Turns out my inner clown is full of hope. She wants a gavel. She wants to stencil her name on a wooden gavel: Esperanza’s Gavel. Clowns are clichés and they aren’t afraid of
clichés. Mine just sleeps when she’s tired. But she can’t shake the hopes. She’s got a bad case of it, something congenital perhaps. Maybe it was sexually transmitted, something to do with oxytocin or contractions or nipple stimulation, maybe that’s it, a little goes a long way. Hope is also the name of a bakery in Queens. And there’s a lake in Ohio called Hope Lake where you can get nachos. I’m so stuffed with it the comedians in the Cellar never call on me, even when I’m sitting right there in the front row with a dumb look of hope on my face. Look at these books: hope. Look at this face: hope. When I was young I studied with Richard Rorty, that was lucky, I stared out the window and couldn’t understand a word he said, he drew a long flat line after the C he gave me, the class was called metaphysics and epistemology, that’s eleven syllables, that’s hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope. Just before he died, Rorty said his sense of the holy was bound up with the hope that someday our remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.
—Catherine Barnett, “O Esperanza!,” published in Tin House
As soon as she dropped Pedestrian At Best, we couldn’t get enough of Aussie rocker Courtney Barnett’s clever and witty lyrics paired with grungy rock melodies. We had to hear more. It was love at first sight seeing her perform live at last nights’ SXSW showcase and we have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear of her.
What better way to start an amazing day of unique covers than to have Ball Park Music performing a wild rendition of Hoodoo Gurus’ 1985 classic ‘Like Wow – Wipeout’, complete with a helping hand from Gurus frontman himself, Dave Faulkner, busting out rock shapes like there was no tomorrow.
Vance Joy also worked in an iconic 80s tribute into his set, taking on Australian Crawl’s ‘Reckless’, with Bernard Fanning and #1 Dads/Big Scary’s Tom Iansek helping out with smouldering vocals and a beautiful guitar solo respectively. Just look at that heartfelt hug!
The Preatures squeezed two covers into their early evening set. Firstly, ‘At First Sight’ by Perth band The Stems, “one of our favourite songs” Izzy told the crowd of the 1987 tune; “the year I was born: good vintage!” They were joined by Cloud Control’s guitar-toting Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer, each adding vocal power to the tune.
The Sydneysiders then tackled Divinyls’ debut single ‘Boys In Town’, accompanied by Divinyls guitarist Mark McEntee as Izzy perfectly channelled the "late, great“ Chrissy Amphlett (who’s no doubt smiling down with approval from somewhere).
Sarah Blasko brought out Paul Dempsey to bring Crowded House’s ‘Distant Sun’ ”out for a special occasion.“ The original sounded great when it ranked at #60 on the 1993 Hottest 100, and it sounded even better in acoustic mode as Ms Blasko and the towering Something For Kate frontman traded vocal lines. Tingles? You betcha.
You Am I wrapped their muscular showing with ‘Young Man Blues’. They might not be the first group to give the Mose Allison jazz original a rock makeover – that honour goes to ‘70s titans The Who - but it’s never sounded as burly and brilliant as it did rumbling over the capacity crowd at The Domain.
Daniel Johns made music history when he showed up out of nowhere to perform Nirvana’s deathless classic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ - in a completely transformed piano and harp arrangement. Following a lovely intro from Midnight Oil’s mouthpiece Peter Garrett, Johns proceeded to make everyone lose their collective minds with his emotive take on Kurt Cobain’s classic.
Of all the bands Down Under capable of covering Kylie Minogue, you might not have predicted The Cat Empire to be at the top of the list but their interpretation of ‘Confide In Me’ was nothing short of incredible. Chiefly thanks to Owl Eyes swooping in to play the role of the pint-sized pop princess.
With a little help from their friends
Collaborations were a huge part of the Beat The Drum celebrations (heck, did you read any of the above?!?) and there were some truly special crossovers, pairing the most unlikely of Australian music all-stars together.
Case in point: rock vanguards You Am I told Lewis backstage they would “step outside of our genre comfort zone” and into the world of hip hop.
Helping them cross the threshold was Joelistics with the multi-talented MC joining You Am I on stage to bring his Blue Volume album opener ‘Say I’m Good’ to life on stage.
