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Queenscliff Music Festival delivered another stunning installment for 2017

Over the years, the Queenscliff Music Festival has proven to be a reliable purveyor of joyful eclecticism. This year’s festival was no exception. 

The program embraced everything from indie-folk and country to blues and rock while providing a heady combo of established artists and fresh emerging talent.

The positive atmosphere was established early in proceedings by Ron Artis II & The Truth who treated early revellers to low-slung funk and blues characterised by spicy guitar, smoky vocals and life-giving percussion. During their sizzling closing salvo, the band effortlessly scaled funktastic heights and inspired the audience to dance with enthusiasm.

30/70’s innovative take on funk, soul and jazz happily annihilated any lingering memories of the working week as the band exuded a deep and warm vibe that enveloped the listener in a reassuringly nocturnal glow. Hot Potato Band featured several thunderous percussionists, a gaggle of brass-toting sonic warriors and a charismatic fleet-footed singer who could raise the dead from their slumber.

The Teskey Brothers impressed the large audience with their intuitive approach, convivial on-stage chemistry and a timeless sound that nodded to the past while managing to be fresh and full of vitality. The Southern River Band garnered a frenzied and adoring response from the gob-smacked crowd as they proceeded to demonstrate that unbridled showmanship, twin guitar solos, flailing hair, hilarious banter, infectious melodies and interesting trousers will always blow people’s minds. The Western Australian juggernaut pumped out one of the most entertaining and genuinely thrilling performances to grace Queenscliff in years.

Hat Fitz & Cara – who kick-started Saturday morning with a wonderfully stripped back approach – embraced elements of folk and gospel in a humorous and energetic set. Freya Josephine Hollick’s throwback vocals and blissful country folk style were the ideal accompaniment to an atmospheric trip on The Blues Train. With the steam train whistling and Freya yodelling, public transport never sounded so good. Entertaining and irreverent quintet The Wilson Pickers treated us to tight-knit vocal harmonies, a crystal-clear and resonant sound and a plethora of eternally catchy songs such as 'Cold River', 'Pulled Apart By Horses' and their stirring rendition of Dolly Parton’s 'Jolene'.

Bernard Fanning’s sterling musicianship, infectious melodies and rich vocals cut a swathe through the heavy humid air as he delivered a set studded with memorable highlights from his solo career such as 'Wish You Well'and a couple of era-defining Powderfinger classics. The transition from 'These Days' into a sparkling fragment of Prince’s 'Purple Rain' was clever and joyous. The closing medley which featured snippets of songs such as Black Sabbath’s 'Iron Man' and 'War Pigs', David Bowie’s 'Fame' and Fats Domino’s 'Blueberry Hill' demonstrated the admirable versatility and creativity of Fanning and his band.

The Bamboos provided a suitable feel-good close to Saturday night as the likeable and effervescent Kylie Auldist invited us to “step it up.” Sunday afternoon was enlivened by Lindi Ortega’s evocative lyrics, entrancing stage presence and soaring vocals as she spun poignant tales of underdog musicians, stolen hearts, faded glory and the challenges of dealing with those who “run amok.” She closed her set with a stunning and imaginative interpretation of Johnny Cash’s 'Ring of Fire'that uncovered new and refreshing angles in such a familiar song.

The Beautiful Girls transmitted smile-inducing vibes, skanking rhythms, throbbing bass and liquid guitar to a chilled and appreciative audience that lapped up their upbeat sound. Australian rock legend Russell Morris displayed vim, vigour and a lust for life as he brought this fabulous festival to a satisfying close with a rockin’ set sparkling with intriguing stories, chunky riffs, memorable songs and an impressive rock-god vocal performance.

Highlight: The Southern River Band

Lowlight: Departing!

Crowd favourite: The Southern River Band

GRAHAM BLACKLEY