Harvest Festival @ Werribee Park, Melbourne (Sat 12 Nov 2011)
So the organisers of this one pretty much looked at my music collection and made a festival just for me. That’s how it felt when the initial lineup was released some months back. And then the second announcement came, and as predicted, Mogwai were on it. Happy Saminator.
Parts of the day itself were an organisational clusterfuck. The timetable for the Melbourne event was only released days beforehand, and the Sydney and Brisbane ones were changed significantly at the last minute. Event organiser AJ Maddah had a rather public stouche with Portishead about the playing times, which I won’t bother going into. If you don’t already know about, you can google it. In Maddah’s defence, it did seem to get a bit blown out of proportion by Mess and Noise. In truth, I have a lot of respect for him, as you don’t EVER see festival promoters being so candid in public forums like twitter. There’s a good interview with Maddah on thevine.com.au about his intentions for Harvest. I think he got 80% there this year, and I’m glad to read that there’s no plans for this just to be a one-off event.
One thing that did surprise me in that interview was the capacity for each event. Melbourne (15,000 tickets) sold out a day or so before the event, but Sydney, with only 10,000 tickets did not (well, not at time of writing and the event is on right now so I’m guessing it didn’t sell out). Sydney’s population is a fair bit larger than Melbourne’s, but then again, generally speaking, Sydney people have crap taste in music. I lived there for almost 3 years, so I know this to be a fact. It’ll be interesting to see if Brisbane sells out- 12,000 tickets and about half of Melbourne’s population. Brisbane people have good taste in music though, so anything could happen. I lived there for 30 years, so I know this to be fact.
This was the first Harvest Festival, so it’s inevitable that there’ll be some teething problems. The timetabling issue was a bit over the top though. No, I’ve never booked a festival with such a large amount if ‘top heavy’ artists, BUT, one would think that artist requirements etc would have been known long before now. I know with many major festivals, the timetables are often locked down months before the event, simply because they have to be. Artists need to travel to the next show, and get there from the previous one etc, so these things need to be worked out well in advance. I’m not going to pontificate as I don’t know the full situation, and undoubtedly, it would have been a stressful one to be involved in. That said, the programs that were handed to us on entry had the old timetables printed in them, with the new one as an insert. I’m sure there were more than a few people through the day that looked at the old timetable by mistake and missed their bands- it almost happened to me as the old timetable had Mogwai starting about 2 hours later so I very nearly missed them.
For the Melbourne show, the venue was at Werribee, which is quite a way from the CBD. Transport held up well, and it took about 2 hours to get from Melbourne’s inner north to the site. Tram to CBD, train to Werribee, free shuttle to the venue. Really, that part couldn’t have gone smoother.
When we arrived, it was so great to see that this actually was going to be a nice festival. This wasn’t a Big Day Out, where one gets the impression that the organisers simply take your money and then throw 40 000 people into a dustbowl to see what happens. I remember the very first Splendour In The Grass had a similar vibe- it seems the organisers actually give a shit about the punter and want to not just give a great lineup, but a great experience too.
The weather was sensational, the venue was brilliant, and the organisers had obviously put in quite an effort to make the grounds as comfortable as possible.
Our first port of call was the bar.
The queue for beer tickets was insane, and when one finally got through that, the queue for actual drinks was even worse. It literally took two hours to get to the front of the queue to find that particular bar had run out of beer.
Oh, the humanity.
When I was at the festival, I’d pretty much decided that most of this blog post was going to be a rant about this situation. In hindsight, I don’t really give a toss if I can’t get wasted, but this frustration was pretty intense at the time. Being that I’m sure Mess and Noise and/or The Vine will devote a whole article to this, I shall now keep the drinks rant to a few short paragraphs, and then we can be on our merry way:
What the fuck? A bar at a festival runs out of beer at 1pm. WHAT. THE. FUCK. There’s not nearly enough staff to deal with the crowds, and the whole exercise of beer tickets (which is meant to ease congestion and speed up the bar process) was a complete fucking nightmare. As my wife noted, this was the kind of amateur mistake you make at your kids 21st, not something at a 15000 capacity event. Surely it wasn’t the event organisers that fucked it? These guys also organise Soundwave, and as far as I’m aware, those festivals don’t have massive bar queues.
One thing the event organisers can be thankful for, is a forgiving crowd. Although the general vibe in the bar lines was one of utter frustration and annoyance, everyone kept it together and still had a good time. So bravo to the crowd for dealing with a shitty situation. All it would have taken was one fuckwit with a southern cross tattoo to start a fight and it could have gotten extremely ugly.
