Review: ATP 'I'll Be Your Mirror' - Day 2
All Tomorow's Parties : I'll Be Your Mirror
Westgate Sports & Entertainment Complex, Melbourne
Sunday 17th February 2013
In my write up of Day 1, I talked briefly about the neotribe and how the music festival is best viewed as a very short-lived community centred around shared taste and values. A lofty idea perhaps but one that explains the broader appeal of these things. It explains the huge crowds drawn to larger-scale festivals like Future Music, Big Day Out, Harvest, Soundwave and Splendor In The Grass. At these festivals, spectacles each and all, it has long been understood that punters attend ‘the event’ to see each other as often as they focus their attention on the bands in the distance.
In a way, the crowd is the main selling point of a large-scale event, not the line-up. The headlining acts of those big 30,000 plus shows need to be popular and professional, something everyone can gather around with some certainty. Once that’s installed (not an easy nor inexpensive task), the crowd’s time and attention and their ability to document and promote that time and attention to others, is then on-sold to merchandisers, retailers, sponsors, record companies, booking agencies and various other parts of the music and media industries. That band you’re see at two-thirty in the afternoon, that’s a product someone is trying to sell you as much as it’s entertainment. This is the business of live music on a large scale. It’s high-risk, high-profit and probably the best example going of how the culture of music can be emptied out and repackaged as an ambient product—something like mobile phone coverage or data mining or transaction fees—but with a more rebellious spin placed on it.
With this in mind I was particularly curious to see how I’ll Be Your Mirror’s second day would play out. Curated by members of Australian band The Drones, this was a line-up of acts assembled from years of committed listening, always a hugely understated part of what a musician does. There were promoters, booking agents and managers involved, of course, but our attention was being requested for a vastly different reasons. No one books a 15 year defunct Tasmanian band because they have a record or an image to sell. This is done because specific people wanted us to hear it, and to build a festival brand based on an entirely different model, one where live music sits far closer to the centre of what is bought and sold.
Melbourne’s trancey and minimal My Disco were almost a given on today’s bill. An international band, they embody a transitional moment in Australian rock. They tour and record abroad but these pathways were forged independently, more as a hard-working local band than as the product of rapid internet attention. As such, they are an impossibly tight, always curious live act. Today they draw from across their catalogue but do so in such a way as to highlight how committed they’ve remained to certain ideas: the guitar as textured sound, live drumming drawn from electro and the bass as a varied instrument. They do all this under the fog and laser of a warehouse rave.
(There’s a drum solo as well. ‘Santa’, I say, quietly under my breath.)
‘We don’t exist anymore’, was The Stickmen’s opening volley and their set on Stage 2 was a bit of a blinder. As they worked through their very contemporary sounding dirge, it felt like a further unravelling of Hobart’s long and storied music history. There are certain shades of distortion and lyrical inflection that come from this scene and they absolutely inform the present in increasingly literal ways. It could be the long, long tail of the internet. More likely it’s a group of people and sounds having their day.
It was hard to know what to expect from The Drones on Sunday. How would they fare alongside a bill of their influences and contemporaries? Their live abilities are well documented but if there was one bill on which they’d appear less effective, or slight, surely this was it. I was extremely interested to get up close to see how it came together or fell apart.