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LIVE REVIEW: Party In The Paddock 2020

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Party In The Paddock is evidence of what can happen when good people come together for the right reasons. Leaving the paddock for the last time, I had to consider what it was that I could share with you. Highlights? An analysis on the accuracy of PITPs manifesto? I don’t think the experience of PITP can be quite put into words, but I will do my best to share with you what could add value to your tomorrow.

Since my last visit 2016, PITP had almost doubled in size although the festival hadn’t changed as much as I expected. This ultimately comes down to the consistency in messaging, and the thoughtful curation of the lineup.

Day One

Thursday we arrived at the paddock about midday where we set up camp overlooking both the Vibestown and Paddock Stage. The rolling valley of PITP is a landscape yet to be beaten.

Entering the festival, one thing particularly stood out to me from other experiences. The Welcome to Country invited the crowd to get involved in an indigenous dance that represented the protective roles of men and women in the community. It was an enlightening moment.

We kicked off music with Hurricane Youth who unfortunately were hit with technical difficulties where their backing track would not play. Hurricane Youth rounded some homegrown support with a modest crowd, some even singing along to their songs.

The punk rock locals fumbled to recover from their tech issues though, wrapping up their set by announcing they had one more song before apologising and walking off stage unable to play, tails between their legs. Every band has a bad gig they can talk about but it’s a shame when musicians are unable to recover from the tech troubles that inevitably come up. I hope this is a lesson for future gigs and I’ll be able to give their set another chance.

Thursday was much more reserved with only one out of three stages open for the day and the main lineup not kicking in until the night.

I Know Leopard took to the stage, their nostalgic electro-pop alluring the crowd with good spirits. Songs from their 2019 album Love Is A Landmine had me feeling like I was living in an early 90s movie. I Know Leopard has made it to my list of bands to see as a headline show. There’s nothing quite like the velvety croon of Luke O'Loughlin vocals over waves of timeless synth.

Refuelling on Furphy, I came back to the Vibestown stage to see Odette demolishing a shoey like an absolute champion. Then she continues on to grace the audience with songs from To A Stranger along with a few unreleased tracks. Although Odette’s musical talent will leave your jaw on the floor, it was her quirky humour and banter that won the crowd’s heart as the sun went down.

The Chats were exactly what you expect. A bloody good time. The Sunny Coast trio catapulted into the spotlight after the release of their single ‘Smoko’ in 2018. At their sold out show in LA last year, the boys were even visited by rock icons Dave Grohl, Alex Turner, and Josh Homme. It’s hard not to like The Chats when you’re able to yell along with the chorus by the time the second verse finishes. They’re also everything an Aussie stands for… a good pub feed.

Jack River, AKA Holly Rankin closed the night. I was fortunate enough to sink into a couch with the indie-pop sensation as the sun went down and ask her questions about her music journey and the transition from Sugar Mountain to her new EP Stranger Hearts being released February 14.

It was an interesting note to end the night on as everyone was riled up from The Chats. Nevertheless, Jack River graced the stage with her glittery, melancholic pop. The double-decking crowd echoed the words of her debut album Sugar Mountain going out on top with ‘Fool’s Gold’.

Day Two

Come Friday morning it became obvious the paddock was lacking some vital resources. Throughout the camping site there was a scarcity of toilets and water stations. In fact, the volunteer and staff section didn’t even have their own facilities.

On top of this, the showers were coin operated. You could imagine many people’s frustration as the festival made it very clear prior to the event, that it was a cashless festival. There were no ATMs, vendors weren’t carrying change, and no one brought cash. It became a game of seeing who could ask the most people for $2 before having any luck. Honestly, this was just a bit stupid considering 9,000 people were coming through the festival. Nevertheless, I put my Blundstones back on and kept charging.

Those fresh enough, started their Friday off with Yoga under the shade of the Vibestown tent. I was not one of these people. Instead I re-energised myself with coffee and potato gems… healthy life choices, I know.

Cuban Heel caught our attention from the Paddock Stage. When you search to find out about Cuban Heel you’ll be served a whole lot of shoes but what you should know is that if you’re a fan of Methyl Ethel, Mansionair, or Holy Holy you need to get these guys on your radar. This five-piece from Launceston is serving up melodic pop laced with synth and swirling guitar that will have your heart melting sooner than you can share a Spotify song to your story. I will say however, I’m not a fan of when a band covers a song and it sounds exactly like the original. Cuban Heel covered ‘Ubu’ by Methyl Ethel and while it was still enjoyable, it completely lacked originality.

