Gathering for music.Posted: November 14, 2011
As a birthday present, I picked up some (discounted) tickets for my brother and I to attend Harvest Presents ‘The Gathering’ Music Festival, held this year on the lawns of the elegant Werribee Mansion. It was very hot, sunny, fedora-required weather for late night music. The event had an almost carnival feel to it, with various arts performers marching around the grounds and in one of the venue stages – a vaudeville tent. I was unimpressed with the signage on the surrounding roads, the coupon system for drinks was apparently disastrous (I opted for a dry day), and punters were pissed about pre-festival timetable delays. The only thing I really care about these days, though, is ACCESSIBILITY. The fact is that the lawns of the mansion are beautiful. And flat – being in a wheelchair, this is something I always need to consider, when going anywhere.
When I saw the line-up, it was like a trip back to high school & 2005 for me: Mercury Rev, TV on the Radio, Bright Eyes, Flaming Lips, and Portishead(!) all headlining acts. Not exactly times I want to go back to – I’m one of those weirdos who finds it difficult to separate music from people, events, and places in memory. Listening to a song can unleash a flood of memories I have great difficulty controlling. So, I thought that seeing these bands now, I’d be able to create some new pleasant memories for songs I used to love. Not far from my house. And I did.
Younger acts I was keen to see included Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Seekae. Thanks to annoying set clashes, brother went off and enjoyed Seekae whilst I was busy overwriting my memory with Mercury Rev (Seekae are local, I’ll see them again). Also caught The National ( some interesting interpretive dances going on during that) and some of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah‘s set. A woman in a kaftan decided to dance with me during. Always fun/awkward. Strangest part of the day though came courtesy of this clearly high fellow:
Him: Hey. Do you have any drugs?
Me: Sorry, no.
Him: Oh. Who’s on next?
Me: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Him: Ahhh… NOW it all makes sense….
He then wandered over to a speaker and stared at it for 5 minutes, until a friend of his pulled him away. Drugs are bad for you, kids.
Anyway. The ever energetic Hypnotic Brass Ensemble had brother and I bouncing with JOY to a performance of this song, ‘War’ (love this track in the morning!):
Mercury Rev soothed my soul with their performance of this song, ‘Holes’ (my former lullaby):
PORTISHEAD, though, took the main prize for both my brother and I.
My girl crush on vocalist Beth Gibbons has been rekindled:*
And the band pounded my head into a blissful trance with ‘Machine Gun’. One of the great things about having a wheelchair is that the bass reverbs in my metal, under me. Especially when I am close to the stage. Talk about feeling the music (not the best sound quality in this clip, but you get the idea):*
*not my videos
In a nutshell, the weather was perfect, the venue was great, the bands on their game and the crowd appropriately civilised (if you don’t count the usual peeing in bushes). My brother enjoyed his birthday present, and I can listen to my old CDs in peace, now. If they go for festival #2, I hope they hold it at The Werribee Mansion again – perfect flat (and local!) ground for this Westie. Thanks to AJ Maddah for bringing together a great line-up. To hades with the haters. As a cripple, I was satisfied.
Green Music Festivals?
I couldn’t help but think, in the midst of all the music, about ways a music festival could be made more environmentally friendly, or energy efficient. As with everything else we do (including use this computer) there is always an environmental cost with a music event: bands have to be flown in (air travel is awful for the environment, in terms of carbon emissions – frequent flyers be aware), and sound and lighting are an energy drain. But there are ways that both individual music fans and festival organisers can minimise the harm.
Have added this to my ridiculously long list of things to research. Expect a post on this topic some time in 2012.
In the meantime, music wise, The Australasian World Music Expo (AWME) is kicking off this week. It is both a trade fair, providing a platform to foster stronger relationships with music industry associates both nationally and from around the globe specifically interested in product from this region, and a music showcase for the public. I know peeps performing as part of this. Check the website for details. Bands/groups performing include:
Aaron Choulai & We Don’t Dance For No Reason
Mulatu Astatke (Ethiopia) and Black Jesus Experience
I’m probably going to the opening and will hopefully catch a couple of shows.
Speaking of ‘world’ music (a term too insultingly generic and vague for the quality and diversity of the artistry that is lumped together in this genre), my friend Inderdeep, who wrote the Big Issue article that inspired this response piece, has invited me to an Indian Spiritual gathering (she’s a Sufi) featuring the music of Dya Singh (Melbourne based interpreter of the traditional Sikh hymns, shabad, with diverse influences from around the globe). I’m unable to attend, having plans already for that date, but Dya Singh’s music is wonderful. I first listened to his music back in early 2010, oddly around the same time I met Inderdeep. Love this quote I saw on his Myspace page once: “If you don’t see God in all, you don’t see God at all.” I have serious issues with religion and ‘God’ and whatnot, but the universal message behind that is awesome.
I’ll leave you with this track, ‘Void’, from Seekae. Recently, when I can’t sleep (like now) I put the headphones on and listen to this while I write: