Surry Hills Festival @ Prince Alfred Park, Sydney (27/10/2012)

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I didn’t need to be convinced to attend the Surry Hills Festival. Everything about it – from the website, to the logo and the lineup – seemed to be professionally thought out, especially for an (almost) free event. Some of the names on the bill included Tijuana Cartel, The Liberators, The Tongue, Nantes, Softwar, Canyons, Alison Wonderland, SlowBlow and Purple Sneakers DJs. These artists could have all been billed for another party or festival with a ticket price of at least $50. Instead, we were only asked to pay a gold coin donation, resulting in a fast and efficient entry process into the festival.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a music festival, with hardly a cloud in sight and beautiful sunshine which didn’t make punters uncomfortably hot. Synth post-punk act Nantes were one of the first acts to get people dancing, displaying a sound that appeared to be influenced by The Strokes. After hearing their track Fly, my friends and I decided to check out the Garden Stage, which featured a chilled house set from DJ Dreamcatcher and DJ Jungle Snake, who as a duo go by SlowBlow. On our way over we briefly came across some live art, with the most impressive piece involving a skeleton with sunglasses. Upon arrival to the stage, we were greeted by John Talabot’s When The Past Was Present, which was a clear indication as to how enjoyable their set would be. Most of the crowd were seen relaxing and socialising on the grass while listening to the soundtrack of summer.

Due to overpopulated bars, my crew decided to head out of the festival and grab a beer at the local pub. It was due to this decision that we managed to witness two guys battling it out on an inflatable Twister game. This proved to be so enjoyable to watch that we decided to hang around until the end of what seemed like a simultaneously painful and fun experience.

After a few cold beverages we returned to the festival in time to catch our must-see act of the day, Canyons. During their flawless set of house and disco tracks that any music fanatic would find difficult to ID, almost the whole audience took a quick break from dancing and randomly kneeled down for a few seconds. It is this kind of unique atmosphere that allows an event to be memorable and why Surry Hills Festival will remain in the minds of people for a long time.

Alison Wonderland (AKA the dancing queen) was up next and she was definitely there to please, playing a bit of a Parklife mega mix that included Parachute Youth’s Can’t Get Better Than This, which was then mixed into Jacques Lu Cont’s recent rave anthem Underground, followed by This Boy’s In Love by The Presets, which definitely got the crowd energized.

In an attempt to witness a combination of music genres throughout the day, we headed back to the main stage to see the end of The Liberators. Along the way I couldn’t help to notice the fantastic red and yellow lanterns, which reminded me a lot of Splendour In The Grass. The Liberators’ jazz-funk set was great for that point of the night and the stage had quite an incredible back drop featuring the city’s well lit skyscrapers and people enjoying a game of tennis.

Finally, it was time for the headline act of the festival, Tijuana Cartel. After an introduction of the band was made by one of the event’s team members, they kick started their performance which was obviously inspired by a large amount of percussion. Cowbells, bongo drums, trumpet solos as well as brief and effective dubstep sounds, were all a part of the Tijuana Cartel live experience.

Surry Hills Festival was the perfect example of how a festival should be run. The sound throughout the day was crystal clear and the best I’ve heard at an outdoor event for a long time. This year the extracurricular activities blew every other festival I’ve been to out of the water, there were plenty of choices for food, no extended toilet lines and most importantly, carefully-curated bands and DJs. See you next year!

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