Australia’s Summersault Festival Comes To An End

Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore seems to prefer Summersault to Big Day Out. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Ten days of summer fun came to an end in the Western
Australian port city of Fremantle on Sunday (Jan. 7) when the inaugural
Summersault festival played the last of its five national dates. ATN Australian
correspondent Alex Jackson slipped on super-strength sunscreen and stage-dived
into the action. Here is Jackson’s report: Despite the stinking hot temperature
(37 degrees celcius), somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 music fans rolled out
for the last Summersault show, bringing total punters around Australia to
around the 50,000 mark (about 18,000 attended the biggest show in Sydney on New
Year’s Eve).

And they weren’t disappointed as Jawbreaker, The Amps, Bikini
Kill, Beck, Rancid, Pavement, Sonic Youth, The Foo Fighters and Beastie Boys
joined forces for an awesome display of musical talent and diversity, not to
mention overwhelming and unusual camaraderie and musical
compatibility.

Festival organizers had the good sense to set aside an area
where overheated fans could cool down under water sprays. There were also
plenty of info, merchandise and food outlets to feed mind and body, but, as
seems to be the problem with music festivals universally, the toilets were
stinky, bog standard cesspools.

Despite a two hour delay in proceedings,
local Perth acts Thermos Cardy, Wormfarm and Outstation provided a loud warm up
for the first of the internationals, the still relatively unknown
Jawbreaker.

The hardcore turned pop-rock-punk trio delivered a short sharp
set which showcased their ability to harness powerful noise with quirky, angsty
lyrics. They won points with the crowd for sharing their water supplies and
ended the set by thanking everyone else on the tour.

The Amps won the award
for least good sports on the bill. Kim Deal, dressed all in red, “snuck” onto
the main stage part way into the set of Perth country-pop band Bluetile Lounge
(influenced by Red House Painters and Palace Music – watch for a U.S. release
on SubPop) and started tuning her guitar.

Deal and Co then suddenly decided
to start their set before Bluetile Lounge had finished, but despite The Amps
having the noise, the big stage and crowd advantages, the locals scored a
standing ovation for battling through their remaining songs.

Pavement,
making their third trip to Western Australia in as many years, played a mix of
poppy and sloppy numbers with their usual chaotic flair. But ultimately it was
an enjoyable set, with Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg and Mark Ibold often
chiming in with Steve Malkmus on vocals and even Foo Fighter Pat Smear joining
them on stage for the final number.

Bikini Kill did a fair bit of
instrument swapping in the early part of their set, with Kathleen Hanna
bounding around the small stage like a wind-up doll. Much poppier and energetic
than their riot grrrl tag might have implied to new Perth fans.

A personal
fave were the Foo Fighters, who received a huge round of applause when they
arrived on stage. Dave Grohl, all arms, legs and flailing hair, spent almost as
much time watching out for the welfare of the crowd as singing, breaking midway
in “This Is A Call” to make sure a wayward fan wasn’t hurt. Without preaching,
he told everyone to wear sunscreen and pick up anyone who was hurt, while Pat
Smear took pictures of the crowd. The set felt like a best of, proving just how
quickly the Foo Fighters have infiltrated the hearts and minds of Australian
radio listeners.

California punks Rancid wore their influences on their
chests (well, one sported a Union Jack) and told the crowd they were there for
punk rock, though the Clash meets The Specials or Madness seemed to be a
popular description of this colourful, loud though somewhat repetitive band.
They ended their set by dedicating their last song to all the other festival
bands.

Sonic Youth hit the stage near sunset and set about making music and
a little politics, with Thurston Moore remarking that he preferred Summersault
to “whatever that other thing is called,” presumably the Big Day Out festival
at which the band played a few years back. The Youth’s opus “The Diamond Sea”
had a unique twist with Beck joining in from the small stage on harmonica.

Beck played his own short, solo acoustic set as well. Did I say solo? That
was until the Beastie Boys jumped on stage and Beck became a Michael
Winslow-styled human boom box to accompany the Beasties.

The Beasties
closed the show with a selection of killer tracks ranging from the recent “Sure
Shot” back to the classic “Time To Get Ill,” by which time the lighting rig and
sound system were being used to full effect and sections of the crowd
splintered into their own mini-slam dancing arenas.

There’s already talk of
a bigger and better line-up for Summersault 1996-97. Hard to imagine how the
organizers will top their debut effort.
Really!