The first things that struck me about this year’s Homebake were crowd diversity, the abundance of various animal suits and the police. That sounds like an obvious one because of course there were a lot of police present, it’s a festival. What struck me though wasn’t the law enforcement numbers but the fact that this reviewer actually spotted one man in blue visting the port-a-loo…now that's something you don't see every day. Who knew policeman actually went to the bathroom? An alien thought methinks. Once over that initial shock, I couldn’t help but notice just how ‘classic’ some of the crowd members were. This year’s 'Classic Edition' Homebake was definitely reflected in the higher mean age of a lot of crowd members. On the other hand, though, I sometimes forgot it was an over eighteens event, because there were a lot of people in attendance who looked about fifteen. That said, the music was good, the weather couldn’t have been better and it was overall a pretty good crack at the festival’s return edition after their one year hiatus.
Early on, Bleeding Knees Club set the mood with their garage rock sounds and skater boy aesthetic. Their chilled out approach seemed to make the few early bird audience members feel right at home and, as always, they were a pleasure to listen to. Wandering over to the Rowland S. Howard stage a little later on, I was quickly taken in by Big Scary’s set. At times they tended toward swampy blues and garage sounds, before surprising everyone by channelling something a bit more catchy and easy on the ears for the early afternoon. The success of their set was evident from the grins on faces of all the hip young kids that turned out to see them play, be it as they were tucked away in the festival’s quiet corner. This kicked off a bit of a trend for the newly renamed Rowland S. Howard stage, where I later caught another of my favourites on the day.
Over at the Dome stage CW Stoneking and Gurrumul made for easy listening and a pretty chilled out crowd but there wasn’t enough going on to steal the show away from other coinciding acts like The Vines and Architecture in Helsinki. Miraculously, Craig Nicholls managed not to smash anything (at least not onstage), while Architecture’s Cameron Bird seemed to be serenading M.C. Hammer with his choice of pants. The sound wasn’t great at either gig though, which proved to be another theme on the day (especially on the bigger stages). Ironically, the guitarist from New Zealand’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra kept complaining about the sound during their set on the Roland S. Howard stage, despite the fact that it sounded perfect from where we were standing. A charming young lights and audio technician later explained to me that this is to do with the fact that the sound musicians hear onstage comes from controls behind-the-scenes and isn’t at all reflective of what the audience hears (pointless fun fact). Despite his qualms though, the Kiwis were one of the best of the bunch. Their set was lively but not too long and their sound was seamless (though I thought the poor drummer was going to pass out from heat exhaustion).
The Church and The Triffids both put on good shows and it was nice to have some golden oldies thrown in the mix. Surprisingly, though, crowds seemed very underwhelmed by the performances of the two newer darlings of FM radio, Gotye and Kimbra. Aside from the obvious and hugely successful single these two share, audiences didn’t seem too familiar with much of the other material offered up by these respective artists. On top of this, the sound was lacking and the performances could’ve done with a bit more energy.
Cut Copy’s set on the other hand was sublime. Their sound was seamless, they played lots of classics and managed to keep almost everyone engaged. Grinderman seemed to be a bit more of an acquired taste, though (one to which this reviewer is partial, I might add). Their set was loud, long and raucous as ever; three aspects that I personally enjoyed a lot, though the same can’t be said for many of my fellow audience members. Some of the young kids fled as soon as the show started, while others in the crowd stuck around but seemed to get bored after a while (it was a long set!).
Overall, the best of the day had to be the pleasant surprises: Big Scary and UMO. This may have had a lot to do with the very different vibe at the Rowland S. Howard stage or the fact that both acts sounded so much better live than expected. All in all, an enjoyable day and an effective mixing pot of acts.
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