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Essential Festival @ Gaelic Theatre - 25/04/2008 | Articles | Polaroids Of Androids
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Polaroids Of Androids


Essential Festival @ Gaelic Theatre

Last year when we went to the Essential Festival it was a little underwhelming. In fact, the free Slate 'n coke that we were given at one stage from a promo girl that looked a little bit like a cheap hooker was the highlight of the day. And I don't really like bourbon. Or cheap hookers.

It's hard to put a finger on the reason for the high amount of suck-ness. The line-up wasn't shit. In fact any festival that has Shocking Pinks, Talons, Richard In Your Mind, Straight Arrows and Ratatat on the same bill should be enough for at least a triple orgasm (maybe a quadruple). And even though I haven't had the best experiences at the Gaelic Theatre in regards to the general sound it's hardly enough to spoil a day of well delivered live music.

Throughout the afternoon I 'hung out' (and also 'chilled') with a bunch of people who, like me, had received free tickets. I wouldn't have bought a ticket. Fifty dollars seems a bit rich for a bunch of local and TWO international acts (for the record New Zealand isn't really 'international'), especially considering I can see the three or four decent local acts on the same bill for $10 on a lucky night in the BIG city.

Side note: despite all reports that tickets sales hadn't got very well, they were still trying to sell them on the door for $55!

Anyways.. I got there at midday (when the doors opened) to catch thee beloved Talons do their thing.

The room was fucking packed. I couldn't move. It took me about 45 minutes to get a drink.


The band sounded (surprise surprise) fan-phucking-tastic. It's surely the biggest stage they have ever played on but they hardly seemed intimidated, rising to the occasion, turning their amps up to 14 and also finding time between ass-kicking renditions of all their classic hits to individually thank those who had set their alarms and got out of bed early on the public holiday to come and see them.

The Pip Branson Corporation took to the stage next and when they weren't making terrible jokes about how it was 'essential' that we enjoy their set (or something equally cringe-worthy) they were delivering fantastically interesting songs about Ikea. Yes, Ikea. The Swedish homemaker mega-chain. Whoa. It was like a bad joke without a punchline.

I left during The John Steel Singers to go and get a drink at a pub, fight some strangers over dubious 2-up decisions and thank some troops for defending my country against Nazis. I have seen Mr Steel 'n company before and remember them being a lot more entertaining as a live act. On this occasion - possibly partly due to the small crowd - they sounded a little flat. In fact, the size of the crowd seemed to be increasing by the exact same number of people as there was in the bands that played.

As displayed in this graph I created using sophisticated graphing technology...

time vs people = festival

When I returned after a train trip, a little nap and a couple of beers I was welcomed by the 'atmospheric' dancey-rock of Melbourne's Dardanelles. I was under the impression that, although it sounded electronic, their music was all organically grown and they were one of those clever bands that actually pulled this off. Correct me if I am wrong but I am sure they had a backing track hidden somewhere on the stage that powered about 90-95% of their performance. They also had all the traits of a new-school dance-rock nightmare - lead-singer jogging on the spot to communicate 'energy', very little connection with the audience etc etc.

Somewhat legendary Sydney group The Devoted Few took to the stage for the next allocated slot. Their re-interpreted version of Sleepless is still very much a fuck-worthy piece of music and, along with a few other entertaining moments, formed the backbone of what was a highly enjoyable 45 minute set.

The Paper Scissors highlighted straight from the outset exactly how far they have come in the past year or so, with the crowd, for the first time on the day, really getting into the music that was being presented to them.

We probably didn't need frontman Jai Pyne alluding us to the fact that they played at the same venue only a few weeks earlier to 'a much larger crowd'. I also probably didn't need to see the ridiculous fuckwits in front of me carrying on like We Don't Walk was the club anthem of oh eight. They were doing some sort of awkward, disco slam-dancing moves that not only caused an uncomfortable distraction to anyone within 4km of them but also became a permanent negative visual association for the great song that I don't think I am going to be able to shake for some time.

The Paper Scissors

The Paper Scissors

I only caught the first three or four songs of the Paper Scissors' set, before I bolted upstairs to see the Shocking Pinks, but it was all enjoyable stuff. A little bit less engaging than normal - due to the larger venue - but great little chunks of catchy, funky rock music nonetheless.

The Paper Scissors

Of all the acts performing at the festival Shocking Pinks was what got me there. I absolutely love the self-titled album of last year and was looking forward to Nick Harte and band translating the songs from bedroom self-reflective solo stuff into a full band presentation.

Shocking Pinks

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed by their set. The music was a lot more shoegazing melodies meets sloppy punk rock than I expected and I think some of the songs didn't move across to this sound particularly well. It was still, however, the clear highlight of the day, which doesn't say much for the other performances that I saw. Victims was especially a highlight, although it's semi-punk original sound does make it easily transportable into the chosen delivery style.


Shocking Pinks

I would have liked to hang around to see Ratatat and also The E.L.F's double set, but I had prior MY DISCO vs OHANA commitments.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly where this festival goes wrong. The complete lack of atmosphere that comes associated with the dark and often unwelcoming Gaelic Theatre is most probably a crucial factor. Also, the slightly half-assed crowd (I suspect a very large guestlist?) was more than likely another notable reason for the overall lackluster experience.

Sure, I never really got into the music being served up so I am probably just as much to blame for the lack of positive feeling on the day as everyone else, but I also never felt like there was any connection between the music and the people. Whoever was in charge of creating that link (bands, organisers etc) completely missed their mark and the result was a day that was pleasant but by no means fantastic or memorable.

Filed Under
Essential Festival
The Paper Scissors
Shocking Pinks
The Devoted Few
The John Steel Singers


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