It’s a sunny Sunday at Flemington Racecourse’s ‘The Nursery’. Walking in at an irresponsible-for-a-reviewer 4pm thanks to waiting for a cab for half an hour, calling up the cab company to find out he somehow has already picked us up and then having to wait another 20 minutes for a different cab. (We decided to go with a different cab company the second time round, not naming any names but 008 is seemingly more reliable than CABS.)
Enough about cabs because the legendary trio Salt-N-Pepa have just graced the stage; Salt, (aka Cheryl James), and Pepa (nee Sandy Denton) – front the show while DJ Spinderella works behind the decks. Already the band of the day, at least in terms of who everyone’s talking about, they pump out hit Shoop proving exactly why they were the first female rap group to ever grace the Billboard charts. They gather what ends up being the biggest crowd of the day, getting this enraptured, massive audience moving and jumping, putting on quite a show with their costumed dancers and their impressive video and light show (even though it’s still daylight).
The show takes quite a turn, though, when they take the obvious ‘Gen-Y-crowd-pleasing’ option; Pepa mentioning their Facebook/MySpace/Twitter pages in asking fans to send feedback after the show. They cover Pseudo Echo’s ‘80’s cover hit Funky Town, appealing to their Australian fans, followed by Sister Sledge’s We Are Family and then no longer playing covers but simply bits of tracks to get the crowd moving (ACDC – All Night Long; Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit; Michael Jackson’s - Billie Jean; Twist and Shout; Hey Mickey etc. Yes, it was so obvious I can now write an ‘etcetera’.) So, the dubious string of hits (kinda like watching Video Hits without the videos and without a remote to change the channel) was fun for a lot of people… but it wasn’t what we came to see. They did, however, finish up their set well, finishing with their greatest hits: What A Man, Let’s Talk About Sex, and finally Push It.
Walking around the festival, bad phone reception and long ATM lines were the biggest complaints of the day, which isn’t much considering the scale of the event. There was clearly no specific ‘shirts on’ policy for the day, but no one protested; there were little (or possibly no) reports of problems, everyone was seemingly simply having a good time.
Back to the main stage the crowd may have considerably dissipated since Salt-N-Pepa (raising questions about their time slot) but there’s still no stopping Gossip as voluptuous and energetic lead singer Beth Ditto graces the stage in a skin tight dress, baring all and hiding nothing. She dances double time and the crowd follows. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of Gossip on CD but listening to their music live, it’s hard not to be wowed. Between songs, Ditto remarks “I saw Basement Jaxx last night and they blowed my shitty mind!” while at the front of the stage, a fan can be seen on the big screens bearing a sign stating, “Beth Ditto, You Sex Bomb!” She seems to have quite an idol-istic following.
Bringing out your biggest hit prematurely can be good and bad, but when Standing In The Way Of Control starts up, the effect on the crowd is incendiary, with Ditto repeating Rihanna’s most famous line “Please don’t stop the music.” They end up finishing on covers: Tina Turner’s hit, What’s Love Got To Do With It? and Labelle’s, Lady Marmalade. Ditto steals the show and manages to prove that size means nothing when it comes to doing what she does best.
Naughty By Nature were one of those bands of the day, where if you weren’t there, you wish you had been, here’s why: leader of the trio, ‘Treach’, with a towel over his head, is beat-boxing the tunes, entertaining the packed tent with his acapella rapping. Halfway through the set however this is where it became really good. Realllly good. Already thinking they were somewhat similar to a male version of Salt-N-Pepa, who steps the stage, but the one and only, the mighty Salt-N-Pepa themselves. Together they perform as a sextet far better than the Salt-N-Pepa solo show, pumping out their most well known tracks all over again, Here We Come, Push It, and Shoop are just a few and the crowd are going crazy; shouting, chanting, and singing along. The set finishes with Naughty By Nature literally kissing the feet of their female idols.
Basement Jaxx are next on the agenda, and proving that they have a lot of friends, every track they play having a new guest artist. Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton hide behind their decks while their guests rule the stage. Busta Ryhmes over on the Roots stage sings I Know What You Want. And before I know it, it’s already 8:40 and The Killers are starting what very well may be their last ever show, deciding to cut down half of their Good Vibrations shows earlier in the week due to the death of lead singer Brandon Flower’s mother earlier in the week.
Flowers stands on top of the center speaker, calling out to his thronging fans “Hello there! We’re The Killers. Is your heart still beating?” Before singing, “Happy Las Vegas to all of you!” to the introduction of ‘Killers classic, Somebody Told Me; their immediate stage presence proves that they’ve done little but tour and record albums for the past six years. What comes next is an impressive greatest hits collection, a history essentially of The Killers discography. Mr. Brightside, Human, Spaceman, Bones, All These Things I’ve Done with many more in-between, proving they’ve come a long way from their 2004 debut album, Hot Fuss, before explosively finishing the night with their arguably biggest hit, When You Were Young.
By the end of the day I’d learnt that: a lot of scalpers are from England; that all your festival plans go to shit when you get there; that thanks to Cool Ridge water wrappers, you thought you were finding $10 notes on the ground every 10 seconds and if you were unlucky enough to see a Solo wrapper on the ground, depending on the state you were in, going up to the drink tent with one in your hand thinking it was a $50 note was normal. Oh and also that public transport is a joke.