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Festival Review: BASS in the Grass, Darwin 15 May 2021

A killer line-up of some of Australia’s best bands and artists pumped out an amazing day of LIVE MUSIC (!!) for the 2021 BASSINTHEGRASS in Darwin on 15 May.

Hold on to your pineapple-covered sunhats while you check out the line-up:

21 artists/bands in 12 hours, four of them from the Territory. It was gruelling trying to map out a plan of attack … simply impossible to see every artist you wanted to see.

Casii Williams had a heartfelt set, with the strength of her voice and lyrics floating over the lawn before the masses arrived. Together with Big T & S Evans and Scrubfowl (both NT Music School Battle of the Bands winners) and Draftday, the masses missed out on some powerful story-telling and talent from the earlier performers, but those of us there were stoked.

(C) Photo by Mark Dickson

The dynamic duo Boo Seeka were thrilled to be sweating it (pinot noir) out in Darwin, with huge grins on their faces and apparently only half a playlist, followed by requests from the swelling crowd. They got everyone on shoulders and left us agreeing it’s “Never enough”. Luckily for anyone heading to the Mindil Beach Markets the next day, they could catch Boo Seeka, Casii Williams and Scrubfowl once again for a sunset session.

(C) Photo by Mark Dickson

Jack River was amping up the growing audience, feeling “fucking special playing to a crowd again”. We loved her “2.30pm version” of “Sugar” – her song with the “naughty boys from Canberra” who’d be on the Palm Stage at 11pm.

(C) Photo by Mark Dickson

GFlip bounced onto the stage after a night being shouted shots in town (guessing Mitchell St). Such energy and talent, really throwing all her heart into her set. Her drum finale was apparently killer …. but anyone catching Thelma Plum on the Tropical Stage missed out.

(C) Photo by Mark Dickson

Thelma Plum’s gorgeous presence, soul and honesty were awesome to experience live. It’s hard to reconcile her lying about being vegan (in “Nick Cave”) when there’s so much raw honesty in some of her more recent hits e.g. “Thulumaay Gii” and “Homecoming Queen”. Thelma wrapped up her set with her brilliantly honest and empowering “Better in Blak”, with everyone, fist in air, singing along with “fuck that”. Thelma had been recommended Throb nightclub in town for a post-festival celebration – hope the celebrations were massive because she is such an amazing superstar.

(C) Photo by Mark Dickson

The Rubens faced directly into the sun setting over Mindil Beach but were “fucking loving it” and looking forward to joining the crowd for post-set beers and seeing “the best bands in Australia”.  With well-known hits from their 10-year career and from their recent album it was wonderful to have them back in Darwin. Such a killer experience for their mate standing in for drummer Scott Baldwin – an epic first gig at the sold-out BASS.

DMA’s set the crowd off with indie-rock hits and lots of folks were on shoulders to sing along with “Delete”. There backstage image from their 2020 album The Glow seemed to give a nod to their Darwin fans and Darwinites’ love-hate relationship with the Darwin “bin chicken”.

Seems like Jungle Giants might be relocating to Darwin after their trip up for BASS – if we can believe anything Sam Hales says 😉. Sam’s practically a Darwinite after:

  1. Recognising a front-row punter as a guy he met on the beach. Darwin is pretty small – we always bump into people we know,
  2. His dedication to Meg (or Megan?), a punter on shoulders who was acknowledged for knowing every word of every Jungle Giants song being sung. Darwinites are friendly and great for connecting and chatting to strangers – with a population of less than 250,000 it’s always great to engage with new folks.
  3. Having fun with a heli-fishing adventure for barramundi. Fishing is what we do on weekends (if there’s no live music).

Lime Cordiale had incredible success with their 2020 album “14 Steps To A Better You” and the BASS crowd lapped up their much-anticipated set. Who doesn’t love some fab live brass? There were some chuckles at poor Felix the keyboardist’s fear of the huge and potentially deadly (not) flying insects here, and the set concluded with their stellar “Touch myself” Like a Version.

(C) Photo by Mark Dickson

While Violent Soho smashed out the finale on the Tropical Stage, Peking Duk wound up the Palm Stage day with their laser beams and light show, flames and fireworks.

This year’s BASS was the biggest Darwin had seen, with sold-out capacity of 14,000 punters, over half of them from interstate. It was such a treat for laid-back, friendly Darwin after being cut off from most interstate travel during COVID.

There was also recognition that Darwin was hitting above the bar against countless international cities that are still unable to enjoy music festivals.  Even so, in the 2 weeks prior to BASS, COVID testing and quarantine restrictions were back for anyone entering the Territory from different “hot spots” in WA, NSW, Vic and SA.

Huge kudos to the BASSINTHEGRASS team, their supporters and suppliers and all of the interstate ticket-holders for their belief that the event could go ahead, and their passion for making it all happen.

See you all back here in 2022!

Photos: (c) Mark Dickson

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