You know you’re in for a killer of a festival when day one involves a woman having sex with a watermelon (to the sound of Dirty Dancing’s “Time Of My Life”). Okay, so she wasn’t actually mating with a piece of fruit but the provocative choreography set the scene for the sensual explosion that was Peats Ridge Festival 2009.
It ain’t all about artistic enlightenment though; this Glenworth Valley fest is a sustainable arts and music event (that means environmentally friendly to you). The recycle bins, organic food, composting toilets (who knew sawdust had so many uses) and solar-powered recharge points were merely the icing on the eco-cake. Event organisers and volunteers worked their arse off to make sure they live up to their 2009 Green Globe Award, the 2009 Greener Festival Award and the Australian Event industry Award for Sustainability.
Did I mention the music? Lamb, Sarah Blasko, Bertie Blackman, The Panics, Liam Finn, Ash Grunwald, Mama Kin, the Dub Shack, all the acts in the Chai Temple, a Pheonix tent full of new music. Holy hell... it was impossible to see it all.
We were there – camped out beside a mound of horse manure (one of the ‘natural wonders of the world’) and caught up with the bands for some behind-the-scenes banter.
So, what hit the spot?
THE BOHEMIAN LOVE THEATRE Goldie Feather and the Princes of the Universe were amongst the crazy, mind-bending performers in this magical tent. Punters needed a golden ticket to even get a chance to enter - and we managed to earn them by getting naked (yes 100%) and painting our face with glitter. The Bohemian boss also "liked our breasts" which (let's face it) helped.
LAMB It took the electronic music duo from Manchester, England FOUR DAYS to get to Oz for the fest. The trek was worth it (for us anyway). A perfect, atmoshperic way to lead in to 2010. We later shared the dancefloor with band members Andy and Lou. We hope it was as good for them as it was for us.
JEFF MARTIN Former frontman of The Tea Party blew us away. His voice was so mesmerizing we damn near had to stop our Ash Grunwald interview... Ash was so distracted we had to let him rush off to watch. Yep, we followed. Brilliant stuff.
DISCO TENT DANCE-OFF The countdown to 2010 had just finished, we left the main stage, grabbed a cocktail and headed straight for the dance-tent. Wouldn't you know it, the lights went out and the crowd disco-danced under the full moon. Magical.
ASH GRUNWALD'S SET The Roots and Blues master forced us to dance our muddy arses off. The Lyrebird tent was rammed for his set (including "The Dolphin Song" and field-holla cover "Rosie". The little kid that danced on stage throughout the whole set damn near stole the show. By comparison, Sarah Blasko's follow up set was plain old boring.
GEORGIA FAIR: CHAI TEMPLE Shoes were left at the door when you entered this tent… and a chai tea was a must. Georgia Fair drew a big crowd with their folk sounds. It’s their first festival appearance but you will have heard their track “‘Picture Frames’” on Nova (and on a milk ad). The Northern Beaches duo caught up with us afterwards for a chat and revealed that they received stress balls shaped like a breasts for Christmas. Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley make fine festival fodder… keep your eyes and ears open for ‘em.
MAMA KIN: BELLBIRD STAGE Freakin bloody amazing. This sassy mum took sexy, sultry and soul and rolled it up into a moving set. The rain cleared just in time to welcome the band and the banter between Mama Kin and her brother warmed our cockles.
BERTIE BLACKMAN: BELLBIRD STAGE When we caught up with Bertie backstage and congratulated her on her ARIA award for Best Independent Artist, she looked shocked. “Wow, I’d almost forgotten about that… it’s been a big year”. Blackman wore a cape and not much else… hot stuff and a cracker of a set. There was no hanging about afterwards though, she headed straight for Falls Fest – don’t miss her if you’re down that way. So, what can you expect from her in 2010? New music baby.
LIAM FINN: BELLBIRD STAGE The smell of weed was thick in the air by the time Liam Finn and Eliza Jane hit the main stage. The bearded muso is the son of Crowded House’s Neil Finn and is a festival veteran from way back. He told us that he was at fests when he was nine, crowd surfed when he still had baby teeth (and lost one in the process). He’s just finished touring with Pearl Jam and his lyric-free finale to a magical set.
ALTERNATIVE DANCERS We ended the day watching a guy and a girl writhe about on the floor of the Chai Temple. They weren’t performers, just crowd members taking fun to the extreme.
THE CROWD Honestly, you couldn't find a better bunch of people if you tried. The atmosphere was creative, friendly and open-minded. Compared to a lot of fests out there, this one is free of the drunken aggro, mindless messed up morons and litter. Full marks; we even loved the rain.
I don’t know about you but the thought of welcoming 2010 in a big, tourist-packed mess isn’t appealing. Make sure you attend Peats Ridge Fest next year... just make sure you leave your inhibitions at the tent… what happens at Peats Ridge, stays at Peats Ridge (unless of course we write about it).