IF anyone thought Icehouse's set on Friday night was the main event of the Newcastle Supercars concerts, they were badly mistaken.
The Hilltop Hoods took Foreshore Park to a whole other level on Saturday night.
In terms of stagecraft, crowd participation and high energy - this was a master class in festival headlining.
The Aussie hip-hop pioneers led a quality line-up, also featuring indie-pop favourites Thelma Plum and San Cisco, and Newcastle's pop-punk band Trophy Eyes.
It drew easily the biggest crowd seen at the Newcastle 500 concerts since Cold Chisel's appearance at the inaugural event in 2017.
Supercars fans were packed in tight and ready to party.
Shane van Gisbergen's and his Red Bull Ampol Racing team had barely had a chance to debrief their season-opening victory before Trophy Eyes hit the concert stage to a warm hometown response.
Frontman John Floreani delivered a typically-energetic performance and enjoyed playing the pantomime villain for the home crowd when he said, "go the Parramatta Eels" while leaving the stage to a chorus of boos.
Dark clouds threatened to dampen spirits for Fremantle's San Cisco, but the drizzle was brief. Soon punters were greeted with a striking rainbow perched over Nobby's Beach.
San Cisco are no strangers to Newcastle, and the Supercars audience took to their sweet and melodic brand of jangle-pop.
Jordi Davison (rhythm guitar) and Scarlett Stevens (drums) shared lead vocal duties as they ripped through Awkward, Messages (about the worst best friends), Lost Without You, Too Much Time Together and a new song, Honeycomb.
Thelma Plum, sporting dyed blonde hair, seemed genuinely shocked by the size of the crowd when she graced the stage.
The Indigenous artist is used to selling out the Cambridge Hotel, but this was something completely different.
Plum has always had the songs. Her stunning 2019 album Better In Blak made that abundantly clear.
However, at previous shows in Newcastle she's appeared nervous and awkward. But not at Supercars.
From the opener The Brown Snake to the empowering Better In Blak, Plum was in full control.
Her music and delicate voice mightn't be built for festivals shows, but she endeared the crowd with her personal and forthright songs about "woke blokes" and "homecoming queens."
At one point Plum told the crowd it was her mum's birthday and she was in the audience. Before Plum could finish the crowd broke into a drunken rendition of Happy Birthday.
There was a rowdier and darker vibe to Saturday night's concert. A vicious fight broke out between two young men following Plum's set and they were removed by security and police.
A short time later, photos showed at least one person being treated by paramedics, though there was no suggestion the incidents were related.
A shot of adrenaline tore through the crowd when The Hilltops Hoods opened with Leave Me Lonely.
As if they'd been shot out of Fort Scratchley's cannon, Suffa (Matthew Lambert) and Pressure (Daniel Smith) bounced around the stage like prizewinners.
They were the puppet-masters as the crowd waved their hands and danced along to a calvacade of hip-hop party hits.
The Hilltop Hoods' timeless Nosebleed Section received an early run and Chase That Feeling seemed perfectly tailored to the moment.
The former was dedicated to Ally, from the US, who was in the front row watching The Hilltop Hoods for the first time.
Adelaide based singer-songwriter Nyassa, who first appeared on Hilltops Hoods' 2019 album The Great Expanse, joined them on stage to sing 1955, Show Business and Won't Let You Down.
Nyassa is an undeniable talent and recently released her debut single Ghost. Expect to hear her again.
Whether you're a Aussie hip-hop fan or not, you would have been hard pressed not to enjoy The Hilltop Hoods' set.
As a festival band in Australia they're in elite company. There will be plenty of sore heads on Sunday morning, but as The Hoods sing, "they don't work on Sundays."
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