Happy’s Guide to Surry Hills Festival 2014

Surry Hills – the suburb known for the biggest pub per square metre ratio in Sydney, sky high property prices and the hill of death is throwing a free, public springtime festival with a twist: the lineup is actually amazing – for a public festival. Yes, there’s gonna be kids. Yes, there’s gonna be overpriced truck food. Yes there’s gonna be hipsters selling second hand tarpaulins for $40. Yes there’s gonna be a tent that shaves your dog. But, there’s enough amazing music on display that I might just be able to get over my cynicism and my overly patrician tastes and have a good time! Here’s Happy’s Guide to Surry Hills Festival:

surry hills festival

Slap on some sunscreen, fill up your hip flask and print out Happy’s Guide to Surry Hills Festival to ensure 100% good times this Saturday!

North Arm

Despite their page on the official festival website linking to this wonderful EP, North Arm aren’t Sydney’s premier female cringe-rap band. Rather, North Arm are four ex-Novocastrians who aren’t afraid to dabble in the wonderful palette of musical colours that were the 80’s. Hollow Days, both the single and the full release, was on high rotation here at the Happy office and we’re praying that these guys’ set doesn’t clash with anyone else on this list – we’re very excited to catch them live!

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A bit of a change of pace from the rest of the lineup, Ataractic are a unisex DJ/Vocalist two piece along the lines of Willow Beats or Salt Cathedral. Isabella’s voice is no doubt the centrepiece of the duo (IDM purists might need to look elsewhere), Sebastian keeps things interesting with a mix of house, electronica and those ubiquitous trap hi-hats that bounce around underneath the powerful vocals. Ataractic are your dose of electronic music before plunging into the heavier acts on offer later in the day. (Also, +1 for Arctic Monkeys covers!)

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There might not be much more that we can say about Sydney’s Spookyland that hasn’t already been said on this blog. Mad Max meets Bob Dylan, a penchant for waxing lyrical on vengeance and instrumentation as magestic as the Great Plains – Spookyland’s live rendition of their Rock and Roll Weakling EP is a show that needs to be seen to be believed. Head down to the Shannon Reserve stage later in the day and get yourself Spooked.

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The Grease Arrestor

Now we’re getting into the good stuff! Our favourite local party people Velvet Cave are emerging from the basement of 77’s to curate a stage at the festival, and each one of the acts are pretty ace. The Citradels, The Dandelion and The Grand Rapids are all big names in this field of large yet chic psychedelia (and are all gracing the VC stage) but if you had to see only one representative of this scene this weekend, I’d say do your utmost to catch The Grease Arrestor. Shoegaze without the abrasion and neo-psych without the folksy paranoia, Grease Arrestor are but the tip of this iceberg, but a damn awesome tip at that.

 Spirit Valley

If you’re planning on sticking around the Velvet Cave stage (to be placed in the alley between The Beresford and the Flinders hotels), then you’ll do well to sit back, relax, and then let Spirit Valley explode your brains. If, like me, you went to see 20000 Days On Earth and was a little disappointed with the lack of focus on the Birthday Party era throughout, a trip to the Spirit Valley might just be what you need. With on point baritone growls, filthy blues riffs and an overarching apocalyptic anarchy, give me one reason not to catch Spirit Valley. Go on – we have a comments section below.

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The Laurels

While this Sydney four piece weren’t the band that turned me on to shoegaze, they were the first local act I saw who made me think that not only is tinnitus inducing rock music still relevant, but also that it could come from somewhere as inconspicuous as our own backyards. Known for their incredible live shows and one absolutely killer album, The Laurels have been sorely missed on the live scene this year and I know I’m gonna be there front row centre to welcome them back into our ear hearts. Just don’t stand too close to the PA for this one…

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Surry Hills Festival will take place across three stages this weekend (Saturday 27th September) between Ward Park, Shannon Reserve, Crown Street and Hill Street. The easiest way to find the cool stuff mentioned above is to jump off a train or bus at Central and follow the stream of 20-somethings dressed in tight trousers who smell like a youth hostel lobby.