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The Queenscliff Music Festival 2010 Review

After washing away the dust and grit of the working week with a cleansing drop or two from the Bellarine Brewing Company, we had our spines tingled by the awestruck cheers that greeted Ash Grunwald’s vocal sound check. Perched atop a pedestal and framed by a deep red backdrop, his warm-up alone was sufficient to get the crowd over-excited.
 
When Ash officially hit the stage, accompanied by two percussionists and the bump and grind of occasional electronic wizardry, this dreadlocked swamp god conjured magic from each and every howling note and tantalised us with guitar solos that tasted of Hendrix.
 
Vika And Linda , playing to an equally enthusiastic audience, brought their gorgeous vocal harmonies and warm stage presence to classics such as Be Careful What You Pray For and I’m On My Way. Little Red arrived on stage to a rapturous hero’s welcome and proceeded to charm the assembled throng with their charismatic firepower, poptastic hooks and mastery of stylistic gear-shifts. Tom Hartney’s powerhouse performance on Place Called Love was a scenery-chewing spectacular as he channeled Scott Walker and Paul Weller to dramatic effect.
 
Hollie Joyce’s left-field take on acoustic folk, pop and blues provided a spiky and sparkling soundtrack to our QMF Express train ride through the green rain-drenched countryside. Joyce’s ability to move effortlessly from the sweet and reflective to the punky and riff-laden ensured that her set was constantly engaging, while hairy hillbilly six-piece Quarry Mountain Dead Rats fuelled our return train ride with pacy up-tempo bluegrass.
 
Rockwiz , the best show on free-to-air TV, proved itself to be a damn fine festival proposition with hosts Brian Nankervis and Julia Zemiro managing the huge audience with aplomb and rolling out truckloads of witty repartee. One of the festival highlights was the joy of witnessing Rockwiz guest and all-round grungefather Kim Salmon rip through a suitably tempestuous Swampland while a violent storm pummeled the shuddering tent.
 
Highlights of the Stevie Wonder Tribute Showcase included Kate Vigo And The Underground Orchestra’s ethereal deconstructed reimagining of Master Blaster (Jammin), Stephen McEwan’s soulful For Once In My Life, The Nymphs’ acapella Part Time Lover and that dazzling one-man band Mr. Percival who used his multi-faceted vocals and looping pedals to capture the mind-blowing funk of Superstition.
 
The apparently ageless Mark Seymour drew an enormous crowd and inspired a reverential vibe and massed sing-alongs while the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra was a visual and sonic Afrobeat treat that drove the crowd to shake its collective tail-feathers.
 
Punk rock legends The Meanies put a smile on my dial and brought back many fond memories as they delved into their bulging back catalogue. Lead singer and chief vibemaster Link appeared to have lost none of his manic self-destructive energy, and old classics such as Darkside Of My Mind and Sorry 'Bout The Violence still packed a ferocious knock-out punch. A white-suited Dan Kelly joined the moshpit for some spirited slam-dancing, clearly unconcerned about the imminent dry-cleaning bill.
 
After a healthy medically prescribed dose of Sunday morning caffeine and cholesterol, we tuned into the robust vocals ofCatherine Britt who served up a sterling rendition of Gram Parsons’ Love Hurts, and then checked out Sally Seltmann who created a rich sound that encompassed both quirk and drama.
 
On the QMF Express, the warm and welcoming Paul Greene managed to be both funky and chilled while Ray Beadle showcased his smooth blues vocals on songs by Carly Simon, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. The darkly humorous Kate Miller-Heidke, who received a Xmas card from an admiring punter whilst on stage, impressed the enormous audience with inventive vocal acrobatics, innovative musical arrangements, infectious melodies, a towering stage presence and a band that really knows how to kick out the jams on the heavier numbers.
Once again QMF lived up to lofty expectations and provided a weekend jam-packed with musical highlights.