For anyone who listened to J’s in the 70s and 80s, or just liked music beyond the mainstream, you should make sure that you get yourself a ticket to the By the C festival, next time it comes to Newcastle.
The bands that took to the stage at By the C, were some of the innovators and leaders of Australian music at the time, putting an Aussie twang to musical movements like punk and new wave. They were adored by their fans then, and from the enthusiasm of the crowd at Camp Shortland, even when the rain came, it’s safe to say that these legends – Icehouse, Sunnyboys, The Church, Do Re Mi and Mental As Anything – remain much adored.
Well supported by up-and-coming Iluka, the By the C lineup played hit after hit. First up were the Mentals, who warmed the crowd up with their pub rock favourites. Songs that have been etched into the Australian psyche. Greedy Smith is a great entertainer and he and the band did not disappoint.
The original Aussie Riot Grrls Do Re Mi have been silent for 30 years. They returned to stage at Camp Shortland with a roar. Those that were lucky enough to be at By the C, were witness to the joyous return of original members the cat-suited Deboarh Conway, and Helen Carter, joined by a new line-up of funky female musicians. When they finished their set with the hit “Man Overboard” the crowd joined the roar. It was a moment to remember.
The crowd for By the C was mixed in age and tastes, with large numbers of black-clad beauties and blokes, making their way to the front to pay homage to The Church. Listening to the wailing guitars and moody melodies waft in the ocean breeze was magic. Seeing Ian Haug of Powderfinger fame on stage alongside the magnetic original members Steve Kilby and Peter Koppes, was a treat – he seemed to be fanboying out as much as the crowd. With a setlist spanning their hits to their fan favourites, including Metropolis, Under the Milkway and Unguarded Moment, and tracks off their 2017 offering Further/Deeper, The Church proved they are still trailblazers of the Aussie music scene.
The crowd swelled and gangled with anticipation for The Sunnyboys who came out and reminded the crowd why they were fixtures of their life’s soundtrack and have their place in Aussie music folklore. With a sound that speaks to a beach town like Newcastle, brother Jeremy and Peter Oxley, joined by original band members Richard Burgman and Bill Bilson ripped it up, with the true believers rushing the stage and bouncing around, singing every word, as they would have in the 80s.
Then the rain came. But the cooling weather didn’t extinguish the enthusiasm of the crowd for the full set performance of Ice House. Always the professionals, iconic frontman Iva Davies, and the band played through water on the stage and their gear, to deliver a career spanning set that had everyone dancing, dripping and chanting along. Stand out moments were the crowd singing along to Great Southern Land, the incredible musicianship of drummer Paul Wheeler, guitarist Paul Gildea, bassist Steve Bull, the soaring falsetto of Michael Paynter and sexy saxophone solos by Glenn Reither.
As the crowd quickly left the site, to avoid rain, there was no argy-bargy or pushing. There was chatting, banter, singing, and celebration of a group of people renewed by a love of music, the bands, and an awesome experience. I for one, can’t wait for next year!