Skydreams Festival was the realisation of something I’ve wanted to do for a while and it became something of a reunion for many folks involved with Sydney’s music scene over the past bunch of years. I organised it with Max Skilbeck-Porter with only five weeks from our initial meetings to the actual event at Hermann’s Bar on City Road on Saturday September 8th. My brain now feels nice and rested, free of stress and deadlines, and thus I have regained cognizance and can assess how it all went down.
It seems that with only slight organisational experience between Max and myself, we managed to present fourteen acts over two stages in a constant stream of music from 3:30pm through to The Holy Soul closing the show at around 1am or so, before an evacuation to The Massive for a fairly raucous after-party. I recall the blasting of James Brown and Iggy Pop at about 4am, but apparently it went on until sunrise. There’s a certain satisfaction in creating an event with more serious after effects than New Year’s Eve … I heard average recoveries took around two to three days. Not bad.
We opened the afternoon with Luke O’Farrell on the outside stage playing a half-improvisational ambient set of hip-hop beats running from his MPC and through a couple synths in a notable departure from what we thought we were getting via the usual acoustic set of Through The Forest Door. Next on came the beautiful trio of Jules Ferrari, Ash Morgan and Sarah Baiada, joined on drums by Jeffrey Lewis from Whipped Cream Chargers who had run through a couple tracks with them in a stairwell less than an hour before. We had attracted a brilliantly sunny afternoon yet it was quite windy so photographic evidence of their set shows three dames with their hair blowing back, flowers draped from all corners of the stage, performing music described afterwards as some ‘seriously hippy shit.’ It was very sweet.
We carried on from there into the psychedelic surf organ freak-outs of East River on the inside stage to Quaoub performing outdoors with Sonia from Psychonanny. Fox was on next inside and they sounded real energetic and had a good response from the crowd, many who had not seen them before. The back and forth was well established at this point with a couple hundred in attendance and everyone spilled back onto the grass to take in the inaugural Sydney performance of B. Deep (Louis Rocketeer), resplendent in silver jacket and face paint as the sun was setting behind him with krautrock electronic backing beats, doo-wop guitars and Tegan Lane and Marc from Buzz Kull on backing vocals.
A pleasantly lucid if mildly inebriated audience greeted Super Liquid Electric Matrimony for their global debut inside, Yuri doing his all to disconcert folks on vocals as Aemon and John kept their usual brilliant machinic lockstep of drum and guitar. Etch_music for the win, once again.
We had entered deep twilight as Broken Chip came on to close the outdoor stage, which was likely for the best as the wind was providing a slight chill, and we distributed loads of sparklers as his atmospheric blissed beats calmed everything down after about five hours of music. I’d been sitting on the doors for most of this time, applying tropical sunset-themed wristbands … but folks need solace after hours at any event and seeing sparklers lighting up randomly in different corners of the square gave intonations of childhood birthday parties or the cheapest fireworks money can buy. Next time we do the real thing.
From these moments of calm came some of the greatest revelers of the day as Reckless Vagina took to the inside stage; I handed them loads of party poppers and balloons to accompany their silly string guns (which they had brought from home). My Dad later told me with a grin upon departure, “Broadcasting Transmitter weren’t quite my cup of tea, but I like that Reckless Vagina.” He definitely enjoyed saying that band name.
Admittedly Broadcasting Transmitter have a higher degree of difficulty for one’s parents. Edwin, Jasper and Luke brought the noise and it was freaking glorious. By this stage I could not have been happier with how it was all going. I had been outside for the majority of proceedings up until then, but was right up front talking to a mate from high school as they started up, the brutal turbulations of Eddie and Luke’s synths grinding over one another, with Toby of The Laurels’ set now on sound duty, so loud and grating before they injected the bizarro pop of their clean guitars as Jasper began to beat the world out on drums, and at this moment my friend turned to me with a smile, his face changing from bewilderment, now understanding what the shit I was thinking getting these guys on the bill. This was what it was about. Aside from inviting the musicians and their friends to gather and enjoy familiar bands, this was a means to expose friends and indeed my parents to the music I’ve been experiencing in this city for the past seven years.
Ombudsman came on to DJ after Broadcasting Transmitter, playing various pieces of what I presume to be UK bass music before Whipped Cream Chargers started. They were their usual fun and raucous selves and likely gained a few new fans in Sydney, certainly my uncle, whom they may have some difficulty transplanting to their base in Melbourne, but we’ll let you know when they’re coming back again. I’ve heard good reports from Lucas and Louis, something about finding it even easier to play than usual. Once again I was listening from outside on the door … perhaps I’m not the best placed to have written this account?
