The Barry Williams Show
Have you heard the song by Peter Gabriel on his 2002 Up album called “The Barry Williams Show”? It’s about Barry Williams the talk show host who feeds off dysfunctional excess, making fun of people and enjoying ratings success from people’s pain. Not a nice type really.
I know another Barry Williams. This Barry (Bazz) and his wife Susan open up their house in the interests of local music promotion. As Bazz says: “to showcase musicians that the run-of-the-mill venues struggle to put on as a complete band”. So far they have put on six or seven events with bands, mixing desks and PAs taking over their elegant lounge room – all for a crowd of invited friends. Luckily I’ve been to their graceful home on four of those occasions.
On 10 February 2013, while the nearby and popular St Kilda Festival was on, there was another option – one of Bazz’s most ambitious line-ups to date – Fraser A. Gorman with Big Harvest, Jack Howard, Charles Jenkins with the Zhivagos and The Darling Downs. What a day it turned out to be.
Fraser A. Gorman has an engaging manner. I saw him as the support for First Aid Kit where he performed very well in front of a large crowd at the Forum Theatre in January this year. Very young (to me anyway!) with an easy smile and a strong leaning to a traditional, rustic folk and alt. country style. After a short solo set he was joined by Big Harvest (Sam Cooper – lead guitar, Sophia Lubczenko – violin and vocals, Jarod Brown – bass and Steph Hughes a last minute drummer replacement. “Dark Eyes”, Hummingbird” and a delightful cover of “The Weight” were highlights for me. Watch out for Fraser and Big Harvest.
Jack Howard has an extensive catalogue from which to choose since the demise of Hunters and Collectors. As well as his sublime trumpet, Jack’s band featured the wonderful Nicky Del Rey on lead guitar, Ed Bates (The Sports) on pedal steel, Cal McAlpine on drums and Adam Johnstone on bass. “Fallen Angel” proved to be a beautiful number. “Sailing Home”, written on a bus from Mt Gambier, had a lovely Bacharach feel and was a joy to hear – it was pretty hot close up to the band but it still gave me goosebumps. Another highlight was “Read My Mind” and graciously Jack, as requested, finished off with a stirring rendition of The Hunter’s classic “Throw Your Arms Around Me”.
Charles Jenkins is one of Australia’s best singer-songwriters. Love Your Crooked Neighbour With Your Crooked Heart, his most recent offering is highly acclaimed and appeared on many top ten lists for last year. Charles agreed to perform the whole album in order which, as he suggested, made it easy as he could have the CD as the set list. “Pray My Dear Daughter”, “Hate Mail” and “Went To The Chapel” going down a treat. There were plenty of other songs performed as well and The Zhivagos again were in fine form. The set was long and passionate – a stunning success.
The Darling Downs have two well regarded albums to their credit – 2005’s How Can I Forget This Heart Of Mine? and From One To Another in 2007. The two driving forces of The Darling Downs (Ron S. Peno and Kim Salmon) have decided to get back into the studio. Their set at Bazz’s house was moody and with serious intent – “There Were Tears”, “I Don’t Care Anymore” and “Light Of The World” really showed off the band’s capabilities and emotion. As an aside, I remember seeing Kim Salmon in The Surrealists in 2010 at The Revellers Bar in front of crowd of two men and a dog. My oh my what a great show he put on. Look out for the new album from The Darling Downs.
And so it ended – over seven hours of music, good food, catching up with friends, getting CDs signed and meeting or renewing acquaintances with some of the best talent in Australia. It doesn’t get much better.
I wonder what Bazz and Susan will come up with next. Hat’s off to them big time.
For photos and videos of the day, check out the excellent work of Carbie Warbie at http://vimeo.com/channels/altstkildafestival/