PAUL Kelly and Kev Carmody famously sang FromLittle Things Big Things Grow. That’s true for Forster-Tuncurry music festival, Grow Your Own.
For it’s third addition last Saturday, the boutique indie festival displayed some serious growth.
A crowd of more than 3000 people packed into Harry Elliott Oval - a simple sports ground in Tuncurry. It was an increase of 50 per cent on previous years.
Forster-Tuncurry has long been a popular holiday playground. Beautiful beaches and waterways, fabulous seafood and local produce and a chilled family vibe.
Showcasing the beauty and culture of the Manning Valley through music is at the heart of Grow Your Own, which was created and directed by Forster’s own indie-pop star Holly Rankin, aka Jack River.
The career of Jack River has exploded in the past year since the release of her celebrated debut album Sugar Mountain, and she used her growing influence to attract drawcards DMA’s, Hockey Dad and The Preatures for its strongest line-up.
Walking into Grow Your Own you instantly recognise this isn’t your typical music festival. There a “Growers Area” tent full of locally-sourced products such as honey, fruit, bread, cheese and wine, and even a pop-up cinema, (though hearing a film inside a music festival seems problematic).
READ MORE: Jack River outlines vision for Grow Your Own
Local Aboriginal group Gathang Dancers also performed a traditional dance in front of the stage.
It was all part of Rankin’s unique vision for Grow Your Own. A commendable cause, but the majority of punters - like any music festival - were more interested in hedonistic partying in the summer sun. And there was plenty of quality tunes for a party soundtrack.
Wollongong band Totty were an early highlight in the blistering afternoon sun. When they weren’t whipping up the crowd with their melodic brand of alt-rock, frontwoman Kelly Jansch was providing entertainment through her deadpan banter about having “sweating kneecaps.”
Their ’90s slacker rock sound even inspired a mind-boggling circle pit, complete with shoulder charges, pick-and-drives and even WWE-style drop kicks.
Brisbane teenager Mallrat attracted a passionate crowd to hear her summery slice of electro-pop and hip-hop, which presents her as the Australian answer to Lily Allen, sans the attitude.
On her electronic-dominated tracks like Better and UFO she was sweet, but the acoustic cover of OutKast’s Hey Ya exposed her vocal limitations.
Jack River’s return was always going to be special. This was her first performance in her hometown since Sugar Mountain’s release and as one local told us, “no one can say a bad word about the Rankins in Forster.”
It was a more rocky performance than River’s Cambridge Hotel show last September and the response was feverish.
Following a mass singalong for Confess, River said: “It’s so crazy seeing my hometown sing my songs back. I think I’m going to cry.”
It might have been River’s festival, but Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures stole the show. Dressed in black glitter shorts, a white puffy-sleeved shirt and green cowboy boots, Manfredi bought rock’n’roll pizzazz to Forster.
She strutted, drenched herself in water and even ended flat on her backside, all while wearing a broad smile as her bandmates ripped through their southern rock-flavoured indie tracks like It Gets Better, Somebody’s Talking and Is This How You Feel?
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Hockey Dad’s surf-garage sounds should have been perfectly suited for the venue as the sun set, but something was missing. While singer-guitarist Zach Stephenson worked hard in his cowboy hat ripping through favourites Join The Club, I Wanna Be Everbody and even a cover of Macy Gray’s I Try, the guitar and drums duo sounded slightly flat on the larger stage.
Headline act DMA’s then took Grow Your Own to another level. Fresh off a sold-out UK tour the Sydney Britpop revivalists were polished from the opener For Now.
Singer Tommy O’Dell might wish he was Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher with his baggy shirt and onstage swagger, but his voice is angelic and it soared on the crowd favourite Delete.
The three-piece were expanded to five on stage, and each of the permanent members Johnny Took (acoustic guitar, keys) and Matt Mason (lead guitar) were given opportunities to shine, particularly on the epic finales to close Time and Money and Do I Need You Now?
Holly Rankin and her crew have planted something in Forster and you can expect the harvests of Grow Your Own will only bear more fruit in future years.