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Monday, 9 March 2015 |
2015 Port Fairy Folk Festival
at Port Fairy
Port Fairy Folk Festival is one of the longest running music festivals in Australia, if not the world. They will be celebrating their 40th Anniversary next year in 2016 and it is truly a unique family friendly event. Over numerous stages even the headline acts perform at least twice over the four day period.
This year they had some heavyweight artists in the lineup that included Sinead O'Connor, Richard Thompson, John Butler Trio, Buffy Sainte-Maire blues legend Charlie Musselwhite and many more. I heard the crowd to get in to see O'Connor's performance was insane. The festival organisers have stated 5,000 fans witnessed her first show. She is fine form and she has undergone a complete transformation from when I last saw her perform at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl performing at Seven Songs to Leave Behind in 2010. There is no way that I can review the whole four day festival without writing a novel, so let me just review some of my highlights.
Music fans that come along to enjoy a drink in the Shebeen tent, might be forgiven for thinking that with all of that loud cheer, that they are in Ireland. It get's pretty rowdy in there with lots of singing and dancing. One of the bands that got the young crowd singing along at Shebeen was one of my all time favourite bands, Skipping Girl Vinegar. Forever youthful and with so many great songs, you can't help but be swept up by the band's vibrant energy. The band are now off to Bluesfest in Byron Bay, to launch their latest killer album, The Great Wave. Watch their performance of "Hey Kid".
I must be honest, I was expecting a gentle quiet folk acoustic performance from Richard Thompson. I was completely blown away when he arrives with an electric trio consisting of bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome. Thompson is an extraordinary guitarist, as he let's his red Fender fly. The highlight of his set was when Thompson performed his new song called 'Guitar Heroes', where he plays a tribute of his influences that includes Les Paul, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Chuck Berry and Hank Marvin of The Shadows.
Henry Wagons is certainly an engaging character. Wearing cowboy gear with tassels on stage, he keeps the entertainment flowing with his witty batter. Actually as I zoom in with my camera and his whole getup is pretty schmick! Nice belt buckle, an enormous chunky watch and even a good luck horse shoe diamond ring. Wagons were on fire playing the last set of the day on Saturday at the Shebeen. My favourite was Wagons performing their rousing Bruce Springsteen cover of 'State Trooper'. At one stage, even Henry's trademark glasses flew off his head, as you can see in the following video.
Shane Howard of Goanna fame is showcasing his new crowdfunded album, Deeper South. He is introduced on stage by none other than Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers. Dobro, mandolin, guitars and fiddles paint a sonic picture of the unique southern coast of Australia. Howard says that Deeper South is the most enjoyable record he has ever made and it shows on stage.
Joe Camilleri was in fine form. The Black Sorrows even mixed up the set with an extended twelve inch ten minute mix of the Jo Jo Zep and The Falcon's classic, "Hit And Run". It certainly got everybody up front dancing and singing along. One of the rare occasions over the festival where one of the other main stages was transformed into the Shebeen. Joe and his band knows how to get the old joint jumping.
One of the most exciting new local bands to hit the stage at Port Fairy was Skyscraper Stan and The Commission Flats. They were great a Queenscliff Music Festival but they have stepped it up a few notches, as they exploded at the Shebeen stage. Featuring a powerhouse rhythm section and a pair of female backing vocals, the band let loose on stage. Lyrically with the dark brooding shades of Nick Cave, Skyscraper Stan cuts a fine figure with his lanky frame and deep voice. They have just dropped their debut album called Last Year's Tune. After seeing their energetic set, I can't wait to grab a copy and hearing it.
Mark Seymour with his band, The Undertow performed some rejigged Hunters and Collectors songs for the crowd. It's nice to hear some of these classic Hunner songs being reinterpreted. I couldn't help but be reminded at the Hunters And Collectors performance at the 2013 AFL Grand Final, where Mark made a political statement, by wearing an "Asylum Seeker" T-Shirt. One of the Undertow's great new songs is called "Asylum". The great man still has fire in his belly.
Former Thornbury musician Jordie Lane, is based in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles these days. Apparently he even busked in Port Fairy's streets a decade ago. I have not seen him perform for a while but did see of his former bass player, Zane Lyne playing with Sweet Jean last weekend at Between The Bays. Lane's humorous storytelling between his songs, is always entertaining. Here is a lovely song that ends with a beautiful duet with Clare Reynolds. Lane is just about to go on tour with Rowena Wise as support.
Steve Smyth (not Smith) is a commanding striking performer. I completely didn't recognise him last time at Queenscliff Music Festival, as he was clean shaven after a jaw breaking incident. It didn't take long for his fine beard to grow back. His booming voice and the way he let's fly while playing his guitar, is a joy to watch. People keep on saying he is like Jeff Buckley and Tom Waits but he is his own unique character. Here is a tender moment without his band, as he performs a song known most famously in Australia by Nazareth or Jim Capaldi's cover versions of an Everly Brothers song called, "Love Hurts".
Over a quick late lunch time break, a good friend of mine recommends me to go and see the Brooklyn based four piece Lake Street Dive. Stunning lead singer, Rachael Price has a confident Carole King vibe about her, was in great voice. I found out there was an Australian connection with this band. Rachael's father is the respected songwriter, conductor and musical director Tom Price, who also arranged and co-produced Billy Field's chart topping Australian songs in the early 80's with songs like "Bad Habits" and "You Weren't In Love With Me". Lake Street Dive performed a lovely set and were an ideal selection for a midday set one of the main stage.
Christina Anu has an amazing voice. I saw her earlier in the day wearing a splendid white and red dress during the early morning Gospel Session. Her set later that evening was eye opener. She still has an amazing voice and won the crowd over with this singalong song, "Kula Yaday".
Adding a bit of Tamworth on stage was blonde stunner, Catherine Britt. I was only familiar with her music after she teamed up with You Am I's lead singer Tim Rogers and Bill Chambers as they went on tour in 2013 under the name, The Hillbilly Killers. It was great to see her band twang out some excellent country tunes.
With 39 years under it belt, The Port Fairy Folk Festival might no longer be just a "folk" festival, as it has evolved over the years. This year my festival ended with a entertaining performance by Canadian troubadour Steve Poltz. I laughed, I cried and I laughed so hard....I WAS CRYING! He ended his memorable set by getting the hard working sound crew up on stage. Next year it going to be a big one and I can't wait to get back to celebrate the 40th Port Fairy musical extravaganza.
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