Southbound @ Stuart Bovell Park, Busselton (2-3/01/09)

Image for Southbound @ Stuart Bovell Park, Busselton (2-3/01/09)

The first weekend of the New Year meant the annual pilgrimage to Busselton for the newly two-day Southbound Festival. With the event selling out in record time months previously, event organisers were quick to hail the new two-day format a success before a tune had even been played. Though instead of the usual Saturday/Sunday format, it was Friday/Saturday that would play host to the multitude of local and international acts filling out the sizey lineup.

With the Friday festivities limiting the nine-to-five crew to the Saturday, it was a slightly smaller, yet no less enthusiastic crowd that descended on Stuart Bovell Park to get a head start on the weekend, though it was evident from the scheduling that priority was still given to the Saturday majority.

Electronic and dance acts were limited on day one to a splattering of hip hop and some electro pop. Local boy Drapht was the first to create some excitement with his bubbly and emphatic emceeing over some absolutely quality produced beats. WA’s favourite hip hop son has skyrocketed to fame this year with his debut LP well received by critics and fans alike. Tracks like Falling, The Money and Jimmy Recard being sung along to by a large amount of devoted punters. Drapht worked the stage well and had the crowd bouncing up and down and the steaming afternoon sun.

Later back on the That Stage, party favourites Bluejuice were smashing through a set of their hip hop infused punk-funk that had many crowd members bumping and grinding along. Unfortunately the searing heat was cooking most, including artists and fans, like chops on a barbie and limited the party fun to be had, despite the best efforts of twin towers Jake and Stav who were firing on all cylinders as always.

Back on the Other Stage, TZU had followers aplenty getting into some Computer Love before electro-poppers Architecture in Helsinki provided one of the highlights of the day with their eclectic range of tunes that showed them at their diverse best. From the minimal musings of new single That Beep to the all out party of Its 5 and the sheer joy of Heart at Races, AIH pulled out all stops and were a real treat to all in attendance.

Following AIH, Grafton Primary stripped it back a notch and upped the electro ante, hardening up the sound and adding an element of camp for a little bit more show biz showbiz. Frontman Josh Garden slinked around on stage to the riffing of brother Benjamin on keytar and provided an entertaining and different set. GP were followed up by the party hip hop of the South Rakkas Crew. MC Trixx and DJ/producer Dow Jones absolutely rocked out their addictive blend of dancehall riddims that had the crowd losing their collective merde. It isn’t hard to see why this is one of the most touted production units of the world who definitely got the party started.

Closing out the Other Stage were local lads Bliss n Eso who deservedly had the headline spot on the stage to closeout their break-through year in 2008. DJ Izm got the crowd pumping before Bliss n Esoteric bounced out on stage to applause, hoots and whistles and a the ignition of a few reefers. Running through most of their hits including fan favourites Eye of the Storm, Bullet in a Target, Happy in My Hoodie and Sea is Rising, the Aussie hip hoppers took no prisoners and gave all in attendance a great set to end Friday, especially considering they were clashing with live show specialists The Hives. Day 1 down, and a cracking day all in all, especially considering the sweltering heat, time to head home for some rest and a shower and get back to do it all again tomorrow.

With batteries recharged it was back to Sir Stuart’s for an early start to see a couple of 2008’s undeniable new-age electro divas. Anticipation was thick at This stage for Santi White and this only accelerated when only her DJ appeared to spin some filler tracks including some NWA until a blue-clad and 20-minute-late Santogold accompanied by two gold-encrusted backup vocalists/dancers bounded onto stage. Curiously opening with the Switch & Sinden remix of You’ll Find A Way, instead of the proto-funk original version, it wasn’t just the temperature rising for the first time that day. Cranking out all the hits from her self-titled debut including L.E.S Artistes, Say Aha and Creator, it was a fantastic set, although one might have wondered what it could have been if scheduled a little later, and even been joined by a full band.

Quickly bolting over to That Stage for Swedish pocket-rocket Lykke Li, a significant crowd was already bouncing along to the diminutive popster’s fresh and perfect pop tracks. Her stage presence was an unbelievable surprise with the fire-headed mistress wielding her single drumstick with gay-abandon, smashing the heck out of her cymbal and bass drum. She jumped around in her cowboy styled costume and her energy was infectious as she performed up-tempo live versions of Dance Dance Dance, Little Bit and crowd favourite I’m Good, I’m Gone. Her choice of covers too was perfect, imploring the crowd to ‘get a little crazy’ with versions of Vampire Weekend’s Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa and emceed to A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It, surely one of the moments of the festival. There must be something in the water over there in Sweden as Li had all watching entranced in her absolutely amazing set in the afternoon sun.

Another success story of 2008 were UK lads Late of the Pier with their Erol Alkan produced debut, Fantasy Black Channel. With conditions in the big top akin to those of a sauna, revelers were prepared to sweat away their hangovers and jump around to their varied dance rock jams. It was impossible not to jump around to synth-rockers like Heartbeats, Broken and Space and the Woods, and the lads had a healthy crowd surprisingly in good voice of their own. Album opener Hot Tent Blues was well and truly thrown out the window as, even though the tent was stinking hot, there were certainly no blues in the crowd appreciating their psychedelic goodness.

After hearing some of Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed’s nu-jazz efforts from a far, it was back to the tent for some of the only hip hop of the day with Atmosphere & Brother Ali. With DJ Ant was on the decks/macbook and Slug and Ali on the mics, they ran through tracks from both the Atmosphere and Brother Ali back catalogues, it was the tracks recorded together which showed off the duo’s real skills flowing perfectly with each other to an enthusiastic if not enthralled crowd.

Next in the big top one of the most anticipated acts of the festival with her last show still being raved about when she was in town at the Becks Music Box last year. Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings complete with horns and percussion sections wowed the massive crowd with her new age mix of funk and soul. Playing hits from her three studio albums, one wonders if they could have played anything they wanted and the crowd would have still eagerly lapped it up. When the opening horn drizzles of 100 Days, 100 Nights blared out the toe tapping turned to all out boogie and Jones imposed herself everywhere stalking the stage in all her interminable glory. It is no wonder the Dap Kings are the number one choice for producers such as Mark Ronson, as their chops were well and truly on show when French songstress Soko was invited on stage along with Santogold’s golden cohorts. There almost didn’t seem to be enough room on stage for the party and all too quickly one of the standout sets of the festival was over, a few more fans surely jumping on the Dap-bandwagon.

Closing out the tent was one of the most versatile wheel-spinners around but these days is unfortunately more know for being Kanye’s DJ, Canada’s finest, A-Trak. A DMC champion when he was 15, it is a shame he has recently been pigeonholed into hip hop when he is so much more, as his Southbound set showcased, even if a little bit predictable at times. If the kids were expecting hip hop they would be sorely disappointed with A-Trak dropping a smattering of his own productions and a varied blend of electro house on his Serato setup. His remix of Boys Noize’s Oh and his recent original with Laidback Luke Shake It Down were two of the standouts along with seamless mixing through party jams like Treaure Fingers’ Cross the Dancefloor, classics like Paul Johnson’s Get Get Down and fresh trendsetters, Mujava’s Township Funk. Throw in some cheeky turntablism and A-Trak’s set was a perfect way to finish another terrific Southbound weekend, see you next year!

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