The acts I saw at “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. The Sydney Festival, Cockatoo Island, NSW, Australia

Here’s a few photos, videos of and thoughts about the acts I saw yesterday on Cockatoo Island at All Tomorrow’s Parties which is a part of the Sydney Festival.

All Tomorrow’s Parties (according to their website) is an organization based in London that has been promoting festivals and concerts throughout the UK and worldwide for almost ten years. The line-ups are chosen by significant bands or artists, which combine performances by legendary and influential acts with appearances by the latest crop of experimental artists from any (and every) musical genre.

The All Tomorrow’s Parties here in Sydney was curated by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

The day started off cloudy, windy and cold and the first act we saw was Hunter Dienna at the “Barracks” which is an old ruined army barracks from the early 1800s.

Hunter Diennna

It was a perfect venue and the weather seemed as though it was made to order for their moody bass driven music. I would’ve loved to have put up a video link to one of their performances but there aren’t any, but here’s a link to a page where you can listen to some of their music

Hunter Dienna

 Hunter Dienna was very good act to start with, even if did start at 11:15 in the morning. 

Just after noon we went and checked out the Stabs. They were OK but nothing great; the same old same old. Their voices were flat and they just stood there. 

Mark Nelson of the Stabs

From some of the press about them and their video, one could be forgiven for thinking they were a bunch of hard arses.

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From what I saw on stage they looked like some limp dicked wanabees. I guess that’s the problem with live performances, you can’t hide the difference between the hype and reality. We didn’t stick around for long.

At about 12:30 went and watched Bridezilla.

Millie Hall on saxophone and Daisy Tulley on violin

Now they were good!

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They played an entertaining set and the cherry on the top was when Jack Thompson came on and played harmonica with them.

The great Jack Thompson takes a bow

When Bridezilla finished we drifted over to the Beaches and caught the last of their set.


The Beaches music is a faster driving type of rock that sounds like it’s been influenced by late punk-pop music. I would’ve thought that the music they played was fine if it wasn’t for the fact that it sounded like so much of what one already hears on the commercial radio stations. A pity really, because they were pretty good. If you want to hear some of their music click here.

The next act we caught was Conway Savage who is a member of Nick Cave’s band, The Bad Seeds. Conway is a very confident, laid back and funny man.

Conway Savage

Conway started off the set asking the crowd to give him some drugs (he wasn’t kidding) and strangely enough the were none forth coming. What is with the youth of today? There was a time when such a request would’ve showered the performer with a veritable pharmacy.

He played the electric piano and sang mostly slower jazzy lounge type music. If you’d like hear some of his music click here. 

In the middle of Conway’s set some of the audience started to leave (in fairness, there was so many acts to see), so he called out to them, “hey you cunts, where the fuck do you think you’re going? This is a good one!” Then he and the audience cracked up. It might sound harsh but it came across as good natured and I don’t think many people minded. All very rock and roll. Both my wife and I watched all of Conway’s set and enjoyed every moment of it.

After Conway Savage we had a quick look at Dead Meadow which didn’t hold our attention and then we checked out the last of the much hyped Afrirampo, a Japanese female duo from Osaka. There were a lot of people in the audience making a big show of how into the band they were but I thought they were just plain old cacophonous most of the time and derivative the rest.

The emperor has no clothes!

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The clouds and wind went away and summer returned in it’s full fury, so after Afrirampo, we chilled out in the shade and waited for Harmonia to come on.

Harmonia are a German supergroup made up of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius from the seminal electronic and ambient music band Cluster, with Michael Rother from Neu!  The band sound like a mix of Kraftwerk and dance rhythms. 


Dieter Moebius


Harmonia aren’t much to watch but I found the music to be like cool drink on a hot day. So beautiful and clear.

It’s a real pity there aren’t many Harmonia videos on Youtube and this is the closest I could find to what I saw, but it has voice in it, of which there was none yesterday.

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Harmonia was my favourite group of the day and I’d love to see them again and own some of their music.

Both Engogirl and I were so chilled out after Harmonia that we just didn’t feel like listening to anymore rock music for a while so we went and checked out the very venerable Psaradonis.

Psarandonis the great

All I can say is wow!

He was amazing and it’s a credit to the curators (people so heavily influenced by rock & roll and punk) to see such a performer at such a concert.

[youtube 89NgOOeW07g]

His music was so completely different to anyone else’s on the island and the audience who had come to see much more modern and raucous music, loved him.

I love this city!

The next act we checked out was James Blood Ulmer.

The one and only James Blood Ulmer

What can I say? Other than, he was fantastic! Old style blues that is almost impossible to hear live anymore, here in Sydney.

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The only down side to his performance was that there was a very loud and inconsiderate group who were talking at the top of their lungs all the way through. What a bunch of jerks! I can’t understand why such turds go to live performances.

By the time that Mr Ulmer had finished his set it was getting dark, so we went over to the main stage and watched the influential legends of the Aussie proto-punk scene, The Saints.

Since they are such a hugely well known and popular band I didn’t even try to get near the stage to take photos, so all I have to offer is this video from 1978.

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They are still a great band.

Actually, they rock!

Then finally Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds came on. Nick and his band have a huge following of hard core fans and his concert was packed so of course I hung back and just enjoyed the show.

This is how he was about 15 years ago.

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This is how he is nowadays

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Here’s the words to the song in the video above.

What we once thought we had we didn’t, and what we have now will never be that way again
So we call upon the author to explain

Our myxomatoid kids spraddle the streets, they shunned us from the greasy-grind
The poor little things, they look so sad and old as they fuck us from behind
Wel I ask them to desist and to refrain
And then we call upon the author to explain

My friend died with tubes up his nose
And a cabal of angels with finger cymbals chanted his name in code
We shook our fists at the pumping rain
And we call upon the author to explain

Everything is messed up around here, everything is banal and jejune
There is a planetary conspiracy against the likes of you and me in this idiot constituency of the moon
I know exactly who to blame
And we call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!
Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!

I go guruing down the street, young people gather round my feet
They ask me things, ah baby I don’t know where to start
They ignite some kind of power-trail straight to my father’s heart
And once again we call upon the author to explain

Who is this great burdensome slavering dog-thing that mediocres my every thought?
I feel like a fucking vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker, it’s fucked up and is a fucker
But what an enormous and encyclopaedic brain
I call upon the author to explain

I said Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!

Bukowski was a jerk off!
Berryman was best off!
He wrote like wet papier mache, went the Heming-way, weirdly on wings and with maximum pain

I call upon the author to explain
Ah yeh I call upon the author to explain
Hey baby I call upon the author to explain
I call upon the author to explain
We call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix! There’s nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix! 

It was an excellent set and great way to end up the night.

We left Cockatoo Island just after 10pm. 11 solid hours of live music with most of it in the blazing sun. It was a great day but by the end of it, I was shattered.


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