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review was written by Mr G for RELIX, a Deadhead fanzine, so the emphasis is
on Dead related topics.
28th-March 2nd -1997
The Botanic Park in Adelaide is the setting for the biannual, " Womad-elaide " festival, which has been held in Adelaide since 1992. The Adelaide bash is the only Australian Womad and very fine it is too, with its absolutely stunning setting of Adelaide park land , studded liberally with giant Morton Bay Fig trees and many Australian natives and exotic pines. Nestled in amongst the trees are a multitude of clothes tents, eats tents , conservation tents,civil rights tents, and most importantly, drum tents, but more of that later.
Day one: 2-28-97.
I've been to two Womadelaide's and worn my dead T shirt every time, but have no luck in seeing any deadheads ( who are scarcer than hens teeth in Australia , so anywhere one goes that might attract them is seen as a big deal) This time I finally manage to persuade my dead head friend Ian to come along, so we have a double dose of prominent shirts. Friday night passes with no heads sighted, but we groove to the frantic Celtic gyrations of the band of the weekend,-Shooglenifty(which is spoilt somewhat by a PA that is dominated by distorted bass). Shooglenifty's music is based on Scottish traditional music, spiced up with their own infective line up of banjo, mandolin and violin and propelled along by an infectious bass and drum driven bottom line.They really go down well with the crowd.
We are then
entertained by some great jamming from the Justin
Vali trio from Madagascar , who are a class
act and who almost get into some dead like spaces at times( even though
their sound is very different to the Grateful Dead) but nothing has
prepared the crowd for the humongous Pa of Midnight
final act of the night. They must be at least twice as loud as any other
act, even Shooglenifty. The Oils still retain much of their fire, although
In my opinion they hit their peak when they throw them selves into their
older material, such as "Beds are Burning" and "Read about it."They
take this gig as an opportunity to showcase a great new song, about
racist politician Pauline Hanson, called "White skin, black heart",
which is a real powerhouse , as well as being sodding true, racism STINKS.
The Oils play one of the longest sets of the weekend, over 90 minutes. Peter Garrett admits to the crowd that he does feel a little out of place amidst all these acoustic acts , but the Oils go down real fine, IMHO still one of the Great Australian rock bands.......and still well worth seeing .
Day two :3-1-97.
On Saturday I lock my keys in the car, - not a promising start. We have our first deadhead sighting on Saturday as we plonk ourselves down right next to a dude wearing a tie died Dead t. We chat for a few minutes before we realise that this is Phil Cotterill, a guy from Sydney who I've traded with a few times over the years. He and his girlfriend are here to see Richard Thompson ( snap!) and we jealously drool over the fact that they are also going to see RT again in Sydney . We arrange to meet again and race off to catch the Well Oiled sisters ( Scottish rockers who are great audience motivators }, this is a fun show, with the girls rocking out ferociously. Another great set by Shooglenifty sets us up beautifully for a mellow reflective set by Loudon Wainwright , who is pissed off about having to play in the sunshine and who wears some wicked shorts which expose horrid white, evil legs.
Loudo is a very frequent visitor to these shores and is well received . he plays a range of his material , the most poignant being the song about how he hit one of his kids and the damage it did to their relationship.There ain't too many artists put their lives on public display as much as he does and its a great set.
Richard Thompson goes down well on the main stage in his first ever visit to Adelaide, getting the crowd singing along on Jimmy Shands and giving a fantastic version of Two left feet to finish his set. African Salif Keita, finishes off Saturday night in fine style with a more laid back stance than in his previous visit in 1993- which is a pity , as I really preferred the fire of his previous band, who rocked prodigiously . Thats not to say this is a bad band, just different and its good to see Salif not standing still, the music has changed, become more cerebral and hypnotic. We still are not sated, we want more music, so after this we mosey on over to the drum tent and finish the night grooving to an impromptu drum circle which seems to go on forever. At the end the head drummer grins and sez " you just had a lesson in the power of the drum" - and that says it all- it is in some ways the highlight of the day.
Day three. Sun 3-2-97.
Sunday morning, I sleep in the outside room and wake at six desperately needing to go do number two's, I find my friend has locked me out and there is no access to his toilet. I desperately grab one of his drums and drum quietly for an hour to keep my mind off my bowels. Finally I am about to take a dump in the garden when he wakes up - sweet relief !. But once again I am impressed by the power of the drum- I could not have held on without it. !
