GIG REVIEW: THIS THAT Festival 2015 - Newcastle

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Since previous festivals have up-and-left the Hunter region in the last few years, there was a gaping spot that could only be filled by the new contender: This That. Despite it being its first year in action and it’s date landing on Halloween, punters were not frightened off, nor frightened of dressing up. 

The Newcastle Foreshore opened it’s gates to several thousand music and art lovers, on what was lucky to be an albeit overcast, but lovely day! With two stages providing a range of artists, catering to different genres and age groups, there was no decision of choosing whether you wanted a bit of this or a bit of that, because both were served to you on a platter- speaking of platters… food stalls were no source of disappointment for the day. 

Walking through the gates, the first thing to catch your attention was the gigantic slingshot ride. All night people were being slingshotted into the night sky, possibly with the sounds of Birds of Tokyo drifting on earth behind them; just one of the ways the festival attempted to create another world for it’s punters. 

Fans of hip-hop music had the chance to indulge a bit during the course of the day. Over at the ‘This’ stage, crowds were flocked jumping in unison to the energetic artist that despite his musical career only just beginning, proved his abilities to all, Ivan Ooze. Another up and coming artist, Tkay Maidza made it her duty to convince us all to believe the hype, because her talent as a performer is incredible. The nineteen year old beauty would dance across the stage, a red cape attached to her back, inviting the crowd to jump and sing along to hits such as ‘M.O.B’ and ‘Switch Lanes’. Her set was then followed by the Australian Indie-royalty The Jungle Giants. Churning out favourites such as ‘She’s a Riot’, they spiced things up with the jazz-laden ‘Kooky Eyes’; couples around me engaging in mild swing-dancing; and finished their set off with a rendition of their latest ‘Every Kind of Way’.

Over on the ‘That’ stage, there was a celebration of electronic music as DJ’s and likewise artists were smashing out the boogie-worthy beats all day. Stephane 1993, laid down some heavy, dark-electro beats, which was then followed by sydney artist Kilter’s set. At the end of his tantalising, poly-rhythmic set, there was a continuous flow of traffic of those wanting to catch Slumberjacks promising set or Sticky Fingers. Sticky Fingers dominated the ‘This Stage’ with crowds expanding the entirety of the field and up the hill. Lead singer Dylan donned a pair of denim overalls, exploding across the stage; however I felt rather disappointed and a little empathetic for the band. They did not have the most receptive crowd to perform to. For starters, the sound system did not do the band justice, it was unfortunate that being not even thirty metres from the stage meant that the music was hardly audible. What was even more unfortunate is that even during the bands most well-known songs (i.e: Australia Street, Gold Snafu), the crowd wasn’t super participatory in singing along. You that moment when you’re singing along to a song and you realise you can hear yourself so loudly because no one else is harmonising with you? Yeah I had a few of those moments… Sticky Fingers cannot put on a bad show, but you could tell there was a lack of passion simply due to the lack of energy. 

The rest of the night featured amazing acts such as Birds of Tokyo taking stage as the sun set, Slumberjack delivering a super high-energy performance to willing and able boogy-ers, The Kite String Tangle putting on an incredible show underneath the ‘That’ tent- producer Danny Harley delighting his fans with the anticipated hit “Arcadia”; however the highlight of the set was hands down “What If”. Carmada put on an explosive show, the tent so full that dancing spanned the rest of the field, a distance away from the action. 

The night was then finished off by both Sydney artist RUFUS and American trap lord Baauer. RUFUS owned the This stage, bestowing us all with a crooning mix of new and old. It is possible that the crowd was not quite as receptive as they could have been yet again, especially being greeted with near silence when asking the audience and they are doing and telling them he “hopes you all get lucky tonight”. This could be however, because many were over participating in the Harlem Shake that was going down in the ‘That’ tent. It’s safe to say however, that the night was topped off with an unexpected arrangement of fireworks, while many embraced and relished in the joy they had that fine Saturday. 

This That also offered The Other, featuring a market of vintage clothing, henna body art, eastern inspired jewellery and even a barber service. There were several beds set up amongst the field, often with snuggling pals/lovers taking a minute to relax; I daresay many friendships were formed on the communal mattresses. The organisers promised a delectable arrangement of foods and drink, which was delivered as promise (shout out to the Harry’s Schnitzel’s truck for offering delicious kebab wraps and the best potato chips I’ve had). 

One of the only negatives of the festival, in my experience, was simply the sheer size (or lack thereof) of the vicinity and the amount of people in the space. In my opinion, the number of ticket holders present was far too great for the rather humble size of the festival space. The Foreshore was a beautiful place to house the festival, however walking from one place to another without stepping on a hand or knocking over someone’s beer became a challenge. It was near impossible to escape dense crowds, which may have been a touch claustrophobic for some. 

That aside, this was the first year This That has ever appeared on our shores; and done quite well! All I can say is that is was so very close to being a great festival, it only missed the mark by ….that… much. However the highlight of the whole day for myself was overhearing several conversations going like this:

“What stage is this?”
“This is That”
“So we are at this?”
“No we are at that”
“No… that is this?”

Written by Alex Medd