[MUSIC: Live Review] Homebake Festival @ The Domain, Saturday December 3
After taking a break in 2010, the (usually) annual Homebake festival returned to Sydney’s Domain for its 14th iteration. Featuring some of Australian music’s most respected names, amongst the next crop of rising local artists, it promised to be a day of cross-generational musical highlights – but proved to be somewhat hit and miss. The highs of Nick Cave’s guttural yelps and the Triffids’ moving tribute to their passed frontman were balanced by the somewhat uninspired beats of Drapht, and the plodding disco-rock of Damndogs. At any one time you could bear witness to acts who were past their prime, coming into their own or exploding onto the scene.
The Vines returned with a new record this year – but despite drawing one of the first big crowds of the day, they haven’t come back with too many new tricks. Controversial frontman Craig Nicholls deadpanned through their back catalogue, diluting the unbridled excitement that saw them surge to international acclaim in 2004. Instead, they seemed to be a little lost in time – a trait that traditional bluesman CW Stoneking personified with gusto. With an orchestra of horns behind him, Stoneking’s mumbled drawl was as charming as it was bizarre, bringing together Delta, Mississippi and Depression-era blues into one of the true highlights of the day. Equally lost/trapped in time were ‘80s staples Icehouse, playing their iconic record Flowers in full. Grinning with tales of the past (“back when we were punks, we had a dance called the pogo”), Icehouse played out as a snapshot of their era, certainly not embodying the timelessness that their era-mates on the Dome stage were about to demonstrate.
Taking the ‘classic album in full’ set on board also, the reformed Triffids were fronted by a revolving roster in place of the late Dave McComb. Each fill-in brought a touching take on McComb’s words, and the baby-faced Alexander Gow from Oh Mercy brought an earnest touch to proceedings, his youth a foil to the bandmates twenty years his senior – but surprisingly (and maybe criminally), it took the English singer Simon Breed to bring the most accurate touch to the Triffids, finishing off Born Sandy Devotional with Jill Birt’s ominous announcement: “This will be our last song… In more ways than one.”
Earlier in the day, the stage was set for the youth. Architecture In Helsinki’s infectious absurdity made them Homebake’s most appealing dance act, while The Jezabels packed out the main stage with their cavernous gloom-rock. Beating each EP and record out of the same cast, they may not be venturing too far out of their comfort zone, but there’s no denying the fast-rising band’s ability to meet their audience’s huge expectations.
But the night belonged to the headliners: with Martyn Casey swaggering over from the Triffids to join dirty-old-men-in-arms Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Grinderman was a ferocious end to proceedings. Playing with unparalleled fervor, Cave crawled through the front row, screaming through Ellis’ fucked-up guitar. Thundering through the Grinderman ethos of improvised chaos, it was Cave who broke form, sporadically reading from lyric sheets throughout the set – the only complaint from an otherwise masterful show.
With their first ever Classic Edition, Homebake may have stumbled upon a formula that works. Adding a welcome dose of nostalgia to a festival that has long been Sydney’s celebration of contemporary Australian music, it was a chance to see the future meet the past – which will hopefully be repeated next year.
Posted: December 19th, 2011 under Brag 442 (December 12), Live Reviews, Music.
Tags: Architecture In Helsinki, CW Stoneking, Grinderman, Homebake Festival, Icehouse, Max Easton, Oh Mercy, The Brag, The Jezabels, The Vines, Triffids