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2007-07-09 - 12:48 p.m.

So... Live Earth.

Has there ever been a one-off festival where a bunch of people haven't moaned about it being the worst organised thing they've ever been to? Some of the comments I've been reading have been valid, while others have been kind of ludicrous. One person wanted to know- if all tickets were the same price, why was one person's $99 better than another's (ie why did people in the back part of the oval have to contend with the mixing area and why weren't people in the stands allowed into certain areas?) Because you weren't quick enough idiots! We had someone waiting by the computer at 9am on the day the tickets went on sale and we reaped the benefits. Okay the bar lines were the worst I've ever seen, but that just reaffirms my belief that it's not worth drinking at festivals (after all, then you have to contend with the toilet lines). Maybe they should have dedicated the whole back of the oval to bars and toilets (the line out of the bar could lead directly into the toilets), thus reducing the capacity by 5000 and there'd be less people queueing for more bars and it would have all been okay. To me the only unacceptable thing is people not being let back into the area that they had a ticket for. If that did happen. You could be right up the front but you had to go all the way up the back and out of the stadium to get food or go to the toilet (or queue up for the bar ;)- there is absolutely no question you should be allowed back in no matter how crowded it has become. The bottleneck at the back of the stadium was a safety hazard and it could have easily been fixed with a partition down the middle (way out on on side, way in on the other). That's my only complaint.

Apart from that it was fabulous. I didn't come with a lot of expectations- I was worried the whole thing would be a big hypocritical (or insincere) wank, but you just can't argue with the messages of the day. I mean, you can argue that it's alarmist, that Al Gore doesn't know what he's talking about, that all the climate change predictions are lies; but you can't argue that riding your bike isn't better for the environment than driving a car, that if farmed animals produce greehouse gases then reducing the amount of meat you eat and hence demand is a good thing (I can't say I'll be following that one, even though I know I should), or that leaving your phone charger plugged in to the wall socket with the power on and no phone on it is just plain lazy, no matter how little energy it's using. And you certainly can't argue with the fact that we're not going to know who's right and who's wrong in our lifetime, so we might as well err on the side of caution.

Musically, I wasn't disappointed with anyone. I managed to (intentionally) miss most of Toni Collette's set (don't get me wrong, she's one of my favourite actresses but her music is a little bland), but what I did see was an enthusiastic cover of T-Rex's "Children of the Revolution". I didn't realise I knew about 3-5 Sneaky Sound System songs, but even though they are songs that commercial radio play way too often, I really enjoyed the vibe of the live set.

Ghostwriters were so much better than they could have been, what with them being a group of Oz Rock has beens (okay that's the cynical way of looking at it, the other is that they are Oz Rock Legends). I think Rob Hirst would be the drummer of choice for many people's all-Australian rock band, and he was joined by his Midnight Oil cohort Martin Rotsey and Rick Grossman from the Hoodoo Gurus among others. Rob Hirst's front of stage drumming was awesome, and their gutsy Oils-esque opening number was eclipsed by the real thing- their take on "When The General's Talk".

Paul Kelly has become a little eccentric in his old(er) age, but at least he's remembered to play crowd pleasers at festivals, unlike his last Homebake performance. After starting off with "God Told Me To", a generic and tedious paean to his faith (I respect his faith, just not his boring songs about it), he moved into "Before Too Long" and "Deeper Water", followed by the peculiar choice of "How To Make Gravy"- a song about spending a scorching Australian Christmas in prison, sung in the middle of July. It's actually one of my favourites, but it was probably the most lacklustre performance of it I've seen, and it had the bored crowd doing Mexican waves as he asked his mate on the outside to kiss his kids on Christmas Day. The short set was brought to a close by one of the days highlights- "From Little Things, Big Things Grow" (which along with "Weather With You" would have to be thought of as the day's theme song) featuring co-writer Kev Carmody and ring-ins John Butler and Missy Higgins.

We used Eskimo Joe's set to get food (incidentally my partner in crime for the day was Lucy, and for some of the time Kellee and a very drunk Claire). I really liked their first album "Girl" (and enjoyed their festival sets around that time, which included "Ruby Wednesday" and "Turn Up Your Stereo", but now they're just a bit too mainstream I think- which is a really wanky thing to say, but it's the only way I can describe their evolution.

Missy Higgins was- I don't know how I'd describe it. Apart from the fact that it was the bizarro Whitlams. Missy Higgins is indeed the female Freeds (and some of her latest album would fit perfectly in with songs from "Little Cloud"), and having Terepai Richmond on drums certainly added to the illusion. And "Scar" is a better pop song than Freeds will ever write ;) My point being I like Missy but it's not like her set blew me away. The highlight was the closing salvo of "Scar" and "Steer".

Wolfmother was Wolfmother. It's hard to get excited about a band who haven't released anything new since the last time I caught part of them at a festival, but unlike other home grown rockers who have made it big overseas (ie Jet and the Vines), they appear to be humbled by it all yet very much enjoying themselves.

John Butler was really good. His songs are shorter and catchier than they were 5 years ago, but his guitar playing is just as awesome and his passion just as real. He's probably more edgy and controversial now than Jay and Lindsay, who once sang about his music as "rubbish that bored me to shit". Jack Johnson I didn't enjoy as much as John Butler, but I was probably just getting keen for Crowded House. He good though.

Just under 11 years ago I ventured out to the steps of the Opera House with a group of friends from the Entertainment Centre (including the girl I was infatuated with at the time) to see four bands play, in the company of 150,000 people. They were Custard, Powderfinger, You Am I and of course Crowded House. They weren't one of my favourite bands at the time, and I'd only bought "Recurring Dream" that morning, seeing as how I was going to the concert and all, but it was far and away the most memorable and moving music event of my lifetime. I'll never forget the tears streaming down Paul Hester's cheeks as he drummed his way through "Don't Dream It's Over", before they took their final bow. Paul Hester took his final bow over two years ago now, but on Saturday night Crowded House were back. Since that day eleven years ago I've seen Neil Finn in various incarnations 8 times, and I'm not about to say that the 40 minutes I saw on Saturday night topped all of those, but Crowded House is about more than just seeing one of my favourite songwriters in action. Crowded House is more than the sum of their parts- even without perhaps their heart and soul.

I think the festival atmosphere, coupled with the fact that they only played two of their new songs, really made it feel like the band I saw on the steps of the Opera House were back. I don't think the Entertainment Centre gig in November will have the same vibe, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless. In just 40 minutes Neil Finn and his bandmates managed to distill one of the most memorable weekends of my life.

 

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