Our Port Fairy Festival Wrap 2022
Port Fairy Folk Festival 2022
Leading Us Out Of The Pandemic With A Sold-Out, Remarkable Success
11 to 14 March 2022
Images by Jim Jacob
Words by Rob Dickens
“Is it possible to see that light again?
To hold that wonder again?”
Lines taken from the song “As A Child” from the Charm of Finches‘ delightful new album, they refer to recalling dear childhood memories.
They could also apply equally to US, enjoying live music again on a scale not experienced for almost exactly two years. Certainly the City of Melbourne (just four hours away) and this State of Victoria have felt the impact of COVID, lockdowns, isolation more than most. The strife started a week after Port Fairy Festival 2020 and hasn’t much relented since then.
So, here in the beautiful, historic seaside town of Port Fairy, we re-convene again. Three weeks ago, this author was gun-shy – insecure and unprepared to hope that an event like this would go ahead. Yet there we were, amidst in what has to be the largest musical gathering in the State for two years. Not only that, but there are international artists here for the first time in oh so long.
It is a blessing.
Hats off to Justin Rudge, Festival Program Director and his team for pulling off this quite mammoth feat to get this event back up so successfully and on scale.
Jordie Lane made a welcome return from his Nashville home with some striking songs including “Better Not Go Outside”, “Black Diamond”, the thundering “War Rages On”, “The Winner”, plus new songs “It Might Take Our Whole Lives” (to financially recover from the pandemic), the reflective “Internal Dialogue” and the being-back-on-stage themed “Back Out There”. Ably supported by Clare Reynolds.
Gordon Koang is a Neur speaker and musician hailing from the Upper Nile region of South Sudan. A nine-album veteran, Koang performed a mix of traditional Neuur rhythms in English, Arabic and his native Neur. The combined tight percussion and rhythmic rants of his seven-piece band provided a hypnotic feast. His anti-COVID song “Coronavirus” was a soothing, playful tonic:
“Coronavirus you’re a bad disease
We understand that you’re trying to finish God’s children
You are dangerous
Go away, we don’t want you in the world”
Australian Folk Music Award winners Charm of Finches presented their heavenly harmonies and fun banter at this, their first appearance at Port Fairy. The set list was mostly songs from their latest, impressive album Wonderful Oblivion. (Read our review of that album and its launch) “Concentrate On Breathing”, “Fish In The Sea”, the climate crisis warning in “Heavy” (which chokes me up every time I hear it), “Gravity” and the title track were sumptuous. The duo are embarking on a Small Halls tour with Jack Carty – details here. Don’t miss them.
From the heights of blended vocals to none at all. Elephant Sessions packed out the impressive Stage 1 tent with their four-piece string concoction of driving instrumentals and loops whipping the audience into a dancing frenzy. Hailing from the Scottish highlands, the band has garnered a Scottish Live Band of the Year award as well as forming a relationship with Bellhaven Brewery for the grating of bursaries for innovation in music. The jig is up…beat!
Someone sent me Katherine Priddy‘s new album (The Eternal Rocks Beneath) a few days back and, after one listen, I was rather impressed and determined to give it some more airplay. Not having the chance to absorb any information about her, and having seen her name of the Port Fairy line-up, I was rather keen to see her live and learn more. My oh my, what a new, folk treasure she is. Eerie modulated vocals and a signature picking style, this English lady has an amazing presence on stage and, accompanied by the talented George Boomsma, the set ended all too briefly. I’ve since discovered that folk guitarist legend Richard Thompson has described Priddy as ‘the best thing I’ve heard all year’. He should know.
From Phoenix Arizona USA, Courtney Marie Andrews has been a constant presence on the singer/songwriter Americana scene recently, with three acclaimed albums on the trot. A voice that reminds me of Joni Mitchell, her songs reveal an insight and point of view that are engaging. As well as her released tunes from which she now has much to choose, we were treated to some new songs performed for the first time. One of the first international artists to tour Australia post pandemic, Courtney is a published poet, Grammy nominee and Americana Music Association UK Award winner.
Kutcha Edwards provided some beautiful (and amusing) moments on the last day. Since 1991 he has been collaborating, released five solo albums with the latest Circling Time a moving tribute to friends and family that are so dear to him. This Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, Nari Nari man has a cracking melodious voice and the descant nine-piece band he had with him made for an a stirring session. The downright sad and confronting “Homeless”, the ode to his wife (“running around for me like a chook with its head off”) in “Today”, the inhumane removal of his mother from his early life reflected in “Mrs Edwards” and the gloriously hopeful closer “We Sing” made for a triumph.
“We sing for love
We live for justice
We long for freedom
We dream of peace”
Add to these performances, the passionate and heart warming Women Out Loud session on Sunday morning. Not to be ignored, this is my annual two-hour dose of emotional therapy, marveling at the honesty and musical diversity of the women involved. Beautifully convened by Sarah Carroll, this year’s performers were Kee’ahn, Tracy McNeil, Irish Mythen, Gaby Moreno (who drove overnight from Womadelaide to be here) and Katherine Priddy.
Further, there was the full alt. country sound of Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife, Van Walker‘s alter egos with The Ferriters and Heartbrokers provided some crafted grunt and gravel (loved hearing “Wildgrass” live again), the beautifully conceived Keep The Circle Unbroken collaboration (read our review of an earlier show), the 50th anniversary celebration of The Bushwackers, the Find Your Voice Choir, the ever-popular The Guitarists forum, a live ABC broadcast, Shanties at the Wharf, Instrument Makers Exhibition and Maar Nations Workshops.
In the end, such was the depth of talent, I was unable to see Erin Rae, Cedric Burnside, The Weeping Willows (read our review of their new album), the Black Rock Band, Bones & Jones, Fiona Ross & Shane O’Mara, and Kee’ahn. Another time!
It was a joy to be back in Port Fairy, immersed in ‘The Folkie’ as it gets back on its feet again with aplomb, the friends, the food, the sea air and, most of all, the music and the soothing spirit that we COVID-weary humans have craved for.
More Music Adventures Await!
Our Port Fairy Festival Wrap 2022