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Live Review: Yours & Owls Music & Arts Festival Weekender

5 October 2015 | 12:29 pm | Melissa Borg

"Izzi Manfredi gave us a warning and welcomed the throwing of underwear."

Day 1 — Friday

Yours & Owls decided to go bigger and better this year for their fifth birthday, expanding to a two-day ‘weekender’ format (with a third day being an all-ages concert) that included a camping option, the best local line-up of any festival this year, art installations, an outdoor cinema, a pumpin’ dance tent and a host of delectable food stalls that left hungry punters spoilt for choice. 

Given it was a long weekend affair, Friday’s festivities were kept low-key, aiming to ease punters into the celebrations and leave them with enough energy for Saturday’s main event. The crowd was sparse and varied in age, but this just meant there was lots of room to lie around on the grass and soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the festival.

Keeping to the one-stage format of last year, it was easy to get around to seeing all the acts, with locals The Bungalows shouting their way through the first live set of the evening. They were thankful for the small, enthusiastic crowd as they riffed through their surfy, garage rock.

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Screening jazz documentary Keep On Keepin' On was a nice sentiment, but perhaps doing so while it was still daylight was a bit premature. Being unable to make out the visuals for the first half of the screening meant that attention levels dwindled.     

Izzi Manfredi  welcomed the throwing of underwear.

Russell W & The 5 Islands brought up crowd morale when they performed a series of chilled-out instrumentals accompanied by psychedelic visuals, keeping with the low-key theme of tonight’s festivities. Cult classic surf film Bunyip Dreaming followed, which was fitting considering the venue is right by the beach. However, it had to be paused part-way through as someone forgot that director Jack McCoy was supposed to give an intro for the film's 25th anniversary.

Australian blues stalwart Ash Grunwald got everyone on their feet with the help of The Living End's drummer Andy Strachan and bassist Scott Owen. Their set of rough and grimy blues'n'roots music included an epic rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy and some absolutely face-melting solos; unfortunately it was over too soon.

Local legends Parkside DJs kept the crowd dancing into Boo Seeka’s set. Despite only being together for eight months, Boo Seeka really knew how to handle themselves on stage. They were soulful and synthy, throwing in the right variation of drums and guitar riffs to keep us moving. The trio performed new single Deception Bay and familiar track Kingdom Leader. They then closed their set with the addition of Ash Grunwald on guitar, with a sense of disappointment from the trio and crowd alike that it was ending.

Despite the chilled-out vibe of the evening, a few people still managed to go a bit too hard early on, with more than one man seen stripping down to bare butt cheeks and being escorted out by security. Thankfully, Salmonella Dub’s fusion of house beats, reggae vibes and a live brass section kept to this evening’s moderato tempo. The set ended the night appropriately, keeping punters' spirits high for tomorrow’s event.

Day 2 — Saturday

The main event of the Yours & Owls Weekender was greeted with summer-festival vibes, with today's crowd keen to put Wollongong on the map for future festival opportunities.

Canadian band Bahamas took their status as the only international act on the bill in their stride, playing a blissed-out set that washed over punters as they basked in the sun.

Saskwatch lead singer Nkechi Anele took the reins and sultrily danced and sung her way through the band's fantastic set, which featured a booming rendition of A Love Divine and some killer guitar solos.

The one-stage format was great for not missing acts but, during the day, punters weren't provided many activities. And due to the lack of shade, most just wished they could get a pass-out and head to the beach across the road.

Nonetheless, punters were keen for Gang Of Youths, who gathered a hefty standing crowd, and they definitely didn't disappoint. The set highlight was melodic track Magnolia, made better by the sunset backdrop and crowd singalong — the perfect summer festival moment.

Up until The Delta Riggs the sound was reasonable, almost admirable, but the bass distortion and our subsequent inability to hear anything else ruined what would have been a great set, based on the setlist and enthusiasm from the band.

So Wollongong destroyed their chances with The Smith Street Band when some dickhead threw a can at the band, pissing off frontman Wil Wagner. They reluctantly continued their set, but were unfortunately then plagued with sound problems. Wagner dedicated I Don't Wanna Die Anymore to those who have struggled with their mental health, and they closed with Young Drunk — singalongs ensued.

The Preatures must have gotten the memo about the can incident, so Izzi Manfredi gave us a warning and welcomed the throwing of underwear. This band can do no wrong; every song was a hit and punters just kept dancing and singing along. Props to the sound team for fixing the sound issues. They played their cover of The Angels' Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again and, before they ended with Cruel, we sang Happy Birthday to Manfredi as she blew out candles on her cake.

Cloud Control's set improved as it went on, because it started out with a few too many songs that punters didn't know well but gradually led up to an epic finale. Once they got to Promises the crowd was pleased; and when they got to Scar, the energy in the crowd was electric. That's how you end a set. 

Practically locals, The Rubens (pictured) hashed out older tracks in the first half of their set, including The Best We Got, The Day You Went Away and a grand rendition of My Gun. The band gave out a surfboard to the best fan, who — in addition to going wild tonight — had to promise they could ride it. Hoops, Cut Me Loose and Hallelujah provided the perfect finale, injecting just the right amount of groove and energy into the last hurrah for the Weekender.

Despite that one incident, the Wollongong folk were quite well behaved and, disregarding a few sound issues and the lack of shade, the festival itself was well put together and enjoyed by all. Onwards and upwards for Yours & Owls next year, and hopefully more summer festivals come down south soon.