The Hot BBQ Review

On Saturday, thousands of people descended onto Portsea for what has been dubbed a ‘VIP Dance Party’ by mainstream media outlets for some reason, but was in fact the Hot BBQ Music Festival. Although the festival lineup boasted pretty much a who’s who of Triple J favourites at the moment, the festival itself was one of big hits and even bigger misses for me personally. This being said, it was still a good day.

The day certainly began with a lot of hits. The transport to the festival was fairly painless, even though I wish it had been free for those with a festival ticket. Somehow my mates and I also managed to catch the ferry, drive to our beach house in Dromara, and successfully locate the festival shuttle without a single problem, which was a minor miracle. Entrance to the spacious festival grounds in Portsea was similarly hassle-free, and for once it seemed as if the venue would not be over-crowded.

I should say right off the bat that I probably had a very different experience at this festival to most, so the majority of punters probably won’t be able to relate much to this review. Part of the reason for this is that I spent basically all my time at one of the smaller stages, ‘The Lamb Chop Stage’, because none of the headliners really appealed to me.

It also really wasn’t my type of crowd, but I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything different at a festival called ‘The Hot BBQ’, and I won’t say any more on the issue than this.

The first band I was really keen on seeing was Sydney’s The Holidays. Even though I have seen them live several times, this was the first time in a couple of months, and I was interested to see if they had developed their live show (which was already pretty good) much.

Sure enough, they put on a very confident performance that reflected the overwhelmingly positive response to their debut album ‘Post Paradise’. The guys have such a great vibe to their music, with a lot of tropical elements interspersed in what would otherwise be fairly standard indie pop.

The best example of this is probably Moonlight Hours, which got the sizable crowd warmed up very nicely. The audience’s response to The Holidays was great to see, especially considering that the last few times I had seen the band they had been playing to smaller crowds as a support act.

Broken Bones was as mesmerising as ever, and the closer of Golden Sky was the highlight of the set for me, with that wonderful driving bongo beat. The day was off to a good start.

Next up was the main attraction of the festival for me, The Jezabels. And there is nothing I can say about their performance that I haven’t already said: fuck these guys are good.

I quite literally cannot imagine them putting on anything other than a stellar set. Their stage presence is phenomenal, with lead singer Hayley’s unique dance moves instantly winning over the enormous crowd, who was clearly very knowledgeable of the Sydney band’s music.

Easy To Love and Disco Biscuit Love were probably the standout tracks of the set for me, but I can honestly say that every single song was phenomenal in its own way. Each individual band members is so talented at their own instrument, and the use of a keyboard for bass only adds to the dark undertones of their music, which contrasts magnificently with the often very upbeat tempo of their songs.

“You can call it what you want to call it, you know it’s disco biscuit love”.

Hurt Me went over very well with the crowd, as did Mace Spray, which I far prefer live to recorded. There were a few notable exclusions from their set, including She’s So Hard and Unmarked Helicopters, but ultimately this is inevitable for a festival set, and only served to get me more excited for their upcoming headline shows.

The band were as always very gracious and extremely likable. Their set was far and away the highlight of the day for me, and it only served to once again demonstrate that this Sydney outfit is the best thing going for Australian music at the moment, bar none.

I also managed to catch the end of Bluejuice on the main stage, including both Broken Leg and Vitriol, which was pretty cool.

Still at the ‘Lamb Chop Stage’, it was soon time for Boy And Bear. The guys made their way onto the stage, smiling as always, and proceeded to reel off a predictably great set that didn’t really compare to their Splendour performance however was still very enjoyable.

Unfortunately it was clear right from the start that much of the crowd was only watching the band for one reason: their hugely successful cover of Fall At Your Feet. While I too was looking forward to this song, the band have so much more to offer than covers.

Mexican Mavis was brilliant of course, although I was slightly disappointed to see that the band opted not to play the extended live version of the song that I’ve come to know and love, instant opting for the more instant-gratification style of the recorded track, perhaps in an attempt to warm up the crowd.

