One of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard could be seen bolting down Swanston Street towards VCA around 12:30 pm. The rest of his band were already playing; opening this year’s Sugar Mountain Festival a mere six members strong. It took just a ‘Head On/Pill’s-length of time to line up and enter the festival, and enter we did to the Melbourne septet reunited in its entirety. The remainder of King Gizzard’s show was dedicated to the opening medley of their most recent album (of many albums) I’m In Your Mind Fuzz. The four-song garage fantasia (on speed) was as tight as ever, and some people even managed to dance beneath the weight of the unkind sun. Meanwhile, Ariel Pink strode around in studded purple stilettos and a fluoroescent pink T-shirt – peering about in what looked like high-heeled agony as folks ‘psst’ to one another.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Anyway, the sole problem with King Gizzard’s set was that they didn’t play later. Why? Because some of the more anticipated, international acts proved disappointing further into the day. Iceage played their token barge of thundering, slightly apocalyptic rock well enough, but it was miffed by questionable sound quality. I guess that wasn’t their fault though. On the other hand, Ariel Pink came on for about 20 minutes, played messy renditions of songs that pretty much nobody knew, said a few things then left. Tracks from Pink’s new album pom pom such as ‘Dayzed Inn Daydreams’ – which is a good song on CD – were almost unrecognisable. Not once did I see any of the thousands of lips there move in unison with Pink’s – rather, confused smokers looked off in all directions as they coped with the disheveled mesh of sound effects, hoping that Pink would play one of his several crowd pleasers (or AT LEAST 30 seconds of ‘Round And Round’). He didn’t. And Kim Gordon and Bill Nace – i.e. Body/Head – played exactly what you’d expect them to play, and that was the problem. Sonic Youth had drums. My Bloody Valentine had drums. Heavily-distorted drone rock with saturnine vocals is really awkward without drums. There were no drums.
Body/Head: No drums/bass/rhythm
But these international types weren’t all disappointing. Prior to these acts, Bo Ningen killed it. I’ve already used the word ‘apocaplyptic’ but I’ll use it again. The Japanese hard rock group sprang around the stage with frontman Taigen Kawabe lurching over his headless bass guitar with the dark-robed majesty of an apocalyptic spider. More hair than human, the quartet engaged the audience with Japanese-inflicted banter that evoked a lively response. This meant that just about everyone present was either absorbed in the power riffs or at least bopping a little – a wall of noise cloaked patrons all the way back to the food trucks. Bo Ningen was followed by the lax, mismatched twang of Twerps, and the Melbourne band did pretty well considering. Ariel Pink should take a leaf out of Twerps’ book: several albums down, they played songs that the audience would enjoy. The wistful ‘Work It Out’ and ‘Who Are You’ were interwoven with newer creations from Range Anxiety like ‘Shoulders’. Marred a little by the sound quality, the set was as tight as it could have been.
… Range Anxiety came out the day before the festival, just by the way.
NO ZU delivered their raucous brand of tropical funk to quite a response from the audience. A refreshing mid-afternoon pick up on the main stage, the Melbourne band’s set was colourfully energetic with its pulsating array of exotic drums and rhythmic ‘woos‘. They were perhaps one of the more distinctive acts to grace the main stage that day. On the topic of colourful, the art exhibitions in buildings which lined VCA’s alleyways were a colourful site to behold. Serial album artist Leif Podhajsky had a range of colourful prints on display in the vivid vein of his various artworks, which include albums by Tame Impala and Bonobo among many, many others. Podhajsky’s art space was shared with Japanese visualist Hisham Baroocha, whose collection of similarly vivid work included mostly animal-centered collages. A circular arrangement of kick drums greeted patrons upon their entry to the gallery, beating in eerie formation dictated by a controls in the center of the circle. Like the rest of Baroocha’s work there, this piece was also colourful and easy on the eye (and even ears).
The ATMs all broke by 7:20pm which was a let down. Lines grew longer and the toilets grew smellier, but then, NAS was coming up – a reason to get/stay excited. Performing his 1994 album Illmatic back to back, the hip hop legend quickly got the audience in motion with contageous chants. Just as Ghostface Killah had done at Meredith, NAS made hipsters and suburban kids alike feel much cooler than they’ll ever be with a slew of call and response mantras. While he intermittently described his rise to the top, he consistently demonstrated exactly how he’s stayed there. Effortless, nostalgic, educational: NAS was the cherry on a steaming, saccharine cake. Until next year!
Full photo gallery here.