7.3/10: back to back bangers without a minute's reprieve. Hot fresh and spicy, but guilty of all the classic festival tropes – expensive, densely scheduled, sound bleed between stages.
On Saturday the first ever Sydney City Limits festival was a raging, humid, sweaty, sexy affair. If you're a worn festival goer like yours truly then you'll know exactly how to play your cards for a five-day-music-bender: day one is warm ups. This one-day bonanza however, had no time for that bullshit.
SCL quickly transformed one of Sydney's most elegant historical parks into a transcendental mess. The vibe of the thing was extremely home grown. There was a kind of rebellious delight in the crowd at having something to do with their Saturday that didn't involve whinging about lock-out laws, which not even intermittent spits of rain could overhaul.
The punters could not have given one finger length fuck about the sweltering heat or the interdimensional length queue for the loo. The Sydney wildlife ate up everything that SCL had to offer and to be amongst it was electric.
The Questionable Parts
The clashing schedule which made you choose between your childhood crush and your neighbourhood hottie was a profound problem, causing mass migrations from one stage to another mid-set. As a humble patron in search of a window to buy an exotic beer, it felt like being the bystander to a head-on collision. Winston Surfshirt and The Libertines sent me running, and the Gang of Youths and Oh Wonder clash left me guilty after standing up my London loves altogether. The ensuing hours had most of us calling for a blessed breather as the line-up called for back of the crowd sprints between Vance Joy (adorably flinging his new tracks at us), The Avalanches, Ocean Alley, Future, Beck and Grace Jones.
The festival was all in all a hows-ya-father bludgeon of good music but by no means was it without hiccups. There were grumbles through the crowd about the insufficient volume, especially given the close setup of the stages which resulted in considerable bleeding in the lulls. Sydney's strict noise restrictions were copping heavily flavoured insults as the thousands strong crowd packed in like sardines to hear the dulcet tones of national sex-icon and favourite large son of Triple J, Dave Le’aupepe.
The Undisputed Fire Parts
Gang of Youths
National treasures and claimants of 3 of the top 10 in this year's Hottest 100 were always bound to make a splash at SCL. Shovelling good patrons out of my way to get closer to the front, I reflected: for Sydney locals Gang of Youths this set would be like Simon and Garfunkel playing live in Central Park. Whether they felt this way about it or not, they pulled their best performance out of pocket and hit the audience with all the energy of a road-train. 'The Heart is a Muscle' and 'Magnolia' brought the audience to loving a'cappella in a moment of rare patriotism and if Joji didn't slip in a few bars of Queen in his closing solo I'll give you my left arm.
Melbourne based golden children of the juicy dance track absolutely ripped a hole in the afternoon by sneaking the audience of other stages bit by bit. The crowd was blissing out over the auditory toasted sandwich that is the 'Wildflower' album. They absolutely slayed 'Frankie Sinatra' - if only SCL had done them the grace of giving them a later time slot we would have all finally macked on with our Festival crushes in unison in the dark, but we made do in the slummy heat.
This band continues to impress. The rising stars having bit off a piece of the hottest 100 with 'The Comedown' and boasted a huge cult following at Big Top stage. Tash Sultana touted them the hottest new band coming out of Australia right now and with their signature sultry psychedelic reggae groove, who could disagree? Prepare to hear more of front-man Baden Donegal's charismatic voice, clear as a bell, haunting your morning routines with their new hit 'Confidence.'
Nothing can explain the psychotic explosion of moves from young loose limbs that trapped you in your best years when ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ came pouring out over the glowed-up night fields of SCL. May Justice forever headline our sweet dreams and deliver us from our existential angst.
The punters were a rainbow collage of Sydney's best. A warm vision of truly terrible and yet sexual moustaches, full bodies covered in glitter and women sporting outfits made 90% of glitter made the whole thing feel like a gentle warm up for Mardi Gras. No media movement could give you the genuine sense of body positivity that simply being amongst the myriad beauties of Sydney did. Massive shout out to the real life parental superheroes who brought their little ones in their arms adorned with soundproofing headphones without flinching – you are who we all aspire to be.
Here's hoping that the 2019 rendition of SCL can continue to learn from its big sister, Austin City Limits and becomes a hub for the weird and wonderful and home-grown talent of Australia.