All outdoor festivals benefit from good weather but none more than St Kilda Festival. St Kilda is the closest thing Melbourne has to a Bondi Beach or Surfers Paradise, so a shining sun and 30-plus degree temperature pretty much guaranteed that this year’s festival would get a good turnout despite it suffering considerable funding cuts.
Fortuitously, the scaled back main event meant that the existing bars, cafes and band venues could shine. Your faithful correspondent located his good self at Prince Of Wales public bar for the entirety of the day, soaking up the vastly expanded outdoor area, slash, beer garden and the 11 hours of entertainment that began with Hamish Macleod and ended with banging four hour set from DJ Mimi Velevska.
Hamish Macleod is tall, neatly dressed character whose up tempo yet down tuned guitar playing, slightly nasal tones and broad Australian accent spins him off as Lou Reed like character who spent too much time listening to The Triffids.
Following Macleod around three o’clock-ish was St Kilda locals Seb Mont & Thee. This group, led by the very white and lanky but incredibly soulful Seb, was the right tonic for a slowly boozing audience. It’s difficult to put a finger exactly on where what the band’s sound is trying to be because it swings (pun implied) from jazz, soul and rock’n’roll with Seb Mont showing shades of great modern soul men Rufus Wainwright and Antony Heggarty.
From about 3pm to 4pm the hubbub on Fitzroy St, that was closed to all traffic, reached its most intense with people making their way down from the tram stop up near Grey St to the main stage on the foreshore. So by the time The Sweaters took the stage it seemed as though the crowd had settled in for the night and this is where they were going to get wasted and dance.
The Sweaters’ hard-edged rock harked back to the ‘80s and early ‘90s when St Kilda was home to everything gripping and grungey in the world of rock’n’roll. The final song of their set typified this as it was a cover of GOD’s My Pal – a revered Melbourne band that earned their stripes gigging at venues like Prince Of Wales and, tragically, in a very St Kilda way had their career cut short through the blight of heroin.
Following The Sweaters, the early evening took a turn for the bizarre with Charging Stallion who can only really be described as a garage rock comedy troupe, or as one guy in the audience said, “An un-shit Tripod”. Frontmen Cam Bisley and Tim Davis begin each song with some banter about the ensuing song. One track was about how they were sick of women thinking they were gay so if they starred in a porno they could just show it to woman to prove that they’re not gay – the song was called This Porno Clip. Don’t think about it too much just be assured the musical backing that featured members of Drunk Mums was awesome.
With the crowd well and truly toasted and the DJ playing bogan bangers such as Killing In The Name and Da Funk it took the compelling blues rock of the angelic JR Reyne to draw all gazes back to the stage. Armed with a guitar, harmonica and a kick drum JR wooed the public bar with such stellar foot stompers as his latest single Casino.
Headline act The Twoks ripped the veritable stage apart with their music-school turned band gypsy rock. Xani Kolac (electric violin/vocals) and drummer, Mark Leahy, seemed to conduct an enthralled audience with the throng rising and falling with the vicissitudes of Kolac’s bow and also her pizzicato playing – their sublime new single First Light.
Throughout the eighties and right into nineties Prince Of Wales Public Bar was a mecca for both local and touring bands however with the gentrification of St Kilda it had become just a bar with a couple of pool tables and a jukebox. This was up until about 18 months ago, but it was successful events like this that announced to the rest of Melbourne that the public bar is rocking again.
BY RAYMOND WIELD BROOKE
Loved: The free Boags fedora that Andee Frost fashioned into Pharrell hat.
Hated: Having work the next day.
Drank: Designer drug from Germany.