Harvest presents the Gathering. It was called that because there was already a festival called Harvest. Disorganised much? Apart from the shitloads of random ‘art’ I didn’t care at all about, the lack of adequate public transport, lines for the toilets longer than the ones the Flaming Lips were doing backstage, Harvest was a throuroughly enjoyable day. I could spend more time complaining like a lot of other reviews, but I feel that’s just the music industry’s favourite new sport; AJ Maddah-bashing. To some extent he is a bit of a cunt, but managed to create an entirely credible lineup, without any dull moments or disappointing buzz-bands. Compared to the likes of BDO who try, in a vain attempt to stay at the top of the Australian music festival market, to please everyone by selecting mediocre headliners like Kanye West and Soundgarden , Harvest was filled with influential and relevant acts from all genres. This is what really made the festival for me, and should really for everyone by the deciding factor on judging a festival, not how long they had to wait to get a pizza.
We arrived after a rather protracted journey on public transport, filled with the typical punter munting at the back of the bus and energy-drink induced excitement. However, this was hardly the typical crowd on a train before a festival. Billed as a ‘civilised gathering’ the crowd at Harvest reflected this; hardly any rouble-rousing teenagers taking too many pills, just a fairly relaxed crowd, ranging from young indies indulging in their first festival of a long summer, to hardened festival veterans there to see some of their nostalgic favourites. The day started sitting to the side of the stage in the sun listening to the electronic stylings of Dappled Cities, in the grass surrounded by trees and back by the Werribee Mansion. Relaxing to say the least, the band served as a good way to ease into the atmosphere, playing their brand of entertaining but uninspiring pop.
Next were one of my most anticipated acts, The Walkmen, over at the Manure stage. I think the official name was Windmill stage, but one lonely windmill wasn’t enough to distract us from an entire field of manure. Part of the Werribee milieu I guess. Anyway, the Walkmen brought to the stage their sauve, mature punk rock, glistening in suits without ties, showing Melbourne that there was still some class about American music. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser belted out a solid range of tracks from the Walkmen’s ten years, highlights being their classic The Rat and the sustained, soaring vocals on Little House of Savages.
We quickly hurried to the Grand Lawn Stage, one of the most impressive stages I have ever seen, a sprawling lawn surrounded by trees and gardens, leading to a huge stage backed by the even bigger Weribee Mansion. TV on the Radio were next, one of my all time favourite bands. Since having been recommended their album Dear Science a few years ago, I have been a huge fan of their difficult to define fusion rock. Their set was everything I had hoped for. Shaded by the stage, we danced to an energetic, frantic rock and roll set. The booming chords and claps of Halfway Home started brilliantly, and the band didn’t slow for an entire hour. Dancing Choose, Second Song and Will Do all soared beautifully, the two singers voice contrasted and clashing as the smiled and waved at the now large crowd. The entire crowd clapping the percussion to Golden Age was another highlight as the genre bending mixture of funk, rock and soul was displayed with flair and skill. The live trombonist held the crowd in awe as a good brass musician should, wailing on his fills, contrasting the guitars and clattering drums. Wolf Like Me finished the set with the crowd dancing, and I was personally overwhelmed at the sheer energy and fun of the entire set.
Next was a slight break until half an hour sitting watching Bright Eyes. I’m not really in any position to give an opinion on Bright eyes, although he sounded kind of annoying.
Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah/ lines for food was a good set, playing mostly classics or as I like to call it, ‘no new shit.’ The music was really background though to the intense wait we had for some pizza rolls. It was bordering on ridiculous but once you commit 20 minutes to a line there is really nothing you can do but wait. After a gratifying albeit long await blast of greasy carbohydrates, we headed back to the Grand Lawn for the National.
The National are a testament to persistence. They have come into their own with their last two albums, maturing as a band and putting on an equally strong performance. The subtlety of Fake Empire disappeared into crunching guitar solos as the lead singer Matt Beringer began to soulfully screech. As he repeated the I don’t have the drugs to sort it out, the audience really began to engage with the band. They played on consistently, pleasing the patrons there to see Ohio’s finest.
Quickly dashing over to Mogwai before the end of their set, the post-rock stalwarts put on a strong performace in the setting sun. Exclaiming, ‘this is the first time we’ve played to such exotic animals’ referring to the giraffes at the Werribee Zoo¸ the crowd responded well. Highlights were Rano Pano and Auto Rock, two contrasting tunes demonstrating the versatility in the band’s back catalogue.
Portishead were close to the high point of the day. I had never really listened to any albums in full, but I thoroughly enjoyed their set. A mark of a truly great live performance is a band ability to sway new listeners. As soon as I got home I downloaded the entire Portishead discography, so that illustrates how brilliant their set really was. Portishead were chilled out, creepy, esoteric, enchanting, ghostly and tripped out. They also had mind blowing visuals, the highlight being Tony Abbot with lazers coming out iof his eyes. If you missed Portishead, you missed a treat. Glory Box, Mysterons and Machine Gun were all brilliant, but as a complete novice, I enjoyed the entire set.
The Flaming Lips, despite clashing with Metro Trains last services, draw a predictably huge crowd. Fairly tired from an intense day, we leant against a fence at the back and enjoyed the psychedelic cornucopia of expensive stage props. It was enjoyable to say the least. Coyne made his trade mark vaginal entrance; trotting across the crowd in a giant clear balloon as confetti and coloured balloons scattered across the manure filled ground. The first two tracks She Don’t Use Jelly and The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, were my highlights, which conveniently fit our need to dash to the train station before the end of the set.
As we headed home, I reflected on the fact that this was the only day festival I would be attending this summer. Content having seen the best lineup Australia had to offer, I was glad I made it out to the Gathering that sunny Saturday.