On Friday the 19th of July, thousands spilled into Adelaide’s Wayville Showground for the biggest Spin Off Festival we’ve ever seen. With one main stage highlighting all the action, massive crowds flocked to every act, finishing with the iconic headliner Childish Gambino. A variety of musical genres were accompanied by plenty of activities, including a pop-up dance floor and arts and crafts. While perfecting the combination of showcasing Australian artists and attracting major headliners, this festival had everything you could possibly imagine of for a one-day event.
The South Australian festival opened in true Adelaidian style, with Triple J Unearthed Spin Off Competition Winners TOWNS bringing the hype to the main stage. The energetic and dynamic duo seemed super excited to be involved with the day, reciting the ‘Friends’ theme song to commemorate the occasion. Following songs from their 2018 EP ‘Television’, TOWNS closed their short but sweet set with their latest release, ‘Safe to Say’.
Soon after was Triple J Unearthed High winner, Kian. Strolling on stage with a relaxed sense of ease and comfort, he leapt into songs from his recent EP Bliss. As audience members sung back to Kian, he finished with high spirits to his popular track, ‘Waiting’.
Not long after followed Kwame, last year’s Triple J Unearthed winner. In the year since his nomination, his popularity had clearly skyrocketed, with audience members relaying his lyrics back to him as his energy heightened to songs ‘Clouds’ and ‘Wow’.
Ruby Field’s introduction was an impressive one, with old-school sports videos highlighted before the band walked on stage. Strutting out to Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’, Ruby Fields and co. leapt into their first song, ‘I Want’. As the (impressively large) crowd yelled back the lyrics “I want to be more than my parent’s opinions, and my ATAR,” Ruby Fields wore a grin from ear to ear. The band followed with her songs ‘Climate’, ‘Trouble’, ‘Conny’, ‘Dingo’, and ‘Dinosaurs’ – all from her recently released album, Permanent Hermit. Her live performance was almost uncanny to her record, showing the extent of her musical skill. Finishing the set off with a roar of cheers, Ruby Fields and the band cuddled and bowed.
Mallrat eased into her set with a sense of unwavering comfort, moving into her more slow-paced, melodic works for the first half of her set. As the crowd’s energy increased, as did her performance – running and dancing across the stage to songs such as ‘Groceries’, and ‘For Real’. As she effortlessly twirled in her bright red dress, the crowd couldn’t help but mirror her moves.
Duo Hockey Dad were as enticing and uplifting as anticipated. Gaining a huge and wildly interactive crowd, the band walked on stage with a sense of excited confidence. Notable songs included ‘Join The Club’ and ‘Seaweed’, arguably some of their most popular songs, with fans dancing and singing back in their direction. Overall, their performance was particularly impressive - utilising such a minimalistic set up, they managed to bring the highest form of energy similar to later act, Ball Park Music.
Following on from Hockey Dad was UK band, Wolf Alice. Bringing a gritty, post-alternative rock to the Spin Off tent, the band was a close contender for the best performance of the day. I couldn’t imagine memorable songs such as ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ and ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ being any more energetic than they are on their respective albums, yet I was proved wrong. Wolf Alice brought an energy unparalleled to anyone else that evening, except for Childish Gambino. One of the most memorable parts of the set was the celebration of lead singer, Ellie Rowsell’s birthday - song, champagne and cake included. As the audience sung happy birthday, Ellie grinned from ear to ear - only to leap into another hard hitting track. Finishing on heavy ballad ‘Giant Peach’, Wolf Alice brought 90s nostalgia with a mix of new to create a performance that will be long remembered.
It’s impossible to think of Ball Park Music without reflecting upon their long-standing, go-lucky discography. Everything about the band screams positivity and good times, of which they brought aplenty. Their audience was impressively large, and intensely well receptive of the band. From songs such as ‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’ to ‘The Perfect Life Does Not Exist’, the audience brought an unwavering support, which was mirrored by the band. This performance reminded us of what’s good in the world, and the importance of standing in unison, scream-singing lyrics that make us feel untouchable.
Up next was Ocean Alley, surf-rock double extraordinaire and Triple J’s Hottest 100 winners. Beginning with melodic songs such as ‘Yellow Mellow’, their finale was the most memorable. Beginning with ‘Confidence’, winning song of the Hottest 100, only to be followed with their Like a Version ‘Baby Come Back’, finishing on ‘Knees’. With the audience swaying and singing back in response, their slow paced and emotive psych-surf rock eased the crowd into the next two major acts.
Impressive UK band Catfish and the Bottlemen followed, absolutely owning the stage with a sense of ease ridiculously impressive for artists who released their first album a mere 5 years ago. At this point in their career, their indie-rock performance style could be likened to well established UK bands such as The Vaccines or The Wombats. Opening with ‘Longshot’, followed by the iconic song ‘Kathleen’, Catfish and the Bottlemen opened on an impressive note. The band gave the audience a bit of a break while focusing on their more melodic tracks mid-set, only to finish off with ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Tyrants’. What was most admirable and entertaining about Catfish and the Bottlemen was their exceptional abilities as performers.
”This is church tonight, we about to have a good time”, preached heavily acclaimed Childish Gambino in his charismatic, almost spiritual performance as the headliner for Spin Off.
Gambino opened his performance with ‘Atavista’ and ‘Algorythm’, two unreleased songs he’s been touring worldwide prior to their expected release this year. On stage, he was featured in a pure white spotlight, joined by a gospel choir. It’s only fair to say this was a surreal and spiritual experience, where the audience witnessed the full glory that is the talents of Childish Gambino, Donald Glover’s rap project. As Gambino moved to ‘Summertime Magic’, the audience was taken from a church to a palmy beach.
The leap into the next songs, ‘I. the worst guys’, ‘II. worldstar’ and ‘Me and Your Mama’, showcased the extent of Gambino’s skills as a multifaceted, brilliant musician. Easing from strong lined rap tracks to the soft and groovy sounds from his infamous album, “Awaken, My Love!”, this felt like a pure celebration of the links between American groove and rap.
One of the most iconic moments of his performance was the recreation the heavily-acclaimed music video, ‘This Is America’. Joined by four young dancers on stage, the well discussed film clip was essentially recreated before our eyes. With a wild flare of politics and Gambino leaving the stage to highlight the young dancer’s moves, this performance felt like a complete reclamation of black magic; avid storytelling through dance and music.
Gambino, dripping with sweat from the undeniable energy he threw into his every move, brought the mood back up with infamous songs ‘Sober’, with the crowd cheering back “And now that's it's over, I'll never be sober /I couldn't believe, but now I'm so high”. He followed with dance tracks ‘v. 3005’, and ‘IV Sweatpants’ as the crowd swayed in unison. As Childish Gambino and co. struck the final chords of ‘Redbone’ (and Spin Off) he stood facing away from the crowd - arms spread wide, taking in the moment.
Spin Off 2019 was a mighty impressive event, with highly acclaimed musicians taking the main stage. With such a large audience, a huge variety of activities and a very impressive lineup, I look forward to what Spin Off can be in the future.