Review: Bad Friday street festival a reminder of just how Good Sydney can be

Bad Friday has become a Good Friday tradition in Sydney, boasting incredible local lineups since it burst onto the scene in 2010 at the Annandale Hotel. This year’s lineup – with DMA’s and The Jezabels at the top of the list – is easily their strongest yet. Though it was the performances that scattered the day in this street party blessed by good weather that really made it the boutique festival to beat.

SCABZ, Flowertruck and Bec Sandridge had all finished up by the time I’d walked into the Marrickville event, and the incredible Green Buzzard were just wrapping things up. The sun was beaming down and the crowd was packing out the street.

The event was a laneway festival in every sense of the word; a single stage at the end of Railway Parade next to Sydenham Station in Sydney. Though a far cry from the days of the Anannadale hotel, the event has lost none of its grit. There’s just a few more food options now. Sausages from The Fancy Banger. Ribs from Bloodwood. Burgers and fried chicken from Marys (which was easily the most popular spot at the festival). The best pulled meats in town from Bovine and Swine.

But the rustic, industrial street on which it was placed felt exactly right. They even brought pinball machines and arcades with them to add to the aesthetic. Lines were usually bearable – no worse than a day at any we’ll run festival you’ve ever attended – clearly learning from past mistakes of other events. Though some may have still complained, they always moved quickly. The affordable $9 cocktails (and paywave) should have helped quell any frustration though.

Wollongong’s Shining Bird offered no less than seven members on stage, with their opening opus feeling straight out of the canon of The Church, as they proclaimed “I can run the whole way home”, in “I Can Run”, saxophone and all. They even got a bit free form jazz there for a moment. A stunning “The Killing Moon” cover felt of little surprise by the time it arrived, and could easily have been their own creation. What may or may not have been an Air instrumental cover was another stunning inclusion, and a highlight of the set. This band just keep getting better. “Distant Dream” ended the set.

The highlight of the day from a curatorial point of view was The Band‘s The Last Waltz tribute, “A Band”, which featured a surprise cacophony of local talent including members of The Preatures, Sticky Fingers, Gideon Bensen, Delta Riggs, True Vibenation‘s horn section and more. Though much of the classic performance may have been lost on certain members of the crowd, “A Band” proved a huge success. After all, great musicians paying tribute to one of the best musical releases of all time, what could go wrong?

Opening with “Don’t Do It”, highlights included Joyride guesting on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, Hayley from The Jezabels guesting on “The Weight” (a stunning rendition of one of the greatest songs of all time), an incredible take of Van Morrison’s “Caravan” featuring Tony Hughes of King Tide and Gideon closing it out with all the set’s guests for Dylan’s epic “I Shall Be Released”. The set was a brave inclusion for an event full of Triple J and FBi Radio favourite bands – but it payed off in dividends, becoming the highlight of the whole festival.

The day turned into night as Sampa The Great hit the stage and she and her DJ gave the event a strong dose of hip hop. Among her own material, and an excellent set, Sampa teased The Fugees classic “Ooh La La La”, changing up the lyrics to “Oooh La La La, It’s the natural LA that the STG bring…” which I thought was a nice touch.

The emerging hip hop artist was followed by one of Sydney’s most established groups. You know any event that brings Royal Headache along for the ride is going to be good value for money, and they certainly didn’t disappoint in their first show in almost a year, battling through the odd sound problem along the way. With a set that included “High” and “Psychotic Episode”, the band were typically hard, fast and electrifying – mixing in material with a bit of a Flaming Lips vibe and even a ballad at the end to keep us on our toes (as they always do so well). Here’s hoping it’s not another 12 months before the band are seen again locally. Perhaps a Landsowne residency is in order when that venue re-opens (and how amazing is that news!)?

The Jezabels played a similarly strong set, mixing in plenty of their best known tracks – with favourite “Endless Summer” coming second and “Hurt Me” appearing towards the end – alongside songs like “Mace” and “Pleasure Drive”, a personal favourite off She’s So Hard. It’s difficult to say anything about this band that hasn’t already been said at this point, but with the great sound of the festival stage, and the typically excellent energy from lead singer Hayley Mary, who spent part of the set in the crowd, this was crowd pleasing in every sense of the word.

With Newtown’s DMAs closing things up to a heroes welcome, Bad Friday was a testament to how great Sydney can be, and how strong an event is when organisers say to themselves: let’s make a laneway festival that doesn’t suck. Let’s book bands that don’t suck, get food and drink that doesn’t suck (nor rape your wallet), a sound system that doesn’t suck, and make sure everyone has a good time. It all seems obvious when it happens, but we all remember when it doesn’t. Let’s make every Friday a Bad Friday from now on shall we? Though Sydney, we’d love to be able to party past 10pm.

Bad Friday took place on Railway Parade in Marrickville on Good Friday, 14th April 2017.