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Live Review: Rottofest 2015

25 September 2015 | 6:32 pm | Nicolette Ward

If you ever needed an excuse to get out of P-town and experience some Southbound electro-hip hop-pop moments without the masses and heatstroke, this was your chance.

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Rottnest Island, respectfully known as Wadjemup, certainly put on its sunny, laid-back charms for the one day Rottofest event. Now in its seventh year and getting a good reputation with sell-out crowds, the Rottofest mixes a feel-good vibe music line-up with comedy acts spread across four venues.

If you ever needed an excuse to get out of P-town and experience some Southbound electro-hip hop-pop moments without the masses and heatstroke, this was your chance. An outdoor music-only stage set up at the Rottnest Hotel proved to be too salubrious, with the youthful crowd staying put for the day, basking in some spring sunrays, and eventually getting rowdy for the evening's more dynamic acts.

Local indie/electronic producer Angus Dawson started things off ambiently at noon, matching the serene ocean views of Thomson Bay with his emotive song writing. Solo alt-folk singer/songwriter Jacob Diamond carried on with the contemplative vibe, with a voice capable of carrying the emotion. Three-piece Dianas featured the breathy vocals of Nathalie Pavlovic & Caitlin Moloney on guitars, with newcomer John Lekias giving some oomph on drums. Some nice reverb on guitars aided their hazy, dreamy sound and helped the young city suburbanites to forget about their next uni assignment deadline. 

Perth's Our Man in Berlin, although far from being the Germanic heavy techno gods that their name suggests, did a sterling job of melancholic dense guitars against a backdrop of rhythmic electronica, at times bringing to life the influence of Sigur Ros. Continuing the theme was Lilt, albeit with the fragile, enchanting vocals of Louise Penman giving some light 'n' shade to Matt McLean's quite eclectic and danceable synth arrangement. Detouring from their trip-hop sound, a big drum heartbeat featured on their track Take, overpowering Penman's subtle tones as the wind carried her sweet voice away. Some unexpected tribal rhythms were a good surprise, giving their sound a rich Dead Can Dance feel.

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Still, the punters were not swaying (despite my best efforts in sequined shorts), as they waited for the more obvious uptempo moments of jazz-hip-hopper emcee Coin Banks and his six piece band featuring trumpet, sax and trombone. With Joni Hogan (Joni In The Moon) guesting on backing vocals and playing the wild card far from her usual folk-tronica band, the line-up packed a punch as the crowd played along with Superman hands and sang along to better-known tracks Highs & Lows and Someone. Some funky keys and smiles all round took the jazz-hop sound (a genre that is apparently all the rage in the U.S. of A) to Motown heights, and the crowd was lovin' it, y'all. Up next, Sydney duo Ralph Dixon (beats) and Kai Tan (emcee) aka Jackie Onassis took it back to old school swagger with tracks Smoke Trails and Crystal Balling. Tan kept the delivery clear, strong and melodic, and the crowd swelled and responded enthusiastically. 

But that ain't nothing compared to the adulation and rapport that greeted festival veterans and electro-pop rockers Art vs Science. Thumping club beats with two keyboardists headbanging like rockers was all that was needed, and no one seemed to care that the lyrics of hits Parlez Vous Francais and Magic Fountain border on the bland and vacuous, the main point being that we could all sing along and join in the crazy mayhem that was acted out on stage.

Jim Finn did an admirable job switching from keys to some inspired rock guitar, and Dan Mac put in a sci-fi flourish or two of the keys, giving some relief to the incessant sameness of the beats. Ending the night was a two-hour set from local legend DJ and Monday Full Frequency (RTRfm) radio presenter, Micah. Sympathetic to the crowd's hip-hop and pop leanings, Micah's set was less breaks and more populist inspired, but his skills in reading the crowd shone through as the dancers started twerking as best as a white butt can do.