Woodford – Day #3 – Sunday December 29, 2013
By Brian Wise
Today’s highlight – Beth Orton’s appearance – nearly did not happen. A storm swept through the festival grounds cutting off power three times at the Ampitheatre where Clare Bowditch was attempting to open the evening’s entertainment. The light show provided by nature with lightning flashes illuminating the whole area was far more spectacular than anything that technology will provide this week.
Lesser performers would have spat the dummy but Bowditch was amazingly patient and persevered, moving quickly from a brief acoustic attempt to quickly bringing her full band on and finishing her interrupted set to great applause.
Perhaps Bowditch had been at Anthony Ackroyd’s fantastic Wake Up & Laugh workshop at the start of the day where the audience had to partake in all sorts of laughter. Ackroyd extolled the benefits of this laughter, proven by science he says, and it set the day off to a wonderful start. (Just say ho, ho, ha, ha, ha eight times to the person next to you and see what happens).
As luck would have it, the skies cleared and Beth Orton, who arrived on stage clad in shorts and a yellow mac, was able to perform a full set uninterrupted. Accompanied for about half the set by her partner Sam Amidon (who so impressed yesterday) on guitar,violin and backing vocals along with his drummer Chris Vatalaro it was a sparse but perfect backing.
Admitting that most people she had met here had not heard her recent work, Orton promised to play a selection from across her career. A good choice because the biggest reception came for ‘Central Reservation,’ although ‘Dawn Chorus,’ ‘Call Me The Breeze’
and ‘Poison Tree’ (based on a William Blake poem), from her latest album Sugaring Season, were all received warmly.
Orton seemed genuinely impressed by the festival’s size, location and vibe. ‘You all look so happy,’ she said at one point, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ Later, she added that some years ago she had spent several weeks in Byron Bay writing songs, so the vibe should be familiar.
Orton is only appearing at Woodford on this visit and I really like the idea of a festival having exclusives, it is certainly a factor in bringing me here. And, of course, with Orton and Amidon (with whom she will guest tonight) the festival gets a double shot of talent.
While the weather played a small part in the evening it had a much more prominent role during the day when the temperature hit 40C at 5.00pm. I am glad I did not know that at the time. I thought it was only 36C!
There is a myth that still persists that the Aboriginal population were able to roam in the sun without harmful effects. In fact, I think they were exceptionally sensible and would find shady trees and sit there in the hottest part of the day. So, learning from this I parked myself under a tree on the hill overlooking the Concert stage and enjoyed The Belly of The Beast Show featuring the Spooky Men’s Chorale (kind of spooky), Ben Kaplan & The Casual Smokers (amusing) and the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats (eccentric bluegrass).
But The Basics called me from the trees to the Grande circus tent which was packed by the time the band came on at 5.30pm. Most bands would be happy to receive the applause the group got just for sound checking earlier and one suspects that many of the punters were there because Wally De Backer (aka Gotye) was the drummer.
Someone behind me was explaining to his friend that Wally had a hit song but he couldn’t recall the name of it. I almost turned around and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding! Are you the only person who can’t remember hearing ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ at least a thousand times?’
Anyway, well done Wally for sticking with his old band that has been together now for 12 years and is never likely to enjoy the success of Gotye. The Basics’ power pop is, nevertheless, very appealing and they are one of the best Australian examples. The set also offered the band the opportunity to play some new songs from a possible forthcoming album (?), headed up by ‘We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are,’ which sounded like an homage to Midnight Oil. After a surf jam, including a drum solo (of course), a reference to ‘Wipeout’ the band surprised everyone (or at least me) by performing Harry Nilsson’s ‘Coconut’ from the very great Nilsson Schmilsson album of 1971. (You suspect these guys have a big collection of vinyl!). The set ended with an electric and electrifying version of Neil Young’s ‘Old Man.’
So it was a day of extremes and contrasts – as almost every day here is.