Young triumphs over old at Homebake

The minority of punters who stayed sober enough to recall much of Sydney’s Homebake last year may have been a little worried about returning in 2012. This is largely to do with the terrible sound issues that plagued the event. Gotye’s set, for instance, sounded as muddy as a rainy Glastonbury, while the sound from the main stage haemorrhaged horrifically to the other stages. It was a mess.

While this year showed a small improvement, it was still poor at times. The (excellent talent on the) comedy stage was often drowned out by the Rowland S Howard stage next to it, while early main-stage acts this year were too quiet. This was most notable for Brisbane’s Last Dinosaurs who, upon instruction from the crowd, were required to ask the sound guy to “turn everything up.” Meanwhile Kimbra – who was drowned out last year, lost all of her nuances in wave of deafening volume this time round.

A plus side though to this year was that the crowd seemed to be a little less munted that 12 months ago. Back then I witnessed a girl dressed as a pumpkin projectile vomiting at 1pm and a lady seemingly on all of the drugs, trying to eat her own face off by mid-afternoon. Things were more chilled this time round, perhaps because the site was eerily quiet. Ticket sales must have been pretty low because even by nighttime the festival was clearly way emptier than in previous outings.

Still, lack of people or not, there was some fine talent on display. Cute-as-anything whippersnappers San Cisco were an early highlight, with Izzy from The Preatures filling in last-minute on vocals (pictured, below) in place of drummer Scarlett, who had lost her voice. Their set grew ever-stronger as it progressed and they are developing quite an arsenal of catchy singalong tunes perfect for a summer festival with the likes of Awkward, Wild Things and Beach

Ball Park Music were one of the day’s standout acts, with lead singer Sam Cromack proving to be an irresistible presence. Dressed in slightly ill-fitting threads which made him look more like a mathlete than a frontman, he bounded around the stage and led one of the biggest crowds of the day in raucous singalongs. Excellent tunes, excellent energy, excellent fun.

While Last Dinosaurs played their Brit-inspired jangly perk-pop to a disappointingly small audience and Emma-Louise wooed the Rowland S Howard tent, across the field The Bamboos were going guest appearance crazy. You Am I’s Tim Rogers peacocked his way topless around the stage like Jagger’s disco dancing lovechild before Megan Washington covered Kings of Leon with a bounce. Next up, the lovely Julia Stone did what Julia Stone does, dark and moody songs wrapped up in pretty acoustic tunes. She would later join her brother Angus on stage for a reunion of sorts.

Meanwhile, the success story of 2012, Tame Impala, were delivering their psychedelic indie-rock on the main stage and Hermitude got the party started in the Big Top. As the sun began to descend and people looked for any suitable alternative to being subjected to Hilltop Hoods, Homebake geared itself up for the Rule Breaking Foreign Act, Blondie. It was hard to know what to expect. Were this the late 1970s, you could pretty much be guaranteed awesomeness, but it’s not and the band are… well… quite old now. Uber-icon Debbie Harry is 67. A pensioner who was born the year WWII ended. So, I guess it goes with the territory that, if you see Blondie in 2012, you are going to see a tired old version of what once was. That’s not bitchy, it’s just fact. Imagine taking your granddad down the park for a kickabout. You’d both have a nice time and it would bring back happy memories, but he wouldn’t have the skills he once did and you’d be wary of him tripping over and busting his hip. Well, it was a bit like that. The likes of Atomic and Call Me brought an initial rush of excitement but Debbie’s voice isn’t what it used to be and she relied on the crowd helping her out on numerous occasions. Despite all this, it was still kinda cool to be in the same field as such a legendary band.

While this slightly creaky and uncomfortable show was going on, the action in the Big Top offered a polar opposite. Horrible sound aside, Kimbra (pictured, right) was bursting with the energy of a youthful performer with the world in her hands. She convulsed around the stage, beating the shit out of a tambourine and belting out that incredibly soulful vocal through a mop of hair. She seems to have been omniperesent at Australian festivals over the past year, but this kind of performance will never get old. In the headliner battle of the up-and-comer vs the heroes of yesteryear, there was only one winner, and it was the New Zealand-born 22-year-old. On this evidence, she can be as big as she wants.


Review by Bobby Townsend