Dick Clark once said “music is the soundtrack of your life“. This has certainly been true for me, and lets face it, who hasn’t at least had a relationship song! When I was 18 and believed I’d met the love of my life, I thought my song was The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love“, his was more Dire Straits “Money for Nothing“! But after being entranced by The California Honeydrops, I wanted whatever their life soundtrack was.
I had heard about an amazing New Orleans style jazz/soul group from California that was going to play at Queenscliff and one youtube listen had me hooked, but I was unprepared for the unforgettable, complete Honeydrops experience. The music is diverse, drawing on soul, roots, R&B, funk, blues and southern jazz. They don’t give you a performance, they create a joyful party. This joy is infectious and when they play it’s almost as if you’ve stumbled upon them jamming. I don’t think my smile left me.
What sets the California Honeydrops apart is they are all superb musicians
individually so can more than hold their own musically, as was evident in the various showcase solo moments; from the funky keyboard solos and the perfect jazz sax, to Ben Malament smashing the drums and washboard. Each member’s distinct style shines whilst directed by multi instrumentalist and lead singer Lech Wierzynski, who effortlessly won the crowd from the first. For some it was the flawless trumpet solos and crisp vocals, others, that knowing grin when he convinced us with the bluesy, “baby, I liked it better, when it was wrong” and the funky, “if you do it, do it like you mean it“. Add to that, conducting the capacity crowd in a perfectly timed sing-a-long, this was one party I didn’t want to end. After their rendition of one of my favourites, Curtis Mayfields “People Get Ready” which had me swooning, the set finished to cheers and calls for encores.
A hard act to follow, local favourites Augie March hit the stage. After the high energy of the previous act this was a change of pace. Even with lead singer Glenn suffering with the flu, the band played a tight set. With limited banter to preserve the vocals, he still created a rapport, but it was clear that the crowd were waiting for one song. We’ve all been at that party with the drunken circle of friends “singing” along to “One Crowded Hour”, and even with the flu, the intensity of Glenn’s vocal gave me goose bumps.
The gravelly tones of Tex Perkins with Cookin on 3 Burners took me back to hot sweaty summer pub nights. Tex, always a performer that grabs your attention. Then, the final act of the night, Aussie legends, The Hoodoo Gurus, assaulted the stage from the off. Hit after hit. It was the perfect “mix tape”. Tojo, Miss Freelove ’69, Wipeout, Bittersweet, 1000 Miles Away, What’s My Scene, Come Anytime, I Want You Back, they just kept coming. Dave Faulkner’s faultless vocals belied the passage of time. Even pressed against the barrier, moshpit style, the crowd going off behind me, and like the crowd, knowing all the words, I danced and sang until my voice was hoarse. The crowd still fired up, the bus ride home was complete with drunk “Somebody to Love”.
You know the morning after the night before? Well that was Sunday at the festival. At nearly every performance the audience was sitting, or stretched out on a rug, almost meditation style. This made connecting with the audience more of a challenge for most of the acts. After a subdued breakfast we headed to the Vue Grand for the surprise act of the weekend, local lads, Mustered Courage. Having never heard them, the promise of some hoe down Sunday mornin banjo appealed. What we got was a slick tight set of musical harmonies and melodies and songs that show cased each band members skill. I was reminded of early Mumford & Sons. Although they’ve only been around about four years, this ARIA nominated, progressive folk/bluegrass/country/R&B band is definitely one that’s on the rise.
The afternoon highlight was another dose of the California Honeydrops who delighted with a completely different set. I couldn’t get enough and wished their first Australian tour hadn’t come to an end.
Festival darlings Angus and Julia Stone closed the weekend with the capacity crowd spilling outside of the Lighthouse tent.
As the final applause echoed, we followed the crowd in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. I turned back to the now deserted Lighthouse stage and thought, “some people feel the rain, others just get wet”.