On Saturday evening, a few thousand people of all ages flocked to Barnard Park for the final leg of The Drop Festival in Busselton.
ASKYA from Triple J Unearthed was first to play to a modest 3 pm crowd. A mix of self-produced EDM tracks, acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals, his music consisted of picturesque natural imagery and lyrical tropes. After playing a few originals, he finished up by covering Zhu’s Faded. The familiar tune drew a few more people to the stage to dance.
Alex the Astronaut was up next, playing a solo set to a quickly growing audience. She sang hits like Waste of Time, Happy Song and Not Worth Hiding. She spoke of her fear about releasing the latter song in the wake of the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite, and the wealth of positivity she received after its release, endorsing Lifeline and Kids Helpline for people who were struggling with their identity—a strong theme in the song. Quirky and transparent, Alex embraced the welcoming crowd with her unique voice, and with cheesy jokes in between sets.
“Why can’t dinosaurs use computers? Cause they’re dead.”
“How much did the neutron have to pay for a drink at the bar? No charge.”
After the set, she stepped down into the pit to do a little meet-and-greet with the crowd. It was a sweet send-off for a homely performance.
As the sun began to set, Client Liaison came on to up the tempo. The crowd was pretty big now. Starting with Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight, the EDM pop duo and their band riled up the audience with their animated performance and funky ’80s-style tracks. Monte Morgan (vocals) also gave a didgeridoo solo with a “shout-out to the traditional owners of the land”. Wearing white and orange frilled outfits amid a tropical set design, they played clubby tracks like That’s Desire, Survival in the City and Off White Limousine.
I’m not sure if it was more performance or party, but I’m sure that Client Liaison gave the crowd an energetic set they enjoyed—groovy basslines, funky dancing, popping a champagne bottle into the audience. By the end of the set, the duo was shirtless, throwing flowers into the roaring audience.
Up next was indie rock duo Hockey Dad, welcomed by the audience chanting their name thunderously. They started off with Homely Feeling and continued on with hits like I Wanna Be Everybody, Join the Club, and Sweet Release—which Billy Fleming (drums) sung the verses for. They were about 15 minutes late on stage due to guitar issues, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind and gave it 110% in the mosh nonetheless. While the coastal weather was starting to get chilly, Zach Stephenson’s (guitar, vocals) grungy guitar riffs and Billy’s indefatigable drum playing got the crowd all warmed up.
The Jungle Giants followed up with their indie pop tracks like She Looks Like a Riot, Bad Dream, Used to Be in Love and Feel the Way I Do. Matching the audience’s energy, Sam Hales (vocals, guitar), Andrew Dooris (bass) and Cesira Aitken (guitar) danced all up and down the stage amid the chime of their warm tunes.
“It’s so good to be back in such a nice, warm, lovely, welcoming crowd like you guys,” Sam expressed.
While delivering a colourful soundscape of bright electronic loops, chatty guitar riffs and primal grooves, their audience interaction was enticing as well. A few great Sam moments throughout the set included: him jumping down to let a girl in the crowd play the guitar solo in I Am What You Want Me to Be, attempting a backflip, and calling some guy onto the stage who looked like him (not at the same time).
Soon after, two of the most relevant siblings in the Australian alternative music scene—Angus and Julia Stone—came on with their band to wrap up the festival. Slowing the set down a fraction, they started with Snow, featuring a sing-song, line-for-line exchange between Angus and Julia. They continued on with Oakwood and Private Lawns, which saw an extended solo by their guitarist, and a stunning trumpet piece on Julia’s part.
Met by gleeful screams she asked, “Is anyone in love tonight?” while introducing the heartfelt and pensive Wherever You Are.
Angus had his turn to chat as well while introducing Big Jet Plane, which the audience sang boomingly word for word, amplified by the acoustics in the circus-tent venue.
“It’s about falling in love—myself—at a festival,” he said.
With their signatory folk aura, the wholesome duo brought the audience songs from their 13-year-career, from Grizzly Bear to the final song of the night—Chateau.
While music festivals are getting a bad rap at the moment, what impressed me about The Drop—apart from the spectacular acts—was how safe and inclusive it felt. There was a designated family zone. There were couples on picnic rugs. Children—and I mean young children—running around happily. The 18+ zone wasn’t too rowdy. Sure, there might have been a few juvies in the mosh pit, but I’d say most people were there to enjoy the music, rather than have an unnecessarily wild time.
There’s nothing like spectacular live Aussie music and a cheery atmosphere to spend the first day of winter. We look forward to the tunes next year.