After days of heavy rainfall, it was only fitting that the sun chose to shine on day one of The Basin-ish Concert.
Spearheaded by Vibestown Productions, The Basin-ish Concert had been weathering its own storm in the lead up to its 2021 genesis on March 26, with ever-evolving public health regulations forcing a somewhat last-minute change of venue for the resurrected event.
Before the ‘ish’ was added, The Basin was intended to take place at Launceston’s Cataract Gorge. It was set to be a revival of the iconic Basin Concert series, which took place in the sleepy north of Tasmania from 1969 to the late ‘90s, and again for a brief stint in 2015 and 2016.
Vibestown, the seasoned team behind Party In The Paddock, first announced The Basin’s return with the intention of bringing it back to its original spot, however COVID safety restrictions rendered that impossible. The team were forced to find a new home for the event at Inveresk Park, scrambling to pull it all together just two weeks out from the festival – thankfully, they managed it.
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As is customary in the new COVID normal, the grassy site of Inveresk Park was divided into four separate zones, with punters splayed out on picnic rugs and fold-out chairs. It was somewhat surreal to see a sea of people flocking together for a festival after so long, many of whom were decked out in flares and florals, making the most of the ‘70s dress up theme.
Joining the audience in our patch of the park, we kicked back to catch the breathy punk of local artist Bec Stevens before the first big-name act of the day claimed the stage.
A bare-footed and boyish Kim Churchill strummed his way through crowd favourites ‘Window To The Sky’ and ‘Second Hand Car’, rounding them out with a selection of covers. A wicked Led Zeppelin rendition was given a Churchill spin with a harmonica solo and a take on Julia Jacklin’s ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ saw Churchill joined by Boo Seeka’s Ben Gumbleton.
Gumbleton returned to the stage shortly after for Boo Seeka’s slot with bandmate Michael May, the NSW pair buzzing with excitement about playing for a southern crowd.
“We love coming to Tassie, everyone down here just froths on music,” they told Beat prior to their set.
“I think what we’ve all missed as performers and as punters is that energy you get from being at a festival, so it’s great to see it all coming back now.”
The duo’s expectations were well and truly met by the audience, who were as amped as was possible whilst remaining seated. With a 250-person capacity for dancing, it wasn’t long until people were propelled from their chairs by the thundering bass and onstage enthusiasm. The duo did their best to keep the crowd in their seats before launching into their final song, ‘Never Enough’, as they rode off stage on a palpable high.
With people’s alcohol intake increasing and Spacey Jane up next, festival director Jesse Higgs made the first of a few appearances that night, reminding everyone of the importance of staying seated. His words certainly didn’t fall on deaf ears, but of course there were people who got carried away when the Perth outfit finally arrived onstage.
After acknowledging the Palawa people as the traditional owners of the land, the band threw themselves into the set with fervour, pouring their all into their first-ever Tasmanian show. Opening with ‘Skin’, they thrashed, flung and hurled themselves through new and old cuts, from ‘Feeding the Family’ to ‘Good Grief’, ‘Head Cold’ and ‘Good for You’ – maintaining the frenzy even as the sky erupted and rain began hurtling down.
As the receptive crowd grew rowdier, the four-piece were forced to put down the tools so Higgs could once again stress the importance of staying in chairs. The sentiment stuck for the next two songs, until the band broke out ‘Booster Seat’ and suddenly everyone had abandoned theirs’ again.
Making his third appearance of the evening, an exasperated Higgs delivered an even sterner plea for people’s cooperation, laying out the consequences if the rules couldn’t be followed.
“That was the last warning guys, the Department of Public Health are here,” he said. “Everyone has to stay seated for the rest of the night or we’ll have to shut down the festival.”
Luckily, it didn’t come to that – the gravity of the situation finally sunk in. The night continued with people glued to their seats, finding other ways to dance to the sounds of Ball Park Music.
After the final set finished without incident, a collective sigh seemed to ripple through the crowd, amongst weekend ticket holders and event organisers alike – The Basin would live to see another day.
Another night of heavy rain gave way to a sunny morning as punters arrived for day two of the concert. After such a close call the evening before, the Vibestown team had taken to social media to announce a change in dancing rules, and each zone now sported its own designated boogie area.
