By Stewart Heys Jan.23.2009
In: Concerts
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In Captain Thunderbolt's footsteps - All Tomorrow's Parties 2009

Psarandonis at The Barracks Stage

Psarandonis at The Barracks Stage

My expectations for this event were stratospheric as soon as it was announced. Either because of the superlative reputation it had in the UK for being a grown-up, chilled out festival, the involvement of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the venue itself or, more likely, a combination of all three.

As I was getting the ferry in blazing sunshine at 10:30, I was momentarily jealous of others that were enjoying a relaxed Sunday morning, but as soon as a sun-drenched Cockatoo Island came in to view I knew that this would be an experience to enjoy for as long as possible.

Located at the junction of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers, the island, a former prison and shipyard, was a jaw-dropping setting for a festival, especially one that promised such an eclectic and unique line-up. Wandering round the island, it felt as though we were exploring dockyards and penal buildings that had not long been abandoned, such was the immediate evidence of its past.

With such a wondrous location, the position of each of the four stages was intrinsic to the overall experience. Two stages were on the water, another inside the vast turbine hall and the fourth in a divine grassy courtyard at the top of the hill on the western edge of the island.

It was in this courtyard that the dream-like music of Hunter Dienna floated on the breeze to open the festival, perfectly suited to the lofty venue and the early morning mood. It was already clear that the crowd had come with an open mind and were here to appreciate all that could be thrown at them musically.

Bridezilla were sitting on stage together an hour before their set started, apparently jamming, rehearsing and enjoying the view. They attracted an appropriately large crowd for their expansive sound, the folky violin complimenting the post-rock guitars vocals and drums.

Not sure what to say about Afrirampo. It seems too easy to describe them as bonkers, but from the minute they ran on stage it was clear they were going to keep the crowd guessing with their unpredictable performance. There were noisy bits (for two people they made a LOT of noise), there were quiet bits, and they managed a 5 minute drum solo using twigs, branches, and the whole of the stage, including the framework. Not to mention each others arses. Bonkers.

The promise of Psarandonis meant a walk back up to the top of the island, but his beautiful  Cretan lyra-folk, the backdrop of stone ruins and the phenomenal heat transported us to the Mediterranean for the duration of his set. Only the Ouzo was missing.

Fuck Buttons’ loud droning electronica could have been a gamble following on from Nick Cave’s blistering set but for those that weren’t quite ready for the ferry queue they were a hidden gem. Our location was reminiscent of the past, but it felt like we were listening to the sound of the future.

This was an event with a focus on the experience, the atmosphere and the ambience and it all came together to mind-blowing effect. If I could buy tickets for 2010 today then I would do so without a second thought. This is what festivals are meant to be like.