Over the last few years Wollongong’s live music scene has gone from strength to strength, in no small part thanks to record label, booking agency, and festival organisers Yours and Owls. The biggest event of the year is their self-titled festival, which in it’s fourth year returned to Stuart Park on the October long weekend. With a massive line-up, more stages than ever, and a complete ticket sell out, this years Yours and Owls promised to be the biggest yet.
As Ruby Fields, Tees, and Love Buzz got the action started across the three stages DJ Elodie kicked the festival off over in the Das Schmeltz Haus DJ tent. The festival was slowly filling as music began pumping from all stages.
Over on the Rad stage, a stage dedicated to local music, The Nah were delivering a not-to-be-missed set of their signature sad, lo-fi, folky punk. Touching on important issues, such as female representation in the music industry and safe spaces, the Gong locals got the crowd of music fans moving, despite a sound crew that were still warming up for the day.
A large crowd had formed over at the I See You stage, the main stage for the festival, for Ali Barter’s set. Barter’s grungy guitar-pop blasted over a large crowd for the early afternoon set. The band used their energy on stage to get the festival grooving along to the up tempo Light Them on Fire and Cigarette, while still swaying to the heartfelt Please Stay and grungy One Foot In. Topping off a stellar performance Barter and band delivered Girlie Bits to a delighted crowd.
Next up on the main stage was the Welcome to Country. An amazing addition to any festival, the welcome to country at Yours and Owls was pushed later in the day so as to be witnessed by a larger crowd. A sombre event, the ceremony was a display of traditional Aboriginal culture that made every attendee appreciate the importance of acknowledging the lands traditional custodians.
The staggering of bands throughout the day meant that there was always something on, but also gave punters a chance to breathe between acts on the bigger stages. There was also plenty going on at the festival to take in other than the music. Plenty of food options and a full program of poetry, comedy and art in the Local tent meant that even during breaks there was plenty to do.
After a brief pause for gear set up and line checks Alex Lahey was the next to take to the main stage. Opening with Every Day’s The Weekend Lahey supplied the rocking vibes that didn’t stop the entire set, despite a poor mix coming through the front of house. Vocals and low end could be heard clearly, but there was next to no guitar in the mix. Lahey didn’t let that affect her killer set though, playing a few songs off her new album and a cover of Torn from her Triple JLike A Version appearance, with energy coming to a climax with set closer and fan favourite You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me.
In the space between sets after Alex Lahey had finished there was comedy being supplied at the Local, a tent set up specifically for local art. While comedian Lachlan tried his hardest to sell being on drugs and swearing as jokes a crowd had formed at the Rad stage to watch the AFL grand final. Having football finals at the festival was proving to be a hit, with the crowd spewing out of the tent that housed the stage.
Back over on the main stage Aussie punks Trophy Eyes were providing a dose of heaviness to the day. Their high energy set could be heard throughout the festival, as the incredibly loud sound dominated Stuart Park. Over on the Out of Space stage, the second biggest stage at the festival, Slum Sociable were offering up their dancey electronic vibes to an receptive crowd.
Wavves took to the stage next, drawing in a big crowd for the second stage. The band didn’t let a gear problem stop them as they launched straight into King Of The Beach. Wavves had some of the best stage presence seen on Saturday, and a muddy mix hardly threw the band at all.
By this point in the day most attendees had made their way into the festival, and there was plenty of festival attire to be seen. This of course meant that there was also arsehole guys disrespecting women, and a heap of uncultured girls appropriating other cultures. It’s not okay to leer and sleaze on people enjoying the festival, bindi’s are a religious symbol not a fashion accessory, and “everyone else is doing it too” isn’t an excuse for either.
On a lighter note the crowd at the AFL were clearly excited by the Tigers efforts, though due to a timetabling error the AFL had cut into the time allocated for music on the Rad stage. Up on the main stage City Calm Down were playing some new stuff of their forthcoming EP, that the band announced they’d finished recording. Finishing on Rabbit Run the band delivered a solid set that went over well with the afternoon crowd.
After City Calm Down’s set there was a break where nothing was playing on any of the stages. While the breaks between acts had been a good chance earlier in the day to grab some food or relax for a minute or two, having no live music playing at a music festival did feel unusual.
Taking to the Rad stage to end the silence was Archy Punker. Starting much later than scheduled due to the AFL, the band were forced to leave the stage shortly after starting to play due to technical problems with the sound gear. A very awkward crowd stood by as the stage crew tried to fix the problems with microphones and an avant-garde feedback piece played from the PA.
Over on the Out of Space stage Donny Benet was causing a ruckus with his ‘80s inspired disco funk. The crowd was driven into a frantic boogie by Benet, his full ensemble band, and a group of cheesy Donny Benet impersonating backup dancers. Smooth, groovy, and sensual, Donny Benet delivered an impressive set of crowd pleasing tunes.
Heading over to the main stage Northeast Party House were finishing up a cover of Blink-182’s Dammit. Introduced as a Metallica cover the pop punk hit was an odd choice for the electronic indie-pop band, but they pulled it off perfectly. Launching back into the dance vibes the band fired off The Haunted and Your House to bring the party back to the main stage.
