With the weather gods providing some of the best conditions thinkable for the day, WAMFest Saturday Spectacular was set to be a blast from the word go. Offering over 80 live acts & DJs across 11 venues centred in Northbridge, this year’s festival boasted a schedule that left past year’s lineups in the dust.
The first act on the agenda was the WA five-piece Ah Trees. With the 37-degree sun slightly illuminating the dark setting of The Boston through its main doorway, the crowd enjoyed a 7 song set featuring brand new songs from their debut, self-titled EP released only days ago. Frontman Ryan Adair delivered a high energy performance with solid vocals, all while working the reverb machine, enhancing the dreamy atmosphere their music rouses. Compared to their studio recordings, the instrumentation from their live performance was brought to the forefront of their performance, sometimes overpowering the vocals. However, an inspired rendition of “Nara”, a breezy Cold War Kids-esque stand out cut from the new EP, allowed both the backdrop and front vocals to flourish and acted as a highlight from the 30 minute set. Closing with their reverb-heavy, space-exploring single “Chippy”, Ah Trees ended the set on a high note and successfully kicked off the day’s proceedings in great fashion.
After wandering down James Street towards the Block Party stage and getting questioned by security whether the last 100ml of water in my Mount Franklin bottle was in fact vodka, I successfully got myself (and my bottle) inside to see this year’s WAM Song Of The Year winner, Beni Bjah. The Block Party area really started to capture the festival vibe, with food trucks, Kombi van photo booth stalls and a leafy beer garden providing the ideal summer setting for some good music. While the large setting was far from packed at this early stage of the day, this didn’t stunt the MC’s confidence of the microphone. After acknowledging the original land owners of this country, Beni Bjah delivered some charged raps over heavy NWA-resembling instrumentation before spitting on top of J. Cole’s “Fire Squad” beat and other recognisable songs.
Next up was the Perth duo Golden String who were playing at The Bird, one of Northbridge’s gems. Not knowing what I was in store for, I looked on stage to see a girl behind a keyboard and another with a violin in hand, which only raised more questions in my head. Yet after some crude banter from lead performer Mai Barnes, I immediately became enthralled by their minimalist but immensely evocative style, instantly reminding me of The XX. Violinist Hayley Jane-Ayres added a unique dimension to their sound, incorporating an instrumental depth to the drowned out synths and percussion which provided the backdrop to their music. After (half) jokingly calling out her boyfriend in the audience for not contacting her all day, Mai led the duo into their next track and it was only then that I realised that both performers were manually operating the various loops and beat variations within their songs with their feet. Given the various beat switches and details of their songs, the effortlessness nature in which this was conducted was a joy to watch it itself. Yet throughout the entire process, the melodies of the music visibly still resonated with the audience, and the duo further proved they needed no backing to connect musically by performing a fully live song which was arguably the best of their set. Ending with a perplexingly emotive track with a beat sounding like a wind charm and an escalating cacophony of strange sounds, Golden String’s kooky dance moves, notable charisma and intriguing musical style provided the highlight of the day and the perfect way to wrap up my first WAMFest experience.
Below are some extra photos of some other talented local musicians that performed at WAMFest this year.