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Festival sweetness to savour

11 Feb 2016

Festival sweetness to savour Image

Review by Sean Car

Sugar Mountain reinforced its place in the hearts of festival heads everywhere on January 23 with another rousing day of music and art at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).

While it wasn’t last year’s sugar coated lineup spearheaded by a prolific performance from US rap legend Nas, organisers can be more than proud of this year’s musical assembly.

The atmosphere to this year’s installment was one that felt as if the festival had grown further into its skin, which was always going to be an ongoing challenge given VCA’s maze and rabbit-hole-like layout.

But that’s exactly what makes Sugar Mountain different. No other festival presents punters with a mixture of winding pathways, alternative stages and seating areas located in one of the greatest inner-city cultural precincts in the world.

That unique edge is what makes this festival special.

Upon arrival at Dodds St in time for Royal Headache, I’m immediately struck by the main stage’s thick coat of what appears to be white cheese-like polystyrene confetti – an early example of the festival’s heavy focus on visual arts.

The newly-refurbished VCA workshop, hidden away in a sunny courtyard along the campus’s Sturt St border housed the Boiler Room stage, which provided a beautiful summer setting for beat enthusiasts to enjoy throughout the day.

Along a winding pathway were galleries 1 and 2, which featured some stunning and quirky art works throughout the day. However, constant queues to get inside were enough to discourage the average punter from persevering.

Early promises that Melbourne Recital Centre would also open up to crowds for arts installations failed, which resulted in the visual arts aspect of the festival being too heavily confined. More outdoor arts displays (much like the impressive mural splashed across the Car Park stage wall) littered throughout the venue next year would be a welcome improvement.

However, musically speaking, Sugar Mountain failed to disappoint yet again. With a line up featuring the likes of Alpine, Courtney Barnett, Dam Funk, City Calm Down and Dirty Three, the crowd was constantly yearning for more.

Personally, my gold medal for performance of the day went to Total Giovanni. Playing underneath a crisp Southbank sunshine at Dodds St, their electro anthems had absolutely everyone smiling and dancing.

While I wouldn’t have complained with a later finishing time, my moment of the day was ironically the finale, when headliners Hot Chip wrapped up proceedings with its electro dance version of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. Who doesn’t love that track?

As for food and beverage, well who can complain with cold Melbourne Bitter cans and gourmet food trucks dishing up everything from cheeseburgers to fish tacos, although I wish I could have experienced the new Sensory cafe.

See you next year Sugar Mountain!

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