REVIEW: Curve Ball Festival at Carriageworks, June 11, 2016

While originally created as a festival of lights in 2009, Vivid Sydney has over the last seven years become much more than just a pretty spectacle. The incorporation of Vivid Ideas and Vivid Music has meant the exposure and promotion of cultures, creatives and scenes that Sydneysiders – and those who come to visit – may not have otherwise seen. Though the past year has seen announcements that festivals like Future Music and Stereosonic are no longer, this year, Vivid paved the way for a new one day music and lights festival – Curve Ball.

Held in Carriageworks in Sydney’s inner west, the festival kicked off at 3 in the afternoon – obviously looking to make the most of the lights after dark, in the same area that has previously hosted events like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and FBi Radio’s SMAC Awards and Festival. The crowd was consistently huge throughout the day, with two stages offering punters both a chance to see the major acts, and to take a break in a room staffed by HEAPS DECENT – an organisation that works with young and emerging artists from disadvantaged communities – which was constantly smashing out hip-hop bangers. The almost entirely Australian lineup saw a diverse range of electronically driven musicians, with Xavier Dunn, Yuma X, Nicole Millar, Luen, Cleopold, JOY. and Elk Road covering nearly all bases. There was something for everyone, with the crowd only becoming more and more enthusiastic over the 6 hours of high quality tunes. Hometown boys Cosmo’s Midnight and Basenji were obvious crowd favourites, with their bright and bubbly-meets-bass driven beats kicking everyone’s dancing shoes into the next gear. However, it was enigmatic American headliner ZHU who everyone was there to see. With the release of his debut album Generation Why only a little over a month away, he had plenty of new releases to share. Live accompaniment by both a guitarist and saxophonist was unexpected, but very welcome to see. It’s hard to explain just how much a saxophone changes the vibe in a warehouse full of people, but the collective ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of everyone in the crowd paint a better picture than words ever could. As you might imagine, Faded got the most stellar response out of any track of the evening. Though it’s now been over two years since first released, it’s clear that it’s become an all time favourite for people all over the world.

Being part of Vivid, there were also a number of really interesting visual components to Curve Ball that made it stand out among other festivals. Behind the artists there was always something to look at, from videos of inflatable clownfish moving around the Carriageworks space and shots of Sydney roads, to anime rockets flying through space for Cosmo’s and kaleidoscopes of Basenji’s Versace logo, to ZHU’s incredibly stylised animations straight out of an 80s style neo-noir/sci-fi film. Visuals adds so much to live sets, and as we’ve said many times, it’s something more shows should be incorporating.

By far the standout of the day though was Carriageworks itself. At other gigs you might be finding yourself squished in between a bunch of super sweaty people, trying to find somewhere to dance and get comfy, but that was never the case at Curve Ball. The amount of space at Carriageworks meant that everyone was spread out and not intruding on one another. Yes it got a bit crowded for ZHU, but on the whole it was a really refreshing experience. There was a really well organised bathroom and bar situation too, and plenty of space for food in a really small area. With Carriageworks having just earlier this year announced their plan for a $10 million redevelopment over the next six years, here’s hoping that we see more going down in what has the potential to be such a fantastic and staple venue.

Photo: yeahsure