Held at Gosford’s Raceway Showground, 2010’s Coaster Festival played host to some of this country’s most loved acts and a couple of whopping internationals for a single September Saturday. As Max Easton writes, they’ve perfected a festival formula sure to stick around for years to come.
When the end of a festival is marked by sitting slouched in a pub couch attempting to incite property damage to a nearby broken cigarette machine, you know something is a little distorted from the usual festival formula. Gosford’s Coaster Festival, set in the hub of the New South Wales central coast, was the event that created said experience, one which was as much about the gathered pool of musical talent as it was about signifying a start to the festival season. With a pelting sun burning the back of necks, an array of impossibly short female shorts and general scanty dress, Coaster was most definitely the entrance way to a summer of festivals; and with the line-up of acts they’d crammed into the one place, it was an entrance that went off with a bang.
Walking past the lonely looking sniffer dog and through the festival gates patrolled by touchy security guards, it felt like you’d ran the gauntlet to gain access to a showground that featured a sprawling, teeming mass of excited youths. On first glance (a glance that could land you in court), it seemed like an incredibly young festival. While that may have been true, it wasn’t until you entered the packed and fenced off bar areas that you realised youth statistics were skewed by those who couldn’t leave the bar without getting their pockets wet. Underage and drunk alike, Coaster was a buzz of excitement. The day was perfect and musical options were aplenty. From up-and-coming folk outfit Boy & Bear to the hype-garnering Unearthed winners Jinja Safari, the morning wasn’t short of options, but it was the afternoon that had the punters rushing to the stages.
LA alt-rock maestro’s Silversun Pickups – strangely performing in the early afternoon despite their following – were the afternoon specials. With front-man Brian Aubert hosting a massive grin of appreciation (“thank you guys so fucking, fucking, FUCKING much”), they powered through a set covering hallmark debut record Carnavas, and their lauded follow-up Swoon. The main stage took a swift change of pace for Perth’s folk-supergroup Basement Birds…playing variations on the one song for an entire set of folk crooning that would have more aptly followed Boy & Bear than the furious Silversun Pickups Set. The choral la, la la’s provoked a detour by the dodgem cars, run by an MC who shut off the ride halfway through because of excessive bumping and refusing to drive anti-clockwise, proving that even carnival rides aren’t immune to the iron fist of Occupational Health and Safety. Meanwhile, the DJ focused red stage (marred by a stretching awning that absolutely murdered the acoustics) hosted aussie hip-hop outfit Spit Syndicate and further acts that weren’t seen on account of the main stage riot of Bluejuice and Art Vs Science.
If there are two bands that I’d walked through the festival gates with more distate for, then I hadn’t heard them yet. Conversely, if there were two bands that I walked out of the festival gates with more surprised enthusiasm for, then I didn’t see them. Both played sets of dumbed down pop-rock, mostly featuring choruses with ‘hey!’, ‘ho!’ or a nonsensical lyric that was screamed by countless thousands of people in excited unison…but I’m not going to try to assert that I wasn’t one of them. With stacks of chemically imbalanced pupils leaping furiously for an hour a piece, both Bluejuice and Art Vs Science had an incredible control over their audience…with every synth line and enthusiastic piece of chatter (“sup cunts?”) responded to with resounding, arm raised cheers.
Birds of Tokyo also worked the crowd with the belting vocals of Ian Kenny, whilst more than a handful of punters escaped to a dark corner to roll themselves an inch-long package of herbal encouragement prior to the act that as good as everyone came to see; 90’s hip-hop staples Cypress Hill.
The pre-set chatter revealed the importance of Cypress Hill to so many of those at Coaster. From tales of seminal 1993 album Black Sunday being the repeated soundtrack to endless weekend bong sessions to the look in one guy’s eyes as he screamed ‘you just made my dreams come true’ as he was passed a roach for ‘I Wanna Get High,’ Cypress Hill were more than just a headline act, they were fucking dreamweavers. Cypress Hill knew what the people wanted…and while they weren’t afraid to throw down the odd new track from latest album Rise Up, they certainly didn’t disappoint with a series of greatest hits. From ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man’ to arguably their biggest hit in ‘Insane in the Brain’, they had the Coaster Festival in the palm of the hand, or at least, in the palm of their hand that wasn’t holding a microphone or a joint. But it wasn’t until the ‘I Wanna Get High’/’Stoned is the Way of the Walk’/’Hits From the Bong’ medley that it became something incredible. Afterall, for at least one guy, they made dreams came true.
Noise restrictions meant the festival gates shut up shop at 10pm, leading an incredibly long and difficult uphill walk back to the Gosford pub where further beers were sunk with bloodshot eyes and post-festival discussions before a well, well deserved sleep and two day hangover. Coaster Festival came, saw, conquered and cemented itself as a permanent fixture on Australia’s festival calendar. From small beginnings, they’ve managed to bring one of hip-hops biggest names and Australia’s most popular into the one spot on the central coast and done it all with impeccable organisation. This is a festival based around good times, pure and simple, and while you may roll your eyes at half the line-up, it’s not until you’re actually out there, in the sun, with a dozen beers under the belt and maybe a touch of something else that you find yourself inviting yourself back again next year.