THIS festival meant a few firsts for me. I'd never been to Maitland Gaol, and after three years in Newcastle, I'd yet to try Doughheads or Newy Burger Co.
Walking through the jail entrance, I briefly thought about how entering this place might have been for criminals in years past, but those thoughts were far too serious for a music festival. Instead I bought a delicious cider and met up with some friends where we spent the next 20 minutes enjoying The Soorleys and coming up with clever titles for this story, as music, merrymaking and captivity bring an eclectic assortment of words to play with. "Inmate land", "Shaking in Shackles" and "Prison's not so bad" all seemed like possibilities.
I came to the festival ready for anything. With an open mind, a limited knowledge on the bands, and a curiosity for the place, I was prepared.
We hunkered down in the grass and stuffed our faces with Newy Burger Co. (The vegie burger was juicy and delicious; it was evident they cared for their non-carnivore counterparts.)
Hayden Calnin filled our ears. He was melodic and mesmerising, and as the afternoon sun began to set, the feeling of freedom that comes with beer and rock'n'roll was overshadowed by the history of the place and stories that never had a chance to be told.
I briefly read about Thelma Plum before the show, but, like all things good, she was heaps more fascinating after experiencing her in person. I watched her groove on stage and recognised more than a few of her songs from Triple J. She was stunning, and I was captivated with this gorgeous, bodacious brown-eyed woman, whose music had me tapping my feet. She moved, clapped, danced and always maintained a steady, direct, hypnotising gaze.
The Basics came on just as the sun was going down and I was getting my salted caramel doughnut sugar rush from Doughheads. The Basics were funny guys, cracking jokes and being self-deprecating, about the money they had poured into their latest music video. Their songs were perfect for the night, with strong themes of Australia. They performed a song called Lucky Country, and one called Hey Rain about Queensland. As they wrapped up their set, they piqued the crowd's curiosity by prefacing that the next song was a cover perfect for the location. My friends and I threw out guesses. Would it be Folsom Prison? Would it be Jailhouse Rock? Of course we should have guessed, as the metallic riff from ACDC's Jailbreak blared out into the crowd. I was a bit starstruck when I learnt that Gotye plays as their drummer and also sings!
Evidently Josh Pyke was the big name of the night, and my friend Sophie grew up on his songs. I was eager to hear what the fuss was all about, as another friend had earlier described Pyke as "wuss rock, but not in a bad way". I can't say that Josh Pyke moved me the way he did almost every other swaying girl in a flowing dress, but nevertheless, he was a definitely a nice way to end the evening. Elsewhere was the place to be.