Mar 12, 2007

Playground Weekender Festival

The very first Playground Weekender Festival was held over the weekend. I couldn't attend on Saturday, although you can read an excellent review here, but I made my way up there on Sunday and it was well worth it, as I had a great time. The festival was held at Del Rio Resort on the banks of the beautiful Hawkesbury River at Wiseman's Ferry, about an hour from downtown Sydney. It is truly a perfect setting for a music festival. Surrounded by water and mountain ridges you can just soak up the scenery if you tire of the music. There seemed to be only a small crowd in attendance, I'm not too sure how many tickets were sold for the event. I had a few theories for this, first time is always hard to pull a big crowd. Also there are so many festivals going at the moment, perhaps people are choosing where to spend their money. Also despite a very good lineup there was no sure fire ticket selling headliner, plus although the location is beautiful, its a little out of the way. Having said all that I had a great time, the music was great, the vibe relaxed and everyone seemed to having a great time. I spent most of my day traversing between the main Playground Stage and the small and friendly Uncharted Shack (mainly young Sydney bands playing half hour sets, a great idea). I steered clear of the Big Top Tent (repetitive techno and hackneyed rap isn't my thing). Here is my report of the day-

Richard In Your Mind were first up for me. This four piece made quite an impression. They had a sound that echoed Neutral Milk Hotel and Pink Floyd. Not saying their in that league, but they show extreme promise. The singer's voice is a little whiny and lacks real force, but the band created a unique sound that sometimes verged on psychedelica. Will check them out again for sure.

I have heard a lot of good things about Sparkadia so I was keen to see them. They didn't disappoint. Their music is summery and optimistic. Joyful melodies and rhythmic guitar created a really good vibe. Whilst not totally original in sound, they are very tight and accomplished and as they played on, their sound expanded and they elongated their songs to give them greater depth and force. Again this is another band I would be happy to see again.

Wandering over to the main stage I found things were a little behind schedule. So English acid-jazz combo "Incognito" were playing. And they kept playing, I thought they played the one song for half an hour. The crowd seemed to lap them up but they seemed repetitive to me. Finally Operator Please came on. I don't know how young they are, they all look about 15, but they belted out their set with great gusto. These kids can really play and whilst they didn't have any stand out songs, I think they have potential to become very good as their musical minds mature. They sounded like a cross between Bloc Party and The Gossip, although the violin added that extra touch. It will interesting to watch their musical journey.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Mess Hall bring it. I have seen them twice before and they are always ferocious live. Cec Condon attacks the drums like there is no tomorrow, whilst Jed Kurzel wields a mean axe and has a powerful, soulful voice. Although in their slightly narrow genre there is a tendency for each song to have a familiar sound, I found myself entranced by their power and sheer energy. A band that always delivers live.

The Paper Scissors impressed the hell out of me. Their sound sits somewhere between garage rock and soulful funk. Their music is totally infectious, so much so that by the last song "We Don't Walk", the singer had invited all the audience onto the stage. Its always great to see a band not afraid to interact with the audience, I think it always that extra special touch to the show. By the way, the singer's voice was special too. This band is going places.

Now to the highlight of the day, or any day for that matter. The Dears. They were due to come on at 8.30, but because of a few technical problems and things running a little late, they didn't hit the stage until 9.15. They seemed to have sound issues and I thought during the set that Murray's vocals were a little buried in the mix. But I digress, because it didn't matter a jot. This band is a force of nature. Their epic songs of love, loss and regret are enough to fill anyone's heart who has the pleasure of seeing them live. They were definitely on a mission, barely talking and playing for an hour, they tore into their songs with their trademark passion. When they burst into "Ticket to Immortality" I totally lost it (a regular occurrence through the show). They preceded to play mainly from "Gang of Losers" (I have an addiction to that record), although they played 3 songs from "No Cities Left" halfway through. The band is really a machine now, the guitars are stunning, George Donoso's drumming is frenetic and Valerie Jodoin-Keaton (sigh) and Natalia Yanchak bookend the band with lovely harmonies and keyboards. But the centrepiece is Murray Lightburn. Such passion, such devotion to his music. When he sings "I hang out with all the Pariahs" you are there with him. When Murray declares and spits out "I Swear to You", you scream with him. I could gush about this band forever. Just beautiful, passionate music. It was a pity the crowd was quite small by then, those who had left don't know what they missed out on. A perfect end to a great day. I will come again next year.

Set List
Ticket to Immortality
Whites Only Party
Death or Life We Want You
We Can Have It
Lost In The Plot
22: The Death Of All The Romance
Fear Made the World Go Round
You and I Are a Gang of Losers
There Goes My Outfit
Hate Then Love

I have more photos of the day at Flickr.


  • At March 13, 2007 , Blogger Jessie said...

    It sounds great. I really loved 'No Cities Left' but 'Gang of Losers' hasn't yet clicked for me. Perhaps I should give it another try. Wish the Dears would come over this way..

  • At March 13, 2007 , Anonymous anne said...

    listening to Operator Please right now. Wow, I'm impressed by what I'm hearing seeing how young they look. they're something like pretty girls make graves.


  • At March 13, 2007 , Anonymous Ro said...

    that was exactly my first impression of operator please, without the gossip and bloc party references. i was astonished at how young they are when i asked them and how mature their sound is.

    feeling like crap for not taking the free tickets to the festival now. argh.

  • At March 14, 2007 , Blogger Pix said...

    i too went to playgrounder and had a fuckin amazing time!

    didnt stay for all of sunday so u filled in the bits i missed but lets just say my friday saturday were friken brilliant!!!

  • At March 14, 2007 , Anonymous Angus said...

    Loved reading your Sunday review - mainly because I had to bail by the time the fun began haha.

    Now I can look good infront of people when I can namedrop of Sunday's highlights. Thanks!

    Glad you had a good time. Let's hope us bloggers start getting some more tickets!

  • At March 28, 2007 , Anonymous JBSkunk said...

    Hello! I was there, all the way from England! Great atmosphere and fun festival. Didn't know any bands, but the highlight for me was the Presets. Amazing. I will be out to get their album tomorrow now i'm back home in Dorset! You can now say that Playground Weekender was an international festival! I will recommend it to any friends who may be there for next years (if it happens?!).

  • At March 28, 2007 , Anonymous JBSkunk said...

    Oh yes! Another thing! In Europe, when we go into the main arena at a festival, all drinks are confiscated, meaning you have to pay a small fortune for some crappy beer you wouldn't normally drink. At the playgrounder weekender, the rules (according to the great chilled out security dudes) were that you weren't allowed to take alcohol OUT of the main arena!!! This is the way it should be!! Also credit to the fantastic 50 cents return for all cans returned to the bars. Saves on cut feet for those bare foot dancers among us, and the usually major clean up operation afterwards! Only problem was unclear instructions about accomodation on the website. Seems we were one party of many with the same problems, so hopefully lesson learned for next year!


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