succeeding with a few spot-cheers across the grounds. Those dedicated to Mammal’s cause on the barrier were rewarded with regular drenches from security guards armed with hoses. Despite the humidity, fans moshed and yelled their way through ‘New Breed Judas’, ‘Nagasaki in Flames’, ‘Think’ and “Hell Yeah” as Mammal provided a scorching set to challenge the hottest of summer days. Hell Yeah!

1:15pm: By the time Horsell Common hit the stage, many punters were drenched from hoses and beer. But the Melbourne trio pulled some decent attention, pleasing their fanbase with the likes of ‘Help is On It’s Way’ and ‘Bruise Easy’. Equipped with faultless sound, Horsell Common sounded bloody huge on one the biggest stages of their career. Brimming with grunge aesthetic and Aussie rock smarts, Horsell Common came, conquered and impressed. So much so that one overzealous stormed the stage only to dry-hump bassist Luke Cripps’ leg before screaming in the mic and being led away by security.

2:30pm: Loren arrived with a mindset to change attitudes. Declaring that we must change ourselves in order to change our current environmental situation, Loren lured a decent, attentive crowd who were eager to support the band in its vision of hope and encouragement. Some might say that Loren’s message may have been a huge contradiction to the festival itself, if you consider the impact of litter and footprints. Though, Loren kept their audience in check with their fee-willed performance amidst the ridiculous heat. Stories of grey nomads travelling the countryside at 80km/h with newfound grown-up toys seemed to ease climatic pressures. While some bands preferred the 100km/h pace, Loren opted for the smooth ride of 60km.

3:35:pm: Adelaide’s Wolf and Cub didn’t really venture beyond their loop-di-loop impetus of dual percussionists JC and Marvin . Guitars courtesy of Joel were top notch yet the band, overall, didn’t quite lift my spirits. Don’t get me wrong, many dug it. But their sound made the afternoon linger longer. Some bodies (including mine) flaked and the front of stage crowd dwindled.

4:45pm: It was later up to Ash Grunwald to revive the Main Stage’s audience. Ash managed to stomp up a frenzy for the crowd, his bellowing voice leading many to the stage for a slice of his blues riddled journey.

6:40pm: Equipped with angular guitars and chaotic stage persona, The Scare clung onto precious energy reserves of a handful of punters still jolting their bodies around in the Pharaoh’s Annex. It seems that The Scare have smartened up their sound; technically straight-forward but with enough jagged edges to keep the eclectics interested. The Scare a couple of years ago compared to The Scare nowadays are two polar opposites. The Scare now is a potent blend of seething energy and erratic artistry, minus the weird onstage banter from vocalist Kiss Reid. You know where The Scare are headed and they made impact fast!

7:00pm: With my energy levels approaching D for deathly, the march to the Main Stage for The Matches was a gruelling one. An oasis in the distance, the Main Stage beckoned me for the last stretch of the day. Once quenched by sprays from the hoses, I was again revitalised for The Matches’ eccentric blend of pop punk. The phrase “pop punk” is thrown about by way too many bands these days but The Matches seem to be spot on with their interpretation. Quirky, energising and teaming with unexpected twists and turns, our American friends worked the crowd into a decent mosh despite the conquering heatwaves. Clad in slacks, shirts and jackets, these Americans knew how to work the stage, tackling a classic Aussie swelter head-on.

9:15pm: With the sun well and truly retired for the day, it was up to Shihad to up the ante and build the imminent countdown to the end of 2007. And what a way to spearhead the evening – ‘Empty Shell’, ‘Beautiful Machine’ and ‘The General Electric’ all featured early to satisfy their fans. Shihad were here to rock –  “n roll and arrived to achieve nothing less. The New Zealand lads even featured new material including a track along the lines of ‘Count It Up’ which seemed to harness the aural power of yesterday’s Shihad. ‘Home Again’ burst through and sent tingles up my spine, just like every other time I hear this amazing track. A cool change blew in for the demanding presence of ‘Pacifier’ and ‘When You Coming Home’ before cheers from the crowd anticipated the fury of ‘My Mind Sedate’.

It was at this time when I realised that Shihad, like many of Pyramid’s bands, have been a part of my life for so long and it only seemed natural to spend an intimate weekend with those bands who are close to my heart, on top of the newcomers. Throw out the old year and enter the new, but don’t throw away those bands that have made you who you are.