Live Review: Festival Of The Sun

16 December 2019 | 1:26 pm | Alasdair Belling

"[A] real ray of sunshine in the festival calendar."

The state might have been burning and the air quality hazardous, but nothing was going to stop several thousand punters descending upon the shores of Port Macquarie for the annual boogie fest that is Festival Of The Sun.

A decidedly more chilled festival than some of the bigger showpiece events of the national calendar, it was the simplicity that gave FOTSUN its extra charm. With BYO alcohol, punters riding bikes and plenty of areas to lie under makeshift tarps, as well as just two stages fairly close to each other so as to eliminate large groups of people moving around the site, it was clear upon arrival that pacing oneself over two nights was going to be a lot easier than usual.

Still, despite the relaxed memo, there was quite the party for openers Scuffs, whose down to earth surf-rock got the early arrivals dancing around on the sand and loosening up for the acts that were to come. 

Bakers Eddy were the first real standout of Friday, drawing a sizeable throng and owning their billing on the main stage. Pumping out their simple but catchy brand of uptempo punk anthems, tracks Leave It To Me and Good Decisions got some early singalongs going. Being on early is never easy at a festival, especially a smaller one like this, but the boys nailed it.

After another rousing set by Surf Trash, which was fun but saw more people go for a restock of their drinks, Amyl & The Sniffers dropped the first set that strayed from looser surfy punk. The band convulsed around the stage, tearing through tracks from their self-titled release. The band were tight as hell and things definitely felt like they moved up a notch with their set.

Trophy Eyes seemed like a risky billing for the festival but there could be no denying their appeal given the sizeable crowd that crammed into the main stage for their anthemic set. Friday Forever and Heaven Sent were massive numbers, but still nothing came close to topping Chlorine. The perfectly written emo festival banger roused even the hardest of lads into a good old emotional singalong.

After a quick dinner break, we returned to watch Lime Cordiale’s set, but there were so many people on shoulders it made it impossible to really see what was happening on stage. Despite this, it was clear that the band were favourites of the festival, with the crowd hanging off every word, dancing to every groove and swinging into full party mode as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Lime Cordiale might have drawn the crowd of the day, but nothing could prepare those in attendance for the sheer joy and power that was delivered by Baker Boy. The rapper has always had a strong reputation for his live show, but, backed by his band, things went to another level here. He grabbed the crowd and didn’t let them go, closing Friday night with a rush of adrenaline and euphoria.

With a 10pm bedtime the night before, there was no real sense of a dusty start to day two and most people happily floated in from the beach, sipping on fruit juice and coffee. 

UK native Nathan Ball had a relaxed but engaged audience for his Saturday morning billing, with his atmospheric singer-songwriter material the perfect warm-up for day two. He may have been on a tad early given how far he had travelled, but the pacing was a welcome change to the slab of surf-rock laid down the day before.

Sydney's I Know Leopard have been on the live circuit for quite some time now and their experience showed through the glittery set. The band, who have been a little hit and miss live in the past, executed a balanced and well-structured show with hit single Landmine off their debut LP Love Is A Landmine getting punters up and dancing.

Tired Lion took that bopping energy and turned it up to 100 for their blistering 3pm set. Drawing in the biggest crowd of the arvo, hits Fresh and Dumb Days slotted in beautifully alongside newer cut With Or Without. There’s still a real appetite for Tired Lion in Australia, so here’s hoping they gift us with some new music soon.

Julia Jacklin has had one hell of a year off the back of her second album Crushing, and the effect of those devastating yet uplifting songs was seen in the eagerness of the arvo crowd to sway along to cuts Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You and Pressure To Party. Early hit Pool Party also got a look in, to the joy of those gathered, and there was no sense of her softer, sadder tunes bringing the vibe down. A brilliant set from a brilliant artist.

Boo Seeka brought a strong twilight vibe to kick off the evening session, with their collection of new singles Rush, Ruler and Millennium Drive all getting the punters moving after the dinner lull. The duo brought a strong vibe and stellar production, making them festival must-haves. 

Methyl Ethel were similarly polished, using their slot as the headline rock act to pull out all the stops during a jam-packed set of dark and wonderful psychedelic pop. From old favourites Ubu and Twilight Driving to the newer, bolder cuts like Scream Whole and highlight Trip The Mains, we reckon hundreds of punters caught themselves whistling a hook from the band while driving home on Sunday.

Then it was time for hip hop to take centre stage - a task that was well and truly fulfilled by Canberra breakout Genesis Owusu. Owusu tore Port Macquarie apart with his highly choreographed set, taking a leaf out of Baker Boy’s book from the night before and not letting the crowd rest for a second. With a team of dancers alongside him, Owusu brought a full-blown rap/pop stadium show to Port Macquarie and left everyone well and truly jazzed. Had he been on earlier, who knows how the energy would have carried through the rest of the festival.

Briggs has been one of the most important artists of the century for Australia, and it was fitting that he should be the one to close out FOTSUN 2019. Despite his last solo LP Sheplife dropping back in 2014, he’s still well and truly festival headline material, busting out cuts Life Is Incredible and Front Row Hustle alongside a decade’s worth of older favourites.

As the sun set on FOTSUN 2019 it was clear that the festival has found a way to define itself in an increasingly cluttered festival calendar. Keeping things smaller and simpler created a totally relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the acts, with no waiting time between sets, due to the stages set next to each other. The weather might not have fitted the brief, but FOTSUN was still a real ray of sunshine in the festival calendar for those who made the drive.