Review: Sydney City Limits | Centennial Parklands | 24.2.18

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Massive line-up.  Massive timetable clashes.  I guess one could argue that this is quite a nice conundrum to be faced with, but to them, I’d say: FOMO bro!  I myself am already suffering the effects thanks to snaps of Alex Lahey and Tash Sultana kicking so much arse that it burns worse than my pale skin did that day; AND I WAS AT THE BLOODY FESTIVAL.  Ironically, the only cure for FOMO burn is to actually inflict it on someone else, and to make sure that they get a way stronger dose.  

With that said, I’d like to present to you a rundown of my day at the inaugural Sydney City Limits Festival and the amazing acts I did manage to witness.  Hey!  I’m feeling better already.


With a few brekky beers under my belt, I was ready to order an Uber and head into the festival but after several delays and a cancellation, I realised that I would likely miss the opening acts: BAD//DREEMS, Pist Idiots (Triple J’s Unearthed act) and the one that my friends and I had all agreed upon seeing: Ziggy Ramo.  At this point, a mate began playing Ziggy on her phone as we waited for the second Uber to turn up.  At least this one did.  After a quick, time-saving, illegal U-turn we were on our way!  The driver gave us free reign of his Aux cord and it was Ziggy Ramo all the way.  

Upon entering the festival, the first stop for me was at the porta-loos and I shit you not, I opened a loo door at 12:30pm and there was already a solid turd on the floor.  Already.  I mean I guess Ziggy Ramo was shit your pants good.  Damn.  Can’t believe I missed it.

Or perhaps it just came from some pissed idiots.  

Well moving on, it was time for more beers and of course music.  Here’s how the day panned out:


LDRU’s track 'Next to You' got people dancing despite the scorching 30+ degree heat and they kept it up throughout the major tune 'Keeping Score' as well as a few new tunes, before really busting out to a surprise cover of 'Lemon' by N.E.R.D feat. Rihanna.

BOI then joined him on stage for their collaboration titled 'Me' and was wearing what can only be described as a chauffeur hat, round ‘Coolio’ type sunnies and her super long, blonde hair.  And she was pulling it off.  Hate her.  Unless she wants to be best friends, then I’m totally down. 


Look, I wasn’t there but the footage I’ve seen is next level.  I’m imagining people explaining to the paramedics in the First Aid tent that their dehydration is a result of 3 factors: Extreme heat/direct sunlight, alcohol consumption/no water and Stella Donnelly’s stellar performance of 'Boys Will Be Boys'.  My God. 


The Zimbabwe-born/Australia-claimed rapper was a huge late addition to this line-up!  Tkay was however up against the likes of Stella Donnelly, Mallrat and Sigrid so the crowds were quite split at this point.  Her set on the triple j Harbour stage was kicked off by a DJ and a drummer who produced some pretty serious dubstep noise before Tkay absolutely exploded onto the stage.  She brought more heat than the sun, which is a big call given the colour of my back two days later.  I felt that her track 'The Carry On' seemed to end semi-abruptly but she quickly recovered by leading straight into 'Do It Right', a Martin Solveig bop that she featured on.  Tkay took us through a bunch of her hits including 'M.O.B.', 'Switch Lanes' and crowd favourite 'Tennies'; where she really showed her versatility and the genre fluidity apparent in music today.  Although everyone was super loud when she gave a short rendition of K. Dot’s 'm.A.A.d. city' before ending with 'Simulation', the people overall weren’t as receptive as I felt they could’ve been, perhaps had she played later.  Maybe the crowd knew how to “do it right all night” and not Allday (who happened to be up next on the triple j House stage).    


I managed to catch Allday’s first song 'Sides' and I could hear the crowd chanting it back to him while I was making intense choices between The Head and The Heart and the bladder and the stomach.  Ultimately the bladder won and I lined up to pee for an unreasonable amount of time before briefly getting to The Head and The Heart for their rendition of Crowded House’s 'Don’t Dream It’s Over'.  Oh you crafty Yanks certainly know how to win over an Aussie crowd.  

I did somehow also manage to catch Allday’s 'You Always Know the DJ', as I arrived back to see The Libertines.  The crowd was lapping it up and there was even a small but efficient group of punters who had formed one of those tunnels for people to dance through.  Or perhaps it was for brief periods of shade away from the blistering sun.  Either way, they seemed to appreciate the banger.    


One of the harder decisions of the day was between seeing The Libertines or Winston Surfshirt.  Despite my preference for the latter, I went and saw the former as I figured The Libertines would surely be closer to the end of their touring career what with Pete Doherty’s impending OD and all (but then again, *Keith Richards…).  

The Libertines were about as good as I thought they’d be: good but not great.  I happened to mention this within earshot of some massive fans who emphatically disagreed, even arguing that they were, in fact, sounding better than they did in 2010 at a previous performance at the UK’s Reading Festival.   Not entirely sure that point settles any debates but here we are.  

Side note:  So… um... while researching for this article, I stumbled across the fact that Keith Richards threw Pete Doherty into a bin one time.  Ha!


I had done well to make it this long without eating, given that Mary’s burgers were within reach.  I snuck away for some eats during the Dunies’ performance but could still kind of see and hear it in between bites/moments of pure palate paradise.  The Dune Rats had the most elaborate stage design of the day I’d say, which was further enhanced by the inclusion of some giant, inflatable beer can replicas of their ‘Dunies Lager’ (that they created in conjunction with Young Henrys) floating around the crowd.  It looks like the boys in blue were also trying to find out "who’s Scott Green” as there was inexplicably a cop on stage at one point during their show.  There was a little sprinkling of some welcome rain while they played, much to the delight of the people and their set wrapped up at exactly 4:20, which is undoubtedly no coincidence as the band surely had a pressing engagement to attend to.  


