My week leading up to this year’s QMF had been exhausting. Extremely last minute camping arrangements added to the ‘OMG Can I do this?’ factor. But I knew the reliably uplifting event would provide much needed revival once the tunes kicked off. I was not disappointed. East coast trio 19-Twenty provided just the tonic Friday night with frenetic punk-a-billy blues. Like fellow former QMF (and Blues At Bridgetown) Blue Shaddy, they were crowd magnets across the weekend. One of the many buzz acts across a killer line-up.
Imported artists included American Donovan Frankenreiter (clad somewhat like Werzel Gummage) and killer band. Japan’s Osaka Monaurail delivered almost a much brassy funk as the Godfather of Soul himself. Female duo Madison Violet (formerly MadViolet) endured a protracted sound check to bring on their sweet harmonies and Canadian charm. Hawaiian Mike Love blended reggae with all manner of rootsy acoustic vibes. Backsliders guitarist Dom Turner joined forces with US artists in The Turner Brown Band. The Brown sisters brought gospel, soul and blues from the heartland. Locally-based global rhythms got everyone moving: The Senegambian Jazz Band’s dazzling kora and brassy beats, Ella Trinidad featuring frontwomen who Salsa’d like everyone was watching (and they were). R&B songstress Thando added a joyous guest spot with Horns Of Leroy to her schedule. Punters let loose to pulsating beats from The Herd, GrizzleeTrain and irresistible soul grooves from Geelong’s Sweethearts and the DJ Vince Peach collection.
Alt-Country and folk-roots songwriters connected to audiences, from the familiar to the emerging: Fraser A. Gorman, Harry Jakamarra, Alice Skye, Heath Robertson, Tom Richardson and Nathan Seeckts – the latter’s endearing gig ideal for the intimate upstairs room at Salt Lounge in town. The Pavilion was packed as always for acts like Adelaide’s Wanderers. Tripod, MC Tom Ballard and a trio of local comics inspired guilty giggles. Locals making their QMF debut included Triple J Unearthed winner Libby Steel, The Kite Machine, Jack The Fox, Forever Son and young guitar gun Finnigan August. I missed a couple of biggies including Courtney Barnett, The Black Sorrows (with the Bull sisters) and Kasey Chambers. D’oh!
Big name highlights: Sarah Blasko, righteously rocking Jen Cloher and Gurrumul’s Djarimirri Live painting an evocative orchestral landscape. Filling Dr. G’s vocal role was Johnno Yunupingu who also appeared with Skinnyfish Sound System. Just when you think you’ve heard every blend of influences in music, the NT collective proved the most wonderful surprise of the line-up. A dance party fusion of tribal, hip hop and chants mined and mixed from the Territory label’s back catalogue.
The return of Dan Sultan from a six month hiatus was a triumph. QMF programs have been oft-graced by Sultan’s wonderful vocals and ever growing string of hits. Looking slightly hesitant as the concert began, Sultan soon soaked up the stage-bound love and gave it his all. The band featured Talei and Eliza Wolfgramm singing up a storm. Sultan shared news with his faithful followers – he and his partner have a baby on the way.
Having last seen Nigerian guitar ace Bombino at WOMADelaide a few years back, I knew what wonders were in store. Tuareg-style desert blues filled the air. Language proved no barrier to the unifying thrill of intricate musicianship that exceeds comparisons to Hendrix.
QMF do it well. The dedicated kids program, yoga, food, the bars and The Blues Train are ever popular. What sets the coastal event apart for me is the perennially friendly atmosphere. It’s a community where shuttle bus drivers crack jokes, security folk smile a lot, strangers bond in tents, food queues, strolling the streets… QMF breathes life back into the weary heart just when the working year seems a little too long.
Written by Chris Lambie