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Live Review: Sydney Road Street Party

5 March 2013 | 11:17 am | Kate KingsmillJan WisniewskiIsobel Roberts Orr

You have to be seriously committed to catch acts at opposite ends of Sydney Road and even more tenacious to drag a group past the colours and smells of the food and goods stalls.

The 25th Brunswick Music Festival is saluted by a Sunday of music and festivities at the Sydney Road Street Party. After an encounter with an Irish expat performing a surprisingly accurate Schwarzenegger impersonation, we head to the Retreat. The line at the pub proves impenetrable so the only option is to face the crowds and the sun back on the street in search of other musical delights. The hula hooping Miss Tallulah accompanied by the lush vocals of Maddy Leman attract a large audience on the well covered Children's Stage, while further along at the Community Stage the sparse crowd allows a willing couple to dance together to the Tango Collusion Duo. 

The nine-headed party monster that are Labjacd are skillfully rocking the early afternoon crowd at the Iramoo Stage, raising the people from melting in the blazing sun to jumping up for big fat boogie to their Latin/jazz/hip hop fusion. They've got a decent crowd jumping, including a whole heap of toddlers – they love this shit! They finish on a jumped-up call and response Latin number, Fuego, which gets the already enthusiastic crowd totally involved. A big highlight of the day.

Meanwhile on the next stage down, Mighty Duke & The Lords are giving it some cheek with their own special ska-infused, surf calypso blend. Beardy singer Wally Maloney and the band's curious matching white sailor uniforms give them a sartorially superior air to match some tongue-in-cheek, often nautically-themed songs. Appropriately, many in the crowd are drinking coconut juice from the coconut stall down the road. There's trombone action and junk percussion, and the small crowd seems curious and perhaps a little (happily) confused.

The afternoon is thick with activity and a slow-moving crowd make it difficult to navigate between stages. You have to be seriously committed to catch acts at opposite ends of Sydney Road and even more tenacious to drag a group past the colours and smells of the food and goods stalls. The Roots stage at the corner of Edward Street has a consistent stream of onlookers – testament to how well the line-up suits a laid-back Sunday afternoon in the sun. Abbie Cardwell & The Chicano Rockers are a welcome burst of energy, enticing the crowd to dance to their rousing mariachi rock and roll blend. Collard Greens & Gravy are perfectly scheduled for an early-evening blues wind-down.

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As festival-goers weave down Sydney Road, checking out stalls and sampling refreshments, the sound of Bart Willoughby's wafting guitar is replaced by that of the cartoon-masked saxophone crew, The Prophets. The pink-clad street band Havana Palava lead the way as they march straight down Sydney Road, opening up a path for those willing to dance in their wake. On reaching the southern point of the festivities, the shelter of the Brunswick Hotel is calling. Out in the beer garden Strawberry Fist Cake have inspired an old punk to thrash around up front while a spirited kid dances around his knee caps. But once a seat is found inside, the solid pub rock of Dead Albatross and then Cinema 6 bodes well for the evening's entertainment, and there is no need to venture back out for quite some time.

Eventually, stalls pack up, last morsels going for a dollar, and prams are pushed home. Once evening sets in it's much easier to commit to a stage, by which time the pubs are the only ports of call for the dedicated as the street stages are packed away.

The Cornish Arms is off to an excellent start with indie punks Going Swimming energetically crashing their snarling, swaggering and silly rock about on the band stage and a courtyard DJ spinning top 40s to keep the punters happy. A loud gig is often a good gig, however this is not the case as the sound mash between the courtyard DJ and inside stage overwhelms the eardrums.

The Spotted Mallard is fast becoming one of Melbourne's go-to venues, thankfully filling the gap where others are shutting down. We catch Jack On Fire doing their Brunswick bluegrass swamp-rock thing to a hefty but pretty sloshed end-of-the-day crowd. By this point, much cider had been consumed and the band do not get the attention they deserve but these guys are impressive. Solid songs and impressive guitar from George Hyde, their atmospheric country vibe is beautifully set off by Samantha Wass's haunting voice and Ben Blakeney's husky vocals. Looking forward to catching them after not so many ciders.

People steadily trickle into scattered house parties and corner jam sessions as Sydney Road is transformed from a festival hub back into a suburban road. Rubbish is swept off the road and forklifts dodge the last few people. A man relieves himself in front of an oncoming train and the supermarket is overrun by twirling, guitar-wielding hipsters.