Park Jam @ Luna Park, Sydney (05/03/05)

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Park Jam seemed as if it had everything going for it; the massive line up of local and international acts, the quirky location, the all ages tag - the idea was certainly there – but somewhere along the line something went wrong, and what could have been one of this year’s most memorable events came and went leaving an unquestionable air of disappointment behind it. I’m not sure if it was the recurring audio issues, or the fact that there seemed to be more people mingling outside than actually watching the stage in the main room, maybe the oh-so-out-of-place silver cellophane wall decorations were at fault; who knows.

The whole set up just seemed a little unorganised. There was confusion with the set-times, apparently free ride passes weren’t working, and the main room was never more than a third full at best; leading me to think that perhaps Luna Park wasn’t the wisest choice of venue. And I think that a lot of people were a little put off by the fact that the park was still open to the general public, it kind of put a dampener on the whole ‘festival’ vibe. In fact I really don’t even think it deserved to be called a festival. A festival suggests something of the Field Day/Big Day Out calibre - think swarms of people, multiple stages, stalls, places to walk around and explore, etc. This was really just a concert with multiple acts.

At the root of it all there was a lot of good talent at Park Jam, and it was a pity that so many acts were obscured by the poor sound quality. Locals Hijak and Torcha were their usual bad-assed selves, Terrafirma managed to finally inject some life into the crowd; many of whom had spent far too long standing around looking cool and disinterested, Urthboy put on a really good show and it was a shame to see him go after a mere 20 minutes (although wasn’t Hermitude supposed to play in that time slot?) Kiwi hot-shots Deceptikonz completely blew me away and finally brought out some of that festival hype, there was that electric feeling in the air that you get when the crowd is really loving it and it made all the difference, but either they started early and I somehow blinked and missed Blue Juice or again there was a schedule stuff up.

Upstairs the likes of Nick Toth, Regal and others had been mixing up a storm but besides a few courageous lone-dancers the punters upstairs seemed to care for not much else other than slothing on the floor. Not exactly party, party, party. To be honest the best company was to be found outside crammed into the fenced off smoking area. There was laughing, there was tale-telling, there was a guy with a ‘fro, there was a bunch of people standing in a circle and beat-boxing or something to that effect. That’s what a hip-hop ‘festival’ should be about, not standing in a half empty room that looks like it’s been decorated for a cheap year 10 formal, having your ears assaulted by feedback and wondering who’s on stage because you can’t hear them.

Kool Keith and Kutmasta Kurt then put on a lively show in the main room, dressed in school-boy chic attire accompanied by the obligatory platinum jewellery and frivolous hats. They really did have the authentic hip-hop feel going on, but Keith sort of felt the need to constantly push the audience and demand cheers and such from the crowd. His invites repeatedly fell on deaf ears and you’d think he would’ve given up but he didn’t. It got a little annoying. Resin Dogs gave a satisfying performance. Some complained it was too loud, and sure you lost a lot of sharpness in their sound but hey, loud is better than nothing. I had been hanging to see them and while I was happy on a whole, I’ve seen them play better.

Finally Digital Underground took the stage and played what I thought was an awesome set. Roughing it up a bit they were the perfect finale to the day, and as they had a longer playing-time you were really able to settle into the music without having it end abruptly as with some of the other artists. And was it just me or did they sound better than everyone else? Although I think the audience were fatiguing a bit by this stage and I don’t think they were given the accolades they deserved.

In the end what can be said about Park Jam? Perhaps I had high expectations but then again I think a lot of people did. The potential was there but it just wasn’t carried out right. The acts were right, the people were right, it was so close to being a winner but it just fell short of the mark. In a way I feel bad for the artists because they deserved a lot more in terms of enthusiasm from the crowd than they got, but as I said I don’t think the venue facilitated the nature of the event very well and people were generally under whelmed. They expected ghetto fabulous and they got a ghetto flop, they wanted bling and they got blah.

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