Darren Cross was on next, soothing the ravaged spirits with his solo folk and country set. By this time the helium balloons and scattered decorations had settled into what was intended; the feeling of a forsaken late night wedding reception or ballroom function … a few lazy balloons drifted about before the wide eyes of Oscar and other Reckless folks in the front rows, I’ll say no more. Darren was such a good sport to stick around to go on at 11pm, and he was walking about among the people for a good couple hours beforehand with a guitar slung over his shoulder; asked if he might like to stick it beside the stage he cheerfully replied that he was fine. What a dude.
All bands at this stage were well anticipated and decorative flourishes after a long day of reasonably eclectic music. Regular John were brilliant and I was right down front as we had opened the doors and declared the festival a free event from that time on. They’re about to depart on a national tour for their Strange Flowers LP, released last Friday, and having seen them at various points during the process of getting this set together, gad damn what they’ve done with it. I dig it. It was awesome to have them play … and I might note it’s logistically not that easy to have them on the same bill as say Whipped Cream Chargers, East River, B. Deep and Jules Ferrari for instance, let alone The Holy Soul.
Sam Worrad had told me that strangely (while understandably) The Holy Soul had never played with Regular John during their collective tenure as bands in the micro-scene of Sydney. So there you go, we sorted that out. By the time they went on around 12:30am we were running about an hour behind, an Olympian effort with so many acts to get through, and people were audibly relieved that they were to play, rather than having the venue kick us out onto City Road. The video below, shot by Leigh Hawkins, testifies to the beyond-loose atmosphere as they readied to play a completely necessary, triumphantly dirty and conclusive set. It was the perfect way to close the night, just as we knew it would be. It’s The Holy Soul … a total no-brainer. Trent Marden also pacified his many fans with a rendition of I’m Spent, bearing a line pronounced “I’m Trent,” and there was much rejoicing. The festival ended with their set and I encouraged Jasper Clifford-Smith to announce over the mic that the DJ sets would go on at The Massive, and they totally did.
Skydreams Festival was a collaborative effort involving the readiness of all these bands to come together and play and many people who pitched in to realize this crazy project.
Max Skilbeck-Porter was my partner all the way through from sorting out the line-up, working things out with the venue, designing the poster (below), doing sound on the day and being a couple of roadies exhaustively moving the staging, backline and barbecues to the site.
Chris Porter operated a barbecue from the afternoon all the way through to the late evening to keep everybody fed. It was absolutely crucial and very generous of him.
Sarah Baiada assisted in profound ways throughout the organisational process, embarking on late-night pole postering missions with me (she’s a pro) and also helping out on the door and operating a candles and crystal stall.
Nathan Ashmore helped in setting up the outdoor stage and like an absolute legend let us borrow his famous van on three separate days to lug all the gear around and make it happen. He jumped the fences at the festival for ill-defined reasons and is a complete hero.
Bridget Hollins is my younger sister and she came down early with Dominic Talarico and helped to inflate balloons and decorate the entire venue. This could not have been done otherwise.
Sophie Gillfeather-Spetere, Kalindy Millions and Dear Pluto operated vintage clothing stands with sadly not the greatest of success. We didn’t seem to have enough of a crowd down early in the day to make the markets really work. This event was a bit of an experiment obviously and we appreciate so much their enthusiasm. Hopefully we can make something really happen in the future.
Jasper Fenton did loads of work helping out and pretty well ran the outdoor stage and it sounded great. Toby Baldwin (The Laurels soundie) contacted us a few days before and offered to do sound for any bands after 8pm free of charge and for the love. Both heroes.
Dan Hollins helped on the doors and in setting up the backline and PA over the stages.
Ben Tarwin, Daniel Corboy and Daniel Havas went to the effort of producing the promotional video below … it was entirely independent of us, they went ahead and did it themselves and it was certainly a funny thing to have happened. More of them I say.
Mess and Noise, Scenedeath, The Brag, Polaroids of Androids, Drum Media and Tone Deaf gave Skydreams Festival various amounts of coverage and this was very cool for an operation with basically zero promotional budget.
FBI Radio invited me onto their afternoon show to spruik the festival for more than half an hour; Maren Smith of Eastside Radio had me on her Arts Monday episode about subversive festivals; and Simon Morgan of 2ser Radio had me on his Breakfast show on the Saturday morning.
Everybody who bought tickets allowed us to cover costs and give everybody the cash. We had a couple of hundred people pay for entry and we’re very happy with the turnout. It was so good to get a serious bill of great Sydney bands together and to attract a serious crowd of people to enjoy it. This happened. We all made it happen.
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