Live Review: State Of The Art Festival

1 June 2015 | 1:00 pm | Charmaine de SouzaShenae Gooley

"You don’t have to go far to find some killer music – sometimes it’s right there in your own backyard."

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The State of The Art Music Festival was back for another year with a stellar line-up of music, food and entertainment for all ages.

Fans, families and curious onlookers stopped by the Wetlands stage to watch the free portion of the festivities unfold, starting with The Little Lord Street Band. Passersby were promptly reeled in. Guitarist and vocalist Natasha Shanks’ husky voice was perfectly accompanied by just the right amount of twang, stamping this band with a unique country twist.

WAM artists Russell & Tom from small country town Narrogin brought their A-game to the festival. Although from the country, they strayed from tradition playing as a folk/rock’n’roll-infused duo. Switching between two acoustic guitars and an Octo drum pad, these two harmonised around the WA Street Food Lane; they’re a duo definitely on the rise and a must-see if you enjoy local talent.

Next up on the Street Food stage was the delightfully bashful Helen Shanahan. A previous winner of the Telstra Road to Discovery, Shanahan’s timid presence on stage and soothingly quiet voice amazed the crowd with her full and crisp sound. With just her acoustic guitar she filled the streets with her sweet tones and lyrics of love, creating a perfectly mellow environment for the audience with her serene, angelic voice.

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By now the Urban Orchard stage was going off with Rag N’ Bone in full force. At first glance, you wouldn’t expect such a powerful voice to come out of Kiera Owen’s mouth, but this frontwoman packed a punch from the get-go, her vocal prowess and stage presence sublimely captivating. The rumbling bass and drums in songs like Danielle burned through the stage in the best possible way.

It’s no secret that Hideous Sun Demon bring the goods every time they hit the stage, and this time was no different. Not a single ounce of the Orchard’s beautiful surrounds was spared from the Demon’s gritty, dirty rock. Their set had everyone’s attention, complete with colourful language and the most thrashing you’ll likely ever see at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Moving over to the WA Museum Grounds stage, this reviewer had the pleasure of watching the psychedelic pop rockers, Timothy Nelson & The Infidels. Starting off with favourite, Soldier, Nelson and his Infidels rocked out on stage, inviting the crowd to let loose. Maintaining their upbeat numbers was fill-in drummer from Flooded Palace. The unpredictable and flawlessly pitched group got the whole festival in good spirits with their high energy and retro music. Ten out of ten.

Over at the State Theatre Courtyard stage, We Two Thieves entertained with charming banter and country tunes. Sharing a single mic, the trio delved into a cover of Tanya Tucker’s Delta Dawn, wowing the audience with their ridiculously tight three-part harmonies. Parents and children danced along to their entire set. It’s safe to say that the ukulele never sounded so good.

Keeping expectations high on the WA Museum Grounds stage, indie rock band The Love Junkies were another crowd pleaser. They ripped it to shreds from the start, the audience jumping right into action, head-banging to the indie rock’n’rollers’ hectic sounds. The hilariously engaging band kept the crowd entertained to say the least with their unorganised set and their zero shits given atmosphere – a messy set with intensity-plus. Well done.

Former Little Birdy frontwoman Katy Steele was up next, bringing a new sound to the WA Museum Grounds stage. Starkly different from her band days, Steele has traded rock for a more ambient groove, and her distinct vocals lent brilliantly to it. Her impeccable style and sheer swagger made everyone in her vicinity feel infinitely cooler.

Meanwhile over at the Wetlands stage, Dream Rimmy kept things moving with their trance-inducing psychedelic rock. Breezy riffs and light keyboard work got toes tapping and heads turning. By the end of their set, the crowd had spilled over to the pedestrian pathway, with plenty feeling compelled to smash out some air drums. The six-piece’s almost ethereal sound was the perfect way to ease the audience into the evening to come.

Australian musician Gareth Liddiard, founder of The Drones, slowed it down in the low-lit tent of the State Theatre Courtyard stage. Liddiard began his set getting to know his fans, testing them with questions and jokes. Once the politically amusing joker had caught our attention he proceeded to calm and entice with his crisp tone and Australian drawl. His haunting lyrics silenced the tent as we listened eagerly to Gareth the storyteller.

Jacob Diamond’s blue-eyed soul cut through the hustle and bustle of the Street Food Lane. Standout track Avarice attracted a crowd around the 21-year-old, his lyrical prowess and emotional depth in performance worthy of a musician twice his age. It says a lot when an artist can pique people’s interests with nothing but a guitar and a voice, and Diamond did just that. Here’s hoping we see him move up a stage or two next year.

The ‘90s fresh Australian hip hop group Downsyde had the crowd going from the very beginning of their set. Starting it off with their earlier hits to get everyone familiar, they continued to pump out their beats with their continuous high energy. For their first show in four years Downsyde have certainly kept their ability to party on stage. Introducing their more aggressive album, Classic Hill, Downsyde kept to tradition by sticking to their familiar lyrics and loops.

Over at the PICA stage, Boys Boys Boys! busted out their infectiously boppy tunes, with synchronised dance moves in tow. This band’s baby-like vocals and colourful outfits might dupe you into thinking you were at a Hi-5 concert, but their catchy hooks and peppy enthusiasm almost instantly set off a dance party that never seemed to stop. As fans were moving and shaking to every single sickly-sweet song, it became clear this was pure, unadulterated pop at its finest.

Retired rock’n’rollers, The Holy Rollers, set a perfect atmosphere at the Urban Orchard stage. Keeping a good energy the Rollers laid down a smooth grunge tone. Reminiscing with the crowd about cassette players and vinyl, Holy Rollers took their fans back in time, reliving those early ‘90s. 

Another cult classic, You Am I had fans filling the WA Museum Grounds, the crowd cheering almost continuously for these crazy classic rockers. Singing along with their top hits Berlin Chair and Heavy Heart, the crowd was once again taken back.

The Urban Orchard stage was oozing with stoner rock when Mt Mountain hit the stage. This five-piece wasn’t afraid to draw out their songs, wringing every last drop of their bass-heavy melodies. Each track was undeniably thrilling; an aural rollercoaster with unpredictable peaks and valleys around every corner.

True to their name Legs Electric were truly electric. Spectators flocked towards the sound of the fuzzy bass coming from the most inspirational women in music since Joan Jett. Legs Electric quickly had spectators filling the PICA stage trying to get front row to witness this all-girl group tear it up on stage. Lead singer Ama Quinsee took control with her powerful rock ballads and growl. These girls are truly taking the music industry by storm.

A sizeable crowd had formed for Urban Orchard’s closing act, The Scientists. Fans clamoured around the stage as the four-piece launched into their opening track, Frantic Romantic. These guys definitely knew how to put on a show, their unassuming rock hitting a stride that so many bands these days can only dream of. It was made abundantly clear how the band attained – and have kept – their iconic status. They weren’t afraid to kick it old-school style, lead vocalist Kim Salmon even taking the time to take a picture of the crowd with an analogue camera.

Festival headliners Birds Of Tokyo had followers quickly packing the stands of the Museum Grounds to hear the Australian favourites rock it out again, opening with an electronic mash-up with crisp rock’n’roll voice of lead singer, Ian Kenny. Although the lyrics were familiar Birds of Tokyo had adjusted their tracks with a synthesiser, creating modern and spacey tones. This worked at times and not in others as it took away the usual rawness of their shows. 

After ten hours and 60 bands, the night drew to a close. Punters left still buzzing about their favourite acts from the day. If there was anything to take away from this night, it’s that you don’t have to go far to find some killer music – sometimes it’s right there in your own backyard.