St Kilda Fest 2018

Live Music / Rick Clifford / Sarah Rix

St. Kilda Festival 2018 – Melbourne

Based on both the size and number of people it draws, St. Kilda Festival’s billing as “Australia’s Largest Free Music Festival” is a well-deserved title.

Taking over Melbourne’s St. Kilda district this past Sunday, the streets were filled with thousands of revelling fest goers – all there to take in the various music offerings, sights, spectacles (including, for some reason, knights engaged in armed combat,) and tastes. Boasting six stages, the day provided ample opportunity to both get your steps in and explore the area. Beneath Luna Park’s famous signage and between the neighbourhood’s plentiful food offerings and on-hand food carts/trucks, this year’s edition featured much to see and do, including performances from some of the country’s favourite up-and-comers and familiar names.

If you showed up early enough, you were treated to sets from the likes of Kira Pura and Mia Dyson. The latter is one Melbourne claims as their own (though, in all actuality, she hails from Dayelsford) and Dyson – guitar in hand and flanked by her two-piece backing band on the main stage – delivered a powerful performance that was equal parts rock and roots. With time spent touring and opening for the likes of Eric Clapton and Stevie Nicks, Dyson’s confidence on stage helped to set the tone for the rest of the day.

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Across the (closed) roads and up the hill, Melbourne beat disciples 30/70 pandered slightly more roots and soul than R&B/hip hop contemporaries like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu might suggest, but it wasn’t wholly out of place for the stage and general atmosphere. The six-piece managed to inspire a few dancers in the crowd, though most of the mid-day audience were happy to gently sway and take in the musical offerings from a seated position.

It was a different story over at the New Music Stage where Melbourne’s BATZ were offering guttural punk rock – the type befitting a seedy nightclub rather than a sunny stage. Rowdy and recalling the early days of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it was an impressive and high energy performance with particular praise going to the band’s bass lines and drum rolls.

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Australian rapper Tkay Maidza was another artist that upped the energy – bringing in a sizeable crowd for her set on the main stage. Backed by a drummer and keyboardist, the 22-year-old seemed to be having a great time on stage, smiling in appreciation at the audience’s reciprocated energy. The only real misstep came with the apparent lip-syncing (or at least very noticeable backing track reliance) on her Basenji collaboration, “Mistakes”, but the big sounds of “Do It Right” landed well and based on her apparent ear for pop-meets-rap sensibilities, Maidza seems destined for comparisons to M.I.A.

The big highlight of the day was Electric Fields. The duo brought a huge dance party to the O’Donnell Gardens Stage with their mix of Anangu culture and modern electronica. A slow start gave way to big beat electronics, all delivered with a pristine voice from Zaachariaha Fielding. Donna Summers-esque disco moments on songs such as “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” and their other easy-to-move-to offerings, centred by producer Michael Ross, won the crowd over. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d ended up at a super hip Paris Fashion Week show and not beside the Luna Park roller coaster.

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Hiking through the crowd of festival goers, you’d eventually reach The Push Stage for Arno Faraji. The young Perth-based rapper (and the very happy DJ Richmond) has been turning heads amongst the triple j crowd – winning the 2017 unearthed competition. “I know most of you guys don’t know my tracks because they haven’t been released,” he told the steadily growing audience whom he was determined to win over. “I’m going to treat this like a listening party.” If their reaction was any indication and based on the success of acts like Chance The Rapper, Kaytranada, and GoldLink, definitely expect to hear much more from Faraji in the years to come.

The chances of getting in to see Mallrat were slim-to-none by the time the young Brisbane-based teenager went on. Luckily, back on the main stage, Dan Sultan’s easy to like, big riff rock was a solid consolation prize for the crowd overflow. Sydney five-piece The Jezabels received the sunset slot, reminding everyone why they’ve made such a name for themselves both at home and around the world. Soaring, airy vocals from Hayley Mary even lent themselves to a brief cover of Whitney Houston’s “Love Will Save The Day”, while “My Love Is My Disease” proved a punchy upbeat number.

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All in all, St. Kilda Festival was a nice reminder of Australia’s offerings and Melbourne’s charms. It’s hard to deny its value, too. As a fan of music, any opportunity to see a day’s worth of bands (for the very low price of free) is hard to complain about. Whether you were seeing a new favourite or just wandering amongst the hoards with no real game plan, it was ultimately a delightful opportunity to spend and soundtrack a summer Sunday.

Written by Sarah Rix

Photos by Rick Clifford

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