On the first day of the Easter Long Weekend, families were on road trips, bars were closing for an early night and Good Friday mass was in service. However, along Railway Parade in Sydenham, a local indie-rock block party was engaging in a much more wholesome activity.
This was Bad Friday, a concert that grew into a festival to support the city’s music scene. This year was particularly special as it was the 10th show in the event’s history. Although not far from its geographical origins at the Annandale Hotel, Bad Friday is now a celebration in the face of a heavy-handed state.
Not that the state wasn’t present. Lining the entrance were two walls of police. Everyone felt the aura of excitement and anticipation that enveloped the crowd as they walked through the entrance, otherwise ignoring the honour guard in blue. At what was a largely well behaved event, this show of might was comical and, for all intents and purposes, a weird flex.
This oversized block party made the most of the urban location. Stretching down one huge lane, the three stages effectively spread out the crowd, with food and drink stands peppered across all locations. With brick walls and old warehouses for a backdrop, the venue allowed for both a huge crowd and intimate atmosphere, as well as some fantastic acoustics.
The early afternoon was dominated by the likes of Lime Cordiale and Tropical Fuck Storm on the main stage, with many great performances from Georgia June, The Buoys and 100 flying under the radar. However, it was around 5.00pm when the event really hit its stride. A heart-pumping rock set from Brisbane’s DZ Deathrays was the catalyst for shifting the event into second gear. Their 2018 hit ‘Like People’, had the packed main stage moving, jumping and singing in unison. Following this, The Jezebels’ softer pop stylings took the energy down a notch. However, while the mainstage settled into a chilled indie groove, the Carla Flanagan stage was just picking up.
This stage might’ve been smaller, but it was no less rowdy. After Crocodylus’ fast paced garage rock warmed up the stage, Johnny Hunter burnt it to the ground. The punk band stole the show with a short and sweet set that channelled the raucous aggression of their hometown crowd. The crowd embraced singer Nick Hutt, dressed in a suit and makeup, among themselves, revelling in the set together as a community. Between songs, Hutt asked the crowd if they were entertained. Crowd surfing, moshing and a collective chorus of Johnny Hunter’s ‘1995’ indicated that they were.
While Johnny Hunter not-so-quietly stole the show, Jungle was moving feet with their jazz/funk/house fusion over by the main stage. The dance-ready flow of their tracks left the crowd exhilarated and in a perfect place for the festival’s biggest name, the DMA’s.
Having played at Bad Friday in both 2014 and 2017, the DMA’s growth over the years is somewhat allegorical for the festival itself. The overwhelming size of the swollen and bloated crowd before the start of their set highlighted that in 2019, the DMA’s are outgrowing their beginnings, and we shall see if local stages can keep up.
Songs like ‘Melbourne’, ‘Time & Money’ and ‘Lay Down’ combined with the excellent light show to entrance the crowd. Standout tracks were ‘Delete’, which the crowd sang for the band, and an acoustic version of ‘The End’, which replaced the more digital, progressive house sounding sections for dramatic piano and emotional reservation. Lead singer Tommy O’Dell’s led an effortlessly humble performance, reminiscent of Oasis’ Liam Gallagher in the early 90s. Whether swaying gently side to side, jumping up and down or singing in unison, the crowd’s connection to the DMA’s was more than just musical. It is a deeply personal and communal connection as the band and Sydney audience have grown together.
Most people cleared out following the DMA’s. However, the Avalanches and World Champion kept the good vibes going until around 10.30pm, which was a later finish than any licensed venue in Sydney was allowed on Good Friday. A special mention must go to the Smirnoff Stage and the likes of Haiku Hands, Nina Las Vegas and Human Movement who provided a slice of electronica to the festival during their DJ sets.
While the day was an overwhelming musical success, this was both despite and in spite of the unnecessary overregulation. Police were turning people away if they caught them drinking from plastic bottles when lining up for fear of these bottles containing spirits, despite the rule that plastic bottles must be empty at entry and filled up with water inside. The cashless and cardless vendors’ total use of eWristbands, which required separate machines to put money on for use at a vendor, not only was counterintuitive for the times the technology failed, causing more congestion, but also resulted in more drinking, as the absurd price of drinks lead people to topping up their funds instead of leaving funds on the eWristband. A simpler, more common-sense approach to health and safety would have been more effective, and let the crowd enjoy the music they were there to see.