Host of 2 Triple B FM’s “Guitar Show” Fiona McBain has performed at some pretty big festivals in North America (e.g. SXSW, Winnipeg Folk ) but we were lucky to have her on the interviewing and reviewing side of the Festival fence for the recent Bello Winter Music.
(Cover photo: Festival reflected in horn, by Bobbi Marchini)
Story by Fiona McBain
Not everyone looks forward to the chill of mid-winter but last weekend most folks in Bello were happily chilling-out at the 2019 Bello Winter Music Festival.
I’m a newcomer to the region (and a new presenter at 2bbb), so I was eagerly anticipating this year’s sold-out Winter Fest and thrilled to be broadcasting live with co-host Debbie Spillane from the little blue van (OB1) on Sunday afternoon.
One of the best things about the BWMF is that your day-pass gives you total access to all shows and total freedom to wander at will. Last Saturday was a glorious, sunshiny day and everywhere I walked I was greeted with colourful sights, sublime sounds, delicious smells and beautiful smiles.
I started at the Golf Club to hear Emily Wurramara – both Deb and I agreed Emily’s silky voice has a tone that reminds us of Norah Jones. However, Emily’s songs, which are at once lush and evocative, are also pointed and powerful. Her song “Am I too Pretty for an Aboriginal Girl?” had a boppy disco-beat which belied the painful story behind it.
(Emily Wurramara: photo Andrew Walls)
Other highlights from Saturday were Hat Fitz and Cara – a powerhouse of guitar and voice, Cigány Weaver, a band whose Grapelli/Reinhardt inspired gypsy-jazz showcased their shining musicianship and The Maes, whose beautiful harmonies and emotive songwriting are worth it no matter how long you have to wait in line outside the Cedar Bar!
(The Maes at the Golf Club)
I also loved Jess Ribeiro’s somber-pop and Vaudeville Smash’s ecstatic dance-a-thon but one of the real standouts for me was Alisha Todd and the Volcanic Lovers. Alisha’s voice reminded me of Bjork in its explosive attack and effortless range but her ease on stage and effervescent joy left a great impression on all those who saw her at the Federal Hotel.
(Alisha Todd and the Volcanic Lovers at the Fed)
Sunday was my debut as a radio interviewer – fortunately I was co-hosting with the doyenne of the dial, Debbie Spillane.
Our first interview was with Vaudeville Smash. Their live show the previous night was a high-energy, feel-good, dance-fest. Frontman Marc Lucchesi, dressed like Joseph in a Technicolor Disco-Coat, conducted the audience in a constant sing-along as he threw his flute in the air like he just didn’t care. The other members of the band (including Marc’s brothers Luca and Dan and two mates James Bowers and Martin Lubran) were equally entertaining and kept the crowd on their feet the whole show.
Marc and Luca arrived in OB1 with wide grins on their faces. They were genuinely excited to be in Bello and happily answered all our questions while simultaneously live-streaming the interview on Facebook.
Many fans know Vaudeville Smash from their international hit single “Zinedine Zidane” so Deb Spillane, the eternal sports journalist, asked the guys whether any of them were soccer players. It turned out that bass player Luka was a school-boy soccer star! As we chatted about their music (vocoders and jazz-flute odysseys), their fashion (specifically disco-coats) and their brotherly love, the fellas had a natural charm and humour – even when it came to discussing the on-going Melbourne vs Sydney debate. (Can you guess who they backed?)
Our next interview was with Sydney’s self-described “electro-skank-pop” trio, Gold Member.
Singer/guitarist Az and beats-maker Gus piled into OB1 while third member, beats/bass player Jesse, poked his head through the window.
(Gold Member in OB 1)
When I saw Gold Member on Saturday they had the crowd at the Fed grooving late into the night but apparently I’d missed the mosh-pit! While the band says they always bring the party, they also spoke about their latest single “Worth It” which is a slower jam and reflects on the best things in life – love, nature and happiness. Gold Member will be touring throughout Europe in August opening for Ocean Alley.
Jess Ribeiro was next up in OB1. I’d seen her show at the Golf Club and I loved her velvety-underground sounds. Jess’s music is cinematic in scope and her dark lyrical humor enhances the mystery. In person Jess was an absolute hoot! She’s a trained Steiner school teacher and our conversation took many tangled turns as we referenced chicken-salt, speed-dating, and found out that her dad’s favourite “car-washing” music was Kate Bush.
Jess also spoke about working with Mick Harvey from the Bad Seeds and spending time with him and his wife in Germany right around the time Lou Reed died. Jess delved deep into the music of The Velvet Underground as well as Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy and the influence is beautifully apparent in her music.
(Fiona, Deb and Jess Ribeiro in OB1)
Our final interview was with one of Australia’s premiere guitarists, Lloyd Spiegel. Having featured Lloyd on 2bbb’s fortnightly Guitar Show I was familiar with much of his recorded music. He’s a master of the instrument but both Deb and I were gobsmacked when he played live in our little blue van. He played a rendition of B B King’s “Sweet Little Angel” and it was hard to keep up with his flying fingers on the fretboard. Lloyd is a big fan of community radio and spoke about its importance not only to listeners but to the ongoing careers of artists like himself as well.
Speaking with and listening to Lloyd was a great way to end the festival.
(Lloyd Spiegel plays live in OB1)
The success of the Bello Winter Music Festival is not only a tribute to the organisers and the artists who come through but to the whole town of Bello and the vibrant, welcoming community who live here.