Folkworld Fairbridge Festival Wrap Up 2013 - Part 2: The Music
Fairbridge 2013- The Music
This has got to be one of the hardest articles I have ever written- it’s really hard trying to condense into mere words just how amazing the talent was at Folkworld Fairbridge Festival this year. I’ll do my very best to do it justice- I don’t even really know where to begin. Rather than mentioning everyone I’ll tell you about the acts that were interesting or that blew my mind. With over 100 different acts this year I’d be here forever if I mentioned them all. Feel free to fill people in on any I missed in the comments box below or tweet us! @isolatednation @perthsoundchic
On Friday, the festival opens at 10am but bands start at 4pm, so you get a bit of a chance to settle in to your campsite and find your feet before the real fun starts. Belleville- Gypsy Swing were the first band I saw this year at Fairbridge, that really made me smile and feel like I was properly back. The four piece had a really unique French gypsy style of music, with just a really great feel to it. Perfect for Ruby’s Bar. I then moved on to Dilip and the Davs at the Hoopla Stage whose upbeat reggae music really impressed me. There was so much potential for things to go seriously wrong, but they all kept the beat going, they stayed in time and they were just sensational. Special mention to the bass player- he had so much energy and he was really entertaining, I loved the addition of a wireless belt pack so he could move around in the crowd. So great. Check them out on Facebook, they’re Perth based and really worth your time.
Next up I caught Afrique Acoustic, a vibrant three piece at the Mandja Stage. With the energetic front man Ziggy Bey Jan on the Kora, percussion, African vocals and crowd interaction, the very talented Ilan Zagoria on guitar and Brett Purser- who is a local- on bass they were an absolute spectacle. The Kora is a sight to behold as well as hear, and Ziggy used two tuned to different keys to blow the audience away- especially when one of them fell off the carefully constructed harness it was attached to. There was an audible gasp from the audience but no people or instruments were harmed, thankfully, and the show continued on. I saw Afrique again in Ruby’s on Sunday and they were equally as good then, with Ziggy using his charm and energy as well as his amazingly coloured traditional African outfits to whip the audience into a dancing frenzy. Ziggy also made a few special guest appearances in other acts with his djembe- he is a very talented drummer and a really nice guy. Check them out!
Next up was Kevin Dempsey, also at the Mandja Stage. It was his first time to Australia, let alone Fairbridge Festival so I was pretty excited to see what he had to play for us. He absolutely blew me and everyone else away. He was noticeably nervous that we possibly wouldn’t like his music- but honestly he was one of the best acts I saw all festival. It takes a special kind of man to stand up on a stage all alone with just his guitar and his voice and hold such a large audience captive for a full set, but he did that and more. Unfortunately during his set ome of his strings broke and he had to fix it because there wasn’t anyone on hand to swap over his guitar, but luckily he was entertaining speaker and the Fairbridge audience are very relaxed about that sort of thing anyway. He got back up and running pretty quickly. I saw him again at the Chapel on Saturday night and he was just as mesmerizing. Amazing voice, even better guitar player. I spoke to him on Sunday just as he was about to leave, what struck me is how much of a humble, genuinely lovely human being he is. I can’t believe it’s taken him this long to come and play for us! Come back soon please Kevin! :) Check his website!
The last act I saw on Friday night was Patron of the Festival- Andrew Winton at the Riverside Stage. And yes- he’s related to Tim Winton the beloved Aussie author, Tim is Andrews brother! Andrew has always been one of my favourite acts to see at the festival and outside of the festival for that matter, he’s so energetic and he obviously loves what he does, he’s so at home on stage. His latest album ‘Happy’ was the soundtrack to my life for months after last years festival. Accompanied by Joe Whittle on drums who is a force to be reckoned with in his own right, these guys lived up to my expectations and were absolutely faultless. If there’s one reason you should go and see Andrew, it’s because of his 13 string guitar, affectionately dubbed ‘Lucky’. It’s made by a company called ‘Don’t Fret Instruments’ and is made from a Cyprus tree root dug from the swamps in Alabama. It’s a really great piece of workmanship and plays like a slide guitar, it’s a really distinctive sound that has to be heard to be described. Andrew and his smooth vocals and even smoother guitar playing leave no doubt as to why he is a festival favourite. He plays a lot of rural Aussie gigs so check him out at your local pub- tell him Emma the Sound Woman sent ya!
Saturday brought a new day and with it LOTS OF RAIN. Luckily the stages are mostly undercover but a few people got more than a little wet, myself included. No matter- we didn’t let that dull our spirits! First up was festival Patron and regular- the much-loved Bernard Carney on the Mandja stage! Unfortunately Bernard had come down with some sort of throat malady which meant he actually couldn’t really sing at all. That didn’t overly matter as his guitar skills are certainly more than adequate so he made up for it- singing the ‘Broncheo-Dilated Blues’ in a croaky baritone which was oddly enjoyable, obviously relevant and a great piece of music. David Hyams, another of my favourite musicians at the festival got up and accompanied Bernard for a few songs and then the talented Guy Ghouse who is now one of my newest friends took over from Mr Carney to finish up what was an interesting but nonetheless entertaining set. David Hyams is launching his album ‘Travelling Bones’ on the 11th of May, you need to check out his music page and make sure you attend. Should be a great night.
