St Kilda Festival 2013

Tom Tavener on 15 February 2013 in Gig Reviews

St Kilda Festival 2013

Performing on February 10th 2013 @ St Kilda

First held in 1980, the St Kilda Festival has long established itself as a mainstay of the Melbourne summer, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an event that just makes sense – take the already popular tourist hot-spot that is St Kilda, fill it with art, food, and of course, music and you have the makings of quite a party.

With so many festivals around the country folding thanks to economic pressures, the St Kilda Festival’s ability to survive as a free event is testament to its enduring appeal, and while funding difficulties almost placed the 2013 edition in jeopardy, it is to be hoped that as long as fans continue to turn out in their thousands, the festival will continue.

Although it started life as a one-day event, St Kilda Festival now runs over nine days, with attractions as diverse as art exhibitions, the open-air cinema, comedy nights and music industry workshops held alongside the ubiquitous live gigs throughout the week as part of the successful Live N Local program.

The event climaxes with the massive Festival Sunday, which sees St Kilda’s famous Esplanade and Fitzroy Street closed to traffic and filled with stages, market stalls, food vans, buskers, and thousands upon thousands of people.

The day is about much more than music, and besides the abundance of shops selling everything from hair extensions to fat German sausages, a stroll along the Esplanade and through the foreshore parks can take in the Beach Volleyball Victorian Open, motorbike stunts, carnival rides, and a dedicated children’s section.

One area of parkland is given over to the Hare Krishna Vedic Village, featuring yoga workshops and lessons in vegetarian cooking, while nearby the Latin Quarter offers a chance to learn some Samba and Salsa moves, or just kick back and munch on churros.

It’s the bands though, that provide the highlights. While The City Sleeps opened proceedings on the Main Stage at midday, entertaining the steadily growing crowd with their solid brand of alt-rock.

Despite not yet experiencing a full breakthrough beyond the local music scene, the Melbourne four-piece have been around for a few years now, and got a rousing reception from the appreciative crowd. With a debut album on the way, fans can expect to see them back for a few more festivals yet.

Over on the shady O’Donnell Gardens Stage, Eagle And The Worm drew an impressively large audience for such an early time slot. Featuring a horn section and slide guitar, the eight-piece bring an energetic and unique take on indie-pop, and while most chose to take advantage of the grassy space to sit and relax, the local band’s infectiously funky sounds had feet tapping and heads nodding all round.

In a set featuring a mix of familiar songs from their 2011 album Good Times and recent EP Strangelove, it was the slower numbers such as ‘Too Young’ that stood out, with the bluesy saxophone and slide guitar licks coming to the fore.

The occasional noisy interruptions from roller coasters in the nearby Luna Park were taken in stride as part of the St Kilda Festival charm, and by the time the band closed with the upbeat and jammy ‘All I Know’, a sizeable few had made their way down the front to dance along.

By mid-afternoon, a substantial crowd gathered to see Oh Mercy bring their popular slow-burning indie to the Main Stage.

Another local group, Oh Mercy combine persistent rhythms with gentle guitar riffs and occasionally soaring harmonies and, as with all the festival’s acts, were perfectly judged for the sunny afternoon mood. Tracks such as the swampy, blues-soaked ‘Fever’ brought the tempo up before they finished with an impressive and gritty cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Memories’.

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