Good Vibrations 2009 @ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (15/02/09)
Tue 17th Feb, 2009 Event Reviewsin
If you’ve ever read any of my recent reviews covering music festivals, you’d see me somehow work in a reference to *Good Vibrations*… and how much it was starting to suck. You see, I was a loyal GV soldier from around 2003-2007. It was the one music event on the calendar that actually made me feel good deep in the cockles of my heart (or somewhere in the inner-cockular region). 2006 was the last great Good Vibes I can remember, with 2007 being a hugely mismanaged clusterfuck, replete with sardine-can crowd-swells and chronic sound/technical difficulties. Not to mention the artist line-ups were becoming increasingly pop-friendly, and less about providing an aural platform for those artists who aren’t as widely known in Australia. So 2009 rolls around, and I read about the cabal of artists who are supposed to be headlining it, and for the first time in two years, I wanted to go back… back to the future (parts 1, 2 AND 3).
The day began with pre-drinks in Alexandra Gardens with some ITM folk (heya peoples), followed up by pre-drinks on the tram, and a couple more pre-drinks inside Flemington, after which the main drinks were had (is it bad that the amount of pre-drinks actually out-numbered the main drinks?). In any case, I didn’t have a bite to eat all day and night, and wanted to start out my day the same way my relatives in Lebanon do: high concentrations of alcohol & cigarettes (minus the stray bullets, missiles and uh… death). All in all, a smashing start to a pretty full-on day.
Not to keep bitching and moaning about the past, but Good Vibrations’ main problem lay with the enormous crowd, which was becoming way too big for humble ol’ Sidney Myer Music Bowl (which is a large venue itself, but not big enough to contain the throng… that’s right, I said “throng”). As soon as I entered the new location at The Nursery in Flemington Racecourse, the first thing I thought was, “Damn…this place is huge. Lookit all this space!” and then proceeded to twirl around and around Julie Andrews style until I started to receive funny looks from dudes in fluro shorts (and if dudes in fluro shorts are giving YOU funny looks, then you’re either doin’ something strange or you are Richard Simmons). The sprawling compound of The Nursery was a beautiful setting for the cavalcade of punters, artists and those opportunists who were selling alcoholic beverages at ridiculously marked-up prices ($10 for a can of Slate & Coke, f’real?). With the immense space & perfect weather (for once), it brought on the nostalgic feeling of the Good Vibes of old.
There was a gaggle of talent on hand for the entire day, from locals like Chardy, Grant Smillie, The Presets and John Course as well as the internationals. Now I never thought I’d say this but, perhaps there was a little too much to see. I say this because a lot of the major headlining acts clashed with each other, making a reviewer’s job nearly impossible (and sadly, my DeLorean was in the shop as the flux capacitor has been malfunctioning, so no time-traveling). This also meant I couldn’t show any love to a lot of the DJs on the day, the Star Bar in particular. But there was entirely too much else to see to be able to enjoy…well, EVERYthing.
The Roots stage once again had my full attention (as it usually does at music fests), with a krump tour-de-force from Grrilla Step, who impress me more and more each time I see them. The stage also featured D.C. emcee Wale in his first Australian appearance. This is a dude to look out for, having worked and worked for a couple years toiling on the underground scene, and will no doubt be making some major noise in 2009. While he didn’t draw a huge crowd, he did his thing, and to be fair no one really knew who he was. So I’ll tell you: he’s Wale (pronounced “wah-lay”). One of the finest emcees to emerge in recent times. Keep an ear out. In between sets was some stunningly dope ADD style DJing from Sampology, followed up by Roni Size Reprazent, who injected some well-needed live drum n’ bass into the mix (and brought out the trippers from their hidey holes). While over at the main stage, P-Money & Agent 86 kept the crowd entertained and moving until Sam Sparro (sporting a goatee) and his slickly-attired band came on and re-interpreted most of the cuts off Sam’s debut album (including Pocket, 21st Century Life and of course Black & Gold) into live, funked-up jams. This is my second time seeing Sam perform live, and his amazing voice will always ensure a solid-ass gig no matter what. Even better was the fact he has re-jigged the performances of his songs from the gig last year, to the one I saw last night, which is a trait I admire in artists: continually re-tooling their established catalogue so you get a slightly different show each time.
Always colourful and entertaining, The Cuban Brothers pretty much owned the Mr. J stage, as did the closing act Potbelleez.
By far, this reviewer’s highlight of the entire festival? It wasn’t the boy who is fat, yet slim. It wasn’t the mau5 who was dead. No not even those dudes with the fat bellies. While all the headliners kicked ass (from what little I was physically able to see of each of them), it was LA-based hip hop group The Pharcyde that not only stole the show, they HEISTED it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have presumed to see all 4 original members SlimKid3, Imani, Bootie Brown and FatLip live on stage, in Melbourne of all places. But there they were, as animated, eccentric and talented as they appeared on their albums and in their videos.
This is a group of artists who over the course of their lengthy careers, have amassed a number of hip hop classics that still knock over a decade later. Stuff like Runnin’, Bullshit, Y? (Remix), all of which were flawlessly crafted by production deity James “Jay Dee/J Dilla” Yancey back in 1995 during the Labcabincalifornia era, along with older classics like Oh Shit, Passin’ Me By and Pack The Pipe. I’m glad the group have been able to iron out their infamous differences which caused them to split over a decade ago, and were able to grace us with one of the most unforgettable performances of recent memory. Next up was Q-Tip, who was also a treat (and was actually a last-minute fill-in as The Roots had cancelled due to commitments as they’re now the official house band of The Tonight Show with new host Jimmy Fallon. No shit). The Tipster and his funky band brought the energy and class (and some funky fashion sense) along with classic A Tribe Called Quest tunes (like Bonita Applebum, Award Tour, Find A Way), and some newer shit from Tip’s latest full-length effort The Renaissance like Move, It’s You. To top off his performance, Tip passionately dedicated his set to the victims of the Victorian bushfires, and heatedly blasted the “motherfuckers” who deliberately lit them.
As I’d long hoped for, this was the year Good Vibrations came back strong. The new location, the line-up, the facilities were all top-notch and you basically had any and everything you needed from alcohol, cigarettes, toilets, food and merch stalls (I think I even saw a massage tent at one stage, but I was pretty sunkissed so I could’ve been hallucinating). Perhaps the only real criticism I can make is with the public transport which left the “throng” (I love that word) waiting for quite a while on the sidewalks and on the road after the event. But overall, it’s a small hassle. The fact is that Good Vibes is back where it should be: at the forefront of the festival circuit. I know we’ve had our differences in the past. If me and Good Vibes were a couple, well then I loved her for many years, and then she got too big for her own pants and started treating me like crap. Suddenly, I wasn’t enough for her. She changed. So we broke up, went our separate ways and I started seeing other… festivals. But even through space and time, despite being apart for so long, we’re back together. An item. She makes me happy again.
Forever and always, Good Vibes: I love you.