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!