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Live Review: Scene And Heard

6 November 2018 | 9:43 am | Hannah Story

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More The Living End More The Living End

The first ever Scene And Heard Festival was dedicated to the the most beloved late ‘90s and early ‘00s Australian rock’n’roll. The line-up, while varied in terms of sound, attracted an audience of local punters given the chance to indulge their younger selves; to fully inhabit a sense of nostalgia. That’s the reason why no matter who took to the stage the highlights - the big crowd singalong moments - were always revered singles, each act’s big hit. When the crowd really got into it the scene was joyous, sparkling, unashamedly, even proudly daggy, though the turnout was probably less than a promoter would hope. Still, that made the entire experience significantly more pleasant as a punter - short queues for booze and food, basically no queue for the loos. Plus the acts, ever appreciative of their long-time fan bases, took it in turns to sign merch and pose for photographs, which was a welcome touch. The Don’t Come Monday dance stage was underappreciated - you’d have to have no interest in the main stage band to give an act like Killing Heidi a miss in favour of a boogie sesh in the back corner, but some did. It was interesting to overhear pub chatter on the way in - just how distinct this lot of people is to the young turnout for Saturday’s This That. That festival and the huge crowd is probably largely responsible for the state of the green, a dust bowl from the first minute, Sunday’s crowd leaving eight hours later covered in a fine film of dirt. 

The day kicked off with Front End Loader to a small but growing crowd, mostly made up of people in the same age group as all the acts. Front End Loader’s set understandably - and much to the crowd’s pleasure - leaned on songs from their ‘90s heyday. 

They’re followed up by Dallas Crane, whose 2004 single Dirty Hearts proved an easy, charming set highlight. Dave Larkin’s still got the scratchy pipes that define their classic rock sound, but it’s the jerky, skittish dance moves of lead guitarist Pete Satchell that we couldn’t help but pay attention to. Punters continued to dribble into the venue, peering up at whoever’s on stage before trying to to suss out the beer line. We think we spotted bassist Chris Brodie popping a pearl snap in his enthusiasm during the set, pouting all the while. 

It’s really cool to see the way all the bands shout out to one another, peers then and friends now, excited to see each other play what often felt like comeback sets. Skunkhour were a crowdpleaser and the sheer amount of people coordinated on stage seemed like a feat in itself. Their genre mash-up - a combo of ska, rap and indie-rock - was held together by the unbridled excitement of lead singer Aya Larkin, who kept energy levels up and helped grow the crowd gathered front of stage. 

Killing Heidi, were a definite festival highlight, with their incomparable leader Ella Hooper dressed in a bangin’ purple leopard print jumpsuit. While she’s now in her 30s she’s got the energy of her teenage self, hurling herself around the stage, shaking her hips, moshing like it’s Homebake ‘98. The difference? Now her banter is effectively, “Rock’n’roll! Keep your fluids up!” The rest of Killing Heidi blended into the background to let Hooper shine, soaking up the spotlight. It’s her vocals of course that carry and define their music, and she only ramps up her energy as the set continues, closing on an adoring crowd singalong for Weir.

Sneaky Sound System had the most fun of everyone, with vocalist Connie Mitchell emerging dressed in a mesmerising multi-coloured outfit. They kicked off with I Love It before going through all their big hits from Pictures to set closer UFO. They brought some much needed musical diversity to the line-up, breaking up the rock music with a set tailor-made for dancing. 

Only Something for Kate and headliners The Living End had their logos lit up across the back of stage - the rest plagued by a weird ever-moving homage to ‘90s Windows screensavers or the Windows Media Player’s visualiser. Paul Dempsey, the quintessential voice of ‘90s Australian alt-rock, approached their afternoon set as a consummate professional, every song tight but given room to sprawl out, with Dempsey himself given space to careen around the stage, clutching his guitar tightly through quelling solos. They opened the set with Pinstripe before weaving together tracks spanning their entire discography, from Captain (Million Miles An Hour) to Hallways to Monsters to Déjà Vu, and then to their more recent singles like Survival Expert and Eureka. The fawning audience knew all the words to every song, even to their cover of Calvin Harris and Florence Welch’s Sweet Nothing. They’re a band who’ve always been able to pull off a ripper cover. While Dempsey kept the crowd in thrall, Stephanie Ashworth was collected, smooth, leaning back with her bass in her assured grip, as drummer Clint Hyndman gritted his teeth, sometimes seeming to want to cry out in his fervour. Something For Kate closed their set with Electricity, inviting on stage guest guitarist Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall, who contributed the rippling lead guitar line, leaping into the air as the verse kicked in. It’s an opportunity for one last shred from Dempsey, a last stumble about stage wielding his guitar like a weapon. 

Spiderbait arrived just in time, Mark ‘Kram’ Maher trying to get the crowd as psyched up as possible. The man demanded audience participation, often stepping out from behind his drums to cajole the crowd who were jumping in time with Spiderbait’s music from the very start. Maher’s drumming at every turn was frenzied and impressive, spare sticks flying through the air. Meanwhile Janet English and Damian ‘Whittt’ Whitty kept things on track, English taking the reins for songs like Fucken Awesome, Outta My Head and Calypso. Kram made a point of mentioning that Buy Me A Pony was the first Aussie single to top the Hottest 100, and the entire crowd appreciated the reminder, singing and dancing their hearts out after first grooving to Straight Through The Sun and Ol’ Man Sam. They closed out a manic set with an extended Black Betty, the whole park gazing up at some of Australia’s most fun alt-rockers seeming to enjoy themselves just as much as they did at their mid-‘00s peak, and definitely making the most of the loose festival setting, as distinct from their headline live shows. 

The festival was starting to thin out - punters were tired, probably suffering from mild heat exhaustion - when punk rockabilly headliner The Living End took to the stage just as the sky darkened. They were the most torn between wanting to play new songs from this year’s Wunderbar, and the way the crowd excitedly responded to even the hint of their early work, with punters totally getting into Roll On, Second Solution, All Torn Down and even White Noise. Really the difference between old and new work wasn’t particularly noticeable sonically - what was noticeable was the way the audience reacted, becoming almost deferential for new songs even as vocalist/guitarist Chris Cheney tried to impress with his showmanship. There did seem to be a bit more polish to Cheney’s vocals - is it the musical theatre influence - but he maintained his ‘90s aesthetic, down to the hair, although Sunday he wore the white slacks of a man who had not spent the whole day down in the dirt with the rest of us. Cheney, bubbling with boisterous masculine banter, joked that the next song had been haunting the band for 20 years, and with good reason: it’s easily their best and biggest hit, thumbing its nose at authority like a precocious teenager. Definitely a festival highlight to have an entire crowd shouting “I’m a brat, and I know everything!” at the top of their lungs for Prisoner Of Society, double bassist Scott Owen mounting his instrument. As throngs of people headed home, Cheney tossed his guitar up in the air and caught it during festival closer Uncle Harry before striding off stage like nothing happened.