Review: Yours and Owls at Stuart Park, Wollongong, 29-30 September 2018
The Yours and Owls festival has gone from strength to strength through the years. From humble beginnings in 2014 as a ‘mini festival’ with 11 acts on one stage, to present day with 4 stages and well over 50 acts, the festival shows no signs of slowing down. Locking in big Australian names like Peking Duk, Angus and Julia Stone and Alison Wonderland, all the while keeping it’s lineups fresh and focused on what’s new, it really is fantastic that there is demand for such a fantastic event.
From the moment the gates opened, you could tell that after many years in the game, the festival had got it together. Easy access, plenty of free water, generous amount of portaloos, recycle-cans-for-drinks, even going plastic free across the entire festival – the organisers were a step ahead of the game in nearly every aspect.
The timetables were squished to compensate for such a dense lineup, but were spaced out just enough to avoid clashes and allowed people get a taster of everything on offer if desired.
Saturday kicked off with Triple J unearthed indie rockers GOSH, followed by a Welcome to Country paying respects to the traditional owners of the land that everyone was about to enjoy themselves on.
The sunny festival vibes started flowing easy thanks to Alice Ivy’s warm, vintage set on the main ‘Jung’ stage. Meanwhile Maddy Jane complimented this spirit with confident, surfer rock tones and candid, earnest lyrics that was sure to get everyone in a good mood from the get go.
The festival has a reputation for delving up new acts for exposure on top of the awesome headliners, and 2018’s lineup did not disappoint at all. Tucked away on the ‘Mother’ stage was polished Indie Rockers Good Lekker, washed out Cure-esque gothers Mere Women, and loud-soft maestro’s Spit Chewy, all bringing interesting sounds and tricks to the stage. Of particular note were psych-doom metal rockers Velvet Elevator, who’s bottom-end sludge overwhelmed all the senses in the best way possible, and acted as a surprisingly refreshing point of difference to the rest of the lineup.
Both the main stages continued to pack the heat, with The Middle Kids and Dear Seattle keeping the rock strong. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets were one of the tightest acts from Day 1, bringing a relentless fuzz and high energy music that pulled a great crowd who seemed to be enjoying every second.
Touch Sensitive shifted gear back into some funky beats just in time for sunset, with the most colourful bass (in sound and appearance), smashing out bangers like ‘Lay Down’ and the iconic ‘Pizza Guy’.
Ocean Alley were clearly a crowd favourite from the night, bringing a crowd to the ‘Jung’ stage to rival the headlining acts. Perhaps best described as psych reggae ballardiers, the group delivered a chilled out, relaxing set that sounded rich and precise. Meanwhile Luca Brasi were powering through some old school 90’s skate-punk for people who still wanted the night to be upbeat.
Back on the small ‘Mother’ stage, things were heating up with Moaning Lisa, Another highlight of Day 1. Trekking up from Canberra, the four piece brought the perfect marriage between 90’s loud/soft guitar dynamics and sweet harmonies to the stage. Achieving a perfect mix of old and new, do yourself a favour and check them out if you haven’t already.
Even after all these amazing acts, the festival showed no signs of slowing down as Jungle Giants got everyone dancing with their well polished indie rock, warming them up as the night ogt bitterly cold. Meanwhile Polaris were doing their best to put on the heaviest of shows, but were unfortunately met with endless technical difficulties with their set, eventually managing to push through a set with vocalist Jaimie Hails’ mic lost in the mix..
Day 1 Closed with an excellent set by Peking Duk on the main ‘Jung’ stage, packed full of tricks, pyrotechnics, and guest appearances from a huge range of guest singers, including Guy Sebastian to pump out the banger ‘Say My Name’ to the chants of thousands in the crowd. Meanwhile Hellions wanted to end on a heavier, hardcore note back the ‘Restless’ Stage, continuing on from what Polaris kick off moments ago.
Day 2 started off in a much-needed relaxing state, as people were still dusting off hangovers and buying new sunglasses. Diridi’s smooth folk was sofly radiating from the main stage, as did the Zen Playlist over at the disco tent, where many people were recovering in the sunny spots of Stuart Park.
Alex The Astronaut was keen to kick things up however, her cute and charming songs ‘about her feelings’ had a huge audience smiling widely, singing and clapping along. Meanwhile Jack River was keeping things on the chill sidehill, with a sonically rich, downtempo set of dreamy pop. Tucked away on the ‘Mother’ stage, Obscura Hail were keeping things quirky as the guitar based trio treated the crowd to boppy songs about the world ending and making deals with the devil.
D.D. Dumbo was sadly a no-show with little explanation, as Sarah Blasko suddenly appeared on stage in his place playing some pretty epic strutty stuff – a welcome surprise. Her performance was surprisingly funky and very intense performance-wise, Blasko herself seemingly in the throws of her own music.
Hockey Dad did what the do best, punching out some great slacker rock for a massive crowd keen to get behind the local legends. Cub Sport channeled some smooth soul, almost straight from the Weeknd himself, and floored everyone with a beautiful display.
Just when it seemed the festival couldn’t possibly get more diverse, Liars entered the ‘Restless’ stage, with frontman Angus Andrew wearing a wedding dress and leather jacket combo, and launching into some incredibly ominous, dark synth dance with ferocious stage energy. Easily one of the best acts of the event, but went underappreciated by a thin crowd. Those who were there looked incredibly fortunate to witness such a spectacle.
Well into the night and as the late night chills began to get to people, Scabz refused to let things cool down, and powered through a beer-laden force of punk that got everyone moving and laughing, as well as Insulting Mike Baird for his lock out laws.
Before anyone really knew it, we were up to the headliners already – Angus and Julia Stone delivered exactly what you’d expect from them by now, nothing new but great folk vibes nonetheless. Tropical Fuck Storm were providing a slightly more unique experience (even if one was to go by name alone) with a whirlwind of dissonant scattered rock and thick bass.
As the festival was drawing to an end for another year, you could tell that people were still pumped and itching to go out on a bang. All three stages had seemingly anticipated this – Alison Wonderland with the grimiest of grimy trap/hip hop sets, Pist Idiots with frenetic Pub-Punk, and the Legendary Gong-bred Tumbleweed proving their tenure with a rearing set of distilled, 90’s grunge. A truly fitting closer from a legendary local act for a legendary local festival.
This years Yours and Owls did everything to raise the bar from the previous years and keep pushing forward. It also proved that rock is well and truly alive and not going anywhere, with roughly 70 percent of the line up being some rock based act, all of them killing it. There was plenty of food and events and to keep everyone engaged when not revelling in the incredible lineup organised for them, as anyone who was near the food stalls at 4:20 will attest.
And aside from the crippling frostbite many would have experienced in the evenings, it’s likely everyone would do it all again in a heartbeat.