Vibes on a Summers Day

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Grooving back to Bondi

Vibes on a Summers Day returned to its spiritual home at the Bondi Pavilion and heads north to Brisbane this summer, following a thirteen-year absence which saw promoter Joe Conneely head hunted to work on the Abu Dhabi Arts Festival in the UAE, directing the team at the 2012 Australian Arts Centre Of The Year, and other various projects.

Hosting a line up of Australian and international artists that will cover a spectrum of dance music sounds (with a footing in funk and soul, naturally), the all-day music event will be a kaleidoscope of sunshine, smiles and funky as ever beats.

“The artwork is definitely our look but the line up is very diverse,” says Joe over a cuppa at the Bondi Pavilion’s Bucket List. “I didn’t want it to be a ‘greatest hits’ event so Sweat It Out!, Katalyst and Fundafied will be curating the secondary spaces.” As for the main outdoor stage, expect ‘classic Vibes’ with some international and local greats.

Started in 1994 with inspiration from Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica and the UK’s Southport Weekender, Vibes grew from its origins as a jazz-funk all-dayer at the Bondi Pavilion into a much larger event that was held in three states and even spawned a spin off club night, Good Vibrations.

This year, Vibes will return to its intimate roots so punters can get closer to the music and enjoy the luxury of being at one of the most iconic beaches in the world.

Crucial D, who has appeared at nearly every Vibes as a DJ or with Wicked Beat Sound System, likens its size to the UK’s Shambala and Beautiful Days festivals. “It’s small scale and nice but with really high calibre international acts,” he says.
It was in Abu Dhabi that Joe had his ‘light-bulb moment’.
“I met many Brits and Europeans while I worked overseas who thought that Vibes was still going, and who wanted to go to it if ever they visited Australia,” he says. So after many years of merely thinking about it, Joe decided once and for all to bring back the Vibe. “It’s great to know that Vibes has an international reputation and the Bondi Pavilion, one of the most iconic locations in the world, is part of that reputation.”

Robin Lee of Faze Action, who played Vibes in 2000, says: “If Vibes isn’t a heavy hitter on the world stage yet then it certainly should be.” Robin cites Vibes alongside Glastonbury and a US tour as the band’s most memorable gigs and remembers “the diversity of people, all with happy faces having a good time.”

Crucial D remembers its “up for it crowd who are just up for whatever”.

Sugar Ray, who used to promote the Love parties says he’s excited to climb out of DJ retirement for the gig.

“Vibes is all about funky vibes in the outdoors,” he says down the line from new home Melbourne. “So it won’t be banging. I’ll be pulling out the disco, Balearic and Italian classics and FPI Project’s ‘Going Back to My Roots’ will definitely get a spin”.

Matt Hayward from the Sweat It Out! label, who are taking over the courtyard, says his acts have a brief to “bring the funk” and that much more live music will be incorporated than the label’s fans would normally expect.

“Even if they normally play bangers, they will be on the funk tip at Vibes,” says Matt. “Mikey Kojak is a classically trained pianist so he is going to be jamming keys over DJs, while Plastic Plates, who once won jazz musician of the year, is going to do the same on percussion. Who knows who might end up playing some bass?!”

Ashley Anderson, aka Katalyst, who is curating the Seagull room, has a special relationship with promoter Joe Conneely since the Vibes promoter opened his set at the Café Del Mar in Ibiza in the ‘90s with one of his tracks, Moonrock’s “Ill Street Blues”.

“It opened a lot of doors at the time and enabled me to focus full time on music,” says Ashley, looking back.

He gives Joe props for supporting his chosen style of music: “Vibes is always championing soul-based music and hip hop is very much a soul-based genre.” Punters can also expect to hear everything from funk to reggae in his room.

While it began as a jazz-funk event, Vibes has been responsible for introducing Aussie audiences to a variety of styles from trip hop and drum ‘n bass, nu disco and big beat.

Ashley Sellers from Inertia Music says somewhat cryptically: “Vibes was IDM (intelligent dance music) before anagrams were even invented!”

He continues: “It was the beginning of taking the underground, overground. Vibes spearheaded a national festival model and stood out in people’s minds as a very cutting edge, contemporary music event. It brought out early Warp artists, Mo’ Wax artists.. The first time I saw Coco Steel & Love Bomb was at Vibes – and it was amazing!”

Party goers were also treated to the cream of international guests including DJ Krush, Mr Scruff, Jamiroquai, The Propellerheads, The Wiseguys, Groove Armada, Jose Padilla, Ashley Beedle, Faze Action, Masters at Work, Rae & Christian among others; while repeat offenders Norman Jay and Giles Peterson became synonymous with the event.

This year will sees international guests Jazzie B from Soul II Soul playing a DJ set and the return of Faze Action playing live as they did when they headlined in 2000 at Bondi. Australia’s own internationally renowned nu disco DJ/producer Dr Packer and The Bamboos’ vocalist Kylie Auldist will also play the main stage; Kylie with her own seven-piece band who will provide the soulful funky flavours.

The introduction of the Curator Series in the three smaller spaces will ensure that all party goers get their musical itch scratched, be it by future reggae or funky electro house.

“Vibes has always had an ear for showcasing what’s new and what’s next and 2016 will be no exception,” says Joe.

Of course, the beachside location (of the Sydney event at least) is a huge part of what makes Vibes unique.

“On the beach at Bondi; there’s not too many locations like that in the world!” enthuses Sugar Ray.

“Vibes brings together two really cool things: great music and amazing location with the beach right there,” says Katalyst.

First timers should bring a hat and sunscreen, suggests Katalyst, while Crucial D says bring an “open mind” and be “willing to embrace some of the smoother and less commercial sounds.”

So there you have it: The DJs are excited. The international guests are pumped. But what about the question on everyone’s lips: Is this is the start of a new annual Vibes event?

“Let’s do the first one and see how we go!” says Conneely, adding: “I’m overwhelmed by the response to date. I’ve also had interest from people about Vibes going overseas, so that’s a possibility too.”

This bio was commissioned by Up Up & Away for the Vibes on a Summers Day event in January 2016.