Next up, again on the main stage Mandja was Pugsley Buzzard. I hadn’t heard of him before but I had heard he was good, and he had a really great name so I went along. He ambled onto the stage, dressed all in black, complete with a fedora and a pair of Ray Bans, muttered something about being a nocturnal animal and not being used to being out during the day, and then proceeded to blow everyone in the audience away. He was INCREDIBLE. His lyrics were quick and clever, his voice sounded like gravel but it was the best kind of gravel ever- and he really didn’t need to speak in between songs if he hadn’t wanted to, absolutely just a master of stride piano. I especially enjoyed the kooky sexy innuendoes in his music, he just had a great sense of humour. He was doing crazy technical things on the piano keyboard and he made it look like a walk in the park, I couldn’t believe it. He got all of the audience involved and I felt really lucky to have seen him and I told absolutely everyone at the festival to make sure they saw him before they left. I went again on Sunday afternoon to Ruby’s to see him again and the place was absolutely packed, which I take full responsibility for with my advertising skills… ;) Encores are not encouraged for acts during the day because Fairbridge has a very tight schedule to keep to and they do a really great job of doing so. This crowd demanded an encore, going completely nuts until the stage manager basically had no choice but to let Pugsley play again. I was so excited to meet him and just introduce myself, so I stopped to talk to him on Saturday and a car swerved to miss a puddle and instead ran into my elbow. It hurt a lot but was totally worth getting hit by a car to meet Pugsley Buzzard- one of my favourite acts for the festival- just an absolute delight to watch. Then again, don’t take my word for it, I’m biased because I’ve been completely and utterly booglarized. Go find out how great he is for yourself!
I traipsed to the very muddy Riverside stage- at this point it had been raining big huge rain drops and we were all very wet. If something was going to warm me up it would be Sexteto Zona Sul- Australia’s only ‘Choro’ band. This five piece were did just the trick and were really interesting to watch. Doug de Vries on Mandolin led this Brazilian style band through a heap of great songs in the oddest time signatures imaginable. The band also consisted of Asha Henfry who delighted us with her flute, Ken Murray on the 6 string guitar, Julian Scheffer on the 7 string guitar, Al Kerr on the Pandeiro and Adam May on the cavaquinho. Unsurprisingly it was the last two instruments that I found particularly interesting. The pandeiro is a traditional Brazilian tambourine type instrument, it’s a tambourine, shaker, and drum kit all rolled into one. It’s not simple to play and Al made it look incredibly easy, I don’t think he got anywhere near enough credit. He was absolutely wonderful. The cavaquinho is a ukulele lookalike, except it has only four strings which are made of steel rather than nylon, and it’s tuned like a banjo. Honestly it stole the show for me, I thought it was a fascinating instrument and it sounded so unique. This entire band was really great, a real pleasure to watch and definitely worth looking at if you get the chance.
Sunday was the last day of Fairbridge and it is always a bit bittersweet for me because I don’t want it to end. I saw lots of great bands and a lot of the same bands again that I really enjoyed. I started off with Vardos. They had really flown under the radar for me, I weren’t sure who they were but they were first up at Rubys and that venue is always packed so I thought I better get there half an hour early for their 10am start. Well! I was the first and only person there so I positioned myself in the front row and got comfortable. The three piece eventually got underway and I know I’ve said this a lot but they were one of the best things I saw at Fairbridge. These three women were dynamite. Kirri Buchler rocked the double bass, Sophia Chapman made the piano accordion and Romanian/Hungarian singing look easy and Alana Hunt on violin was absolutely sensational as the leader, storyteller and just a generally crazed front woman. They were energetic, they were interesting and most of all they were hilarious to watch and the really enjoyed what they did. So great to watch! I got harassed a bit by Alana, which was my fault for sitting in the front row to be honest but it was all really great fun. She has so much onstage energy, it’s really a lot of fun, she kept me very entertained. Brilliant stage presence and the genre was super interesting, the Middle Eastern variety of music is not one I’ve been exposed to a lot of but it was absolutely wonderful to hear. Honestly the best way to start your morning- Hungarian/Romanian fusion music.
The last band I’ll mention were over on the Riverside Stage, and they were String Contingent. Chris Stone on violin, Graham Mcleod on guitar and Holly Downes on double bass took my breath away with their Scottish/Celtic folk songs. They blended together perfectly and had a mix of fast and slow songs which perfectly demonstrated the togetherness of the band and the capabilities of all of them as songwriters. They’re all quite young which was absolutely great to see. The marquee was absolutely packed with people and this was a clear indication of just how popular these guys are, they are very talented and I hope to see a lot more from them in the future. Check out their Facebook page. These guys are definitely ones to look out for.
As you can see I had an absolutely wonderful time at Fairbridge. There were so many other bands I could have mentioned but these to me were the stand outs, the ones that made me want to dance and sing, and made me feel happy to be at Fairbridge. If you had any that you think I should have included or any questions- feel free to tweet us @perthsoundchic and @isolatednation or leave us a comment. Right now I’m counting down the days until next years festival….. roughly 300ish days 6 hours and 20 minutes to go……. I can’t wait!