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Live Review: State Of The Art Festival

5 June 2019 | 3:29 pm | Mark Beresford

"They may not have had a set bursting with fresh tracks, but honestly, nobody cared."

Having already secured its place as a much-anticipated celebration of WA music, State Of The Art's shift from Elizabeth Quay to Burswood Park seemed to be a popular choice, the day's line-up condensed down from the sprawling mini tents to alternating main stages while the facilities appeared to be more than enough for a capacity crowd. There’s also the securing of the large all ages area in front of the stage which made sure that everybody could get their place near the bands, though admittedly this was a significant handicap for the opening acts as most punters end up in the more shaded licensed area further back.

In fact, it took until Perth hip hop artist and well kept secret T$oko blitzed the speakers with 4th Quarter before the crowd could be seen making their way over to get a closer look. It’s not all too surprising that Tinashe Soko was the one to break the ice. His menacing flow and sparkling energy swagger during a set that sampled everything from LA club to salsa marked him as a strong standout for the day.

T$oko. Photo by Dana Weeks.

A wave of distortion kicked in soon after as FLOSSY dove in with Holiday. Their driving '90s guitar riffs were given an unexpected drum punch in their performance, which kicked Burden To My Lover up a notch, before the band treated us all to some studio-fresh sounds.

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Flossy. Photo by Dana Weeks.

The smooth, confident vocals of Hyclass proved to be a hit for many and it’s hard for anyone to ignore her razor-sharp empowerment anthem, Queen. Family Shoveller Band were more than happy to continue that vibe, rolling into the afternoon as impressive funk licks from frontman Billy-Jo Shoveller filled out the band's outback party style.

Hyclass. Photo by Dana Weeks.

Your Girl Pho launches the festival into a larger musical landscape. Phoebe Gunson makes the stage her own personal domain, her lush vocals and distinctive attitude punctuating the warm neo-soul of Feelen in a way that grabs the attention of all.

Your Girl Pho. Photo by Dana Weeks.

Great Gable, meanwhile, had lost none of their ability to build energy and tension throughout their set, especially with their early tracks, but it’s their serving up of some dreamy indie in Cool Mind Blue that struck a chord. 

Great Gable. Photo by Dana Weeks.

After a day of smooth production, someone was inevitably going to be the first to get hit with technical issues, and it’s unfortunate that it seemed to be all saved up for Reija Lee. She started her set with a mix that refused to settle in, which seemed apparent to the performers also, but when the issues finally eased back we’re treated to Lee at her strongest. Backed by a full stage band, her energetic presence was an ode to '80s pop in the best way. Basking in retro synths and tapping into her EDM roots to add a fresh and unique blend of melodies, Reija not only stepped past any sound issues but made her set stand out. 

Reija Lee. Photo by Dana Weeks.

It’s always a treat having Katy Steele on a festival bill such as this, and generally one that would have a surprise or two in store. Steele was flawless, utilising an open catalogue setlist rich with Little Birdy favourites. The WAAPA Gospel Choir helped bring Hairdo to all new heights – a moment nobody will be forgetting anytime soon.

Katy Steele. Photo by Dana Weeks.

It seemed fitting for John Butler, sitting alone in an orange glow, to take the festival into the evening and lift the tempo once again. His solo acoustic performance easily captured the crowd. Be it the stepped-up pace of Used To Get High For A Living or the plucky banjo delivery in Better Than, each track got a fresh take and was bookended by relaxed banter, Butler joking with the crowd throughout.

John Butler. Photo by Dana Weeks.

After a sudden surge of people jostling for position, Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy signalled the hip hop explosion of Drapht aka Paul Reid. It’s difficult for Reid to hide his excitement for the energetic crowd as he dipped into Sing It (The Life Of Riley), which only fed his performance further. While he appeared to get swept up with every track, and continued to push the crowd harder with favourites like Drink Drank Drunk, he also misjudged his set times, making the crowd choose between set closers Rapunzel and Jimmy Recard.

Drapht. Photo by Dana Weeks.

It wouldn’t have been a WA Day celebration without Jebediah. They may not have had a set bursting with fresh tracks, but honestly, nobody cared. The four-piece blasted the stage, with Kevin Mitchell screaming out the vocal highs in She’s Like A Comet, and fostering a bouncing energy in Military Strongmen. They will always be a welcome addition to a warm festival night.

Jebediah. Photo by Dana Weeks.

Possibly the biggest genre shift of the bill dropped as the post-Jebediah crowd made way for the Slumberjack's rapidfire start. It's far from a smooth transition for most, but it didn’t take long for fans of the duo to find their groove amid the pulsing strobes. Keeping the majority on the hard and heavy dancefloor, the pair utilised more trap-based tracks such as Solid to build a rising tension through their set. As the day's wind-up finally arrived, Slumberjack delivered a banging close to the main stage with the intensity they're known for.

Slumberjack. Photo by Dana Weeks.