Festival Review: Fairgrounds Festival – Berry Showgrounds, NSW (02 & 03.12.2016)

Fairgrounds Festival is a safe haven for those of us who have grown a little older, and perhaps a little tired of your standard summer festival. Taking place two hours south of Sydney in the small picturesque town of Berry, the family-friendly event has rectified its issues of the previous year, delivering an experience that is well needed within Australia’s festival landscape.

Swap the mosh-pit for a picnic rug, the cheap vodka that was smuggled in your bag for a Young Henry’s Newtowner, and the overpriced greasy festival food for a sweet brisket roll and you’ve got a recipe for success. Combine this with a swimming pool and a designated games area for big and little kids alike, and you’ve got something really quite special. There’s been a lot of thought put into this festival, and it shows. Every facet has been specially curated to contribute to the laid back, relaxing aura that the festival exudes, artists included. 

Rodriguez dominated Friday evening, offering punters a once (or twice, if you’re lucky enough) in a lifetime experience to see the enigmatic Sugar Man. His set had a few classics in there to please the crowd – including “Sugar Man” and “I Wonder” – but his choice to focus a large majority of his set on covers had some wanting more. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard closed the evening, producing an uninterrupted live show that was filled with an energy that quickly infected the crowd.

After a good night’s rest, a shower, and a cup of coffee, Fairgrounder’s were ready for their second day. It was time to lie down on my coveted picnic rug and catch the afternoon sets, a much-needed cold drink in hand to offset the rising summer sun. Angel Olsen was a gem as always, performing her tracks so flawlessly that it makes her voice sound almost achievable (hint: it isn’t).

Big Scary brought the funk with a performance consisting largely of material from their latest album, Animal. By now, the crowd had a buzz from the music and beer, making an exciting, fun set a well valued commodity that called for dancing – and a lot of it.

At sunset, Sarah Blasko cooled us down from the heat of the day, offering a brief intermission before the night acts commenced. I found myself on my rug, cheese, wine, and friends beside me, with Blasko serenading us into total serenity. 

 Unsurprisingly, The Tallest Man on Earth was the set of the day, drawing in the largest, yet quietest crowd. Opening with ‘Fields of our Home’ from the Swedish genius’ latest album, Dark Bird Is Home, frontman Kristian Matsson captured the undivided attention of the crowd, before being joined by the rest of his band.  Despite substantial tech issues, Matsson’s charisma and undeniable talent saved the set, providing a beautiful, intimate, and tear-jerking performance that left every punter a little sad, but in the best way possible. 

Closing Fairgrounds were Sydney favourites, Jagwar Ma, who were sure to bring back the party vibes with their psychedelic electronica beats. Their new album, Every Now & Then, proved to be even better in the live format, their mesmerising tracks encouraging the crowd to use up whatever energy they had remaining for one thing – dancing. With old favourites like “Come Save Me” and “Uncertainty”, the three-piece were almost drowned out by the sound of the crowd singing along. Even this writer – with a slight fear of crowds and repressed memories of terrible attempts at dancing – found herself boogying away at one point, and she didn’t mind one bit.

Thanks for another winner Fairgrounds, I’ll see you again next year.