Late buses and long bar queues: Grapevine was only saved by its calibre of live acts

Late buses and long bar queues: Grapevine was only saved by its calibre of live acts

Two Door Cinema Club
Flight Facilities
Jack River
1 / 7
Words by Greta Brereton
Pics by Josh Braybrook

There’s still some logistical issues to iron out here.

A few thousand punters made the trek out to Mickleham last Saturday, kicking off the first Grapevine Gathering for 2019. The one-day event – which also pops up in NSW and WA – has been running for about three years now, previously held in the lush landscape of the Yarra Valley. After growing popularity, the team decided it was time to upsize to a bigger site, securing their very own vineyard estate to become the festival’s forever home.

Anyone who’s been to a budding, large-scale music event will know that sometimes things don’t always go to plan. No matter how much preparation goes into it, there’s always some sort of hurdle that appears out of the blue, and it takes a few years of fine-tuning for the whole thing to run like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, this was the case for this year’s Grapevine, but the little hiccups didn’t put a dampener on the overall day.

Everything kicked off around midday with Melbourne duo Big Words, but not many were there in time to see them. A large portion of people were arriving on buses that had been organised by the festival, with the earliest ones scheduled to leave the city at 11:30am. Whether it was due to bad traffic management, miscommunication or organisational oversight I’m not entirely sure, but the buses ended up running behind, which meant that the crowd for the opening act was embarrassingly small. I myself was one of the punters who’d expected to be there in time to catch the boys, but sadly missed their set, as well as Kira Puru’s.

While it would have been great to see the ‘Molotov’ singer, following act Lovebirds was a saving grace. The Belgian-based DJ kept the vibes high as the festival site began to fill up, playing club-style tunes that got some people on their feet. Dust kicked up as they danced, but no one seemed to mind too much, and there was a large shade tarpaulin further up the hill to provide relief from the baking sun.

Touch Sensitive was up next, continuing with the boogie-inducing bangers. Tracks like ‘Lay Down’ and ‘G.A.L’ helped to ease the irritation from earlier in the day, but they felt better to suited to a later time slot. The same could be said for Late Nite Tuff Guy, who put on an amazing set as always, but didn’t quite get the appreciation he deserved. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with daytime DJs, but their sets would have had more impact once the sun went down.

On the other hand, festival queen Jack River was in her element. She opened her set with ‘Confess’, captivating the crowd with her sugary, ethereal vocals. River seemed genuinely overjoyed to be there, a smile playing on her lips throughout the entire performance. The audience were equally enthusiastic, singing along to older tunes like ‘Fault Line’ and ‘Palo Alto’, as well as the recently-released ‘Adolescent’.

Brisbane’s Mallrat was also an effortless crowd commander, and a clear highlight for the masses of Grapevine gatherers. She’s become something of an international star over the past few years, her huge Australian fanbase quickly proliferating overseas. Her hype-woman was sent out first to warm up the audience, before the singer bounded on stage to perform ‘Nobody’s Home’. She held everyone’s attention with her endearingly honest stage presence, stopping to tell stories in between songs and share jokes with the crowd. The catchy lyrics of ‘Better’, ‘UFO’ and ‘Uninvited’ were echoed as she sang, and excitement hung in the air even after her performance was over.

As the afternoon drew on and people flocked to the bar more readily, the drink queues became somewhat ridiculous. There were two main bars on-site, as well as one in the VIP, and yet it wasn’t enough to keep up with demand. It’s not really a festival until you’ve waited too long for your drinks, but even this seemed to be painfully excessive.

Luckily Crooked Colours provided the perfect distraction, amping things up as the daylight dwindled. The trio are no strangers to the festival circuit, and know how to play their audience like a finely tuned instrument. Tracks like ‘Perfect Run’, ‘Flow’ and ‘Do It Like You’ are designed for a dance floor, and the moshpit was heaving while the Perth boys smashed through their setlist.

The sky was streaked with sunset when Flight Facilities came on, joined by the lovely Owl Eyes. It was quite a dreamy experience listening to them play ‘Clair De Lune’ while the stars came out and people watched on in various states of awe. At one point Owl Eyes got down off the stage and stepped into the crowd, sending everyone into a frenzy. She was clearly vibing off the audience’s energy, as were the Flight Facilities boys, who were decked out in their usual flight goggles and pilot costumes. By the time they wrapped up the crowd were ready for the headline act – and they did not disappoint.

Two Door Cinema Club put on the performance of the day, and not just because they were the headliner. Hailing from Northern Ireland, the band have been around for over ten years now and us Aussie’s seem to love every song they make. It definitely felt that way at Grapevine, where old tracks like ‘Undercover Martyn’ were received just as warmly as the newer ‘Talk’. Frontman Alex Trimble was strutting his stuff around the stage, embodying the role of a seasoned performer, while guitarist Sam Halliday and bassist Kevin Baird tore away tirelessly on their instruments. They closed the festival with ‘Something Good Can Work’ – a sentiment that could apply to next year’s Grapevine Gathering.

Despite the rocky start to the day, the calibre of live acts rescued Grapevine from becoming a festival disaster. There’s definitely room for improvement next year, but I’m confident they’ll learn from these mistakes for a bigger and better 2020 season.

Highlight: The atmosphere during Flight Facilities sunset set. Pretty magical.

Lowlight: The whole bus fiasco.

Crowd Favourite: Two Door Cinema Club or Mallrat – tough call, really.