The 41st instalment of Port Fairy Folk Festival provided an eclectic mix of musical treats
As always, the Port Fairy Folk Festival was jam-packed with an eclectic mix of musical treats.
Melody Pool showcased smoky, soaring vocals that were at times reminiscent of Stevie Nicks' dulcet tones. Among a brace of sparking originals, her rendition of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game was a poignant highlight in a gold-plated set.
The Jerry Cans featured fiery fiddle and percussive throat singing which inspired creative dance moves from an impressed audience. Fellow Canadian Buckman Coe and his intuitive band spun sweet soul one moment and pumped out robust reggae the next. The swashbuckling and theatrical 8Foot Felix grabbed attention with eye-catching costumes and an innovative left-field approach to performance that imbued their twisted sea shanties with an effervescent originality.
For a duo The New Savages whipped up a surprisingly dark and thunderous set of apocalyptic otherworldly blues dripping with menace and characterised by a droning intensity. After triumphant gigs at Port Fairy in 2009, it was great to see that The Wilson Pickers have lost none of their charismatic stage presence and absolute mastery of melody. Commanding the stage at each of their three festival gigs, the band received an enthusiastic response from the audience and showed how adept they are at integrating the individual and distinctive styles and skills of each band member into a cohesive and mellifluous whole.
Cookin’ On 3 Burners served up the type of funk that makes you want the lights down low and the cocktails flowing. Augmented by the sassy Stella Angelico and the entertaining Tex Perkins, the band absolutely sizzled. Mexrrissey messed with punters’ heads in the most wonderful way by doing Mexican reinterpretations of Morrissey songs. After this trippy experience it was time for a blast of high-energy ska from The Bazzookas who certainly know how to get a crowd suitably adrenalized.
Vika and Linda's astonishing vocal harmonies, exciting stage presence and natural rapport were on display as they brought soulful conviction to Mahalia Jackson’s I'm On My Way. During her chilled-out set, purveyor of indie folk-pop Gretta Ray impressed with jazzy vocals that were at times reminiscent of Clare Bowditch’s work with Red Raku.
Boo Hewerdine’s dry humour, humble demeanour and sterling tunes such as Patience of Angels captivated the audience. Master storyteller Charles Jenkins took his crowd on a lyrical tour that encompassed the canons of Northcote, "sweet Mildura" and that "cultural icon" Barkly Square. With his guitar resonating beautifully through St Pats Hall, Jenkins proved to be an entrancing performer.
The angelic voice of Marlon Williams appeared to be more than capable of melting the stoniest of hearts as he quietly yet assuredly spun one transcendent moment after another. Tash Sultana, who rocked out on both guitar and pan pipes, garnered a feverish response from an adoring audience while Folk Uke and Dog Trumpet rounded off a vibrant weekend in hilarious fashion with songs about getting "knocked up" and how excrement "makes the flowers grow".
Words by Graham Blackley
Image by Anna Madden
Highlight: The Wilson Pickers.
Lowlight: Having to wait another year for the next festival.
Crowd Favourite: Too many to list.