Beautiful rolling mountains and spacious, open tents paint the picture for the sold out event that took place at Kariong’s Mount Penang Parklands. Mountain Sounds is a boutique festival that prides itself on being an event that ‘combines a range of music genres and aesthetics in attempt to replicate the Australian landscape, culture and way of life.’ If the Australian way of culture is to cheer on a Sydney DJ doing a shoey (we’ll get to that later) then they sure hit the nail on the head!
With a welcoming atmosphere and incredible acts, Mountain Sounds proves on it’s sophomore run that it is a highlight of the Australian festival calendar.
Major festivals often get a bad reputation in the media but Mountain Sounds is boutique for a reason. Festival staff were just as much friends as workers, punters looked after each other as the crowds got rowdy closer to the headliner and artists can be spotted all throughout the day wandering the grounds and viewing other performances. There is no elitism to this festival, no sense of entitlement that causes crowds to riot and no judgement of how you danced past 5pm. Everyone is simply there for the music, the community and to just have a bloody great time – Oz culture at its finest!
The festival has been curated to celebrate the game changers of music in the future, the artists who are – like the event itself – ‘unique and contemporary.’ And don’t forget the newcomers; one thing this festival should pride itself on is their incredible array of acts early on in the day. Alt-rock band The Moving Stills opened the Jungle Stage for the day, whipping through a couple of songs before shifting into more reggae inspired tunes. For those of you who don’t know The Moving Stills, they’re like the little brother of Sydney’s Lime Cordiale but without the overbearing hype.
Meanwhile in the Nuvo Dance Tent, the ethereal sounds of Imogen Jones aka Lupa J rang loud and clear. Accompanied by friend and fellow musician MAra, the pair provided a much needed moment of peace and clarity to round out the festival lineup. As a person she was humble and gracious but as a musician Lupa J created a world of her own onstage, and my god was it beautiful. Electronic violins and dream pop synths captivated bystanders.
Things were just starting to heat up by the time Little Earthquake took to the main stage. As crowds poured in through the giant rainbow entry, the sound of this indie pop band was impossible to miss. Little Earthquake walked on stage like seasoned professionals and performed with a laid back but self-assured confidence. Front man Matthew Hyland was charismatic and appealed to the crowd, cheekily saying “All the single ladies to the front! Single men, drop your pants!” The energy only rose with Daniel Lee Kendall following and blitzing through a set that felt more like you were with family than a bunch of strangers.
The dance tent was quickly becoming the place to be, with punters flocking to the tune of ‘Is it a banger?’ Odd Mob started off strong with their Parks and Recreation inspired song but lost a bit of momentum towards the middle. However, LDRU had a full throttle set list containing bangers from the likes of Flume and RL Grime. As more and more guys hoisted girls on their shoulders, leaving everyone else dripping in their sweat, the crowd cheered for the genius himself Drew Carmody as he performed an elusive Australian ritual – the shoey. This sacred party act of drinking an alcoholic beverage of your choice (most commonly beer) out of a shoe (most commonly someone else’s) was performed with utmost respect and truly solidified Carmody as one of the bros.
Pocket rocket Tkay Maidza took to the stage for what would be the most energetic performance of the day. Maidza was exceptional in playing to the crowd, dropping hits such as Switch Lanes and new single M.O.B, only pausing briefly between songs to interact with her fans. The 19 year old’s enthusiasm never faulted as she tore up the stage from left to right, continuously dancing whilst having near perfect breath control for her rapid fire verses.
Mountain Sounds’ biggest blunder of the day was not putting electronic indie stars Safia on the main Unicorn Stage. The trio drew such a big crowd to the Nuvo Dance Tent that security were forced to barricade off the site and turn down many frustrated punters. People inside the tent were treated to the sounds of You Are The One and Paranoia, Ghosts and Other Sounds amongst a range of other pitch perfect songs; although their stage presence left a bit to be desired.
By the time a hoard of ravers emerged from the tent back onto the fields, the rain had set in. Thrash band DZ Deathrays brought a different sound to the Mountain Sounds table, satisfying the needs of everyone who wanted to head bang, crowd surf or just lose their shit to an incredible live band. Providing the kind of reckless party that this festival was yet to see, DZ Deathrays were full of blazing riffs, house party tunes and a killer version of Gina Works At Hearts that had everyone going crazy. By the end of the set two things were clear: DZ Deathrays are one of Australia’s most exciting and important acts, and no one in the crowd was quite sure whether they were covered in rain or sweat.
As night drew near, The Griswolds took to the stage with their signature ‘indie-rock record you can dance to.’ The ever-charismatic Sydneysiders whipped out the best of their Be Impressive release to a crowd full of dancing bodies. The Griswolds peaked with Heart of a Lion and Beware The Dog and had a successful sing-along with a cover of Vance Joy’s Riptide. Similarly, The Jungle Giants were a bundle of fun encouraging their audience to get up and moving after what felt like a lengthy break between sets. The sun had set by this point, leaving the warm glow of multi-coloured stage lights and smoke enhancing the band’s dynamic movement.
It’s hard to follow up two acts with such striking performances, but headliner Alison Wonderland came out with a seriously good mix of party favourites, house beats and a few of her originals. Despite a minor technical issue at the beginning the Sydney producer carried on like the professional she is, playing remixed versions of Danny Brown’s Dip and dedicating the resounding lyrics of I don’t give a fuck to her ex-boyfriend. Originals such as I Want U, Cold and latest single U Don’t Know were received positively and fans got to experience two new songs from upcoming debut album Run – a single by the same name and Naked.
Alison Wonderland is a force to be reckoned with on stage, mixing song after song live whilst downing the occasional Grey Goose and somehow managing to take time out to dance and pose for media. It’s refreshing to see an artist so dedicated to their work and fans, but the set could have benefited from Wonderland dropping more of her own tracks. With such a stellar body of work it’s a shame fan favourites such as Get Ready and Lies were excluded from the mix.
Although only in its second year, the organisers of Mountain Sounds have proven once again that they truly understand their market and how to craft a festival to the needs of these people. There was also the Bus Stage (conveniently located next to the Red Bull bar) that featured a string of DJ’s. So if you spent the day there, well, you probably don’t remember much of the festival at all. But you looked like you were having a great time! Between reasonable prices, a diverse range of genres and a unique and beautiful location, this festival caters for everyone. The only thing left to do now is see what next year will hold for this promising event…
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