Sunday, November 13, 2011

Harvest Presents 'The Gathering'

Yesterday I attended Harvest billed as 'The Gathering' in Melbourne, after deliberating for an age about whether to go or not. Held at Werribee Park, the main stage was positioned in front of the Mansion, and given that Melbourne weather put on a glorious day, it was a gorgeous setting.

Driving down, and a little worried about the advise that there was to be minimal carparking, I was pleasantly surprised with the easy, and free parking. I walked in and got to wander around and take in the spread of stages, art installations, and layout, before the first band on the bill I was keen to see.

Joining the seated punters inside the circus tent that was the Big Red Tractor Stage, I took in The Holidays, playing their album material and a couple of new songs. Between sets I decided to venture out to the Windmill Stage, checking out a little of UK band, The Town Needs Guns. I had worn my much loved red gumboots in anticipation of the mud that was at this stage area. Given the rain of the last week here in Victoria, it was to be expected, but luckily it was only found in this area. But smelly mud it was, and this stage visit was also disappointing given the lackluster performance on stage. Back to Big Red Tractor, I mingled into the crowd for Dappled Cities, who were great! People around me were enthusiastically dancing, and really getting in to it, which made this set that much more fun!

Back out into the sunshine, I ran into Laura randomly, for a quick catch up. I then ventured to get some food, and joined a queue. Seeing the lines for much of the day for coupons for the bar, it was an easy decision to just not drink, plus I was on my own, and also driving. I would rather catch the sets I was there for than spend all that time in the line. I got to hear The Walkmen as I was lining up for lunch though, who sounded pretty good.

Getting to the main stage, The Great Lawn, I then took in TV On The Radio, who were really impressive! Great stage presence and funky sound. Repetition was a stand out, and ending with Wolf Like Me. TVOTR, a new band discovery for me!

Next up here was Bright Eyes, who brought a loyal following to the front of the stage area. Conor Oberst was engaging and charismatic, and seemed the deliver all the tunes the fans wanted to hear.

As the electricity of anticipation grow among the crowd in front of the main stage, the big screens showed band members of The National getting ready to play, standing between the stage and the beautiful Mansion.

Opening with Anyone's Ghost, the haunting opening of Sorrow had the crowd mesmerized, as did England - I feel like I held my breath for that whole song. Amazing! Playing much of their High Violet album, Bloodbuzz Ohio was in there too. Mr November was one of the heavier tracks from their back catalogue.

This completely awe-inspired set finished with Terrible Love, with Matt Berninger launching himself onto the crowd, singing through being handed across the fans (I assume, could hear but not see him!). Totally amazing set, justifying my decision to go to Harvest!

But just when you think the day has been totally awesome, with a chilled vibe, and respectful punters (the promoters promised less dickheads, and they were spot on!), Portishead were last on The Great Lawn stage.

Not touring in Australia for some 13 years, I have always wanted to see them live. Dummy has been a soundtrack for me since it's release in 1994, and last night's performance lived up to expectation, and then some! There are not enough superlatives to do justice to how sensational this set was!

Beth Gibbons' voice is as brilliant, powerful and haunting live as it is captured in their recordings. It's 17 years since the release of Dummy, and yet she sounded so spot on. The detail delivered by the rest of the band was also perfect and epic! Opening with the dialogue of Silence, the building atmospheric tunes began. Songs like Mysterons, the amazing Sour Times, and Machine Guns featured, the latter including a grab on Tony Abbott with red beams from his eyes in the graphics. Ha! The beautiful Wandering Star, Cowboys, Over, and The Rip were all delivered, giving a span of their three albums.

For most of the set the crowd was silent, taking in every little bit of magic that was being produced on stage, possibly holding their breath in awe as I was - but when Glory Box played, every voice joined in, in a very feminine sounding sing-a-long. An anthem for a whole cohort. The encore featured Roads, and ended with We Carry On, with Beth jumping down from the stage and hugging some of the fans at the front, and running along to touch the outstretched hands of the front row. So, so, so amazing!

The crowd then streamed to The Windmill Stage for The Flaming Lips, as the last act for the festival. This massive stage area was filled to overflowing, with people finding all sorts of vantage points at the entrance to get a look. Catching a glimpse of a zorb ball and the stage screen graphics looked impressive, however I decided to leave the battle to get a good vantage point, and heard much of it as I walked back to the car. They sounded pretty good and wild, and I am sure their fans loved every minute!

I had a great day, even if I resorted to going alone, having not found anyone as old and free as I am to go! Old enough to know who Portishead is....come on people! Ha! It meant that I was free to go and see what I wanted, didn't have to worry that the phone range was jammed with so many people in the one place, to find anyone, and I didn't need to battle the bar lines. A sold out inaugural festival, with a totally mind-blowing line up. Well done Harvest!


  1. haha. nice summary. as an 'old' portishead fan myself, my company for the day was my 20 year old daughter. we too had a ball. we ate and had a few beers early on, and once the lines started we too decided that the free water in our bottles was the way to go. we also left at the end of portishead's sublime set. my daughter is now a convert. beth was amazing. with age comes wisdom, and a quick and easy exit from the parking lot!

  2. Great review, I had a great time. Im glad you didn't bitch and moan about the queues like 99% of other people!

    Tv On The Radio are incredible

  3. Thanks for the comments, anjijane and Adam!

  4. Great post Tash. And nice that you went alone, I would have got by myself without hesitation had friends not wanted to go.

    Bright Eyes and Portishead were the stand outs for me, Mogwai were pretty awesome too but didn't catch their entire set. Loved that the crowd was older & chilled. Was a fabulous day, one that I'm not going to forget in a hurry :-)

    And now we are 'Foundation Members' so priority tickets for us next year!

  5. I loved this review - sounds like some great music on show. You write so well.


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