Yours and Owls returned to Stuart park this year on the 29th and 30th of September with an absolutely massive line up. Three full stages, plus a DJ rave zone and a local art tent meant that there was never a dull moment, and a huge range of bars and food stalls kept the huge crowd going the whole weekend. With a solid mix of big names and local favourites there was also something for everyone. The main stage played host to chart toppers and amazing performers, with the second stage offering up a huge selection of splendid tunes as well. But the show stealer was definitely the talent on the Rad stage; a stage dedicated to local and independent musicians. While you might not have recognised all of the names the best performances of the festival were all given here.

The first day saw some massive acts take to the stage. Highlights on the main stage include Nyxen with her dreamy electronic pop and dynamic live performance, and Middle Kids who managed to please the entire crowd with their huge sound.

Taking to the second stage were up and comers Dear Seattle who provided the goods with an absolutely flawless set of fun, headbanging rock with an emotional drive. Live these guys deliver, never letting the energy on stage drop.Over on the Rad stage local boy Jack R. Reily, with his band of merry men (and women) were showing everyone that you can write reflective, emotive songs and still have a fun and dancey festival set. The crowd knew every word as Jack, now backed by a band of amazing vocalists, belted out tune after tune.

Later on, the Rad stage hosted quite possibly the best act of the entire festival. Moaning Lisa have everything that an act about to break through needs. Their music is fantastic, with great melodies, cool harmonies, and poppy beats. They have total control of the stage and use the energy of their set to bring the crowd up and down. With releases on the horizon Moaning Lisa are without a doubt the band to be watching.

Other highlights for the day include the dynamic set from Luca Brasi, the fun, energetic performance from the Jungle Giants, and Aftertouch (FKA Easy Life) with their blend of heavy, thick textures and sophisticated melodic lines. The local art tent was a unique mix of free haircuts, poetry readings, toast, and sweet vibes, with a friendship bracelets and guided meditation leading the day. Both the DJ hut and the football were able to keep crowds entertained the entire day as well.

Finishing up day one was Peking Duck on the main stage, and Hellions on the second.

Peking Duck have evolved over time into full force live show. A mix of synths and backing tracks, and live instruments and vocals, Peking Duck show their chops while busting out a selection of their biggest hits. The energy on stage reaches fever pitch with the addition of fireworks and pyrotechnics. Guest vocals rounded out the set, that could have gone on much further into the night.

In contrast to the flashy show on the main stage, Hellions were delivering a set that was raw and powerful. Hellions never relent with a set that stays energetic from beginning to finish, with flawless performances of everything from their earliest release through to their most recent singles. Finishing on Opera Oblivia’s Thresher the set closed with the crowd begging for more.

The second day of the festival promised to be just as massive as the first.

Opening up the festival were local legends SCAB BABY on the Rad stage and super poppy E^ST. Both sets were amazing starts to the day, with SCAB BABY as tenacious as always and E^ST delivering an energetic and dynamic live set, with a Post Malone cover a set highlight.

The festival was in full swing by the end of the first sets, with the stalls, bars, local tent and DJs all up and ready for the day. (I will say though, it was super disappointing that the fried tofu place wasn’t open for lunch. It is definitely recommended at all future festivals).

Highlights on the main stage were without a doubt Hockey Dad, Methyl Ethel, and Angus and Julia Stone.

Wollongong’s biggest and best were at their finest in front of the home town crowd. They’re a band that has only continued to grow and this set was the perfect example of their progression from the boys from Windang to main stage rockers. Every song hits home and the live delivery is flawless. Hockey Dad never disappoint, and this was no exception.

Following this was the highly produced, and highly entertaining Methyl Ethel. Half the crowd was on the other half’s shoulders as the poppy, dancey tunes were accompanied by a brilliant AV show. Up on the main stage next was Angus and Julian Stone. The performance was recording quality, with not a single bum note hit. A highlight of the set was Julia Stone’s trumpet playing, but the entire thing was a fun, carefree delight.

The second stage also offered up some amazing acts, with Alex the Astronaut being without a doubt the best act of the day. Holding together the crowd with just her acoustic guitar it was easy to see why Alex the Astronaut has made such a huge impact in the music scene. The earnest story telling is built up with simple yet beautiful songs, and Alex is such a sweet person that it’s impossible to not hang on every word.

The highlights on the Rad stage were many. The Jono Tooke hour (and a bit) of power was amazing from Basil’s Kite mathrock beginning to Cry Club shoegazing end. Basil’s were as impressive as always, with the sheer musicianship enough to keep the crowd, and the ingenious song writing and amazing stage act only making it more of an unforgettable experience. With the set closing on vocalist Jack Tickner crawling into the crowd with a baby mask on, this was the set to have seen at Yours and Owls 2018.

Following this were the always fun Enter the Jaguar. Barely managing to fit their entire ensemble on stage the performance was flawless, funky, and unforgettable. The last of Jono Tooke’s brilliant musical projects was Cry Club. Soon to be massive, Cry Club are an unmissable band at every event they play. The two piece work incredibly hard on stage to deliver as much energy as any full band, and there is never a dull moment on stage.

Other highlights of the day include old school punk rockers Babymachine with their politically charge, rough as guts rock, and the sombre and beautiful Jess Locke. Locke’s amazing combination of down tempo indie rock and fun festival set was a truly amazing experience.

Closing the night and the festival were old school Wollongong rockers Tumbleweed on the second stage, and DJ and the always energetic Alison Wonderland.

Tumbleweed took to the second stage to prove that being a Rockstar has nothing to do with age, as they blasted out classics that got their diehard fans stomping along as if it were the ‘90s again. Smashing mic stands, shredding solos, and using the whole stage for their energetic live performance, it was clear to see why Tumbleweed have managed to keep such a strong following for so long. Finishing the set with thick crunchy riffs and a huge build led by frontman Richard Lewis’s dynamic vocals Tumbleweed were a show stopping act.

Over on the main stage Alison Wonderland was delivering a huge set, accompanied by a massive light show. The entire crowd was there as Alison closed the festival with a massive smoke screen and huge hits.

Overall Yours and Owls 2018 has only built on the success of the previous years and continued to grow. A fantastic chance to display local talent and bring the big names in music to Wollongong, there is no stopping the fantastic team behind Yours and Owls as they dominate the Australian music scene. Festival highlights were the addition of even more local art and bands with the local tent and Rad stage, and the amazing timetabling that never left a moment without an amazing act to watch.

Without a doubt Yours and Owls is the festival to be at, and next year will no doubt be even bigger.

Review – Josh Mills