During this debacle, I decided to make a run for the Windmill stage to go and see This Town Needs Guns. I don’t know much of their music, but I do like what I’ve heard. I left my comrades in the bar queue and headed off. When I arrived at the stage, I was amazed to see so many people there to see a relatively unknown band. And then it dawned on me. They were queuing for beer as well. The line literally spanned the length of the field. The situation wasn’t lost on the band who commented that they were happy so many people were watching, even if the real reason they were there was to get booze.
I now found myself a new problem. I had no beer, and now I came to the realisation that there was no network coverage on my phone. My friends were getting my drinks for me AND NOW I HAD NO WAY OF FINDING THEM. LADIES AND GENTELMEN, IF YOU SEE A COUPLE OF CANS OF VODKA WALKING AIMLESSLY THROUGH THE FESTIVAL, THEY BELONG TO ME. My phone had full bars, but not one message or phone call would go through. Obviously not the organisers fault, but hopefully next year, Telstra will truck out a tower, as they do for Meredith and Woodford.
I was eventually reunited with my friends and drinks, and we trotted down to The Family Stone. Hit after hit after wall of awesome. Sen. Fucking. Sational.
Next up were The Walkmen. We decided to go and have a look as TV On The Radio weren’t on for another half hour or so. I’m not a huge Walkmen fan, but don’t mind listening to them every now and then. Unfortunately, they came across as pretty damn boring today. This was the second time I’ve seen them, and the second time I’ve thought that.
We stuck around for about 10 minutes, and then went back to The Great Lawn for TV On The Radio. By now, I’d gotten through my drinks, so lined up once more for round 2. This queue took about 40 minutes, so I didn’t really get to see TV On The Radio, but I did get to listen to them. They sounded great, and am bummed I didn’t get the chance to be closer.
With drinks in hand, I went back to The Windmill Stage for the first band of the day I was actually looking forward to: Mercury Rev. I’ve seen them a few times, and am a fan of their relaxed pop sensibilities.
They did a resounding rendition of Peter Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill:
Then it was back over to The Great Lawn to catch of bit of Bright Eyes…
And then back to The Windmill for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah….
On the way from Clap Your Hands, I realised it was high time for a wee. It seemed the horrendous queues weren’t just reserved for the bars.
And then it was back To The Great Lawn for The National (which was again mostly viewed from the never ending bar queue)….
Up next were Mogwai, which were my most anticipated band of the day. I love this band. I want to BE this band.
This afternoon’s set was quite different to when I saw them at Splendour last July. Much more from the Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will album, as well as the favourites, like Fear Satan and Auto Rock. I reckon I could watch Mogwai daily and not get bored. I was a lot more sober for this show than at Splendour, entirely due to the previously mentioned bar clusterfuck.
Once Mogwai were done, we decided to head over to see Phosphorescent. I’d not heard anything about this guy until last week when one of my American friends told me to give it a listen. So I did, and I liked it. The sound of Portishead filled the whole venue as we walked over, and it wasn’t until in the actual tent where he was playing that I heard his music. A great set, even though I only saw the last half.
Now it was time for Portishead. I’ve seen them once before, and I remember that show with fondness. The simple fact for me at this point was that (in my opinion), Portishead haven’t put out a decent record since Dummy. I’d not really planned to see them, but since no-one else was playing at the same time (head back to that google link at the top for an explanation why), then it was a no-brainer. They were actually really bloody good.
Now it was getting to the tail end of the night. One of my friends texted me (how it got through is beyond me as none of mine were going anywhere) that Holy Fuck were worth seeing. I’ve heard a bit of their stuff, and liked it, so figured it was worth a shot. They were up against The Flaming Lips, who I’ve seen a few times and never really understood the hype, so it was actually a fairly easy decision.
Holy Fuck ended up being my highlight of the day (apart from Mogwai of course). The set was pure energy and musical brilliance. If you ever get the chance- go see them. There also weren’t that many people there, so got a chance to use some of our left over drink coupons at the bar.
On our way out, we had to walk past the Windmill Stage where The Flaming Lips were playing, so trotted inside for a peek. I still don’t get it.
Overall, I rate Harvest a huge success. The timetables, drink queues, and lack of mobile coverage were annoying, but presumably easily fixed for next years event (and hopefully for today in Sydney and next week in Brisbane). The lineup and venue were near perfect, and I look forward to seeing what happens next year.
By sheer coincidence, I’ll be in Brisbane next weekend, and very seriously thinking about going along if there are tickets left by then.
And to sign off, here are some general pics of the day. See you next year Harvest (and maybe next week)!
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