1 October, Stuart Park

The Australian music festival circuit is one that we can be proud of. Bands and artists from this country and internationally have built their fan base and profile in our backyard, and it is all thanks to the loyalty and dedication of Australian audiences who go annually to these festivals.

Even if you’re not solely there for the music, festival-goers love to spend a weekend with mates and enjoy a day that promises to live on after it’s all done. Yours & Owls music and arts festival in Wollongong is a celebration of the Labor Day long weekend, with a growing reputation of stellar live acts and a great location in Stuart Park right next to the beautiful beaches that the Gong has to offer.

The 2017 line-up boasted an impressive selection of local acts and a couple of surprise international bands. Saturday was most notable for the menacing metalcore outfit Northlane and the indie-pop heavyweights Safia taking the headline slots. Yet it was Sunday that turned out to not only have an epic line-up but an absolutely gorgeous day out in the sun with plenty of activities to participate in and loads of entertainment.

Across four music stages there was something for everyone. If you like your music heavy and with attitude the Rad stage was the appropriate place to be. If you wanted to listen to DJs play techno, acid house or future bass you just had to visit the Das Schmeltz Haus stage. The two main stages of the festival were the Out Of Space stage and the I See You stage, both presenting bands ranging from rock, pop and hip hop.

For fans that were searching for other non-music activities there was a tent specifically for performance poetry, and if you were hungry there was Mediterranean food and wood-fired pizzas that attracted long queues.

Calorie count aside, one of the highlight music performances at Yours & Owls had to be A.B. Original. Briggs and Trials, with their amazing band, completely owned the I See You stage, getting the crowd jumping to their G-funk beats and rhythms and to their Hottest 100 banger January 26. They used their platform to tell the audience how they felt about the increasing rate of Indigenous men, women and children that are in custody and got everyone to passionately chant “No justice, no peace!” They’re a serious music force in Australia with protest anthems and music that makes you nod your head and jump like a flea on a turntable.

Following hot on their heels on the same stage was Illy, commanding the audience with his accessible hip hop songs and a blazing light show arranged around a big logo of his name. Illy told the audience that Yours & Owls festival was the best crowd to perform to in his current tour and gave a shout out to rriple j for playing his music. He closed his set with Papercuts clearly a crowd favorite and an epic way of leaving us on a high.

As much as the festival was dominated by Australian music, there were two international acts that took this event to another level with their incredible live showmanship, causing mosh pitters and crowd fanatics to lose their shit. One of these acts was Le Butcherettes who played on the Out Of Space stage and were fearless in their attitude, with singer Teri Gender Bender jumping into the crowd and lying on the stage screaming her lungs out. Le Butcherettes’ brand of punk rock is unique, as Gender Bender also plays a keyboard that reminds you of Russian music, and she likes to speak in Spanish even if no one understands a word she says! As a three-piece band they gave a performance that made the audience absolutely sweaty and re-energise.

The other special international act were punk/hardcore veterans At The Drive-In who instantly created powerful and intense moshing. At The Drive-In was Sunday’s headline act along with The Presets, and though they had not released any new music in 17 years, ATDI were ready to unleash the compositions of their new album to an audience biting at the bit to release all their energy into a wide circled mosh pit. Of course, they gave loyal fans music from 2000s acclaimed album Relationship Of Command, but it was the showmanship and performance antics that were on display for all to see. Any budding post-hardcore bands who want to step up their game had better pay attention to the live performance and crushing sound that Cedric, Omar and co. produce so well.

After an enthralling punk-rock show, At The Drive-In fans got right into The Presets but this was not a mosh pit affair at all – more like a dance-and-throw-your-hands-in-the-air atmosphere with two guys on stage and a dazzling light show creating EDM bliss for the sea of grinding punters. The crowd loved singing along to My People and it was quite a spectacle to hear everyone singing all at once. The Presets were a worthy act to close a long weekend festival and audiences left happily having had a great day out in such an exceptional location.

Yours & Owls not only put together a diverse line-up of music, but was well organised and provided great services, including water stations, plenty of porta-loos, phone charging booths and free sunscreen. It’s fair to say that thousands had a fun weekend and if you live in Sydney or anywhere in NSW it’s not very difficult to travel to Wollongong for a day or two.

I’m sure Y&O will have plenty of exciting events for the years to come, attracting local music bands and internationally acclaimed acts, so if you missed out on this year’s festival make sure you attend next year!