The Vanns were a bit of a tipping point for the festival, drawing in a crowd for the mid-afternoon set. Although the Wollongong band seems to be a bit of a crowd pleaser, I personally think they’re a bit vanilla. I listened to a few songs before venturing on to check out Batz.

Batz delivered a confronting and refreshing performance. The Melbourne indie-rock band share similar style to WAAX, being female fronted with a borderline contortionist performance that you can’t quite peel your eyes from. Batz are in their infant years and I’m excited to see how their sound and performance matures.

We sunk into comfort of the few hammocks overlooking the Paddock Stage as Tora serenaded the crowd. It was the first time I’d heard the Byron Bay 4-piece and it was exactly what I needed to recharge the batteries for the night ahead. If you’re into the likes of Joe Hertz, Vallis Alps or even Nick Murphy (Chet Faker), be sure to add Tora to your playlists.

Mahalia took to the stage with currents of energy moving through the crowd. The paddock was beginning to come alive and the British singer was about to ignite it… or so I thought. I’ve never been able to imagine what it must be like to be a performer that has to speak or sing over a crowd that doesn’t give you their attention.

As Mahalia bared her stories around consent and relationships, the crowd buzzed, not in tune with anything she was saying. I have so much respect for Mahalia, her craftsmanship, and storytelling ability but it seemed the paddock did not want to give her the time of day other than when she performed her biggest singles. I just hope she was seen and heard more than I thought because Mahalia is an artist that has so much more to give, and deserves every ounce of respect for it.

20 minutes after they were due on stage, Lime Cordiale made their appearance. The crowd was restless but as soon as they started playing, all was forgiven. Although the boys have been kicking around since 2009, they didn’t really start to make their mark until the release of their debut album Permanent Vacation in 2017.

Lime Cordiale are led by brothers Oli and Louis Leimbach and they perform with a rockstar charisma. Their Triple J Like a Version of ‘I Touch Myself’ was by far the biggest hit of their set. Lime Cordiale closed out with ‘Money’ which I found surprising as I thought it was one of the lesser known singles of their 2019 releases.

Majority of the festival then stuck around the Paddock Stage to see Mallrat. The last I saw Brisbane rapper was when she supported Post Malone on his 2018 tour and while I respect her as a musician and appreciate what she does, it isn’t my cup of tea. So I explored.

While back at the campsite layering up for the cold night ahead night I was lured back in to the sounds of smooth brass, and an elixir of psychedelic, progressive blues-rock. Ladies and Gents, I had stumbled upon The Butlers.

What I saw next was what really took me by surprise, every band member adorning their own unique look as if no one really knew what the costume theme was. On the keys and saxophone was a mysterious man wearing what I assume to be a medieval helmet, who they call Stingy Hooligan.

The softly spoken New Zealanders really pack out their set, every song delivering something new and exciting. They approached their music in a collaborative way so each band member owned the vocals at some point in the set. Drummer, George Berry even proved to simultaneously play drums while he belted the biggest (and closing) song of the set, ‘No Good Nina’. Listening back to their music after the set, their recordings lack a certain substance The Butlers deliver on stage, which makes me all the more eager to see them live again.

Of course, we couldn’t miss the Dunies. I’d taken my partner along to the paddock and he’s from England. There was no way I was letting him sit this one out. Dune Rats are what I’ve got to know as the XXXX of music lineups; guarantees a good time, gets you messy, sometimes leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but you can always have ‘just one more’. It looked like the Brisbane three-piece attracted the biggest audience of the festival. All their big songs came out for the set including ‘Scott Green’, ‘Bullshit’, and ‘6 Pack’, but the band even got sentimental, dedicating a song to their manager.

Cosmo’s Midnight was our last stop for the night. Making our way back to the main stage, we indulged in the electronic duo’s setlist. Twin brothers, Cosmo and Patrick Liney were supported by Timi Temple on electric guitar and Asta appeared as guest vocalist. Cosmo’s Midnight brought out all their best known tracks and even showed off their brand new collab with Ruel, ‘Down For You’.

