Harvest Presents The Gathering: Disaster or Masterpiece? - Noise11.com
Portishead - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Portishead - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Harvest Presents The Gathering: Disaster or Masterpiece?

by Tim Cashmere on November 14, 2011

in Live,News,Reviews

The inaugural Harvest Festival kicked off yesterday in Melbourne with a slew of spectacular performances.

Portishead - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Portishead - Photo By Ros O'Gorman

Fun in the sun was had with The Family Stone. Sure, at times they felt like a Sly and the Family Stone cover band (and let’s face it, aside from Jerry Martini, Cynthia Robinson and Greg Errico, they were), nobody can resist dancing to a greatest hits set like that.

True to the original lineup, The Family Stone’s set was mixed with party songs (‘Dance To The Music’, ‘Higher’ and ‘Everyday People’) and more serious political songs, such as ‘Stand’, dedicated to “everybody that is occupying something” from the Sly impersonator they had insisted on having front the band.

Sets from The Walkmen, Bright Eyes and The National saw decent crowds, but Mercury Rev’s set was only robbed of it’s status as one of the festival highlights by the persistent sun that had stubbornly refused to bow below the horizon.

TV on the Radio were one of the few bands throughout the daylight hours that were both genuinely on fire and playing to a packed house.

Death in Vegas went largely unnoticed by most. A shame, because their set was filled with glorious beats, driving bass lines and, rather unexpectedly I thought, showcased the band’s best point – their diversity. Closing with their meaty big-beat single ‘Aisha’ from 1999, the crowd dispersed to find the next musical wonder.

The show was stolen – and I admit a fairly weighty bias in this review due to more than half a lifetime of fandom – by the main stage headliners Portishead.

The audio and visual symphony the Bristol band produced in front of a beautifully lit Werribee mansion under a starlit sky will be one of those gigs talked about for years to come. Whether it’s the thunderous ‘Machine Gun’ (complete with Tony Abbott shooting red lasers out of his eyes), the jazzy ‘Sour Times’ or the bone-chillingly beautiful ‘Roads’ (which saw thousands of people standing in a field in absolute silence as they were mesmerised by the performance they were watching), the band couldn’t put a foot wrong.

This left The Flaming Lips and Holy Fuck to split the crowd across the massive Windmill Stage (The Flips) or the Red Tractor Stage (Holy Fuck). Like a moth to a flame, I followed the majority of the crowd to see The Flaming Lips. It was the sixth time I had been in the crowd for a Flaming Lips performance. They never cease to amaze, although this time they were playing to an amazed, but fatigued crowd who had spent much of their day lining up for food or toilets. Their seven song set might have drawn few surprises (except of course the opener – Black Sabbath’s ‘Sweet Leaf’), but no matter how many times singer Wayne Coyne tried to encourage the crowd to sing along and jump around, it just wasn’t happening. We were spent.

A lot of talk has spread throughout the internet about what a disaster Harvest Festival has been, and a lot of that talk is warranted. It was a disaster. Transport was disastrous, toilets were disastrous, food was disastrous and running out of beer at 4pm was probably the least disastrous disaster, but damnit that counts a disaster in my eyes.

It was the first time a festival had been held on the grounds (Elton John doesn’t count) and things were new, but promoter A.J. Maddah’s bitter refusal to accept responsibility for the festival’s failings is what is the hardest to swallow.

Referring to his own bar staff as “fucking attrocious (sic)” and saying “the ones that were there worked like they were on valium” is absolute nonsense. Calling the staff “inexperienced backpackers” and “incompetent” when many were sourced from bars around Melbourne is a kick in the face to 250 hospitality staff that worked their arses off to make his festival meet the bare minimum of people’s expectations in the face of thousands of punters unfairly taking out their frustrations on them.

It’s also a slap in the face to the punters who had forked out their hard-earned cash and had genuine complaints, only to have to supposed top dog blame the poor hospitality staff.

Was the festival worth it? Well, that Portishead performance was pretty special, but without another band that I have literally waited my entire music-listening life to see (as a poor sixteen year old, their 1998 tour was out of my fiscal reach), it’s unlikely you’ll see me out at Werribee Gardens again next year. Based on Maddah’s blog post where he describes putting a timetable together as being all about “massaging egos”, it’s a wonder anyone will be. Still, I guess that’s not as bad as that time he referred to a previous headliner as being “surrounded by idiots”, not long before they pulled out and Soundwave Revolution was cancelled. Now that was a disaster.

Follow the author Tim Cashmere on Twitter.

The set list for Portishead was:

Silence (from ‘Third’, 2008)
Mysterons (from ‘Dummy’, 1994)
The Rip  (from ‘Third’, 2008)
Sour Times (from ‘Dummy’, 1994)
Magic Doors (from ‘Third’, 2008)
Wandering Star (from ‘Dummy’, 1994)
Machine Gun (from ‘Third’, 2008)
Over (from ‘Portishead’, 1997)
Glory Box (from ‘Dummy’, 1994)
Chase The Tear (single, 2009)
Cowboys (from ‘Portishead’, 1997)
Threads (from ‘Third’, 2008)

Roads (from ‘Dummy’, 1994)
We Carry On (from ‘Third’, 2008)

The set list for The Flaming Lips was:

Sweet Leaf (Black Sabbath cover)
Worm Mountain (from ‘Embryonic’, 2009)
She Don’t Use Jelly (from ‘Transmissions From The Satellite Heart’, 1993)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (from ‘At War With The Mystics’, 2006)
Is David Bowie Dying? (single, 2011)
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 (from ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, 2002)
Do You Realize?? (from ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, 2002)

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