Review: Half Strange Festival 2016

Words by Lauren Abineri

Hello! Oh man, remember HALF STRANGE? On the October long weekend? Of course you do! It was so good. 

DAY 1

I started the night by cradling myself in the nestle of the hug that is Hummingbirb. I mean, er, Hummingbird. Heart-shaped notes crept up through the basement to draw an eager and attentive crowd. There is a very special exchange that happens between an audience and artists like Miles and Elena. I felt vulnerable even watching. Their signature style of dream-gaze welled up the basement, with tender guitar lines tumbling over choruses of Elena's vox. Which I will never tire of.

Tried not to cry. Didn’t cry. Nailed it.

Orlando Furious was up next. It was as though Fred Schneider of the The B-52's had decided to make fusion spoken-word trip-wave. This was a bit of a precursor to the energy needed to get through the rest of the evening. Everyone boogied. Even his dad was there, that’s so cool.

Joy & Sparkes was fresh from a performance literally minutes beforehand at Nexus as part of OzAsia Festival. Lights dimmed, Joy brought to her noted brand of break-beat goddess pop. A voice that moves through a swollen howl to a quivering, soulful whisper. Joy is a joy and that’s no lie.

Deep Red’s performance was my very first time seeing them and it was a treat. As I was listening and bopping, I imagined my new pen. One of them fancy ballpoint ones. I imagined using my new pen, drawing a continuous line with the deep red ink. That is what Deep Red was like. One linear set consisting of Ben McLaren and Freya Zaknich, both Rule of Thirds members and Adelaide music veterans. New Order meets Siouxsie Sioux. Maybe that’s a reductive comparison, but I insist! Or that endlessly satisfying bit in Blue Monday you know by some band (I’m joking I'm just insecure about my music taste and don’t want to name drop or nuthin’). You know the bit JUST before I see a ship in the harbour. Anyway.

DAY 2

Getting there too early was all too real for me when I saw that there was an 18th birthday being held in the other function room at the bowls club. Reminded me of getting to those things real early, in the days when I had a select group of “older” friends who underage drank and I didn’t. I would hang around for a bit, maybe get a free Guava Cruiser out of it. Then just when I hit ma stride (two cruisers in) a parent would come collect me promptly at 10pm.

BUT NOT TONIGHT.

To make things worse there were a group of *youths* approaching the door. I mistook their curiosity for being lost so I said, thinking I was being helpful, ‘are you guys looking for the 18th?’. They were looking for Half Strange actually, Lauren. Don’t be so embarrassing all the time. After publicly shaming myself I went inside and had a stout. No Cruisers, I’m an adult.

WIREHEADS up first. I love u shut up. Arrive Alive is such a banger srsly - You got two dollars in ya haaaand. Wonked-groove bass lines and Dom Trimboli's lead vocals telling stories of fond pastimes and of course some big issues. I thought surely the teenagers didn’t leave just because you asked if they were actually looking for an 18th. Maybe they were looking for an 18th? Maybe they just wanted to have only two Guava Cruisers and go home?

Fair Maiden beckoned with haunting lines; Tell me a story, I feel so unimportant. Some sad songs to sway to and signature thundering beats and bass. Soon they will be putting out a new record, so stay tuned! It made me think if it was my 18th all over again it’s pretty cool that like, Fair Maiden are playing at my birthday. In reality, around the time of my 18th this bloody song had just come out, digital cameras had a great video function so you didn't really need a smart phone and a friend of mine was carrying around a bottle of Fruity Lexia that she named “Annie”. It was still fun.

BENT were triumphant with gnashing bass lines, wails and some nice pliable tom-drum beats. I watched from afar, outside I enjoyed a spring breeze we’d all been waiting for. Twinkling above, were hanging soft-sculptures made by local artist Olivia Kathigitis

Before Spike Fuck went on I heard someone describe her as captivating - and she was. With a vocal delivery somewhere between karaoke drawl and a soulful rockstar of the 70s. Self-described smackwave, Spike Fuck gave us some brutally honest accounts of love, drugs, and pain. But all with a joyous ownership that make us all feel like hey it’s all gonna be okay. Everyone got down to a beautiful Betty Davis Eyes cover. Look, here’s me dancing to Spike Fuck.

THETA’s particular brand of synth-punk is a treat, and a rare treat at that. I don’t remember very much at this point in the night, that sometimes happens, but I remember having a good time, clocking Gus (CALIFORNIA GIRLS) so I could sing along to Teach Me like goddamn fool.

The aforementioned Canberrian CALIFORNIA GIRLS closed the night, kicking off with absolute banger Skin on Skin. CG’s very personal songs were intimate despite the frenzy of the crowd. Could NOT stop dancing or yelling along to the particularly sweet sting of Hidden.

Omg best birthday ever. See you tomorrow.


DAY 3

Feeling a bit tender. It was raining. Ohhh poor meee. If you’re still reading, I’ll let you know now that I worked the day after my 18th birthday. Goon Wizarrd woke me up first thing with their brand of very loud, freaky surf-punk.

Much anticipated BILES played an industrial set with bruising electronics and a rasped growl. Lit in blood-red in the front bar there was something really satisfying about noise in the front bar. More noise in the front bar. More noise.

Rule of Thirds crunched and wailed, dressed in darkness, under a busted light and nothing but flashes of cameras. During the set, it became so apparent that local dancing music-fan-excellent-person Nicole Raine, was the emotional barometer for the entire HALF STRANGE experience - have you seen this woman dance? It’s just excellent!

I squeezed my way through the Metro to watch Hydromedusa before realising/remembering I’m too short for moshes and maybe too fragile from the night before. Parading around in slinky snakeskin print leggings, a black lip and Dame Edna sunnies, Hydomedusa’s frontman was just too glam for this world. After being marinated and mushed around by other bodies for a song or two, I escaped. But I did get a nice fella standing on the window sills (the window sills) to take this boomerang for me:

Photo by Daniel Purvis

Photo by Daniel Purvis

Belgrado (all the way from Barcelona) were much anticipated by punters. Lead woman Patricia led a high-energy set, her vocals snapped and droned with a satisfyingly long delay. She snaked her way through the crowd to make some serious eye contact during the set. A primo bass and drums section tightly knit together irresistible post-punk riffs, it was like the dark-disco version of Echo Beach being played over and over again.

Freya and Noah of SECOND SIGHT went head-to-head, synth-to-synth, heartache-to-heartache-we-stand, to deliver the closing set. There was a sense of togetherness during the set, the weekend of stellar acts culminated into one final dance. Once again, together in the dark. For some it was their first time seeing SECOND SIGHT return to their hometown kill it as a duo.

Much as it was encouraged, I decided to forgo the La Sing after-party because I was a shrivelled human being. But glowing. Like a glowing, shrivelled human being. I had a great time. If you got to the end of my Lauren-goes-to-HALF-STRANGE story then I will maybe buy you a beer. Congrats to all the acts, and Harriet and Celeste for putting on an excellent, queer, femme, hard, soft, strong, fully strange weekend.

HALF STRANGE continues to present gigs in Adelaide, coming up here is the next HALF STRANGE PRESENTS show.