Blood To Gold, Rabbit Song, and The Storm were also played to great effect, but when the time came for Fall At Your Feet, the crowd’s enthusiasm for the track ensured that it was the singular highlight of the set. It was rather amazing, as hundreds of people sung every single word at the top of their voice, arms outstretched towards the stage, almost completely drowning out the sound of the band.

It was a great moment, and was a testament both to the staying power of Crowded House and the talent of Boy And Bear.

The few new songs that the band played (including one with an amusing failed whistling solo) were great, and the guys clearly are just about due to start working on their debut full-length effort, which will be one to watch for. Their performance at Hot BBQ, whilst certainly not brilliant by their high standards (and probably due in no small part to the single-mindedness of the crowd), was a whole lot of fun.

Unfortunately things took a turn to the worse for me personally with Gypsy And The Cat. Even though these guys are pretty much massive at the moment, I had never really been a big fan of their music, and I was hoping to be won over by their live show.

However if I had been indifferent towards Gypsy And The Cat before seeing them live, I strongly disliked them afterwards. To be honest I thought they had no stage presence whatsoever, played a truly horrible cover as well as a lot of mediocre filler material, and the lead singer seemed like a tool, especially when he decided that the scattered applause after one particularly unenjoyable song was unsatisfactory, and asked the crowd to clap again.

Ultimately however this is just my opinion, so don’t get too caught up on it if you enjoyed the band: to each their own. The crowd certainly seemed to be really into the band’s bigger songs, and it was probably all up the largest crowd of the day, so what the hell does what I think matter?

While everyone seemed to scatter from the ‘Lamb Chop Stage’ after Gypsy And The Cat, Kids Of 88 put on one of the best sets of the day to one of the smallest crowds.

They had a quirky and fun stage presence, played powerful party music, and seemed to be genuinely happy just to be at the festival and to be playing music, which cannot be said for certain other self-entitled bands of The Hot BBQ. They slowly won over surrounding punters with their infectious music, and the crowd grew steadily as they played.

Of course they were far from perfect: they are perhaps a bit too reliant on tracking, and featured only the simplest of drum beats, but all in all they were extremely fun. What was a good set quickly became a great set with their two closing song, Everybody Knows and My House.

The former in particular was absolutely fantastic, and the latter really got a big party started in front of their stage. The guys from New Zealand play some great party music, and it was truly unfortunate that there wasn’t the bigger crowd that they deserved for this particular set.

The final band of the day that I really wanted to see was Hungry Kids Of Hungary, but I was rather disappointed with their performance. It was the first time I had seen them at an outside venue, and despite the addition of an extra band member, I don’t think that their sound translates very well to outside venues compared to small rooms.

I actually didn’t hang around for all of their set, so it may have gotten much better for all I know, and once again the crowd was absolutely loving it, so I clearly have completely different taste in music to the majority of the Hot BBQ crowd.

I didn’t really mind though, because I have already seen Hungry Kids live a ton of times, and really enjoy their shows at smaller indoor venues. This set certainly didn’t put me off them as a band, I just wasn’t very impressed at all.

That was just about it for my Hot BBQ experience. I had no interest in seeing the headliners, and tried enjoying both Grafton Primary and Mos Def without any luck: to be honest I thought they were both pretty horrible, but neither of them are really my type of music, so I’m not the best one to judge either of their performances.

The crowd for Mos Def was definitely the smallest and least enthusiastic crowd for a headliner that I have ever seen at a festival: perhaps people were taken by surprise that he actually decided to rock up. However the people in the front seemed to enjoy his music so that’s cool, even though a lot of people were departing the festival as the headliners were playing- definitely not what an organiser wants.

I’m a bit mixed in my overall feelings towards the festival. Ultimately, I have little doubt that it simply wasn’t my kind of event, especially considering the crowd that attended. There were also a few very disappointing acts for me personally, and what I did enjoy probably wasn’t worth the admission price.

This being said, I’m glad I went. The Jezabels and Kids Of 88 were brilliant, and I still really enjoyed just hanging around with mates for the weekend and road tripping. I don’t think I will be attending another Hot BBQ in the future, but for what it was it was still a fun day and capped off a wonderful trip for my mates and I.

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