Competing against the insanely loud show on the main stage Archy Punker were once again up on the Rad stage. Finishing their set almost two hours after it was scheduled to start the band were still fighting through sound issues. The Rad stage had definitely captured the loud muddy vibe of the bar it was named after. Still, an excited crowd didn’t seem to mind and Archy Punker was cheered after as they left the stage for a second time. The Rad stage took a turn for the worst however, with the crowd clearing out and constant sound issues making it hard for the following band, Sun Sap, to even get their set out.
Cosmos Midnight were stirring up a rabid crowd at the second stage. Despite starting out cold they soon got into the performance and begun moving around the stage. The sound at the second stage was the best at the festival, and the duo’s EDM took full advantage of this. However Ravespewtin, the performer at the DJ tent near the second stage, probably didn’t appreciate competing for sound levels.
At the other end of the festival The Preatures were mounting the stage with their indie pop-rock set firing on all cylinders. Front woman Isabella Manfredi was a powerhouse, commanding the stage the entire set. The Preatures didn’t stop for a second as they pounded out I Know A Girl, Girlhood, and Somebody’s Talking before topping it off with their rock and roll hit Better Than It Ever Could Be.
Bad//Dreems were up on the second stage next. Delivering Blood Love with a high energy stage performance the band were a solid late afternoon pick. Bad//Dreems took the festival into the twilight with solid rocking out, strong vocals, and a live sound that was energetic and punchy.
On the Rad stage Body Type were finally getting a chance to show Yours and Owls what they’ve got. After just playing with POND on their national tour Body Type have been getting a lot of attention. A new single released recently and a crowd had gathered to hear it. Not to disappoint the all female indie rockers produced an amazing live show, with hit 264 proving to be a legendary track. Unfortunately the Rad stage still hadn’t sorted out it’s problems with sound and the four pieces harmonies were almost completely lost in the below grade mix.
Up on the main stage the first of the headliners for Saturday was rising to the stage. Allday came out of the gates dancing, gallivanting around the stage in a spectacular display of showmanship. With an over-the-top lightshow that made looking at the stage difficult at times, Allday busted out Wasting Time, Grammy, and You Always Know the DJ with clear, strong vocals that didn’t weaken around the melodic sections of the set. The set had purposeful use of energy to keep it dynamic and interesting, with Allday finishing on some strong notes with Angels.
The Rad stage had another line up switcheroo with SM Jenkins finally getting to take the stage after being skipped over earlier in the day. The stoner rockers were delivering the AFL banter and giving the bigger acts a run for their crowd numbers with the very catchy, and slightly reinterpreted, Martin’s Big Fight.
However the festival was soon to be rocked so hard it tipped over with Australia’s favourites, the mighty mighty Dune Rats, ascending to the main stage. Despite starting rather cold and still Dune Rats quickly managed to liven up, making the stage their playground. Cranking out the tunes with 6 Pack, Superman, and Fuck It dominating the start of the set. Danny Beausa’s vocals genuinely sounded as if they were about to blow out every single song, but that didn’t stop him from engaging in the strangest banter of the night with fellow band mates between every song. What seemed to mostly be mumbling and gibberish guided the band into each song, and kept the loose slacker vibes strong. The Dunies fired off Scott Green, Red Light Green Light, and Funny Guy to the absolute delight of the feverish crowd. During the bridge for Dune Rats classic Dalai Lama, Big Banana, Marijuana the boys threw in a cheaky cover of the start of Never Had So Much Fun by Aussie punk stalwarts Frenzal Rhomb. The Dune Rats delivered an amazing set, finishing with a show stopping rendition of Bullshit.
Northlane were meanwhile busy getting ready to demolish the Out of Space stage. Acknowledging that they were a “bit different” from the rest of the days acts Northlane executed a tight, impressive set, which included a brand new song, War Machine; however, didn’t seem to win over much of a crowd, with only just enough punters turning out to start a rough looking circle pit. Easing into their metalcore sound the band did produce an appropriately heavy set that got the fans that came for them moving.
Closing the festival on the main stage was Safia. A stale open quickly gave way to an energetic and dynamic performance. Safia are one of those electronic acts that never look like they’re just pressing buttons on stage. Constant movement and a unique stage set up give Safia an intriguing live presence. Opening with Make Them Wheels Roll, the band entertained the crowd with Counting Sheep, Bye Bye (which received a mashup with the Gorillaz hit Feel Good Inc), and Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues while the stage was lit up by the bands custom video track. Despite many festival goers abandoning the festival due to the cold, Safia had managed to draw one of the biggest crowds of the night and had every single person moving as they pulled the set to a close with the high energy Take Me Over, from their collab with Peking Duk, and the electronic dance banger Embracing Me.
The crowd was still boogieing as everyone made their way out of the festival and back to their beds, so that they could gear up to do it all again the next day. Day one of Yours and Owls had lived up to expectations, and set day two up to knock them out of Stuart Park.