Ethiopian-born, Tasmanian-based Medhanit kicked things off, before Hobart’s Slaughterhäus Surf Cult turned up the dial with their unique brand of garage punk. A band used to getting people on their feet, they reflected on the strangeness of being a performer during COVID times.
“Not being able to dance is hard,” they told Beat after their set. “But on the other side of it, it’s hard for everyone else who’s doing the organising, so it’s just trying to find a middle ground where everyone can have a sick time.”
Following hot on the Surf Cult’s heels were The Holiday Collective, something of a Tasmanian supergroup led by festival director Higgs. Various bandmates floated on and off stage during their set, with the full ensemble congregating together for their songs ‘Island’ and ‘KRIYA’, as well as a flawless cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’. Despite being a fledgling band, the group’s enthralling performance cemented them as the cream of The Basin-ish Concert crop.
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Up next was Australia’s country sweetheart Kasey Chambers, rolling through classics like ‘Pretty Enough’, ‘The Captain’ and ‘Barricades And Brickwalls’, as seated patrons swayed into the sunset. With the moon high and the sky stained pink, Denni Proctor, a proud Palawa woman and one of the event’s MCs, began the Welcome to Country with a song sung in a native Tasmanian Aboriginal dialect, Palawa Kani.
It was a magic moment of connection as revellers fell silent, before Daisy Allan from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre addressed the audience in the same tongue, acknowledging the Palawa people as the traditional owners of the land.
Appropriately, the address was followed by First Nations artist Thelma Plum, who drew thundering cheers from the audience when she timidly took the stage. Endearingly nervous and refreshingly real, Plum delved into her catalogue of tracks from 2019’s Better In Blak. As well as the album’s titular song, the singer performed ‘Woke Blokes’, ‘Ugly’, ‘Homecoming Queen’ and an achingly tender rendition of ‘Nick Cave’.
Some punters were beginning to utilise the dancing zones by the time she wrapped up with ‘Clumsy Love’, continuing their shimmy as DJ duo In The Flowers laid down disco tunes in preparation for Holy Holy.
A Launceston local himself, it was something of a hometown show for Holy Holy’s singer Tim Carroll. After recently overseeing his own festival, Panama, it was clear that Carroll was relishing being back on the other side of things, immersing himself in the onstage experience. He and bandmate Oscar Dawson played old cuts such as ‘That Message’ and ‘True Lovers’, as well as their most recent single ‘Port Rd’, alongside collaborator Queen P.
Then it was time for Spiderbait to see out the festival. Kram, described by Higgs as “Australia’s Dave Grohl”, was clearly ecstatic to be playing for crowds again, although he got a bit too carried away during their final song.
To the audience’s delight (but the despair of organisers), he suggested the crowd get up and dance for their last track, ‘Black Betty’. Punters started moshing and Higgs had to interrupt the song to tell everyone to sit down again. By that point people had thrown caution to the wind, and unfortunately, the confusion caused the closing moments of their set to be cut short.
While it perhaps wasn’t quite the ending Vibestown had envisioned for The Basin Concert’s revival, the worst had been avoided. They’d bounced back from the brink of a festival shutdown the night before to deliver a weekend of incredible live music against all odds.
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Maybe it would have been easier for them to throw in the towel, and there were many times they could have. When the venue was changed, when punters caused a fuss about dancing regulations… When the Department of Public Health paid a visit and issued stern warnings.
But they didn’t.
Driven by a love for live music, the audience and putting on a good party, the Vibestown team demonstrated precisely how to run a large-scale music event in these uncertain times. It wasn’t the same experience as a slick, sweaty mosh pit, or the heaving atmosphere of a rapturous crowd, but we’ve got to make the best of what we’ve got right now.
And if the foreseeable future consists of events like this, then I for one am happy to take it.
Highlight(s): Spacey Jane shredding in the rain, Holy Holy covering Lorde’s ‘Green Light’, The Holiday Collective’s Michael Townsend and Jesse Higgs going for it in a rock-fuelled interlude.
Lowlight: A handful of people continually ignoring pleas to stay seated, even when the majority of the crowd were doing the right thing.
Crowd favourite: Hard to say, but probably Boo Seeka. Those boys know how to work an audience.
Keep in the loop for what’s in store for The Basin Concert 2022 via their Facebook page.