SOTA FESTIVAL @ Elizabeth Quay
Monday, June 4, 2018
As the annual drizzle and bone-chilling draught starts to skulk its way through the streets of Perth under the guise of the revolting season referred to as ‘winter’, we turn to the annual State Of The Art (SOTA) festival to bring a dash of happiness and a tonne of heat to our darling little Lizzy Quay. With undoubtedly the best line up yet for a free government funded concert, P-town was in store for a huge array of internationally acclaimed local acts.
With a fairly nice open-plan layout, you could enjoy the great variety of food trucks and activities amongst the hoards of youths. However, with a small token of your time spent lining up, the over 18s bar area was set out nicely with viewing screens all round.
The first of those up on the fancy screens and even fancier stages were John Bennett with David Hyams. Multi award-winning Bidyadanga artist John Bennett’s set took us on a stunning, yearning journey from the cool of Perth winter to his home in the red heart of the Kimberley—featuring songs from his second album Country is Calling accompanied by David Hyams, he gave real us real reasons as to why we should love and appreciate this special corner of the world.
Changing pace from the wholesome country vibes, Carla Geneve took to the stage with a frayed-hemmed dress and a take-no-hostages-attitude. She laid down the law from the get go with Empty Stomach and more recent release Greg’s Discount Chemist. Already a well-established act, Carla just gets better and better and along with her band, she surely is on a steep trajectory to being a world-class act.
The day got a little more “how-ya-garn” as the boys from Thornlie got their rock volleys on and dished out a bout of head banging along to some real rock’n’roll guitar shredding. Along with their true blue Australian humour and their obvious talent, The Southern River Band surely have another big year ahead and potentially some new little rock fans.
Next it was melodic layered guitars, dreamy vocals and gorgeous meandering basslines held together with the driving backbone of the drum beat—it could only be the sound of the ladies from Calmly. Delivering a sonic whirlpool of luscious melodies, their standout songs included the expansive Used Up and their popular Hallelujah Heartache. Since representing WA music earlier in the year as part of the SXSW festival in Austin, Calmly have grown in confidence and commanded the festival stage with ease, drawing the audience into their hypnotic dream-pop world effortlessly.
Downsizing to a solo singer for the next act did not mean any downsizing in awe or intensity, as punchy yet gentle Stella Donnelly wowed the huge crowd. There’s a line in one of her songs that says “And you tell me all of my jokes ain’t that funny” but she got laughs at all the right times and plenty of tears in Boys Will Be Boys. It was intense and relevant and off the back of a three month international tour—this starlet promised she gave WA the best show yet and we sure believe her.
One beautiful aspect to note about this kind of concert was the unbridled support and respect from one artist to another, whether it was just a shout out or their own private praise—the local love really showed us what we are made of.
With the support of the gleaming golden WAAPA gospel choir, Mama Kim Spender got a little folky with Sweet Eddie as their opener, accompanied by some huge harmonies. Their wavering melodies and primal drums created an earthy indie vibe that resonated throughout.
The nature of the sound with Psychedelic Porn Crumpets is pretty much in the name, with their long wandering chord progressions and distant vocals which sure jolted us awake—if we’d dozed off for a minute. The variety of WA talent just continued as we went from psych-rock to some old Aussie hip-hop in the shape of Downsyde. Raising some real issues with a bit of a funk/reggae vibe they fit right in with the pool of Illy, Drapht and Hilltop Hoods.
With possibly the biggest welcome of the night saw little lovers San Cisco take the limelight with their vintage sweetness. They kind of made me want to buy a Malibu surfboard and go around Australia in a Kombi van or jump on my bed in my pyjamas with a boy in mind, but either way they made everyone want to dance. Gratefully, they played Awkward that gave even the smallest of fans something to sing along to, but it was Hey, Did I Do You Wrong? that did it for me and the many punters on shoulders. San Cisco are WA favourites and it’s not hard to see why.
Getting closer to the end saw the return of Birds of Tokyo to give the rock genre its final send off for the evening. It’s hard to go by a voice like Ian Kenny’s with its familiarity and impressive range. You didn’t have to have a strong affinity with alt-rock to appreciate how intertwined and integral their music has been to Australia. From This Fire, Silhouettic and Plans to Lanterns, I’d Go With You Anywhere and Broken Bones, the lyrics somehow came to mind from somewhere inside lying very dormant. They also trialled some new material with Greatest Mistake and Dive which indicated a deviation from the heavy direction of last album Brace and a return to the more radio friendly era of March Fires.
Wrapping the night up with a belter of a set was Shockone really laying it down thick. Assumedly all the babies had been put to bed which meant the volume was cranked and the mosh was in full carnage phase. With a black-hooded dance troupe waving flags and ‘rinsing’ away, the energy was here. Inviting Reija Lee on stage for Home, it satiated all those old school DnB-heads before throwing in some Skrillex and Post Malone for good measure, and his latest single Bleed Black. His graphics and the visuals were very clearly the best of the night—a welcomed assault on the eyes and brain.
Online there seemed to be some mild grievances with designated smoking areas and suitability to families but what I saw was Perth residents (and guests) getting out of the house on a cold rainy day and getting the most out of what their city could offer. Despite what some mums and dads on Facebook had to say about the event, I personally found it darn-well nice to see the hundreds of dollars of parking fines I’ve paid to the government to go into something more than worthwhile.
Photos by Linda Dunjey, Adrian Thomson & Chris O’Halloran
CHECK OUT THE FULL GALLERY