A Day on the Green is a unique touring event, halfway between a music festival and a classy day out among the grapes. There’s something poetic about the way punters begin the day with picnic blankets and cheese platters and end it dancing with strangers in a drunken haze.
Saturday afternoon in the Hunter Valley, the sun was out in full force. At the beautiful Bimbadgen Winery, just outside of Cessnock, the only patch of shade to be found was in a small square directly in front of the stage – labelled “Dancing Only Area”. But in the early afternoon, the crowd were not yet ready to dance, and security shooed away those seeking a sheltered place to sit.
Perhaps this is why Adalita‘s set was cut short. The former Magic Dirt frontwoman was first to hit the stage, walking forward during “I Want Your Love” to personally thank the few punters who had made their way down the front. However after only a few songs – including new track “Equations” from her forthcoming album – there were whispers onstage, and the band played a final tune before saying an abrupt goodbye.
Tash Sultana had a little more luck filling the dance floor. As the drinks began to flow, and the cloud cover moved in, people were more inclined to get up for a bit of a boogie. Those who pushed forward were in for a treat, as Sultana’s loop pedalling and beatboxing genius is best witnessed from up close. One particularly memorable moment with a panflute left the audience dumbstruck, silently watching in awe – except for one over-excited punter who just desperately wanted to hear “Jungle”.
“You been to a show before, bro?” an amused Sultana responded to his cry, “You know there’s this thing where you save the best for last.” And she did. The 21 year-old’s closing performance was absolutely wild, with skilled vocals, crazy loops and one hell of a guitar solo. It shouldn’t be long before she’s sitting much closer to the top of a festival bill.
Smack bang in the middle of the lineup, The Preatures rocked up with a far more animated performance than the previous week at Rochford Wines in Victoria. Perhaps witnessing idol Shirley Manson from the side of the stage had given Izzi Manfredi some stage domination inspiration, or maybe they were taking comfort in being that bit closer to home. Whatever the reason, the Sydney band were on fire, from “Somebody’s Talking” and “I Know A Girl” through to their powerful cover of Divinyls‘ classic “Boys In Town”. Even a smattering of rain for their first few songs couldn’t slow them down! New song “Girlhood” from their long-awaited follow-up to Blue Planet Eyes (it’ll be “out in 2020”, joked Manfredi) was a slight lull in their set, but is easily forgiven by all that surrounded it.
The Temper Trap also bettered the previous week’s effort, with Dougy Mandagi venturing from the stage onto some amps and into the adoring crowd. It was the Melbourne group’s first time performing in the Hunter Valley, and they were clearly enjoying every minute. From the opening bars of “Thick As Thieves”, punters were enthusiastically drumming on fences and attempting to climb on each other – and they didn’t stop through “Love Lost” or “Trembling Hands”.
At one point, drummer Toby Dundas began playing the wrong song, garnering a roaring applause. What could have been a blunder led to an outpouring of love, as Mandagi jokingly chastised his bandmate for making his ‘first ever mistake’. Predictably, the set ended with “Sweet Disposition”, a drunken buzz rushing through the crowd of thousands chanting, “A moment, a love, a dream, aloud…”
Any semblance of class was long gone by the time Garbage were due. The picnic rugs were rolled up; eskies emptied and chairs folded away. Opening number “Supervixen” set the tone: “Bow down to me,” sang Shirley Manson, and the crowd did exactly that. Through 90’s singles “I Think I’m Paranoid” and “Stupid Girl”, to more recent numbers like “Automatic Systematic Habit” and “Blood for Poppies” off 2012’s Not Your Kind of People, Manson had the entire winery worshiping her every move.
Last year’s 20 Years Queer tour, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut, sadly didn’t make it to Australia, but Manson brought a taste of it to the Hunter Valley, sharing the origin story of “A Stroke Of Luck” – the first Garbage song she ever wrote, from a cassette in a hotel room, after lying to bandmates Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Butch Vig (who unfortunately couldn’t make it down under due to ongoing sinus issues) about her songwriting experience.
This year’s Strange Little Birds provided some memorable moments, with single “Magnetized” having its titular effect on the crowd. “Even Though Our Love is Doomed” was much the same, taking over the winery with a haunting captivation. But it was first single “Vow” and Version 2.0‘s “Push It” that really dominated.
Dedicated to the LGBTQ community, the band closed with “Cherry Lips”. Arguably their biggest hit in Australia, the song had everybody singing along as Manson pointed her mic toward the crowd. As the band left the stage, and the cheers subsided, the house lights came up, the crowd dissipated – basking in the glow of a brilliant gig (and more than a few wines). And as the most pit emptied, one particular party-goer caught my eye. She was right in the middle, doing push-ups, wearing nothing but fishnets and a pair of knickers. And she looked like she was having a blast! Go baby, go baby, go.