Yours and Owls 2017 saw thousands descend upon North Wollongong over the weekend to catch a stacked two-day lineup. Indeed the Gong put on one hell of a show with more that seventy acts taking stage for festival-goers’ listening pleasure. Bolstered by bars, burger stands and boutique stalls, Yours and Owls had everything one needed to have a good time… and a very good time we had!
On the grass in front of main stage was where we started our Yours and Owls campaign, listening to Ali Barter pump out that indie-rock goodness. It started slow with Please Stay before moving onto more grungier jams like One Foot In and Cigarette. Girlie Bits wrapped the set, and with that we were done. It was the perfect start to the day.
We made our way over to see Melbourne boy Ivan Ooze absolutely tear it up. I feel like it’s impossible to not have fun watching this guy perform. His super-fast pace and high energy on stage is an infectious bite. He had the whole crowd down on the ground, priming them for launch to the hook of Fire. Also, not important but worth mentioning, Ivan Ooze has beer-catching skills like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve never seen anybody catch anything that’s coming at them from behind. It’s real.
City Calm Down carried us into the afternoon. The pairing of frontman Jack Bourke’s deep, dulcet tones backed by synth pop/indie rock had the crowd echoing lyrics to favourites like “Rabbit Run” & “Border Control”. The latest single “Blood” is hauntingly stunning to hear live. I love this band.
Possibly the only thing sexier than catching Donny Benét on stage in his trademark pink suit is seeing a group of dancers rolling up on stage behind him, also in pink suits, throwing canapés into the crowd. Benét and his show band put on super sensual set with baby-making tunes like Treat Yourself, Working Out & Kinichiwa. Sax solos pleasured the crowd into the evening.
We had a quick duck over to check the AFL score. My condolences to the Crows supporters. Frankly though, from the six-and-a-half minutes I caught of the game it just looked like Richmond wanted it more.
The Preatures were up next and the crowd in front of main stage was electric. Leading lady Isabella Manfredi was a powerful presence on stage, guiding the crowd through new tracks from their latest album Girlhood. I still don’t know what “Yanada” means, but by god was I chanting it for hours after band left the stage. In standard form The Preatures ended with Is This How You Feel.
Next came Allday and his melodious, stripped-back Aussie drawl. He treated the crowd with a mix of old and new like You always know the DJ, Sides, Speeding and personal favourite (everyone’s favourite) In Motion. He’s having as much fun on stage as the crowd in front, shifting and swaying to his pensive lyrics.
Finally we rounded up day one with Sydney hardcore outfit Northlane. Maybe it was the Sapporo, but it seemed like a good idea to come out of mosh-retirement and crank out some wheel kicks that haven’t been seen since these boys were playing at Blacktown Masonic. Marcus Bridge led the charge hardest with howling tracks from album Mesmer Colourwave and Citizen. I got beaten up and down the mosh by the youths as Quantum Flux hypnotised the crowd, it was the perfect end to day One.
The start to day two was rocky. I was battered and bruised from the events of the day before and if I’m being honest, the beers didn’t help. We swore to each other that we would absolutely take it easy today as our soles and our souls needed time to heal. We gave it a couple of hours, but then Bec Sandridge took main stage and it was on for young and old. In The Fog, In The Flame had us punters at main stage finding their positions from the night before.
You don’t need to know much about local boys Totally Unicorn except that nothing is serious and nothing is sacred. Within minutes, frontman Drew Gardner had stagehands scrambling behind him as he jumped past the barricade and deep into the crowd, pinching beers between lyrics. At one point the mic lead was used as a skipping rope because it’s TU and skipping is kewl. Not a single song title dropped the whole set, only comments from Gardner that the next song to be played “was a number one”.
Confidence Man might be the sexiest new thing I’ve ever seen. The four-man put on a tight set complete with choreographed numbers led by Janet Planet and Sugar Bones. This outfit exudes charisma throughout their non-stop set of electro-pop hits. Bubblegum and Better Sit Down Boy invoked funky physiological reactions throughout the crowd. Repeat might actually be the catchiest song of the weekend.
A.B. Original were up next, on stage yelling things like “fuck the police” and “change the date” and all sorts of things conservative-Australia would take offence to. It was great. The message was loud and clear as always with Briggs and Trials, delivering 2 Black 2 Strong, Report To The Mist and January 26 with a heavy hand. Divisive maybe, but the crowd were all on board for it. God bless alcohol.
Illy came out next to a crowd who had been tip-toeing on tipsiness all night. Catch 22, Tightrope and Papercuts all featured in the set jam packed full of hits. He even treated the crowd to the “Like a Version” mashup that made him a household name wherever Triple J is played. It’s hard to stand on Illy because on the one hand it all seems very same-same, but on the other I couldn’t stop singing along from the crowd, shuffling side to side with the flow of the crowd.
With so much talent, It’s hard to pick just one reason to be at Yours and Owls. If you forced me to pick mine, it would be to see the epic show-closing set put on by Aussie dance legends The Presets. It was the peak moment of the entire festival and they absolutely owned the crowd, building the mountainous set higher and higher with each one of their hits. It’s like, I thought I was in a safe spot when “I Go Hard, I Go Home” started, then “My People” dropped and I forgot that I wasn’t actually 18 years old, and then they threw “Are You The One?” at me and that was it – nostalgia knocked my ass out. My body kept moving though, because that’s the only way respect the set these guys put on. The set concluded with “Talk Like That”, and with it came the end of Yours and Owls 2017.
Yours and Owls 2017 was a diverse showcase of Australian talent tempered with some fantastic international draws. Spending two days listening to good music between the mountains and the sea is more therapy than this boy deserves; I’ll certainly be doing it again in 2018.
Shout out to my AirBnB host, Greg, and his completely illogical BYO-Iron policy; way to help a fella get festival-ready, five stars mate!
Review by Saleem Abraham
Crowd shot © Dylan Bow 2017