Live Review: Luliepalooza 2023

12 November 2023 | 2:00 pm | Noah Redfern

Aussie pub rock, cowboys and more are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Melbourne’s favourite mini-festival.

The Murlocs, Heavy Amber, Full Flower Moon Band, C.O.F.F.I.N.

The Murlocs, Heavy Amber, Full Flower Moon Band, C.O.F.F.I.N. (Source: Supplied)

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This past weekend, Abbotsford saw the return of Lulie Tavern’s annual rock and roll festival, Luliepalooza. Featuring The Murlocs, C.O.F.F.I.N., Full Flower Moon Band, Enola, Split System and more, the lineup was stacked with local and national alternative acts across the sonic spectrum. But, as I’d been promised, Luliepalooza was full of surprises to boot.

Lulie Street was closed to the public for the day between the train station and Victoria Park. Home instead to the return of old-time rock n’ roll, there was a main stage on the titular street and a secondary stage under the stands of the football field, so not a single clash took place in the set times.

It was a bit windier than expected when I arrived, and the punters weren’t quite feeling it yet. That all changed with the fantastic performance from Ruby & Loretta. Individual acts Loretta Miller and Ruby Jones came together earlier this year to release their first single as a duo in Eighteen. Embracing Dolly Parton with the harmony of Rumours era Fleetwood Mac, the set consisted of entirely unreleased music outside the sole single as the closer.

Telling us this set was a bit of an experiment; they blessed us with a fantastic introduction to the cowboy rock and roll mood that the day would follow. Highlights from the honky tonk duo included Fool For Love, Eighteen and rocker Falling Apart.

After some lunch, the sun came out. With it, a yellow Ute suddenly appeared on Lulie Street between the two stages: the special “Surprise Stage”. The Riff Raff, covering the hits of AC/DC, then proceeded to tear it up from the back of the truck. A killer Bon Scott impression and a crowd practically on fire made it feel like I was in the music video for It’s A Long Way To The Top back in ’75. My favourite was the rip-roaring rendition of the gem Let There Be Rock and the finale of T.N.T. as the Ute drove off to the tune of “Oi, Oi, Oi” from the pumped-up punters.

At the Victoria Park stage, crowds packed in to catch local Naarm rockers Split System rip through a superspeed set of hardcore punk. From chuggers like End Of The Night to indie adjacent Demolition to noisy Bullet, the set was a whirlwind from the centre of the pit all the way to the back. Make sure to check these guys out next time they’re in your area, they won’t be playing small stages for long.

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Sticking around the smaller stage, I caught Enola next. Shouted vocals, pronounced basslines, shoegaze riffs and heavy choruses made for a determined and original sound to weave tales over. Strange Comfort, Father and the top track, Looking Back, were all amazing to see live.

The highlight of the day was, without a doubt, the next set by Full Flower Moon Band. “Don’t wanna hurt nobody, just wanna have some fun”, says frontwoman Babyshakes Dillon. FFMB perfectly blend octave pedal guitar riffs, Brian Jonestown Massacre-esq swagger and catchy vocal melodies to create a definitive tone and flavour that couldn’t be anything but themselves.

Dillon is magnetic to watch, controlling the whole crowd in a delicate sway between love and violence. NY-LA, Hurt Nobody, Trainspotting and Power all have stuck in my mind for good since seeing them live. Listen to their debut album, Diesel Forever, for more Full Flower Moon Band brilliance.

Closing out the night was harmonica-led garage rockers, The Murlocs, who sent the night out on a high. Frontman Ambrose Kenny Smith of King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard fame danced, twirled, and soared over Luliepalooza. Charisma oozes from the man. The set focused mainly on the fantastic new album, Calm Ya Farm, released earlier this year, but also played all the fan favourites made for smiles all around. I was lucky to hear my favourites off the new album, including Russian Roulette and Initiative, along with Space Cadet from the 2014 classic Loopholes.

If you weren’t lucky enough to come to Luliepalooza this year, join the celebrations next time, as there is sure to be just as diverse and fun a lineup in the next iteration. Aussie pub rock, cowboys and more are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Melbourne’s favourite mini-festival.