Review: Yardfest is about coming together

Yardfest’s Melissa Barrass headed to Yardfest. Here’s what she discovered:

Being a few weeks ago, Yardfest is certainly not so fresh in my memory, but then again it wasn’t so fresh in my memory come the day after the festival anyway.

It was my first time at this small and humble festival of music and arts, which was nestled at the foot of the Watagans, north of Sydney on a private property of some legend who doesn’t mind a bunch fire-twirlers, artists, bands and a couple of hundred misfits.

Organised by Joshua Duffy and his sidekick Patrick Hansen, the festival pledged to donate all profits to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, which is a fantastic cause that protects and upholds the human rights, wellbeing and dignity of asylum seekers.

The initial three-day festival included live art and music, which saw many local and interstate Victorian bands come together to bask in creativity (and maybe their own blood – hello leeches!) in the sub-tropic environment. However, by the time day three came around, the organisers were destroyed and whatever handful of acts that were scheduled were encouraged to… well I don’t know? “Go home and rest that hangover” or “Don’t come up, we have decided to wrap the festival up early because everyone’s too wrecked to emerge from their deflated air-mattresses.”

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The festival had a warm and friendly atmosphere, punters arrived as strangers to one another, and left with a hefty list of names to add to Facebook when WiFi could be attained once more. The lineup of bands was phenomenal, with local Sydney act The Laurels, recent FBi Northern Lights competition winners The Walking Who, Melbourne’s dreamy psych shoegaze band Luna Ghost, the Upskirts, and many more.

However it was Papa Pilko and the Binrats who stole the show, playing on the Saturday night and clad in smart black western gear, the swinging rockabilly blues septet busted through a mean set. I have never seen such a wild, on-the-edge performance where I was constantly fearing for the wellbeing of Papa Pilko himself, who had clearly found the mushroom patch on the outskirts of the festival of the surrounding forest and a bottle of whisky. Despite the shared look of semi-caution on the faces of his bandmates, and falling backwards onto the drum-kit, Pilko held himself together, and continued to sing aggressively to the crowd who were in awe of the wild personality before them. Every toe was tapping, every hip was shaking and smiles were shared, everyone was so happy, and it was truly memorable.

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Another highlight was Melbourne’s Luna Ghost who I had been itching to see all year. ‘The Sea’, ‘The Big Ride Out’ and ‘Future End’ are absolute masterpieces and I found myself up near the front of stage, gently swaying on the dreamy cloud of shoegaze amongst strangers.

Despite forgetting to pack a jumper for the cool nights, the weather was rather pleasant and the days were spent having picnics on the grass, interacting with the artists, listening to the live music and watching Hamish from Flowertruck sell beers from the back of the land owner’s ride on mower. It wasn’t too long after the bonfire was lit that a punter decided it would be a great idea to hop over the huge fire or play jesus by walking atop of burning natural debris (does anyone really know what happened?). It goes to show not even Yardfest can keep the odd idiot out of independent events. Two destroyed feet later, the young man was escorted off to hospital with organiser and legend Joshua Duffy late into the night. But in reality that little bit of drama was far from the worries of anyone else determined to have a great time. After all, the fire twirlers, the midday yoga instructors and the spontaneous soccer game provided everyone plenty of inclusive entertainment and memories.

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Aunty Sue’s family feedbag kept the kids fed with a small but acceptable selection of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options on the menu.

Yardfest is as much about coming together, meeting, dancing, and teaching one another as it is to listen to live music and watch the process of live art. The bands camped amongst the punters, and nothing ran on time, there was no Indian chieftain head-dresses in sight and what people are wearing doesn’t override the purpose of the festival.

Overall Yardfest was a major success and I cannot wait to head back next year.

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Find out more about Yardfest on Facebook.

melissa barrass


Review and pictures by Melissa Barrass.