By now the pace is getting a little heavy for our middle aged bodies. but we are joined by my surfer friend Kim, who drives us to the gig. We also fortify ourselves suitably before we leave home and we float into the arena to see fine sets by Shooglenifty ( yet again ) and Afro Celt Sound System who turn in a mystic and sometimes frenetic set. The Afro celts had most of their equipment go astray on Friday , play at the same time as RT on Saturday and there's no way we are going to miss a set by HIM, so this is the only time we catch them and we are impressed.
After this I am at the beer tent when I am accosted by no less than TWO deadheads simultaneously, neither of whom knows each other at all- weird coincidence!. One is a local, Phil Rolston, ( an old bastard like ourselves) . The other guy, Christopher, is a young dude from Oregon. We gab on about the usual , Jerry dying, new releases , lack of deadheads in Australia, etc and exchange addresses. This is great, three new Deadheads in two days !- I just cannot believe it.
Back to the main stages and Richard Thompson is stunning, he and Danny Thompson on acoustic bass brew up a huge storm and their jams are massive , definitely the set of the weekend. (see Rt review of the show elsewhere on the site) Likewise for Loudon Wainwright, who is happier playing in the twilight as the sun doesn't shine on his bald spot. He also covers his legs which is a bonus for everyone. He finishes with "the acid song "and gets a cheer from about four people when he mentions the Grateful Dead . Local hero Paul Kelly lays down a mean reggae number and finishes his set with Aboriginal songster Kev Carmody to a huge reception,-I'm converted.At one time they bring a bunch of Aboriginal children onstage and get them to sing along, which is fun. Once again we meet Phil Cotterill and Jenny to discover that they have met more US heads , from Pittsburgh and Ohio- the t shirts strike again !- we pose whilst Jenny takes some shots of us shouting " We want Phil " to the total mystification of the crowd around us. We part with pledges to send Phil copies of the radio broadcasts and to get together again sometime soon.
The time before the final act soon passes , with a splendid set by Fundamental, who mix just about every musical influence you can think of and spit it out mixed with found sounds, beats and a kick ass attitude. They go down really well with the younger elements of the crowd . I lose Ian and Kim , who wanders off to catch the techno/psychedelic mix band Luna Drive who feature an American Indian singer. Other notable acts were Tenores de Bitte,Telek and Radio Terife .Also, various members of the bands played solo sets in the small tent over the weekend as well.Really , there is so much diversity at Womad that it is impossible to cover the whole event , but everyone plays at least twice, sometimes three times over the weekend, so its possible to catch almost everyone if you plan it right.
Keita delivers a majestic set to round
off the weekend, but this only really becomes evident afterwards as
during the show I am bugged by the talkative audience. No matter where
I move there are people constantly gabbing. I move four times in all
and finally find a quieter spot near the PA . As it turns out the talkers
spoil much of the show for me at the time. To compensate, we again dig
the drum tent, where the drums groove on. This time I quietly sing "
Fire on the Mountain " which I had been drumming to in the morning and
the drums somehow shift into a beat that synchronizes perfectly for
a time. Magical.
Later on we get together and hold a Womad wake and listen to the ABC broadcasts . As we groove to the hypnotic Salif set, I can't help wishing that there were more heads aware of this great venue, as Womadelaide is the closest large scale gathering that gets near to being like a dead concert in Australia, without the overcrowding and heavy police presence. The vibe is fantastic and this year the total attendance over the three days was around 65, 000, which is just right. Overall its an incredibly cosmopolitan crowd, ranging from two year olds to eighty somethings,with a good size 18- 30 yr old portion as well as a fair sprinkling of Aborigines ( unusual and very welcome in a city gig ), old sixties relics, ferals, freaks,very nice policemen, professionals, drummers, Rasta's , artists, babies and dogs. Children under 14 are free so there's lots of kids present, most of whom seem to spend the weekend chasing a huge rubber inflatable of the world through the various crowds .
I know that Deadheads would love this event and heres an open invitation for those of you planning backpacking and holidays that include Australia. Come in 1999 and get involved in the drum circles, grok at the epic setting and have yourselves a cooool time, but above all wear your Dead T shirts so we can identify you and talk - cos remember, we are everywhere- but down under there are very few of us and we need to see new faces occasionally to recharge the psychic batteries - hope to see you in 1999. !.