A festival review for The Vine. Excerpt below.
Gold Coast Parklands, Gold Coast
Saturday 19 February 2011
On show day, wide open spaces are among the last things that festival promoters want to see. So Jam Music, the team behind Good Vibrations, must be pretty bummed by this year’s turnout. Half price tickets were offered to the Sydney show, and there were reports of lacklustre attendance in Melbourne and – to a lesser extent – Sydney, while punters at the Gold Coast leg were informed a few days prior that they could bring a friend to the show for free. One can’t help but wonder just how bare the venue would be, were it not for that last minute face-saving decision; even now, there’s loads of unused space within the Parklands.
Despite running a similar amount of stages to the Big Day Out, the Good Vibes grounds take up perhaps half of the floor space. In recent years, promoters have attempted to distinguish the festival from myriad other doof-fests by booking indie pop and rock acts high up the bill. Evidently, their efforts this year weren’t enough to stand out from a crowded summer schedule. By moving away from the dancefloor in search of the moshpit, Good Vibrations may have lost its core audience.
I am not part of this festival’s core audience. When the first line-up announcement was made back in September last year, two of my most anticipated artists were Cee-Lo Green and Janelle Monae. Both ultimately cancelled in favour of staying Stateside and performing at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards, meaning that some large holes suddenly emerged among the line-up. And so the first artist of real interest isn’t until half three on a disgustingly hot Saturday afternoon. (Although curiously, the $40 festival shirts for sale behind the merch desk still list the names of both Monáe and Green. The perils of printing merchandise months in advance.)
Erykah Badu is a thing of beauty. At the outset, I’m a bit sceptical, due largely to the circumstance in which she takes the stage. For over five minutes, her band are put in a holding pattern playing the same eight bars; a dark jacket is handed to the bassist, whose white check shirt stands out among his fellow black clad musicians. I expect a diva-like performance, fraught with perfectionism and divorced from spontaneity. Thankfully, my doubts are disproven around 10 minutes in, as the American singer smiles for the first time and reveals herself to be wholly engaged with the wide crowd of admirers. “You know why I do this?” she asks us halfway through. “I do this for my sanity.”
Thank fuck that she does. Her hour-plus on stage is a thrilling ride through her eclectic catalogue of soul and R&B stunners. With a wave of her hand, she cuts her band off on the beat time and again; by constantly deconstructing and rebuilding her songs, Badu ensures that she remains the focal point. Indeed, it is impossible to take one’s eyes off the singer, so alluring is her voice and presence. When she walks the length of the front-of-stage barrier toward set’s end, while still singing and holding onto the crowd for support, there’s little doubt that any of us would let such a beautiful creature come to harm. From 1997′s Baduizm to last year’s New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), it’s a wide ranging and powerfully-delivered set. Massive props to the Good Vibrations bookers for bringing her out to Australia for the first time. It’s good enough to take us away from the fact that, under the stifling dark canopy of the Roots Stage, it’s so hot that our bodies constantly ooze sweat, even while stationary. It also sets a very high bar for the rest of today’s acts.