Live Review: Harvest Rock Festival

21 November 2022 | 5:47 pm | Melissa Griffin

Despite the weather, the inaugural Harvest Rock Festival kicked off with a bang.

Barely a week after wild storms that left tens of thousands without power across South Australia, the forecast of lightning and heavy rain threatens to cancel weekend plans once again. Despite this, Secret Sound’s Harvest Rock opened its gates to raincoat-clad punters for its inaugural year in Adelaide’s East parklands.

Gumboots stomp through sodden grass that quickly turns to mud as the crowd trickles in for a weekend of massive national and exclusive international acts, including Courtney Barnett, Tones And I, Crowded House, The Avalanches, Sam Fender, plus exclusive sets from Kurt Vile & The Violators and Jack White.

Utilising Rymill & King Rodney Parks and access to a major road in Adelaide’s East End (thanks to the state government’s intervention), Secret Sounds have created a spacious celebration of food and live music in the heart of the Adelaide CBD.

Harvest Rock promotes a family-friendly event with its mini-festival Little Harvest, an area situated near the entrance equipped with a playground, arts and crafts tent, Hula Hoop workshops and wall painting with the artistic multi-disciplinary collective The Bait Fridge. As well as a curated food experience with food truck alleyways, champagne and Aperol bars and a booking-only restaurant experience with renowned chef and restauranteur Jake Kellie.

Day one kicks off with performances from Australian rock collective Electric Fields, Allen Stone, Marlon Williams, You Am I and Meg Mac early in the afternoon. A few sequined outfits peek through rain ponchos, but the sun brings no such hope as the evening's entertainment rolls through with legendary Geelong rock outfit Goanna performing their 80s hits such as Solid Rock in front of a powerful image of Uluru. Over on the site’s second stage, Tones And I directs the crowd in a chorus of Cloudy Day as the rain does nothing to dampen their spirits.

Stagehands work to mop up the rain in between sets, and Courtney Barnett thanks the audience for turning up despite the weather as she sips from her teacup. Barnett’s band currently consists of just three members, however, she still manages to command the stage with her long strides and familiar shredding. The audience is treated to a happy consequence of the line-up scheduling as Barnett invites a special friend on stage in the form of Kurt Vile. The duo perform their slacker rock anthem Over Everything, and Vile leaves the stage in typical casual fashion with a rock-on salute. Later, Vile returns to the stage with his Violators, showering the audience with constant, albeit modest, declarations of love in between songs. Face barely visible through a thick curtain of hair, Vile performs tracks from his newest album (watch my moves) as well as steadfast favourites such as Pretty Pimpin in his only Australian performance.

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Meanwhile, America’s folk-rock darlings, The Lumineers, lead a joyful crowd in a chorus of their biggest hits and a mini cover of The Rolling Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Celebrating 10 years since the release of their debut album this year, The Lumineers perform an energetic set with each of the six band members singing along to every song, like no time has passed. Against the perfect backdrop of towering trees, the folk-rock group still look right at home on a big festival stage.

Night one closes with a one-off performance from musical behemoth Jack White and UK electronic duo Groove Armada in their penultimate Australian appearance before they call it quits on their live shows for good.

Marking their 25th anniversary, Groove Armada take to the Adelaide stage one last time with a set that offers a refreshed version of their classics as released this year on their GA25 album. Complete with a mesmerising light show and familiar guest vocalists, the duo end this chapter of their careers on a high note. Elsewhere, Jack White takes to the stage in a flurry of energy – shocking blue hair visible even from the back of the large gathered crowd. The set list consisted of an array of songs from his many musical outlets spanning his lengthy career, including tracks from his critically acclaimed 2022 solo album Fear of the Dawn and the anthemic track of the infamous Detroit garage-punk duo The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army

Although the rain doesn’t let up, day two attracts an even bigger crowd with performances from Adelaide locals Slowmango and TOWNS, plus Ruby Fields, Alex Cameron, American singer-songwriter Cat Power, Holy Holy, burgeoning Hip Hop/Funk artist Genesis Owusu and iconic punk rockabilly group The Living End all setting the scene early on.

Guiding us into the evening’s entertainment, Australia’s most successful sibling duo, Angus & Julia Stone, return to the festival stage, proving that no matter their individual success, they can still come together as a reliable festival slot filler. Even though the crowd are especially thrilled to hear her brother’s Dope Lemon track Uptown Folks, Julia is all too happy to dance along with her tambourine – impressing everyone later on with her one-handed trumpet skills.

Grammy and ARIA-nominated blues rock outfit The Teskey Brothers similarly move the audience on a separate stage with their soulful singing and encompassing horn section. One punter is so entranced in their smooth sound, they hold up a half-eaten pumpkin in the air throughout the entire performance, clearly unbothered by the weight of it. One has to wonder what the discussion with bag-check security would’ve been like on the way in.

Turning up the party vibes, electronic music group The Avalanches and UK synthpop band Hot Chip take to separate stages to warm up the crowd before the closing sets. Although a staple at festivals around the world, The Avalanches take a while to get things going as the relentless rain seems to finally be tiring out some punters. Nevertheless, their energy on- stage proves to be infectious as the crowd eventually succumbs to the beat. Hot Chip certainly has no trouble getting the party started, even grabbing side-stage attention from fellow line-up artists Kurt Vile and eventually The Avalanches’ own Robbie Chater, as they take over the stage with juicy 80s-style synths and crunchy guitars.

The rain-drenched weekend closes with sets from Texas musical trio Khruangbin and Australian icons Crowded House, but it’s the performance from UK indie-rocker Sam Fender that leaves the crowd singing for an encore. The 28-year-old North Shields singer and his band look visibly tired as they near the end of 12 months on the road promoting their 2021 UK number-one album Seventeen Going Under. Fender calls on the audience to help them as they settle in on stage, “We’re all ill as fuck up here, so we need you to lend us your voices.” Despite this, however, the six close friends manage to rip through the hits, including Get You Down and The Borders, even encouraging a muddy mosh-pit with punk-leaning B-side Howdon Aldi Death Queue. Closing out the night on their latest album’s title track, Fender and friends leave the stage to a chorus of singing, the audience desperate for an encore that never comes as they sink further into the mud. Both Fender’s and Harvest Rock’s first Adelaide appearance was a triumph according to the rain-soaked crowd left singing for more.