As we blow out the candles for the The Farmer’s 10th birthday of The Hills Are Alive Festival, we reflect on the time we spent and how lucky we were to be apart of such a wholesome and special event.
Up in the Hills of south Gippsland Figaro return to The Hills Are Alive to help celebrate the festivals 10th year anniversary of the most pure festival we’ve come to know. It wouldn’t be proper to write about The Hills Are Alive and not touch on the spirit of the festival. The stage is thoroughly respected by the festivals organisers as well, with top quality acts start to finish and placed just before the gates into the festival site, you can bring your campsite drinks and materials with you there. We said it last year and we’ll say it again, there are few festivals that leave out a space in the day’s line-up and live music to gather everyone from the festival in to watch the sunset. There’s something special about watching the sun set graciously over the Hills that’s followed by an applaud with fellow festival go-ers. If this isn’t a heart warming moment for you, then you very well may be a sociopath. The beauty of The Hills Are Alive is that you can be sculling a Canadian Club in the mosh or enjoying a glass of red on a picnic blanket, and either way you’re doing The Hills in proper fashion. While the weather report dished out three days of different weather (sun, rain, borderline hurricane), the spirits of punters that weekend were not dampened. THAA is the type of festival where you’d turn to the stranger next to you and ask for a lighter, but they offer you three ciggies from their deck and to put you on their shoulders for the next song.
There’s no better feeling than dragging your friends away from your gazebo with you to the stage to catch a set you were keen for, and they end up loving it as much as you did. For Figaro, this feeling came with Jakubi. Launching into a bank of funky jams and immediately recognisable songs had people springing to get on their mates’ shoulders as well as get down the rest of their drink so they had both hands to swing in the air. Memorable performances from the set include ‘Holiday’ and ‘Couch Potato’, songs of personal storytelling matched with the heavy slap of a bass. Jakubi’s unique sound is constructed from the irresistible combination of scratchy funk guitars, hip-hop beats, swirling synths and a bouncing bass line. Jerome Farah (the dreamboat) flawlessly hovers yet belts over the sounds of the funk, reggae inspired music. The band’s infectious on-stage energy and delivery of warm breezy blend of funk, soul, blues music had everyone dancing within seconds. The fellas of Jakubi knew what to do to put on an effortless groove, bringing the night to peak funk for the first night and entire weekend.
Out of sort for a primarily band-like festival, but each year THAA pulls together a few choice artists from different schools of thought, such as the Sydney duo of Boo Seeka. This pair of ladsand their euphoric electro, soulful synth-pop like-music was the special ingredient to this years edition to THAA. Starting out with what was a dreamy, electronic haze, hovering with gooey vocals to glaze over the tracks melodies, the set eventually built up into a heavy synth and bass induced set, and as the tempo picked up as did the requirement for dancing. ‘Does This Last’ was a meditative moment, the mixture of the gentle bass and synths created a perfect synergy. The hip-hop-psych-soul project that is Boo Seeka was a highlight of Figaro’s first night on the Hill.
The game of Australian hip-hop isn’t complete without the mention of REMI, who was headlining THAA for their 10th Anniversary. The mixed elements of easy-going jazz, RnB and soul influences produce the end result of REMI. Returning for yet another year to perform on The Hill, REMI and fellow House of Beige member, Sensible J held nothing back with their flare tracks and delivery of dance and old school RnB and Chicago hip-hop. Within seconds the audience perked up for this set, dishing out a consistent smooth flow and irresistible groove for noteworthy performances of ‘Sangria’ and ‘For Good’. A soulful performance of records that indulge into raw, deep emotions that REMI delivered with such ooze and sentiment that it sunk into the skin of all festival goers that night. Taking time out of his prime-time set to discuss the importance of Indigenous rights, the voiceless and the self-growth of now being a festival headliner. The charm of young REMI is a force, and not one that’s dying down any time soon. All in all, REMI performed a stand-out performance, it’s not a wonder why The Farmer invites REMI year after year.
Waking up Saturday morning was a personal stretch. I’m still unsure whether it was the blue Gatorade or the dreamy performance from BATTS (or the combination of the two) on Saturday morning that was the antibiotic in curing the hangover. With BATTS, being stuck in a haze of silky and dreamy in a common sensation. As the rain tickled down from the grey skies and you gave up on your $5 poncho and took place under a tree, emotions were surfaced from the first note as BATTS as her hauntingly mesmeric vocals and distorted electric guitar played a heavenly wake-up call that no one deserved.
