Review: Handpicked Festival Breezes Into Langhorne

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Langhorne Creek’s Lake Breeze Winery played host to Handpicked Festival over the weekend with car and bus loads of revellers making the one-hour journey out to the reputable wine region. Backed by perfect spring, or closer to summer weather, the droves enjoyed eight hours of live music, market stalls and a beverage or two nestled amongst glorious green vineyards.

One would argue Handpicked Festival had the perfect recipe for a thoroughly enjoyable experience and early on all signs were pointing to a well-organised boutique experience. The problem was the recipe was missing a few key ingredients, one of which was The Jezabels who pulled out due to illness causing some fans to express disappointment at the lack of communication on this point. The lines for drinks spiralled out of control as the single bar tried to keep up with demand while punters waited for 40 minutes for a bottle of plonk.

The drink prices were reasonable at least which balanced out the waiting time and the early rush subsided to a more even flow as local act Jimmy and the Mirrors hit the stage. For the energetic, pop-rock outfit it was a case of the right band for the wrong time of day. Through no fault of their own they were met with a chilled crowd who were just settling in after finally having a drink in their hands. Still, a solid set from Jimmy and the Mirrors and hopefully a sign of more shows from the boys this summer.

As other missing ingredients became apparent, such as the amount of meal rations available, Dean Lewis strolled onto the large, handsomely presented stage. Lewis has a fine pedigree with ARIA nominations and impressive record sales and his fine voice floated over the fading country light, proving himself to be a worthy fill-in for The Jezabels. The audience, however, was eager for something more lively and San Cisco was able to capitalise on this pent-up energy. The Western Australian-based band showed why they are riding the indie crest at the moment with their tight, catchy tunes and upbeat vibes.

The final missing ingredient was the lack of male urinals, which then put pressure on the toilet facilities and strained everyone’s patience (and bladders). Matt Corby turned up luckily and backed by full band wowed the audience with his smooth vocal gymnastics. For all his talent and ability, however, one couldn’t help but feel like his laid-back set would’ve worked better before San Cisco. The punters were ready to party and Jet were in the box seat to capitalise on the youthful enthusiasm pervading the lush grounds.

Any thoughts that Jet were ‘passed it’ were dispelled as they let ‘Cold Hard Bitch’ rip through the gyrating crowd. Thanks to the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome some people may have turned up their nose to this successful Australian band, and yet over a decade since the band peaked they can still have a festival rocking. People were singing along to classics like ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ and the ladies were climbing on to their bloke’s shoulders just to get a decent view above the bouncing bodies. In a touching moment Nic Cester dedicated the aforementioned song to Chris Cester’s (drums) daughter, pausing before the chorus to look in his niece’s direction side of stage. Singing with intensity Nic Cester held out against a band that was tight and full of interplay, as the bass player Mark Wilson shared a mic with Cameron Muncey on one or two occasions.

Situated only an hour from Adelaide the Langhorne Creek Wine Region is well placed for future boutique festivals worthy of the calibre of acts at Handpicked Festival, and in 2018 the organisers will hopefully hit upon the perfect mélange for a more well-balanced experience overall.

Photos by Jay Wennington, Chaz McGregor and Ella Germein

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