Live Review: Grapevine Gathering @ Rochford Wines

9 October 2023 | 3:24 pm | Michael Prebeg

The perfect day for all the pinot pals and grigio girls to enjoy some great live music amongst a picturesque backdrop of luscious vines and green hills

Grapevine Gathering 2023

Grapevine Gathering 2023 (Credit: Ian Laidlaw)

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Australia’s favourite wine and music pairing festival returns to the Yarra Valley, and it’s the perfect day for all the pinot pals and grigio girls to enjoy some great live music amongst a picturesque backdrop of luscious vines and green hills. There’s something to please everyone’s music and culinary tastebuds to sip, soak up the sun, and indulge with a picnic of tasty gourmet food out on the lawn. 

Getting into the festival is smooth and stress-free, and we grab a glass of our favourite wine as Adelaide garage punk-pop duo Teenage Joans bring their loud sound to the stage with raw, angsty energy in the early afternoon. They fire up the crowd with a few brand-new tracks from their forthcoming debut album coming out this week, including the lead single called Superglue. “Is anyone drinking wine yet? Or is it too early? We actually wrote this song years ago just for this festival,” the lead vocalist/guitarist Cahli Blakers jokes, before playing a song fittingly called Wine.

With one stage and relatively quick changeovers, it makes it easy to get a quick top-up without missing a moment of the action. The crowd draws closer as four-piece indie-rock band The Rions as they share tracks from their recently released EP, including Take What You Want – a song they’ve been saving to play live for a good festival like today. We quickly learn the chorus to sing along in unison. 

“You have no idea how close we were to not making it today. We went about two hours in the wrong direction and then got bogged in the mud and almost didn’t make it,” lead singer Noah Blockley reveals. But now that they’re here, they breathe a sigh of relief and ask us to dance and have a good time. “Who likes Star Wars?” he asks before sharing a song called Anakie. They’ve been touring around for a while, and the title song from their EP is inspired by their travels in their minivan.

It’s the first time Los Angeles trio Cannons are performing in Australia, and they’ve got a bunch of new songs to share with us, including one called Desire. Lead vocalist Michelle Joy wears a fiery red tasselled outfit and shimmies around the stage with an electric energy. Their blissed-out dream pop has a delectable ‘80s disco vibe packed with synthwave and funky beats to get us dancing. The crowd goes wild for their biggest songs, Hurricane and Fire For You.

Hosts Lucy and Nikki keep things fun and lively between set changeovers and choose some keen audience members to get up on stage for some speed dating. After a few awkward questions and a pash, they teach us a quick dance to Absolutely Everybody to welcome the one and only Vanessa Amorosi to the stage. 

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Starting off with This Is Who I Am, Amorosi unleashes her huge powerhouse vocals as she commands the stage and draws the audience in to fill the mosh pit. She belts out hit after hit with nostalgic tracks from her back catalogue, including Have A Look, Mr Mysterious and the heartfelt Perfect. “I love coming home to this!” she exclaims, looking out across the huge crowd in front of her. 

Amorosi shares some of her new music that’s got a soul-gospel influence, including a song called Wolf, which gives us a taste of her new direction. Before rounding out her set with Shine (mixed in with a verse of TLC’s Waterfalls), she unleashes the anthem we’ve all been waiting for (Absolutely Everybody), and we lose ourselves to the iconic ‘90s pop hit.

King Stingray have a joyful celebration on stage that gets the crowd grooving along to their diverse sound of funky bass runs with soulful surf-rock combined with tribal vocals. Their infectious enthusiasm and positive energy spread far and wide as they share their heartfelt ode to the Country where most of the band was born and raised and the spiritual connection they share with its land. With traditional First Nations dance styles and instruments, they create a truly unique experience.

The Wombats are an exclusive on this lineup and get started a bit late but quickly make up for it by launching right into their biggest up-tempo hits, Moving to New York and Techno Fan - a song about going on a massive bender in west London. “Are you ready for some vitamin C?” asks lead singer Matthew Murphy. They hit us with Lemon To A Knife Fight and Pink Lemonade in the golden hour.

They take us back to 2006 with Tales Of Girls, Boys and Marsupials leading straight into Kill The Director, and everyone jumps around to the “Bridget Jones” call and response breakdown. Moving on to a song from the fifth album released last year, Ready For The High gets us pumped up, and special guests dressed in furry wombat costumes dance around the stage, with one even playing the trumpet.

“It’s getting cold, so let’s all go to hell for the next few songs,” suggests Murphy, heating us up with Vampires & Wolves and If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You. Their set is cut a bit shorter than expected after starting a bit later, so they quickly fit in hits Greek Tragedy, Let’s Dance To Joy Division and Turn to finish whilst the crowd works up a sweat in the mosh pit as they let loose and get rowdy.

As the night falls and the air turns cold, indie rock Fremantle indie rock foursome Spacey Jane keep us warm with their feel-good anthems and a vibrant stage presence. Their atmospheric sound calms the audience with their catchy tunes for everyone to sing along at the top of their voices whilst swaying along in harmony. Lead singer/guitarist admits it’s his first show wearing contact lenses, but one fell out, so he makes do with only seeing clearly through one eye. They end with their biggest hot Booster Seat, which made it all the way to number 2 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2020 and is still going strong. 

Hayden James makes his return to the Australian festival scene with this exclusive performance and takes centre stage atop a huge podium with an impressive lighting projection display. He launches with his latest release, We Could Be Love and as the heavy bass drops, flames and smoke cannons set off. Despite the speaker sound being a bit choppy, James delivers a massive set loaded with exciting drops and mixes of some of his biggest hits, including Just A Lover, On Your Own and Foolproof. 

James builds the momentum perfectly, and he brings us all together as we lose ourselves in his set of uplifting deep house tracks that give us a shot of electric energy we need to power through until the end. We get our phone torches out with the last of our remaining battery to light up the vineyard with him as he brings the festival to a close, leaving us on a euphoric high.