After just finishing up from his ‘Íkaros’ album tour, the folks at The Hills last weekend were blessed with the attendance of Tmberwolf, and his hauntingly beautiful songs of tainted love. Timberwolf had the folks of The Hills exiting their dusty stage of the afternoon to build up the energy to kick on the last night of the festival with force. Belting out passionate and genuinely emotional lyrics and melodies with the vigour and fervour that they demanded. Figaro are no stranger to Timberwolf, although after seeing him play numerous times the ability and range of his voice still brings a pep to our step. There’s something new to admire every time. Although, silly ol’ Timberwolf mumbled up his set times, leaving us with not as much time of Timberwolf as we had hoped for. The audience were given a vote for whether they wanted to hear ‘Íkaros’ or ‘Washed Out’, and while Timberwolf has a repertoire of darling tracks, it’s hard to pass up a favourite. The audience acting like Timberwolf’s personal choir, harmonising to the lyrics of the beloved track ‘Washed Out’ as on outro to what was a truly remarkable set.
We were lucky enough to have Melbourne based artist Ali Barter join us for the second nights’ antics on the hill. For the 10th birthday of THAA, Barter held nothing back, from the first strum of her guitar to the very last, we were hooked. Serving out piping hot performances of her most recent work A Suitable Girl with favourable songs like ‘Cigarette’ and ‘Girlie Bits’ that amped the audience. Barter’s rock hovering her energy hovering over the crowd bringing them to an absolute roar. If you thought Barter’s delivery of her grunge pop set list was going to be anything short than a knock-out, well you’re clearly a bigger knucklehead than you originally thought. After getting royally amped up with rock and pussy power thanks to Ali Barter, the time had come for the wholesome, hand-in-hand viewing of the sunset along the Hills. Although, Australia’s batch of incredibly talented rising female musicians has arguably never been stronger, and Ali Barter is a fine example.
The cold weather was no match for Melbourne’s very own Saskwatch, who warmed up the crowd of the Hills with a mixture of oozy vocals and infectious dancing that were a fine highlight of The Hills Are Alive’s 10th birthday. Nkechi Anele’s dreamy yet demanding vocals washed over the audience that night, from the top of the hills to the very bottom. Teasing at the mere hum of a melody, to belting and groove-out of the most demanding delivery of a sole woman. Lyrics that gradually revealed themselves as a cry out of absorbed love, dreaming, hope, loss and heartache tantalised hundreds of audience members at the Hills that night. With Saskwatch having dropped their most recent album Manuel Override late last year, as the band dish out more and more diverse music, follows a growing and diverse fan base. Taking original elements of jazz, soul and funk to indulge with twist on contemporary indie-pop to deliver what was a violently energetic set. A performance like the one served up by the 6-piece could’ve only ended one way, which is a well deserved, rambunctious applause
If you were one of the big duffers who went too hard during REMI and found yourself having to tuck yourself into bed afterwards, you’d find yourself beside yourself with regret for missing the fiery talent of Thandi Phoenix. Thandi took to stage with total fierce and energy wasting no time to kick into gear, giving the folks on the Hills the kick in the arse they very well needed. After touring with Vera Blue late last year and recently returning from the states after playing the iconic SXSW music conference, Thandi Phoenix proved she is a someone to keep an eye out for. With her sound that is equal parts of alternative, electronic and indie music produced a result of raw and emotive RnB music. Performing her brand new song ‘My Way’ (co-produced by Rudimental) was a tasty treat. Launching into the song was Rudimental’s signature drum and elements that had your hips swaying, until Thandi Phoenix’s vocals came in and rose above all. In an instance her vocal abilities storm through, demanding your full attention from the first hum of the opening lyrics to the belt of vocals and groove that follow into the chorus. A set which consisted of heavy synths, beat pads, illuminative drum sticks and some of the finest on-stage dancing I’ve come to see. Thandi Phoenix is a total vocal powerhouse.
Another year done and dusted, and we’re already talking about next years run at THAA. It was a pleasure to be be apart of The Farmers 10th Birthday party of The Hills Are Alive. We’ll see you next year The Farmer to hold hands, sing kumbaya and have a cold one with you on that darling Hill.