Beats On The Beach @ Kingsford Smith Park, Ballina (01/01/07)

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The trend of New Years Day events being bigger than their eve counterparts continued this year. With events like BBQ Breaks, the Mullumbimby SuperDisco, New Years Day Roast and the latest addition, Beats on the Beach all taking place, the people of South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales were given plenty of choice of where to shake off those New Years hang overs.

Hosted at Kingsford Smith Park in Ballina, only a quick stroll from the beach, Beats on the Beach was our choice for some New Years Day sunshine and music. As expected for a New South Wales festival, punters were greeted by police sniffer dogs on entry through the main gate. Local news the following day reported that 25 people were detected with drugs. It was a strange mix of twenty-somethings, a few old hippies from Byron and a surprisingly large number of young teenagers that made up the crowd. In order to squeeze in the scheduled acts and adhere to local noise restrictions, the day had an early start and finishing time, kickin’ off at 10am and wrapping up just after 9pm. This made it a little hard for those of us nursing sore heads from the previous night, and meant that the crowd size was fairly disappointing for the early acts.

The music was split between two main stages. The first, Rockit Beats Stage dedicated to home-grown rock and indy bands headed up by the likes of Pete Murray, Karnivool and End of Fashion. The second main stage, Fractured Beats Stage hosted a mix of high quality international DJs, hip-hop, funk and electronic acts with Infusion, the Nextmen, Saul Williams, and Pendulum as some of the major draw cards. A third smaller space was also put together by the organisers. Not exactly setup as they advertised “forest glade, with decor art, roving performers and bar”, and more like a small stage placed in the middle of a football field, it did give the crowd some exposure to DJs and electronic acts from the local area.

Among the earlier of acts, New Zealand breakbeat DJ FreQ Nasty hit the fractured beats stage before having to head north for a set at BBQ Breaks in Brisbane. Meanwhile, the rock stage hosted performances by SE Queensland and Northern Rivers rock and indy acts Operator Please, Bourban Street, and Avalon Drive.

Not surprisingly for a New Years Day festival held out in the blazing sun, the crowd took a good few hours to warm up and embrace the bands. Most of the crowd seemed to be searching for some respite from the heat, nestling behind tarp-lined fences or behind the mixing desk.

Raz Bin Sam enthusiastically brought his middle eastern rhythms and peaceful message to the stage, although the crowd all seemed a little confused by the four flag bearers that accompanied Raz on stage. Ashley Anderson aka Katalyst soon followed, joining forces with up and coming Australian MC Ru.CL (Ruben Campbell). Perhaps it was the heat, or just too early in the day, but they struggled to get the crowd moving. Ruben’s love for his Caribbean heritage did shine through though, covering and praising his idol Damien Marley.

Back at the Rockit stage, the ever growing in popularity synth-rock outfit Van She strutted their stuff. Sex City was definitely a crowd pleaser, but possibly because it was the only song that most of the Triple J worshiping crowd had ever heard. They injected energy into their performances and inspired a few “Who’s that? They’re great!” comments from a few of the young attendees. Not to be outdone, Adelaide outfit Wolf and Cub followed on stage. For those that haven’t seen these guys in action, get out and watch them. Any band that has two full time drummers and drum kits just has to be good right? It was refreshing to see a band that seem like they spend more time on their music than their image.

From mid afternoon onwards, the pick of the music was definitely back at the fractured beats stage. The big sounds of Byron funkstas Mission Ignition squeezed onto the stage with their 7 piece band. Front woman Mama Soul showed that her hip movements are as good as her voice, getting the feet moving and bodies thrusting across the oval. A complete change of style, but just as enthusiastic response from the crowd followed, when New Zealand drum ‘n’ bass kings Concord Dawn hit the stage. With plenty of distortion and unbelievable beats, Concord Dawn set an amazing standard for the other acts to match.

A change of pace again, with Soma Rasa hitting the stage, showing that they’ve lost none of their crowd pleasing ability despite being on the scene for almost a decade. The only disappointing aspect being that if you blinked (or needed a toilet break for that matter), you may have missed the majority of what was a very small set. Next up, another international act, with Saul Williams making it clear that his skills aren’t limited to writing poetry, bringing to stage a class act of hip-hop, heavy beats and on-stage antics. Wooloongong boys Infusion followed, showing that they are still one of the best live electronic acts in Australia, performing plenty of tracks from their latest album release Six Feet Above Yesterday. Older fans of Infusion that were hoping to hear a bit more their earlier music may have come away slightly disappointed, but the band would definitely have won a whole new wave of fans with what was definitely one of the class performances of the day.

Meanwhile, the Rockit stage provided something for those not in a dancing mood. The Sick Puppies would have been pleased with the crowds response after returning from a stint in the USA. Hard rock and metalheads would have been satisfied by Karnivools appearance. While End of Fashion put on a quality show before the newly bearded Pete Murray wooed the crowd with laid back tunes.

Despite being advertised in some press as the headlining act, Pete Murray had to settle for 2nd place with drum ‘n’ bass act Pendulum definitely drawing the majority of the punters. As what seems to have become the norm for Pendulum, only one of the formerly Perth-based trio graced us with their presence on stage. Drum ‘n bass purists may have cringed at the set, and were definitely served better by earlier acts, however their complaints were overwhelmingly drowned out and stomped on by a crazed and messy crowd of dancers. The addition of the UK based MC Verse on stage may not have brought much more substance to the performance, but did provide useful cues of when to cheer and when to dance.

The lack of shade, short set times and a fair bit of confusion over the schedule were the main downsides to the festival, but, with some great acts, no lineups at the bar, and importantly, plenty of porta-loos, the Beats on the Beach definitely had plenty going for it. Final crowd numbers were estimated at 4500 which should have pleased the promoters for a new festival. If the organisers can put together a similar lineup next year, it’s well worth considering for your new years day celebrations.

BB

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fIENDISH

fIENDISH said on the 12th Jan, 2007

Yeah i thought it was a rocking day, concord dawn, pendulum and infusion was enough to keep me dancing hard, but i also thought Katalyst got the crowd hyped with RuCL and The Tongue doing some freestyles as well towards the end of his set. The pro skating