What a show that was. Nicely sizzled after enjoying a couple of car ride joints and positively buzzing with anticipation, my friend Nick and I sauntered through the festival gates, and into what seemed like the most perfect and idyllic of paradises. We found ourselves in a large copse surrounded by tall pine trees, lush flowers and verdant lawns. There were caravans wafting irresistible aromas of fish, chips and burgers, and the loud hubbub of a big crowd populated by all manner of grown up stoners and delighted children was intoxicating. Beer flowed, wine spilled, and the immense quality of the stage sound made the entire area quake.
The flood of stellar acts, ranging from oldies to very newies, was brilliant in its breadth. Jeff Strong’s decade of showmanship excellence continued to build with a hugely expressive and whimsically playful performance by his indie band Jeff’s Dead at the festival’s outset. Local four-piece Bells Rapids followed immediately after with a great showcase of their self-described “moody, elegant rock,” which their upcoming EP will be no doubt filled with. Professional good-timers Doctopus let loose as they tend to in fantastic rock style. Shoegazing Perth six-piece Dream Rimmy showed everyone why they’re so adored despite being so young: their intense wall-of-sound made the very earth shake beneath our feet.
Punk metal rock band Forstora crashed powerfully out of the gates as they’re used to doing and predictably killed it, but if I’m honest they were noticeably incongruous to the venue. The blissfully layered vocals and driving guitar riffs of Childsaint echoed throughout the enchanted forest venue, charming even the leaves of the trees. The rich improvisation and extremely dynamic energy of Daniel Susnjar Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group livened up the entire venue, forcing many into a spontaneously effervescent groove that lasted the rest of the night. RAG N BONE violently smashed their way into the psyches of audience members like a concussive brick to the head – so visceral, so epic was their performance.
My pick for the night was, without a shadow of a doubt, the sublime jazz hip-hop philosophy of rising stars POW! Negro. They were the most interesting, dynamic, riotous, and frankly enjoyable act of the festival. They never gave us a moment to breathe, they controlled us intimately down to the very marrow in our bones, subtly letting us know that the only thing we could do about their control over us was to simply dance, kick back, groove along and enjoy it as much as we could. They were intoxicating in the same way Kendrick Lamar or Koi Child are so often, they were utterly entrancing in their craft, in complete command of their medium. In short, they were fucking incredible.
Sodastream, a classic Australian outfit, were also fantastic. They offered up nostalgic tunes for the well-informed, and displayed an infectious composure and staggering talent to those who were unfamiliar. A great change of pace after the incendiary POW! Negro, the indie romantics quelled the fireworks down to a glorious whisper, and a welcome calm descended upon the crowd. And then Hideous Sun Demon shattered the peace in such a destructive manner I thought the stage would collapse and the forest would raze to the ground. Having gained a reputation as a very formidable live band (a reputation fairly cemented in my head after seeing them rampage at the WAM Fest), the largest crowd of the night gathered at their feet with hopes of getting their skulls split open, and they were not disappointed. Like an adrenaline shot to the heart they shot life into the audience and set the stage alight, throwing down as hard as I’ve ecstatically seen them do many times before. I love this band, and it’s clear to see Sun Demon have locked down on something very special indeed.
In conclusion, the entire show was an absolutely masterful display of WA music at its finest. After twenty four years of celebrating the merits of western music, In The Pines sees no sign of slowing down, and I hope beyond hope that I am lucky enough to review the event next year. In a word, it was epic.