That cracker was followed by rolling out the red carpet for the Queen of Aussie rock, Adalita, for a rip-roaring version of ‘Jewels And Bullets’ (from 1995’s Hi Fi Way).
As if that wasn’t enough, Courtney Barnett then popped up – grinning and shredding her way through Hourly, Daily single ‘Mr. Milk’, a definite highligh in a day chockas with them.
As well as their stunning KylieMinogue cover with Owl Eyes (see above), The Cat Empire squeezed in Remi too, performing the rap hero’s own ‘Saggin’, bringing major swag as he rolled his rapid fire rhymes over some James Brown worthy horns.
Kicking the party into the evening, The Presets crammed their set-list with special one-of-a-kind appearances. Hermitude brought their characteristic funk to ‘Ghosts’; Megan Washington imbued major passion to a classy ‘This Boy’s In Love’. Finally, DZ Deathrays brought the house down on the juggernaut ‘Are You The One’. We’d love to hear it all again but we fear we witnessed something that’ll never be repeated.
If there was a ‘Collaboration to end all Collaborations Award’, Hilltop Hods won it hands down. The Adelaide trailblazers delivered a re-worked version of ‘Cosby Sweater’, to 25,000 hyped up humans, complete with a cavalcade of hip hop royalty spitting top rhymes.
Supplying vocal acrobatics with MCs Suffa and Pressure were (*deep breath*) Illy, Drapht, Seth Sentry, Horrorshow, Thundamentals, and Tkay Maidza - plus a few recognisable gatecrashers. A history of Aussie hip hop in action and it never sounded so dynamic, daring, and legacy-making.
Spine-tingling moments a-plenty
An audience with Gotye is always a special moment, but hearing him shorn of his textured bells and whistles is a particularly rare treat.
The multi-instrumental wonder was greeted by a very big, very loud crowd, only for him to bring it back to whisper quiet with an intimate take on ‘Heart’s A Mess’. With naught but a backing guitarist and auto-harp strumming, when Gotye’s voice hit those soaring notes, our heart’s were a mess… of fluttering feels.
Those shivers continued with 'Thanks For Your Time’, as Gotye’s ensemble grew to a five-piece as he conducted a lung-belting audience to sing the sampled vocals and textured beats. Euphoric indeed.
You Am I’s set was filled with eye-grabbing moments, from the glam back-up singers to Tim Rogers’ glitzy smoking jacket. The best 'did you see that!?’ came as Adalita arrived on stage with a bottle of white wine, had a ceremonious swig, then later took a daring dive over the barrier for a crowd-surf before floating back to the stage for a big finale.
Can we just say Izzy from The Preatures absolutely killed it. The Preatures have already played some of the biggest festivals in the world, and their frontwoman is now totally accustomed to growling, strutting, and stalking the stage like the most iconic of band leaders before her. Dressed in a slinky black number, she was lurching one moment, cosying up to her bandmates the next, and it was impossible to tear your eyes away from her bona fide rock star presence.
Speaking of stars in the making, get your horoscope pointed to Tkay Maidza. At 18, the femcee may have been the youngest artist on the bill but she more than matched her older peers in sheer talent and attitude. 'Switch Lanes’, 'U-Huh’, 'Brontosaurus’, her set is already a greatest hits in the making and Tkay looked just like a top billed festival act delivering it.
If you didn’t save enough energy for The Presets, you made a big mistake. Though one glance at the heaving crowd, it didn’t seem like anyone slipped up, nor could you see anyone not moving, so powerful was the Sydney electronic duo’s throbbing bass and sinister beats. The Domain stage, lit up with a multicoloured sheen of projections, shone like a beacon in the middle of a very sweaty rave.
It didn’t take long into the Hilltop Hoods’ grandstanding set to understand why they were the perfect closer to the night. Orchestrating 25,000 people to clap, bounce, sway, scream, and sing an a capella breakdown of 'Won’t Let You Down’, they were in top form, pulling out all the stops with a live horn section, good mate Plutonic Lab on the drums, DJ Debris cutting and scratching like a pro.
MCs Suffa and Pressure formed an electric connection with the audience as they barrelled through a best of set-list that peaked with the hip hop showcase of 'Cosby Sweater’ - the kind of event that’ll never be repeated - before bringing it home in spectacular fashion with the festival-sized 'Nosebleed Section’.