Sorority Noise
At The Drive-In
Totally Unicorn
Bec Sandridge
Cash Savage & The Last Drinks
Raised As Wolves

Horror My Friend
Easy Life

Stuart Park, Wollongong 01/10/17
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Peter Zaluzny (Facebook/Twitter)

We'll be honest: after destroying our bodies with a full day of callous pits from NorthlaneTrophy Eyes and WAAX, the last thing we wanted to kick day two of Yours & Owls 2017 off was another mosh. Alas, the organisers were not on our side today as the afternoon erupted to the coarse, crushing riffs of hardcore hellions Easy Life. The UNFD newcomers showed their icon-esque proficiency with a numbing showcase of their debut EP, There Can't Be This Much Water In The Sky; their tunes are huge and heavy on record, but in the cosmic glow of a sweltering outdoor festival, they were simply insane. Our prediction: their inevitable theatre tours will actually kill people.

Adelaidian punk babes Horror My Friend fared better for our aching limbs with a calmer, yet still inescapably searing blitz of dry, atmospheric bangers. Twining his fuzzy, driving riffs with equally poignant vocals, frontman Josh Battersby was effortless in his endeavours to spur a crowdwide singalong. The same homely, rough-around-the-edges punk fervour continued with a notably sweaty set from Raised As Wolves. The local crew absolutely tore up the Rad stage, their thick and melodic jams booming through the festival grounds with vicious potency.

A hot tip amongst the media crew, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks had some enormous hype to live up to. The blues-rock sextet went above, beyond and into the stratosphere in their performance, fighting the heat with fists clenched tight to deliver a set as riveting as it was polarising. Savage herself was well worth her namesake, commanding the mic with passionate zeal while guitarists Joe White and Brett Marshall ripped bright and dynamic chords behind her. Also worth noting is the goosebump-inducing work from fiddlist Kat Mear, who took every song to the next level with her slick and twangy stringwork.

As it should surprise a grand total of zero people, Bec Sandridge's indie-disco smoothie had the festival grounds in a flurry of shaking hips come the mid-arvo. With chimey, retro synths building the framework of her soundscape, Sandridge strummed with a fiery adoration for the guitar. It was her vocals that stole the show, though, swerving like a madman's rollercoaster through a full spectrum of emotion. The setlist highlighted cuts from her stunning debut EP, In The Fog, with lead single "High Tide" standing out amongst an unreleased gem in "I'll Never Want A Boyfriend". Though 30 minutes was all Sandridge needed to win over any unconverted fans, there was a clear feeling that she'd play far more comfortably without a time crunch to abide by. Thank God she has a headline tour right around the corner!

By this point, it had been a few hours since we'd copped an ankle to the chin. Determined to remedy that, local party machines Totally Unicorn busted onto the Out Of Space stage with guitars at 11 and intensity at 15. Guitarists Kerim Erkin and Aaron Streatfeild shredding to their hearts' content in the background, a speedo-clad Drew Gardner ruled the set as he sprinted and thrashed wherever his microphone cord would permit him. The frontman was downright unstoppable, riling up his crowd from the eye of the storm without a second of respite or a breath between bellows. The irreverent 'core Gods punched through a seemingly endless reel of searing punk jams, closing their de facto headliner set with a half-naked cameo from Frenzal Rhomb shredlord Lindsay McDougall.

By virtue of the sheer variety on offer, there are obviously no “winners” or “losers” at festivals like today's… But yeah, Totally Unicorn definitely won Yours & Owls 2017.

Decidedly more lowkey was Arizona folk-punk troupe AJJ (formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad, for those who haven't yet adapted to the strange new world we now live in). Bookending their set with Wiggles classics – the two groups have become unlikely friends as of late – the quartet shined with a tight and breezy spread of jangly anthems. There was something magical about a full crowd chanting, "I'm gonna fuck the devil in his mouth" in solidarity, as was there a cordial glow to frontman Sean Bonnette's acoustic noodling. AJJ are an odd band in that while we can't recommend their studio material (it's a tough pill to swallow, at best), their live shows are always as close to perfect as one could hope for. Today was no obviously exception.

Guitars aren't necessarily a focal point of Montaigne's effervescent pop spectacle, but ever since we caught her at Groovin The Moo back in May, the Sydney trailblazer has been a permanent fixture in our mid-arvo playlists. She's only amped up the grandeur in a short five months, bringing to Wollongong an enthralling pageant of anthemic feel-good bangers. Jessica Cerro was on a high for the whole of her 40-minute set – every soulful verse and booming chorus swept through the field with jaw-dropping spirit, and her theatrical dance moves were inescapably inspiring.

Speaking of theatrics, At The Drive-In revelled in the open space of their mainstage surroundings. Between harsh, hearty yells that cut deep into his crowd's collective soul, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala darted around the stage and leapt from whatever platforms presented themselves, all the while never missing a beat with lead guitarist Omar Rodriguez filling the mix with imperviously venomous riffs. New guitarist Keeley Davis proved his might alongside him, too, with in•ter a•li•a cuts soaring at the hand of his impassioned jutting. But despite a solid mix and enough stage antics to have us foaming at the mouth, their set began to wear tedious in its second half. Extended bridges fell mostly flat and felt depressingly undercooked, and after Bixler-Zavala made his 50th punk jump from the drum riser, it was clear he didn't have much else up his sleeve.

Sorority Noise delivered, without a doubt, the perfect set to bring Yours & Owls 2017 to an end. Hidden under a hoodie and a dad cap, frontman Cameron Boucher let his skills take precedence over dramatics; his sparse, pensive vocals washed over an unfortunately small Out Of Space crowd with an emotional heft that simply can't be forced, his vivid, crunching fretwork elevating their impact to mosh-desperate intensity. It felt symbolic when Boucher took off his jacket and hat for an unplanned and enrapturing encore – like he felt comfortable enough with us to truly open up and let loose. It was every bit as powerful as that sentence is wanky. 

With only a lack of security and the half-assed logistics of a payment-by-wristband system to complain about, it goes without saying that Yours & Owls 2017 – the biggest and most ambitious one yet – was a roaring success. It wasn't just the music that made it, either: A+ food options, a makeshift gallery of local street artists and the stupidly fun Glitoris tent were all highlights at a festival that could very easily have justified a third day. Incentives to reduce littering – two collection depots that offered booze money in exchange for loose cans – were also prosperous; it was certainly one of the cleanest festivals we'd ever been to, and not having to worry about slipping on a rogue tinny in the mosh was a relief and a half. Bring on Yours & Owls 2018!

Click here to suss the first part of our live review and gallery from Yours & Owls 2017!