REVIEW: The Otherside Festival, 23 November, South Straddie

The Other Side festival is the baby of Yum Yum Popsicle – a fresh event company collaboration of two Gold Coast lads who have sought to blend their loves of live music, sun, surf, sand, fun, adventure and paradise.

Strongly advertised through Facebook and local music venues and cafes, the festival merited a good reaction and managed to get a few hundred attendees eager for the debauchery a day on a (semi) deserted island would bring.

Event producer and one half of Yum Yum Popsicle Clint was stoked at the festival’s response.

“It’s rad for people to have the opportunity to be intimate with these acts. It’s not often you get a boutique venue like this.”

For a festival on its maiden voyage, The Other Side was as smooth as aged whisky.

After being ushered onto the catamaran at Marina Mirage, the jovial masses went promptly to the boat’s in-house bar where a modest selection was waiting. There soon were beers a-flowing and the usual pre-festival merriment as well as a few bulging triceps. #shreddingforTheOtherSide.

We headed past the dance floor where DJs Chris Lamaro and Kendall James of Rabbit Radio’s program Do You Like Disco? were spinning tracks of summertime disco vibes and sunshiney steel drums, prompting happy toe-taps from all aboard. I must admit The BlankGC crew cleared the floor when the boys played Earth Wind and Fire’s September. What better an icebreaker than a 70’s disco classic.

Contrasting to most intimate gigs, everyone was getting along like old friends. Maybe it was the glorious day or the combination of pretty humans and alcoholic beverages – whatever it was, the vibe was delightful.

Making friends with fellow music lovers, we and 150 others sped out of Marina Mirage onto the aqua green water with euphoric tunes bouncing in the background. The festival feeling was upon us.

We docked at South Straddie just after noon, with patrons excitedly spilling out onto the pier. We were met with an island carrying a wonderful tiki vibe complete with old barrels, stone statues and a canopy of palm trees.

With shore-side hammocks, massive huts with thatched roofs and high stools overlooking the beach, The Other Side felt more like an island holiday with a side of incredible music.

Before the first act, everyone was entertaining themselves with the island delights – the generous bar, the wood carved pool tables, or swimming on the surrounding beach. Where is the standing in lines for half-strength beers? Where is the elbowing to get to the stage front? Where are the fistpumpers? IS THIS EVEN A FESTIVAL!?

There were the usual gig suspects. The ‘too drunk before the festival starts dude’ and the ‘offensively big hat’ dude, but lucky one guy took both titles and security made sure he was out before the first act.

First up were winners of Triple J Unearthed Big Day Out competition and Brisbane based boys Jakarta Criers. With a classic style of music making evocative of early Birds of Tokyo, drummer Wil Logan brought them in with melodic introductive drums that led into a set of distinct guitar leads and killer hooks by vocalist James Walker. The boys took advantage of the festival’s intimacy, leading from silence then building to an epic breakdown of climbing riffs with lead guitarist Seaton Fell-Smith shredding Hendrix-style.

With their debut single Peking, Jakarta Criers executed the art of sensual rock remarkably well. They turned the apprehensive crowd into a feet-stomping mass, and my beer vibrated beside the speakers as the dance floor filled in a flurry of floral and fast paced jigs.

They were eager to impress, and showed massive appreciation for the audience. Sweet music and sweeter boys! Needless to say there were a few swooning lasses.

After a break long enough to chat with your newly found friends, grab a G+T and rest those ground stomping feet, Gold Coast boys The Vernons took to the stage. There’s been a steady buzz growing around the local lads, building a ripping rep for themselves in Aus and the US just in time for a visit early next year.

Self-assured and ready to go, the boys led with a soulful cover of James Brown and Betty Jean Newson’s It’s a Man’s Man World. Channeling the songs shrieking highs and bassy blues and remaining faithful to its vocal subtleties, The Vernons showed massive commitment to perfecting the blues.

Tied to the commitments of a proud Greek family wedding, lead guitarist James regrettably missed the gig, but despite having one man overboard, the lads continued to tear the place down. It’s easy to see how they have been taken under the arms of the best music venues between Brisbane and Byron.

Their hymns of lost love compliment their interpretation of 70s style bluesy rock, and with the band to crowd eye contact, who wouldn’t be enthralled?

Ain’t No Sunshine prompted an organic rock and roll group jam that got under your skin, Jonny’s purring lyrics mirroring that of Jeff Buckley. The boys killed it, their incredible skills bringing reverence to the blues rock and roll of a bygone era.

Breaking the male dominated line-up, four sisters hailing from rural Victoria stormed onto the stage in a haze of estrogen and leather. The crowd’s pupils widened as Stonefield broke the silence in a rumble of rock, psychedelia and rhythmic drum beating. With a wide-mouthed and tongue-out expression that mimicked Steve Tyler, eldest sister and vocalist Amy consistently carried her stoic vocals throughout favourite Put Your Curse On Me.

Lyrics “You take the love you think you deserve, not like me I know when I deserve more” are a testament to the band’s self-assuredness, which shines out in their performance. The sibling support is a token of their dynamic relationship, both in music and family, and is clear in their stage presence. The girls incessantly looked out for one another, repeatedly congregated together in a cheeky guitar play off.

Reminiscent of Woodstock era, their long untamed locks danced in the Broadwater wind. In a tribute to his influence, bassist Holly rocked a Frank Zappa shirt as she unleashed energetic riffs that tied C’Mon’s enigmatic sound together. I can attribute my headbang hangover to that set, and I’m not even mad.

Long anticipated, the king of Aussie blues Ash Grunwald came to the stage, barefooted and dreadlocked in all his glory. The set kicked off with a heavy bass line, with lyrics “in the bedroom, on the floor” getting the crowd well roused.

Accompanied by a bassist and drummer ­­­­the boys performed a bluesy rock version of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy that warranted and received a hearty crowd sing along. With the aura of a misbehaving schoolboy, Ash wandered across the stage slicing through the chords with precise intention to carry the sound through the venue. Lifting the tempo and getting the crowd to “Shake that thing for me”, he executed unbridled guitar highs complemented by gnarly facial expressions that most definitely would have offend your mother.

It was undoubtedly a group act as the percussionists took Ash’s lead when he increased the tempo or went off on a rocking tangent, laughing at the front man’s belligerence for traditional music making. Finally, the favourite Be Yourself had the crowd slamming their hands on the stage screaming, “Just be yourself, I don’t want nobody else” until our palms and throats were raw.

Walking away, sweaty, dirty and elated, we hesitantly boarded the boat after a day of sand, sun, surf and several beverages. After a beautiful trip back we watched the sunset over the amber Gold Coast sky scape. Delighted and a  just a little drunk, we departed the dock with newfound friends and disregarded our lost voices.

The boys at Yum Yum Popsicle are busy inventing more piquant projects for the purpose of your preoccupation. And we’re thrilled to hear The Other Side Festival Mark II will be back in the first half of 2014.

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