LIVE REVIEW: Garden Party at UniBar 24/3/17

The University of Wollongong Garden Party is fast becoming a must-attend event for first-year university students, as well as older students, and consistently offers a world-class range of acts. 2017 was not an exception to this with a stellar line-up of 2016’s UOW Band Comp winners Halcyon Reign, Polographia, Lanks, Bec Sandridge, Luca Brasi, Urthboy and Ball Park Music. This year was a little different, thanks to the seemingly endless rain the Gong has been suffering from in the last few weeks. Rather than the usual outdoor setting all the bands performed in the UniBar and UniHall. This wasn’t a problem as both venues often host gigs, but it sadly took the ‘Garden’ out of ‘Garden Party’!

Lanks a.k.a. Will Cuming, brought his silky smooth indie pop to the UniBar stage with a perfect set early on in the evening. With just Cuming and his guitar along with a drummer on stage, Lanks delivered surprisingly layered and dimensional soundscapes, enhanced by his story-telling lyric style and use of loops. A highlight was Cumin pulling out a flute for a solo during his last song, somehow managing to make an often-scorned instrument cool.

Local legend Bec Sandridge performed at the UniHall later on, bringing her Karen-O channeling act back to the Uni after her last performance there in August last year. Sandridge and her band put on a high-energy show, managing to fit in a few tender moments as well as Sandridge sang to the crowd at the front of the stage. She even slipped in a cover of John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’, the same song she performed on Triple J recently. While her ‘Like a Version’ performance may have garnered some negative backlash from internet trolls, it was very well received at Garden Party and had everyone singing along. Sandridge may have a rockstar persona but it didn’t stop her bantering with the crowd, revealing the humble personality behind lyrics like ‘You’re a Fucking Joke’. Paired with her unique voice and talented guitar playing, Sandridge put on a great show for the Garden Party crowd.

Urthboy, a.k.a. Tim Levinson was one of the headliners for the night, playing at the UniBar stage. He was joined by a few backup singers on the stage who managed to share the spotlight just as much as him with their vocals and smooth moves. Levinson released his latest album in 2016, ‘The Past Beats Inside of Me Like a Second Heartbeat’ to positives reviews. The album focused on stories from Levinson’s past as well as the experience of being a father. This retrospective, tender theme was present throughout his Garden Party performance without compromising the fun nature of Australian hip-hop. Instead, Levinson struck a good balance between feel-good hits likes ‘We Get Around’ and songs about issues he sees as important like feminism and self-determination for all groups. Levinson has clearly become a skilled performer since he first came onto the scenes in the late 90s, and kept the crowd grooving for his whole set.

Ball Park Music were the other headliners of the night, playing in the UniHall. The sound in the hall was a little muddied during earlier sets due to the fact that hall is not designed for bigger concerts. However, Ball Par Music made the UniHall feel like a dedicated concert venue with a combination of fantastic sound mixing, light displays and a seamless set of their hit songs. Lead singer Sam Cromack exuded Rivers Cuomo-esque nerdy charm, and had the voice and guitar skills to match that of the Weezer frontman. The whole band were very tight and in sync, meaning there were no pauses in the set. If there were breaks to change instruments Cromack would play a spellbinding solo song on an acoustic guitar, maintaining the feeling of a polished concert set and giving the audience hit after hit, from ‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’ to ‘Surrender.’ Ball Park Music made sure that Garden Party ended with a bang and were sure to have left the crowd looking forward to attending the event again next year.

April 2nd 2017 | Daisy Loomes