Day Three Highlights

Saturday was another day of music discovery and highlights but the moments that stood out were highlighting the culture that Vibestown Productions had built at PITP.

Local Hobart legend, Jed Appleton brought in the good spirits over at the Blundstone tent. Last time I saw the artist perform he held an acoustic guitar in his hands. This time round he performed with an electric guitar and a drummer to support him. The set lacked dynamic and became awkward in spaces where Jed attempted to build a song with two instruments. It’s been done before, but this was not a set that would prove successful.

If you haven’t heard of Tommy Franklin allow me to inform you. In 2013, Tommy Franklin auditioned for Australia’s Got Talent, on a mission to share joy through dance and in doing so, became an Aussie icon. Tommy now travels around Australia hosting dance workshops and PITP was in for a treat. In the early afternoon Tommy drew an impressive crowd to the Vibestown stage where people kicked off their boots and danced for a solid 45 minutes straight. Most people were at a sober point and there were moments where Tommy encouraged the crowd to close their eyes in order to feel more comfortable. It was possibly one of the best festival experiences I’ve witnessed and I can easily say Tommy Franklin has one of the happiest jobs in the world.

Confidence Man always guarantees a great time. Their transient dance anthems and synchronised moves are contagious. It was the perfect set to bring everyone in for the night ahead.

Powering out the festival run over the past twelve months has been Sneaky Sound System. Although they haven’t seen a major hit since 2006, their set is just as energetic, and well-received as it was then, debatably, even more so. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed that the man made PITP UFO that had made an appearance at Dune Rats the night before, didn’t come back out for a most appropriate soundtrack, ‘UFO’. Missed opportunity if I do say so.

Broods delivered a set that would meet your expectation. Since their break in 2014 from the release of ‘Bridges’, the brother-sister duo have been making international waves with three albums now released. The low-fi silhouette of pastel textures made for a dreamy set and complimented the experience of singing along to some great pop songs.

At this point the Vibestown Stage had become a trusted resource for great music we would come to know. Another great personal discovery of the festival was True Vibenation. They are a soul, afrobeat, hip hop 3-piece that drive their live sound with bass, beats, brass, and a whole lot of energy. ‘The World Is Ours’ has been stuck in my head since finding out about them.

As always Matt Corby graced the stage with humility and vocals that somehow leave me speechless every, single time. We were fortunate enough to hear a mix of old and new tracks however the crowd wasn’t as engaged with his music as I expected. There isn’t much more I can say about Matt Corby’s live set, other than that you cannot fault him but only subjectively enjoy based on the setlist for the occasion. In this case, it was safe and pleasant finishing up with ‘Miracle Love’. If you are yet to experience this, please do yourself a favour.

Last but definitely not least on my list was Hermitude. Now I have seen Hermitude live about three times in the past few months, and I can confidently say, their set does not get old. The Buzz, Ukiyo, and HyperParadise (Remix) sent the crowd into a happy frenzy but the highlight of this set was when the entire Vibestown team joined the duo on stage for the last few songs. It was sentimental and the perfect way to send everyone off into the last few acts of the night.

Paving the Way

The Vibestown team stands for much more than making another music festival. They advocate for safety, sustainability and inclusivity.

PIPT petitioned for pill testing in the hopes of education, conversation, and harm minimisation. At the 2020 festival, there was an education booth where punters had a safe space to ask questions about drugs and mental health.

They also stand for the land, respecting its traditional owners, and fulfilling their obligations as caretakers by implementing sustainable systems. This year saw a dedicated maintenance team continuously scanning the festival for rubbish on the ground, disposing of rubbish, recycling, and organics correctly.

Best of all, they welcome and celebrate diversity. Atop the Blundstone tent, an Australian Aboriginal flag and pride flag were flown side by side. The festival was designed to allow those with disabilities to attend, including those in wheelchairs. Amongst the photos from after the Vibestown march, you will be able to see a man in a wheelchair being lifted above the crowd.

Leaving the paddock was bittersweet. As the rolling hills disappeared from sight I couldn’t help but acknowledge the hope that this festival will influence others in Australia to do better. As Jesse Higgs, Founder of Party In The Paddock and frontman of Younger Dryas said during his set ‘from endings come new beginnings’.

So for now, Rest In Paddock.



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