After such a wonderful day at last year’s arts and music based festival Sugar Mountain, I was very much looking forward to another year of exploration. I have to say though, it did not live up to my 2017 experience. Here’s why.

I had a new objective for this year. Instead of focusing primarily on the music I wanted to have a more well-rounded exploration of the festival’s activations, the Boiler Room and interactive experiences. That being said, this year’s Via Alice VR and live performance pop-up was outstanding. The hour-long session explored the African and Indigenous Australian cultures through a narrative of nature, customs and dance. Having it then jump out of VR into a live contemporary based performance was mesmerising and truly a unique experience for festivalgoers. In light of the cultural conversation the whole world is having right now, the Future Culture area allowed space for females to express their art, music and culture through forums and performances. The aim was to amplify, evoke, experience, express and be you.

Where the day let me down however was actually in a couple of ways. Firstly, the new layout was great as there was more space to play, but there was a lack of design in key pockets. For example, the Boiler Room was fitted out with some dangling silver and gold streamers and two pot plants. There was nothing striking about it. It certainly didn’t put people off though as it was the consistently the most vibing area of the festival. There were also no real Instagrammable hot spots unlike last year. It was very sparse in its execution, and the fact that the food truck area looked better and had more of an aesthetic than the festival was a little bit puzzling.

As far as the line-up goes, this year it was very hit and miss. I really enjoyed the inclusion of indigenous trio Kardajala Kirridarra but realistically, I don’t think they were ready for such a big platform like Sugar Mountain. Yes, their vocals were harmonious and atmospheric but it just didn’t carry or fill the main stage area. Stella Donnelly however was the perfect festival opener singing her little heart out and strumming her electric guitar. It wasn’t until 5:30pm however where the energy really lifted; that’s nearly five hours of just really average performances. A.B. Original put on a very slick set and it’s no wonder the multi award-winning duo are finding success. Their ability to connect through song and live performance is exactly what it takes to own a festival time slot and have the crowd pumping. They even called out good mate Dan Sultan to perform their remix of Paul Kelly’s ‘Dumb Things’ and ‘January 26’.

I discovered Jamilla Woods last year at some point and I was so excited to see her live. She came through with the goods. Her sultry R&B tones and robust production value really showed how much finesse she has, and how much of a leader in the neo-soul scene she is. Her confidence and sweet attitude resonated so well with the crowd and made for an overall strong set. But, without a shadow of a doubt the set of the day went to Sevdaliza, and whoever missed that performance will be kicking themselves ‘til the cows come home.

Again, I discovered Sevdaliza last year and was hooked from the very first time I pressed play. I knew her set was going to be some sort of Avant-guard inspired performance, but it absolutely went it to a whole other stratosphere. It’s really hard to put into words how much her performance affected and impacted me but I’ll say this: she is a goddess, the way she owns her sexuality and sensuality is inspiring, her conceptualisation and vision for music and art are impeccable, and her dance collaboration with Gil The Grid was literally the best thing I’ve ever seen. I cannot express my gratitude to Sevdaliza enough for gifting me with one of the most unforgettable performances I’m pretty sure I’ll ever see.

One the day’s big draw cards was Joey Badass and whether it was because I had just come from Sevdaliza’s set or not sadly, his set fell really flat for me. I’ve been to plenty of hip-hop and rap shows before where the mosh pit is so hectic and the artist is on another level, but I just wasn’t getting that with Joey. I kinda think he’s more suitable to a private venue or club location. To round out the night though was Cut Copy and they were the perfect headlining act for this festival. They had everyone’s spirits lifted, the entire crowd dancing and the set list was on point. This was my first time seeing these guys live and they delivered just like I had hoped. Question for you though, does front man Dan Whitford remind you of Hugh Grant? Specifically, the way he dances in ‘Love Actually’! I couldn’t unsee it and I absolutely loved it.

After all is said and done, I did have a great day with my friends and an awesome time dancing in the Boiler Room. I just wanted more, but hey, there’s always next year!

Photos by Kayzar
Sevdaliza Photo by Lisa Businovski

Author: Kara Bertoncini

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