With a line-up that looked like it came straight from a Triple J Hottest 100 top 10 from 20+ years ago, Scene and Heard festival was a nostalgic experience. Although with a majority of attendees more mature than the average festival audience, there was a youthful atmosphere around Newcastle’s Wickham Park – reminiscent of late 90’s and early 2000’s, the festival was a celebration of teen angst, rock and roll, Australian music and what it means to people.
Front End Loader and Dallas Crane set the tone for the day, classic rock riffs, loud drums with vocals to match. There were some old classics thrown into the mix like Rock And Roll from Led Zeppelin that got everyone looking up and eager to hear more.
Next to hit the stage were Skunkhour, a personal highlight of mine. With 9 people onstage wielding instruments including a saxophone and a trumpet, their unique sound mixed with high energy made the act highly entertaining. They got the crowd engaged with their two vocalists treating the stage as their dance floor roaming from either side of the stage to the other with wireless mics. You could hear the influence of their original sound on modern aussie hip hop, all while bringing their fresh wave of funk-rock-rap fusion. Being a 21 year old and nodding my head in agreeance to the poetic and political lyrics of 25 year old songs was a strange but very cool moment, as was seeing Killing Heidi live – realising some things just stand no matter their age. With a recognisable voice and an unmissable outfit, Ella Hooper dressed in a purple leopard print “catsuit” brought a sizeable crowd to the main stage. Her strong front-woman energy came through with classic songs like Mascara and Weir, bringing the crowd along with her line by line. A common thread with the acts of the day was seeing their personalities come through as opposed to strict performance personas, With Ella it was her encouraging the crowd to keep their fluids up, joking about her age and taking a “pre-emptive panadol”. It always adds to the live experience seeing bands enjoy themselves on stage. Sneaky Sound System up next had people from the front to the back dancing. Although feeling like they were on the wrong bill to begin with, they brought a dynamic to this amazing lineup and fit right in as the perfect addition to the 2000’s flashback experience. With big tracks back to back, singing along with 20 year olds and 40 year olds alike made me realise how timeless these hits are. Listening to Something For Kate live was an immersive, emotive experience. The vocal range of Paul Dempsey along with his writing style made for a captivating set – throwing in a cover of Sweet Nothing original performed by Florence Welch, which truly showed his vocal abilities. The raw emotion delivered by Something For Kate was a captivating reprise, and a standout act of the day. For Spiderbait the personality of vocalist/drummer Mark Maher was loud and clear, spending as much time trying to get crowd participation as performing the songs. There was no doubt the swelling crowd was having a good time, with songs like Calypso, getting everyone singing and jumping. Closing with their famous cover of Black Betty, they left the crowd on a high waiting for the headliner. The Living End were introduced by Lindsay “The Doc” McDougal as one of the greatest rock bands Australia has seen. They lived up to their name, bringing a showcase of old and new songs, working a curated set with tracks like Don’t Lose It form their newest album Wunderbar released in September this year to kick things off, and White Noise right in the middle. These pioneers of punk brought a show to wake up all of Newcastle, they had the stage presence to match their big rock classics like Roll On, Second Solution. It was clear that these guys are a hard working, passionate group of artists with their professional, seemingly flawless performance. Bassist Scott Owen and his iconic upright double bass was a sight to see, spinning and swinging it, and testing his balance with his famous stage move of standing on his bass while playing. They marked the end of their show with Prisoner Of Society, an anthem to the rock and roll fan, for the the young and young at heart.
They were the perfect end to an incredible festival and summed up the day with the experience they gave to the crowd. Big sing-a-longs to songs you listened to years ago, and a festival with a difference. This wasn’t about the next new and up-and-coming band, it was about the bands and the songs that will stand as hits no matter how much time passes. No fan was left disappointed, with energy that carried on into the streets as you could hear people talking about the night that was, and still singing the songs. For it’s first year running, Scene and Heard made an impact, delivering a stella lineup and day that newcastle was lucky to host. Drawing comparisons to the festival choices in Australia, Scene and Heard has a lot to offer for those who want a different kind of festival, a place for music fans and a celebration of the culture of live music in Australia. Keep an eye out for the next iconic, classic line-up that will grace the Scene and Heard stage.