Ten minutes into their outdoor set, The Regime’s Julian Joseph slutdrops into a squat and splits his pants – to be met with an ecstatic cheer that reaches from the stage to the back of the Manning House lawn. Unfazed and electric, he wastes no time in transforming any idle bystanders into grooving acolytes, creating a blurry dance of controlled euphoria and harmony which could only arise from soul-funk.
It’s a fitting microcosm of a spirited event. Someday Soon made its debut at Manning Bar last Saturday, delivering what it promised– nine hours of energy brought by over 20 local artists amid a pink and green visual masterpiece. The University of Sydney Union’s (USU) commitment to Someday Soon’s aesthetic (think neons, fast-paced, excitement, MDMA) must be commended; the vision was brilliantly realised.
Manning Bar functioned surprisingly well as a festival venue – separation between the two outdoor stages allowed you to move from DJSoc’s steady rhythm to a charming pop performance by Ūla. Entering another realm of music upstairs, Manning’s indoor main stage bestowed attendees with the classic concert experience. Navigating the festival, you were sure to find your friends easily, but could experience the intimacy of a slower set like Merci Mercy upstairs.
Someday Soon began at 3pm and grew steadily in size and energy until the last set ended at midnight. Ruby Fields opened the upstairs Manning Stage with an earnest and thoroughly feel-good performance. Stripping back light effects, she embraced the daytime buzz of early arrivers with her indie-Australian magnetism. Crowds were initially tentative, but standouts ‘I Want’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ loosened up the audience. By the end of her set, Fields had transformed a small but loyal group into a crowd well-immersed in her nostalgic, unfiltered sound.
Heading downstairs, second act Ūla was an endearing performance. Rising to Tiktok virality for busking in Parramatta Centenary Square and Town Hall, seeing the popstar on a proper stage invited a warm smile. Despite only her recent rise to prominence, she is a natural in front of an audience; her unique style (space-buns, easy going, e-girl adjacent) saw high crowd engagement between songs and during her cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
Though moods at performances were high, the same could not be said at the bar. Drinks were expensive for a student event – coming to terms with a $12 Canadian Club is not easy. Despite $7 Jagermeister cocktail vouchers being handed out early in the day, any eagerness was undercut by the fact that the drink tasted like metal and was watered down into oblivion. It raises a counterpoint to the everpresent rhetoric of reckless and irresponsible young people in Australian media; if drinks inside this nine-hour festival (which attendees could not exit and re-enter) were more affordable, maybe attendees would feel less inclined to binge drink at pres to the point where a heavy paramedic presence is constantly in-demand. An issue that exists beyond Someday Soon, festivals tend to lack proactive strategies to keep young people safe while having fun – something which can be attributed to Government opposition to pill testing and harm reduction strategies.
Disappointingly, a heavy police presence pervaded the festival, sniffer dogs in tow. One attendee was isolated by four officers, questioned in a dark corner outside for at least 15 minutes before being escorted into a staff-only area. The attendee was let off with a warning.
Something particularly impressive about Someday Soon was its steady, unbroken evolution from kicked-back sunny sets to the euphoric thrill of a night out. DJ Joshua Amour was tasked with keeping energies high and delivered a confident and consistent set. Initiating a club-like ambience, Amour’s is a stridently energetic sound that has earned comparisons to Jamie xx and Burial. Also facilitating this day-to-night transition later on was Roy Blue on Manning’s outdoor stage. Standout tracks were ‘Brain Wax’ and ‘Obelisk’, but the light FX performance was exceptional; when watched from the grass with an underwhelming chip-on-a-stick, you’re immersed in an audiovisual experience comparable to Vivid.
Though bigger names like Holy Holy, Methyl Ethyl and Middle Kids performed enjoyable sets, their set times and overlap were inconvenient and awkward. Methyl Ethyl, Hermitude and Holy Holy were all scheduled to play from 11pm onwards, leaving some attendees exasperated with the clash. Another unfortunate commonality between the three sets was crowd fatigue – had these acts been staggered more thoughtfully, energy may have remained higher.
Regardless, Holy Holy’s performance was enthralling. Timothy Carrol and Oscar Dawson’s storytelling captivated the audience through their curious, evocative execution. A performance filled with emotion, Dawson’s chord progressions delivered potent tales of heartbreak, youth and loss. Songs ‘Teach Me About Dying’ and ‘Maybe You Know’ were among the most moving– rarely can such an intimate performance take place in the festival context. Despite being 20 minutes late for their set, they proved to the crowd that they deserved their billing, with a stunning performance of their hit ‘True Lovers’.
Unfortunately, this buzz did not carry over outside to Methyl Ethyl’s set. The band delivered a beautiful performance with impressive visuals, but by the end of the night, the crowd’s response was half-hearted.
The jewel in Someday Soon’s crown was clear: The Regime. The 22-piece funk collective firmly cemented themselves as a crowd favourite from their first song. A fusion of soul, funk, rap and electro, The Regime unequivocally earned the most ‘bests’ from this reviewer: dancing, style, on-stage energy, humour and crowd engagement. Each song was eminently danceable. Keyboardist Kurt Lam was particularly impressive, as was Giacinta Ruggieri’s (CINTA) soulful lower register. ‘Never Gonna Stop (Loving You)’ brought a slower groove to the set and allowed saxophone, bass and flute to take the centre stage, giving power to the sovereignty of love. Vocalist Liam Stacey joked the song reminded him of “that one scene in Saving Private Ryan”, before proceeding to catch a (fake) shit from Julian Joseph’s (split) pants. This sort of on-stage humour characterised the funk collective’s performance, and with their superb set, The Regime proved themselves to be one of the tightest and most compelling groups in the funk scene.
Someday Soon proved that USyd has the potential for a vibrant campus life. In our post-COVID world of isolating technology and disconnected University management, events like this serve as a reminder of live music’s unifying power, irrespective of what faculty you belong to. To see Someday Soon as an annual staple would enshrine this engagement in campus life – part of a return not only to normalcy, but community.