Again admittedly I missed part of their performance as I took the opportunity to line up again for the toilets, based on the fact that everyone already knows how good these guys are live.  I did manage to see most of their hits though, including my faves 'Let Me Down Easy' and 'Magnolia' as well as lead singer Dave Shakira Le’aupepe’s signature awkward-yet-sexy hip shakin’ dance moves.  Dave also acknowledged the Sydney crowd was his home crowd, mentioning that he grew up in Strathfield – which felt super cool given that they are about to embark on a giant world tour.  Dave then revealed the shithouse news that his Dad is about to undergo chemotherapy and he dedicated their last song 'Say Yes To Life' to him.  Get well soon Mr. Le’aupepe senior!


Vance started strong with 'Fire and the Flood' from his previous album Dream Your Life Away but the artwork for his new album Nation of Two (which had just dropped one-day prior) was on the screen behind him; and to this severely un-art-ucated punter, it looked like the beginnings of a very polite ‘69’ session.  Tell me I’m wrong people.  

He then played 'Take Your Time' off of said new album and the crowd were really enjoying it.  Vance continued to swap between old and new material as well as electric and acoustic guitars and even an ukulele at one point for 'Call If You Need Me'.  Right at the time Vance was playing 'Saturday Sun' and sang about “meeting someone on the west coast”, my offensively pale skin was meeting the Saturday sun on the east coast and being absolutely burnt to shit.  Vance wasn’t afraid to mix shit up though, pleasing the punters with a fusion of Lionel Ritchie’s 'All Night Long' and Bieber’s 'Sorry'.  I’m sorry I didn’t stay all night long with Vance but I had to rush over to catch The Avalanches.


I got to their tent in time for 'Because I’m Me' and despite having seen them live before, I’m still amazed at the way the sires of sampling manage to piece it all together on stage.  The fans took a bit of time to get into “Frankie Sinatra”, which was disappointing but the quality of this performance cannot be understated.  Admittedly I didn’t write too much down for this set as I was getting pretty into it — my bad guys!  Does it help if I say the set was good?  Well, it was bloody good.  One thing I do remember here was explaining to some super young attendees that they need to watch the film clip for 'Since I Left You'.  It’s definitely one of the greats. 


I’m a little like Kanye when it comes to Beck — I do like his music but I like other music better.  Not that anyone asked (neither me nor Kanye).  So when Beck got his song 'Loser' out of the way super early in his set (he played it second) it allowed his crowd to divide almost into age groups — with people under 27 leaving halfway through, presumably to head over to see Ocean Alley and/or get in prime position for the one-woman band that is Tash Sultana.  Unfortunately for Beck again, there was some noise from Grace Jones reaching the back left of his crowd, which also drew some punters (myself included) away.  I did manage to return a little later though, in time to hear him cover 'Cars' by Gary Numan and his classic 'Where It’s At'.


Grace managed to pique my interest with the snippets I could hear between Beck songs and I wasn’t disappointed when I eventually decided to check her out.  The 69-year-old singer was something else to behold.  Her performance was both visually and sonically engaging, with a crazy outfit, several headdress changes and what appeared to be a semi-naked man pole dancing with either body paint or a very tight body suit on.  Bubbles were flying everywhere and everyone was most excited when she began 'Pull Up to The Bumper'.  Grace even ended up in the crowd at times.  She is definitely younger than her years.  


I wasn’t quite done with Beck (I was inexplicably expecting an encore???) when Justice began blasting 'Safe and Sound', which eventually drifted seamlessly into 'D.A.N.C.E.'  Again, the younger members of the horde began filtering out of Justice for either Tash Sultana or fellow French musos Phoenix who were due to commence shortly.  The light show that accompanied Justice was pretty ace and I watched this as I began to tuck into some sweet ramen that I bought from a stall (that I believe was) called the Rising Sun Workshop.  At this poin, I met up with a mate who was now seriously under the weather and had to be taken to the First Aid tent, conveniently (for me) placed right next to the Park Stage where Phoenix were playing. 


Although I only managed to selfishly catch small glimpses of Phoenix’s set while my friend was placed on a drip (PSA: make sure you remember to drink some fluids other than beer — preferably water — and eat something while you’re at a festival or in extreme sunlight); what I did see was super god damn good.  I now understood what The Avalanches were on about when they talked Phoenix up on triple j on Friday, saying that they were really looking forward to seeing Phoenix live again.  They just really brought the fire.  I mean even Big Shaq might’ve been inclined to take off his jacket for this one.  Man was definitely hot.  We even sung happy birthday to a member of their touring crew before the band appropriately played their song 'Too Young'.  I was also lucky enough to watch them play their hit 'Lisztomania' as well as front man Thomas Mars crowd surfing deep into the masses.  This was truly a solid way to end the festival.  


This sucked so hard.  Big crowds leaving at once, no trains nearby and yet another inept Uber driver that didn’t know the difference between Bondi Junction and Central and was curiously blaming Mardi Gras for some minor road blockages in place for the festival.  


So Uber didn’t fare too well on the day but Sydney City Limits first attempt really did.  The food line-up (hand-picked by the masterminds behind Mary’s no less) was amazing, even though a bunch of the stalls ran out of food a bit early.  The music line-up and their performances overall were ace (other than the first world problem of deciding who to see).  

So after getting home, dropping a Hydralyte + 2 Panadol Soluble tablets and furiously applying aloe vera lotion to my crispy skin, I can officially conclude that this festival was a resounding success and I look forward to attending SCL again next year.  

Written by Kate Carnell (@Kate_Carnell)