Increasingly, city festivals are focusing on their arts programs and it's a development that just makes good experiences even better (and finally shows that we in the big smoke are catching up with the innovative regionals). This year's Harvest, held in the beautiful Parramatta Park, was made not only by the great tunes (and indeed, there were great tunes), but by the artsy fartsy attention to detail. Not long after getting in the main gates, a Hollywood Hills-style big-lettered message hits, “I Really Need You Tonight”. Walking around throughout the day were roving, real-life installations, including trees on stilts and a robot with some mad scientists who conga-lined their way around (the latter even caught the attention of main music stager Beck, who dedicated part of his set to the space-aged troupe). The arts stages were split up and varied in their approach, with Le Boudoir done up as an old-school circus tent, complete with hearts hung from the ceiling. It was a main attraction in the region of the festival called Bootleg Alley, again marked by Hollywood-type signs and the best place on the day to get coffee. During the day it featured more old-school cabaret, vaudeville-type things, with the Vaudevillage working as a great 'walk in, walk out' piece. The threat of a pie in the face got this reviewer in – and also out again – but later the incredible UK imports Bourgeois & Maurice kept all in the palm of their hands. The apparent brother-and-sister show were self-confessed “cabaret – whatever the fuck that is'' and their ode to the end of the EU was particularly hilarious. Kudos to all there for their staging, while still, effectively, in a park. How Bourgeois & Maurice got that much makeup, sequins and fake lashes on and minimised the dust and grass application is beyond me.
Down the hill was the Secret Garden where the Garden and Campfire Stages also featured arty things – the Garden giving some unusual tunes (I heard Paul Simon for no good reason, at one point), while just away from the main music stage the Campfire was open and surrounded by outdoor rocking chairs, wood stumps and birds-nests for key vantage points. Although a bit of sound bleed got in the way of each (and some tech issues stopped some of the best bits of Jay Katz's Rediscovered And Found Footage) for those into a little Mu Meson, the Campfire was carefully and cheerfully kept burning by MC Dave Callan. Highlights included a completely unnecessary rendition of Psy's Gangnam Style by the host, as well as the awesome filth that is the Erotic Fan Fiction readings. With four readings for a variety of very, very wrong fan fiction pieces (Blinky Bill, Oprah Winfrey and Silvio Berlusconi, all appropriately wrong), the prize for the most committed – and demented – had to go to Erotic Fan Fiction leader Eddie Sharp. His piece, simply called Margaret And David At The Movies, was something of a classic for fan fiction aficionados and worth the entry ticket alone.
Saturday 17 November, Parramatta Park