With the sun shining and holidays just around the corner, what a start to the Australian summer festival season with The Domain in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens playing host to The Homebake Festival, a veritable who’s who of Australian and New Zealand acts. Now on its 16th anniversary, under the banner of “The Classic Edition”, this year’s line up included such iconic Australian acts such as The Church, Icehouse, The Triffids and internationally acclaimed headliner Nick Cave’s Grinderman joining around 35 other artists covering a range of musical genres. All in all the offerings guaranteed the day would hold a little something for everyone, regardless of age.
As the gates opened at 11am, the biggest decision facing the masses were which acts and which stages. Thankfully, we live in an era of technology, and courtesy of a free “Homebake App” the entire day could be scheduled with “reminders” sent lest you forget that all-important band.
With full festival vibe in the air, and the inevitable queues for food, beverages, memorabilia and loos, the first 7 hours the day was filled with the “younger” bands, some well-known from Sydney radio, others less so, but the big draw was of course the “classic” bands, all scheduled after 6pm it making for a wonderfully nostalgic trip into the evening.
In the “Big Top” the first act of the evening was the iconic Icehouse. A smooth launch to the set came with a rendition their eponymous early track “Icehouse” before ever the seasoned frontman Iva Davies whipped the crowd into some mighty fine moves over the next half hour with such hits as “We Can Get Together”, “Love in Motion”, “Sister” and – as a highlight – of a cover of Marc Bolans’ “Get it On”. Davies sure still has it, especially with the ladies!
Due to unfortunate scheduling, a half hour was all that could be spared since, as my app was telling me, two great Aussie bands were about to take stage over at “The Dome”, The Triffids followed by The Church.
The Triffids, Now in their 33rd year, set about to perform songs from their 1986 album “Born Sandy Devotional” but with the band’s original singer David McComb passed away in 1999, it was up to guest vocalists, including Mick Harvey (ex-Bad Seeds) to step in. With the remaining members, including original member Martyn Casey (Bad Seeds, Grinderman), spearheading the sheer nostalgic trip, the band brought to life the songs off one of Australia’s all-time great albums including the hauntingly beautiful “Wide Open Road”.
A delayed start meant a shortened, 7 song set for The Church. “Aura” started things off with the band in full electric mode and Steve Kilbey’s “rhythmic dancing” adding a touch of lightheartedness to the otherwise intense set. The Church blew everyone away – including the bats flying overhead – with their sheer energy, especially when ripping into high voltage versions of “Tantalized”, “Sealine”, “Cobalt Blue”, and “You Took”. Rounding up their bit of the evening with classics “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile” the shortened set packed a punch with a little teaser of what what fans could expect from the band’s upcoming “Future, Past, Perfect tour.” yet the omission of “An Unguarded Moment” didn’t go unnoticed – or unmourned – by some fans.
Finishing off the evening at the Main Stage was one band who needs no introduction, Grinderman. As fans of all ages stood side by side howling in unison to the opening number “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” the band were pure manic energy. Frontman Nick Cave knows no bounds, crowd surfing and singing among the fans, and each instrument thunders, hitting the body full force. Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos play like pair of beserk madmen, and only bassist Martyn Casey plays it cool and composed throughout. 10 songs selected from the 2 Grinderman albums and an encore of “Love Bomb” left the audience wanting more. Unfortunately the 11pm curfew put an end to the evening. The Homebake set would be one of the last Grinderman shows. Five days later, after their performance at the Meredith Music Festival, “That’s it for Grinderman.” Cave would announce “It’s over. See you in 10 years”.
Some 12 hours after opening, weary, tired and sore bodies left the venue and disappeared into the Sydney summer night. All music styles and ages co-habiting side by side all for the same experience. A great day that reminded fans, there are no boundaries when it comes to the love of music.