Review: St Kilda Festival is still the biggest, best and most accessible community festival in Australia

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Words by Saskia Morrison-Thiagu

Pics by David Harris

Thank you, St Kilda Festival.

St Kilda has once again demonstrated that it is at the forefront of arts and entertainment in Australia. In the last few years, the suburb has been invigorated with the re-opening of The Espy, the hosting of major festival Listen Out and facilitating other occasions such as Yaluk-ut Weelam Ngargee and more. Where else can you find a guy with a lip ring and hacky sack on one corner and an ex-bachelorette contestant on the next? The St Kilda Festival 40th Anniversary was a true testament to diversity, attracting crowds of all ages and walks of life to the free event.

With stellar early performers such as Port Royal, DRMNGNOW and Zoe Fox & The Rocket Clocks setting the early tempo, things started off strong – each stage carried a unique energy and a diverse set of artists. The festival appealed to tastes across the board; there was something for everyone here, including a Dancing With The Stars stage for those patrons who love watching B-grade celebrities with two left feet.

Over on the Fitzroy Street Stage, Teenage Dads attracted a large crowd sporting colourful Hawaiian shirts to stay on-brand with their dad image. Playing crowd favourites like ‘Taylor’, ‘Message in the Sand’ and ‘Sunburnt’ they effortlessly cultivated a fun-loving energy. This energy did not break throughout and they kept the undivided attention of the crowd throughout.

The Push stage was an incredible showcase of Australian talent, with artists like Merpire and Surf Trash taking centre stage. Merpire romanced the crowd with her angelic vocals while Surf Trash were more like surf treasure with their show-stopping energy and musical prowess.

As the day continued, the festival attracted bigger crowds as well as that notorious St Kilda bay wind toward the Main Stage. Acts like Stonefield were caught in the crossfire, but still brought it nonetheless. The Main Stage played host to some huge acts throughout the day – Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Busby Marou and The Kite String Tangle to name a few. Most notably was the very special anniversary guest in ’80s powerhouse Icehouse, who played at St Kilda Festival’s very first instalment in 1980.

RAT!hammock were astounding as always on the New Music Stage, delivering their enticing lo-fi indie sound. They were extremely well received by the audience, with most punters staying for the entire set despite the rain that began to fall. The four-piece have a great stage presence and flawlessly weaved in and out of tracks like ‘Pick Up’ and ‘Mud’.  Merpire was even brought up on stage to play ‘June’ as well as a cover of the famous Gotye and Kimbra collaboration, ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’.

Capping things off on the Main Stage was festival favourite Hot Dub Time Machine. On this occasion, the producer delivered a special 40th-Anniversary set, playing the timeless tracks from as early as the ’80s before journeying into the new century. Tracks like Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ and Midnight Oil’s ‘Power and the Passion’ played and filled the crowd with immense nostalgia. Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic ‘September’ also made an appearance, because it would be rude not to.

At one point, Hot Dub made the hundreds of festival-goers in the crowd all crouch down for House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. It was a somewhat risky move considering the number of boomers in attendance, however, the crowd all abided and typical ‘Jump Around’ pandemonium ensued. The audio-visuals on stage were a great addition to the set, while the audio-visuals of teenagers making out next to me were not. Regardless, the performance was a crowd favourite and a great way to end a remarkable festival.

Highlight: That one busker giving Bruno Mars a run for his money with his cover of ‘Uptown Funk’.

Lowlight: There was a lot of young love among the teenagers that attended and PDAs were omnipresent.

Crowd favourite: The reveal of special 40th-anniversary guest Icehouse.


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