27 May, The Big Pineapple

Though the Big Pineapple is amusingly underwhelming, nothing deterred the hordes of punters heading to the opposing festival grounds from taking candid snaps in front of the plastic fruit, while we mostly people watched. It is our duty to report that flower headbands have made a momentary come back, glitter is very much still in-Vogue and pants have disappeared entirely – leotards and sneakers are now acceptable fezzy attire, apparently.

The venue was spectacular; rolling hills into two natural amphitheatres, separating the double Wild Child and Sea Shepherd stage from the Pineapple Express stage, with the tiny Avant Garden stage tucked over a rise in its own little alcove. Small enough to feel intimate, and an easy stroll from section to section, but at no point did the sold out event seem overstuffed.

Hey Geronimo serenaded a tight crowd at the Avant Garden stage in the mid-afternoon sun. The sweltering heat sent us scampering to find shade, ironically fitting with their end-of-the-world comic strip tracks from 2016’s Crashing Into The Sun. Summery, ‘70s-style pop mixed with dystopic lyricism made for a fun, light-hearted set from the Brissy locals, Lazer Gun Show proving a favourite as a few punters hula hooped to the Beatles-esque harmonies.

One thing that struck us at Big Pineapple was the diversity of sound spanning the entire day, not once stumbling as they made synthesis of pop, metal, dance, R&B and folk. For example: Northlane jumped straight on after DZ Deathrays, warming the stage that would next see acts such as Vera Blue and Cloud Control. One could be forgiven for thinking that this hard rock outfit proffered a menacing performance; the black face masks definitely give that impression. Rather, Northlane were theatric, personable and gently spoken, expressing their support for sponsors Sea Shepherd and the gratitude they felt for the larger than anticipated crowd.  Key track Citizen stole the show and Northlane exited seeming humbled, leaving behind a crowd eager for more.

Melbourne-based, soul-infused hip hop duo Fortunes brought in the evening with true style. While the crowd at the considerably smaller Avant Garden stage wasn’t overwhelming, the New Zealand-born pair were as enthusiastic as if they had been given the main stage. Road testing a few new tracks and dropping audience favourite 501s, vocalist Conor McCabe was nervous but excited. There were endearing moments of intimacy between the bandmates, producer Barnaby Matthews voicing appreciation for the festival’s support and commenting on possible changes to be made to tracks in light of the performance. McCabe was personable, humble and best of all, human. In all honestly the fortune was ours to have caught these guys at the start of what is sure to be a huge presence in Aussie R&B.

The Veronicas have gone above and beyond to prove that they are well and truly out of the teen pop hole that Australia dug them into when they first arrived on the scene 12 years ago. This performance signalled that the twins have made an astonishing comeback. Opening the set with now-nostalgic hit Untouched (we were positively stampeded as everyone ran down the hill) the duo continued to deliver in well-loved hits and their more recent releases including In My Blood and On Your Side. Hook Me Up took the crowd to another level, reliving our pubescent fandome, while a soulful and sultry cover of Drake’s Hotline Bling blew us all away. A debut performance of a new hit (we’re going to tentatively trust our ears and suggest that it’s called When We Were High) had the crowd melting, but not before Jess Origliasso invited the fence-to-fence crowd to partake in a video anniversary message for girlfriend and fellow Aussie superstar Ruby Rose. The show solidified The Veronicas as much more than a blip on the 2007 charts, rather an established name in Australian pop.

From an event perspective, Big Pineapple did a pretty decent job. The venue was awesome, police presence was unobstructive but visible, Red Frogs volunteers kept us hydrated, sugared and fed with gold coin sausage sangaz, and a large Sea Shepherd clan helped to remind us to keep our rubbish off the ground and in the multiple bins, and donate to the cause – artists spruiking their support throughout the day.

Security seemed to be hard task masters, many an innocent punter seen at the brunt end of a confrontation over energetic dancing, sitting on shoulders, or standing too close to a backstage entry. That said, they did an awesome job keeping us and the artists safe and sound, with minimal dramas witnessed all day.

Old school drink cards were in use, meaning we had to stand in not one, but two exasperating lines for a tinny. Let us tap and go, or bring in wristbands to expedite the process, removing potential for extra waste, irredeemable unused cash and double the queues. On the other hand, there were so many stretches of bars that the wait for drinks was manageable, and as for portaloos, there were more available than we’d ever seen – at any given time the line was only three-punters deep. Yay for empty bladders!

Without a doubt, SAFIA take the prize for best visuals. Created by Sydney-based creative collective Toby & Pete (who have done work for Flume, Chet Faker, Flight Facilities, RUFUS, y’know, just a few biggies), we were treated to immersive 3D worlds replete with characters who journeyed through urban-scapes, intergalactic prism launches and finally finished up with the most risqué display of graphic’d nakedness we’ve ever seen for set closer Embracing Me. Their first festival slot for quite some time, Ben Woolner, Michael Bell and Harry Sayers absolutely nailed a performance chocked-full of old crowd favourites and new(ish) bangaz from their debut LP Internal, letting the energy surge and sway through Counting Sheep, Paranoia Ghosts & Other Sounds, Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues and Bye Bye, the crowd smooshed shoulder to shoulder, blissfully singing along to every world.

Nicole Millar was a familiar face on stages around the festival, from her own slot at the Pineapple Express stage, to an appearance with Peking Duk to close out the day. Her performance was infused with sass and charisma, her tracks poppy and fun. Millar hit all the right buttons for audience engagement, and finally invited her friends on stage to perform alongside her for crowd favourite Tremble.

The headline closer, electronic power pair Peking Duk started off on an absolute high – a larger than life Shane Warne acting as hype man from screens around the stage, to everyone’s amusement. Smashing out key tracks Say My Name and hit Stranger, with vocals (originally by Swedish singer and rapper Elliphant) taken to new heights by Sydney local Vera Blue. Seeing the towering valley walls behind the main stages blacked out by grooving bodies in the night air was a spectacle indeed. Mixing some pretty bold choices including Kendrick Lamar’s HUMBLE. and Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of, Peking Duk are anything but low key (somewhere, there’s a trigger happy chap looking after the CO2 cannons). While Peking Duk have charisma in spades up there on the decks, it would be exciting to see their set dabble in live production, just to mix it up.

Suddenly, mid-way through Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles’ performance, the only sound on the hill were the hoots and cries of the crowd. The power was gone from the stage, the lights cut shortly after. Less than ideal timing for any act, but for a closing headliner with as much hype as Peking Duk, the stuff-up seemed amplified tenfold. Finally, electricity flowing in the right directions again, the pair invited Ivan Ooze on stage for a joint performance of Papercuts, featuring a second appearance by Vera Blue. Pushing our tired legs up the steep incline, we had a final boogie with smiles on our faces and silly pineapple sunglasses to take home as a souvenir.

Image credit: BCS Imaging