Feastock; The Arrival of the Invercargill Sound

Say the word “Invercargill” to many musicians, and you’ll probably get a rather mixed response. But standing amongst the damp, leafy surroundings of 3 Fea Street, in secluded Pine Hill, I was struck by an interesting concept. Has the country’s most southern city better known for, um, well let’s be honest, not a whole lot, transformed into a musical capital? Are we witnessing the birth of “the Invercargill sound”?
Slight joking aside, it was a interesting surprise to see what many consider Dunedin’s premier music festival filled with a line-up almost solely concocted of acts with deep south roots. As if to almost re-affirm my belief, at that very moment the crowd was roused by an anthemic call of “let’s hear it for Invercargill!” Brilliant.
Don’t get me wrong though; this isn’t hating. If credit is to be given where credit is due, then the four Invercargill natives who organised Feastock deserve to have their pride. Set in a unique backyard surrounding in the secluded and quiet Dalmore, Feastock sees a natural amphitheatre transformed into a beautiful full stage for one single day of community, beer and of course music.
After the quiet and groovy opening pair of the Fea Street Hustle and Ash and the Matadors, the day really began to pick up with loop wizard Oleh. His impressive command of technology allowed a one-man take on the New Zealand roots sound, based around beat-boxing and guitar. Although he verges on being a one trick pony, his funky up-strums and harmony managed to inspire some dancing and more than one hushed whisper of “how is he doing that?”.
Cult Disney have always aimed to be different with their demented take on simple pop, and their outrageous and often, erm, revealing stage costume. While their entirely bassist-driven music is surprising, complex and interesting, their lack of overt melody lines that another instrument could provide can cause their songs to blend into one heavy-pop wash. While they are certainly capable of putting on a visual show, and their lineup features undeniably talented musicians, further use of keyboard or synth could see their songs taken to the next level.
Continuing the heavy bass-driven theme, sonic powerhouses Idiot Prayer were up next. I was more familiar with their material at bonecrushingly loud volume, where drummer Sam Brookland’s every hit is a punch in the chest. However, the group seemed to suffer under the festival conditions, with Tim Smith’s vocal dominating the mix, sadly lessening the impact of the group’s terrific rhythm section.
While suffering through numerous technical difficulties which plagued their set, Thundercub continued to prove why they are possibly Dunedin’s best band. Although they played a set of newer material (leaving some hardcore fans disappointed), the groups heady electronica is hard to ignore and even easier to enjoy. Guitarist Lee Nicolson is one of Dunedin’s (via Invercargill, of course) most talented musicians and his mastery of his instrument is both a pleasure and exercise in supreme self-doubt for fellow musicians to witness. Bonus points for the fastest onstage guitar repair I’ve ever seen.
Those with yesteryear’s performances in mind were likely taken aback by the unnerving confidence of a tour-aged Alizarin Lizard. Looking more rock’n’roll than Lou Reed, Paul Cathro fronted the four-piece with an air of indifference. The rhythm section was flawless throughout, allowing the keys and guitar to slide in and out of strict timing. Boasting almost an entirely new set, Alizarin Lizard reflected their intense focus to progress beyond previous stagnation. From the looks of things they have a heap to prove, and clearly possess the musicality to back it up.
As the night closed in on the already dreary day, Left of Right began, pulling the weary attendees from their damp drunken haze. Even with the footing below turning to mud, a clearly relaxed crowed surged towards the stage, away from the swamp rapidly forming behind. Left or Right’s balanced amalgamation of grunge and roots set a fantastic and familiar rhythm, playing to what seemed to be an audience of friends and fans.
Operation Rolling Thunder more than lived up to their billing as the evening’s penultimate act. A rare sonic beauty resides within the droning, tumultuous guitars and thundering, snarling drums of the Falconer brothers. With loops and unsettling vocal samples used to complete the landscapes, Operation Rolling Thunder really do sound like the voice of war. Forceful, complex and layered, their brief sets are always to be marveled.
In a similar vein, Mountaineater’s brutal, heavy yet sonically beautiful sound closed the evening, their set bringing the Fea Street evening to an end with overwhelming force and intensity. With a sound far beyond any expectation of a three piece, they shook the small venue with vigorous but entrancing new material. The crowd appeared sufficiently worn and wholly satisfied by the time Mountaineater’s aural armada had ceased, signalling an end to Feastock for 2011.
But is this the end of Feastock forever? With rumors floating of the festival being unable to continue in its current state, I think it’s crucial to remember this: the sense of familiarity and community is what makes Feastock great. However, it is also what may turn people away, stopping the festival from growing and changing in a natural way. A different line-up could really boost diversity and the overall value of the festival as a whole. Whatever happens, over its three-year journey Feastock has established a special place in the hearts of many locals, which can never be replaced.
“Lets hear it for Invercargill”. 

Posted 11:44pm Monday 9th May 2011 by Sam Valentine.