Things will be heating up in Wandin the weekend of 19 - 20 March for the Herb and Chilli Festival.
From the founders of Yarra Valley company Renaissance Herbs, Clive and Di Larkman, the hottest festival in Melbourne is back and bigger than ever.
Celebrating its tenth birthday, after having a year break to allow for the pandemic passthrough, the 2022 edition of the annual festival event has expanded its traditional recipe of stallholders with plants, freshly grown herbs, rubs, jams, spice mixes and more than 40 varieties of chillies lining the entrance, Hot Sauce Alley scorching with sauces, relishes, and rubs covering all levels of the Scoville Chilli Flame Scale, unique, spicy food combinations to set tongues alight (look no further than the World’s Hottest Dim Sims), world-class cooking demonstrations, daring competitions, and an even spicier lineup of talented musical acts.
With the return of the festival comes the return of New Orleans and Louisiana inspired outfit, Psycho Zydeco.
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Having previously headlined the 2020 iteration, the Psychos – as dubbed by their fans – are the perfect blend of Cajun swamp blues, carried by drums, guitar, sax, washboard, accordion and the occasional industrial-sized triangle, to the festival flavour (though the Spice Girls would have been a hot contender). Though it took some negotiations on the festival front.
“They [Psycho Zydeco] performed at our festival in 2020 and then broke up. We convinced them to reform for our 2021 festival which didn’t go ahead so now we’ve got them back for another round,” says Clive Larkman.
“We had a new album in the pipeline a little while ago but the pandemic knocked us over so we haven’t been doing much of anything [Psycho Zydeco related] actually,” confirmed Psycho Zydeco frontman, Gregg Hatton.
However, coming back to play the festival wasn’t a tough decision to make for the five-piece live act. Their 2020 time at the festival added to the compelling argument.
“They’re paying us money so that helps. It was good but the only problem was it was freezing cold and last time it was screaming hot [pun intended] so we don’t know what to expect and will be packing so much luggage now; our speedos and our winter jackets,” Hatton laughs.
“But it’s a great festival. They have it all organised now and just incorporate the music into all aspects of the chilli. We didn’t know what to expect. You have chilli mixed into all of these foods that you wouldn’t think should have chilli in it and then stage demonstrations and people consuming more chilli than one person should consume with ambulances waiting on the sidelines, and then add music into the middle; it’s just a whole lot of fun! We thought ‘put us in the middle of that for sure!’”
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The unique offering of the festival is echoed through the tunes of Psycho Zydeco. Formed in 1991 when accordionist Stefan Sernek and guitarist Gregg Hatton discovered the Louisiana based styles of Cajun and zydeco music, the group have a rich album and song history that they will be drawing on for their Herb and Chilli Festival sets.
“We go back to 1990, so we have old, old stuff we can go back to. We have ‘Resurrection Shuffle’ which has a great old 70’s rock beat so we’ve had a bit of a go at that. Quite a few of them are new for us but they are old songs of ours. It’s a relearning, so there will be some new old things,” Hatton explains.
The beauty of zydeco is its bounty of different influences that the band have been able to manipulate into a variety of festivals, promising good times no matter what. From blues and jazz to country, rock and folk, Psycho Zydeco has been waving their zydeco flag at the likes of Thredbo Blues Festival, Newcastle Jazz Festival, Sydney Blues and Roots Festival, Cobargo Folk Festival and even Woodford Folk Festival, in addition to unique events like the Herb and Chilli Festival.
“You never see the one thing. One minute there’s a song that has a lot of sax with no guitar, the next song will be guitar and washboard, the next will be sax and guitar – there’s a lot of variation with that and it’s a very quirky thing. We get people up to play the washboard which is really quite funny and people really get into that. Some people don’t want to go near it and others can’t wait to give it a go.”
Stepping out from their setlist and into the food ferris wheel, Hatton isn’t too keen on being adventurous with his taste buds.
“Chilli has to be in a very mild form for me. Steph, our accordion player, is a bit crazy but he also eats chilli and hates it but will look at you and go ‘yeah it’s fine’ and be dying on the inside,” he laughs.
Herb and Chilli Festival will see many brave faces enduring the burn and attempting to conceal their hot sweats but it’s all part of the fun, as Hatton agrees, “We don’t know what we will find when we get there but we know it will be a great time”.
The Herb and Chilli Festival comes to 125 Quayle Road, Wandin on Saturday, March 19 and Sunday, March 20. Grab your tickets and find out more at the festival website.