An ultimately successful day, Sydney City Limits is exactly what Australia needs to fill the gap left by the big festivals of yesteryear.
When the mighty Australian festivals of yesteryear began collapsing such as BIG DAY OUT, SOUNDWAVE and STEREOSONIC as well as other, more niche festivals like PARKLIFE, HARVEST, V FEST and more also biting the dust, the hole that was left in their wake has never quite been filled. Of course, this has led to the rise of much-loved boutique festivals around the country, and has forced SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS to be the country's sole premier music event, but punters who look back on those glory days still can't shake the feeling that something is missing. Well, I don't want to get everyone's hopes up too much, but perhaps those days are over.
Enter SYDNEY CITY LIMITS, a joint venture between SECRET SOUNDS (the team behind Splendour and FALLS FESTIVAL) and AUSTIN CITY LIMITS (one of the world's most prominent festivals) and an attempt to fill the void in Australia's festival market. Promising an all-ages affair in which families were just as welcome as the youth market (and being properly catered to), complete with a huge range of food options, great drinks menus and four stages, this festival felt different. Really trying hard to deliver something new, Sydney City Limits had a bit of everything on their bill this year, from triple J stars MALLRAT, ZIGGY RAMO, BAD//DREEMS and STELLA DONNELLY opening the day as well as late fill-in TKAY MAIDZA, before the likes of The god damn LIBERTINES playing at 2:30pm- and it was only up from here.
The one-dayer in Sydney's Centennial Park had a punter-focused approach, meaning everything you could've wanted was never far away. Some of Sydney's finest food trucks and restaurants were there, bars were aplenty and there were large sections of port-a-loos meaning a quick toilet break was never going to be more than 10 minutes. The thoughtful layout meant that it was a quick stroll from the main two Harbour and House stages at the festival entrance, past the Park Stage and to the Big Top, so while there were a fair few clashes, it made it actually possible to quickly duck to another stage in no time at all. Making a festival easy to navigate is something that seems to be forgotten in a more-is-more landscape where the site is kilometres long, so it was definitely appreciated by newcomers as well as seasoned-festival goers. However, the crowning jewel of Sydney City Limits truly was the line-up.
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In an attempt to steer festival line-ups away from the regurgitated headliners, Sydney City Limits somehow locked in the likes of JUSTICE, PHOENIX, BECK, GRACE JONES, FUTURE, THUNDERCAT and more to really give us our international fix, while also showing a lot of love to rising local stars like GANG OF YOUTHS, DUNE RATS, WINSTON SURFSHIRT, ALEX LAHEY as well as icons, THE AVALANCHES. The line-up for this festival felt like it had been approached in a considered and thoughtful way, with an intent on delivering a whole experience that really did cater to a lot of different tastes. I cannot explain the surreality of the final hours of the festival, seeing Future, then Grace Jones, then Beck, then over an hour of Justice live - a star-studded block of time watching heavyweight artists that truly was unimaginable for years with the notable lack of international artists playing festivals in recent times. Yes, of course there have been international headliners at other festivals, but to have this many of them, back-to-back-to-back is reminiscent of sorely missed Big Day Out-era times, and something I think Australia's festival market is desperately in need of.
With a mostly-well behaved and respectful crowd present and sets that blew fans away (I'm still reliving Justice's set with videos captured on my phone), Sydney City Limits gives me a feeling of hope that this exciting new venture is a permanent change for Australian music, and a promising one at that. Although the event wasn't a sellout, it was ultimately a very successful day from all accounts, and I truly believe it's here to stay. Thank you, Sydney City Limits! See you next year!
Image by Ian Laidlaw
Words by Emma Jones