I arrived after midday to see the first of Adam Page’s three appearances for the day, leading the New Orleans style drum and brass ensemble Second Line appropriately amongst the onsite Megaphone Project art/sound installation. Beyonce’s Crazy Right Now and When the Saints Go Marching In were recognisable amongst less familiar songs as they were supplemented during their roving set by Concordia College music students. Adam followed this with an improvised solo set incorporating multiple instrumentation and a loop pedal which he reprised in his later Get Loopy workshop. This was preceded by Solli Raphael at 13 the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam performing his recitations, punctuating the main stage musical performances in an MC-like roll for the day, although not actually introducing any of the acts.
Apart from the Main Stage, there was the Gathered Tides installation involving Indigenous craft and storytelling, the Nunga Circus and workshops and a Jungle Gym. At times the physical comedy and water fighting of Mist Me attracted children away from whatever else was going on at the time. Besides the Workshop tent, another tent housed the Retro Digital Museum installation including a craft table to make arcade-style game controllers out of card and aluminium tape, a mini-moog and the interactive Game Jockey competition. These tents had in the previous week been venues for children’s shows Saltbush and The Secret Life of Suitcases at Grounded.
DJ Tr!p was the first main stage performer to draw an audience closer. Children happily danced, watching themselves on the video screen backdrop during his initial mix of mariachi horns, beats and world music tropes, later incorporating songs as diverse as a remix of the Simpsons theme, Mister Sandman and Deee-Lite’s Groove Is In the Heart.
Frente, the acoustic duo of Simon Austin and Angie Hart, arrived to a small but expectant crowd of mostly children sitting in the shaded portion of the water feature steps with their parents standing slightly away from the stage. Angie mentioned another outdoor venue at which they had played where there were “parent free steps”. After their most well-known song, Accidentally Kelly Street, a boy stands on stage and blows bubbles over Simon and Angie as though he is part of the crew, Simon remarking that it makes up for their lack of a smoke machine. Labour Of Love has Simon scat singing the original recorder solo, reminding me of a bootlegged audiocassette recording of a Triple J Live at the Wireless from 1991. They acknowledge the distance between the stage and the rest of the audience in that they understand that being under the shading umbrellas is “sun smart” which was particular pertinent for myself when I later discovered that I had been sunburnt during the day. Their final song of their three quarters of an hour set was the familiar and understandably well received New Order cover version Bizarre Love Triangle.
Heaps Good Friends’ set commenced half an hour later and seemed to fill the Yo Gabba Gabba! content that was lacking up to this point as they were something that children and their parents were enjoying in equal measure. The volume was now at a level to drown out the Post Office tower clock chimes that had previously interrupted and broken up Frente’s set. The mid-set dance contest did draw a crowd of children but unfortunately the momentarily increased numbers dissipated before the next song once the winners were announced and the T-shirt prizes had been allocated.
All potential competing distractions at Supermassive were finished by the time Sarah Blasko and her five-piece band commenced just after 6pm. The expectant audience had mostly filtered forward to see Sarah introduce her new songs from the very recently released Depth of Field in a live context. Amongst the eleven songs performed, the only two new songs were Phantom and A Shot between which she stated that there are no T-shirts to give away: “It’s not what I’m about”. Her eclectic repertoire of dance moves for the day included the classic slow stomp, in time with the beats, and the slow motion horse trot. The penultimate song was Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees performed solo on keyboards and this was the one that received the most applause. As though Sarah was aware that the truncated hour long set was bound to disappoint the fans who had come just to see her, there was the awkward stage banter of farewells as she clarified that this would definitely be her last song prior to I Awake during which I noticed what could be interpreted prophetically as birds circling in the sky high above and to the left of the stage but this likely went unnoticed by others.
As the families filtered out of Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga, I considered and was perplexed by the actual target audience of the musical line up. Frente as good as they were, was really for those parents who were young when Frente were at their peak. It was during their set that I came to reconcile my initial reservations about this music festival and Grounded overall and accept it simply for what it was. Although, out of all the acts, Sarah Blasko was of most interest to me personally, she seemed the most unsuited for a festival of this type. Calling Supermassive an all-ages festival would be slightly wrong in that it is really for children and parents and that the inclusion of something more in the vein of Justine Clarke and Holly Throsby might be more appropriate next time.
Review by Jason Leigh