Queenscliff Music Festival 2010


By Chris Mitchell.

Queenscliff is a lovely little town, isn’t it? In the immortal words of Darryl Kerrigan, so much serenity. And if it was possible to bottle the essence of the town’s lovely little music festival, perhaps in a lovely jar produced by his wife Sal on the pottery wheel, Darryl would no doubt send it straight to the pool room.

After spending time at the Big Day Out’s, Splendour’s and Parklife’s of the musical calendar, it’s always a lovely change of pace to spend the weekend down the coast at the Queenscliff Music Festival. Families, even a few with Grandma in tow, are a common sight and it is always a nice introduction for kids to the live music world.

As usual, the line up was top notch and the big acts didn’t disappoint. Friday began with bursts of rain, setting the trend for the rest of the weekend. However, it’s always the sign of a strong (and well prepared) festival when the wet weather dampens the feet but not the spirits.

The wonderful Frank Yamma kicked things off on the Fishnets Stage, his deep, booming, world-weary voice winning over those that had journeyed in early. His songwriting ability is first class and the stories he tells are well worth a listen.

Former George songstress Katie Noonan and her latest band, The Captains, were first up on the main stage. Like Frank Yamma, Noonan’s voice is captivating. She could probably stand up there and hum and it would still sound lovely. However, the sound in the Lighthouse Stage tent wasn’t always as clear as it could have been, perhaps due to the inclement weather. Despite this, Noonan’s voice was still a sound to behold.

Things jumped up a notch or two for the next couple of sets. Australia’s dreadlocked king of blues, Ash Grunwald, stomped his way through a pounding set which filled the Lighthouse Stage tent and drew the nights first epic dance moves.

Headlining Friday night were Melbourne indie heroes Little Red. 2010 was a big year for the boys, with breakout album Midnight Remember, plus their contender for song of the year, Rock It, catapulting them up the charts. It was always going to be interesting to see if they could step up to a headline slot, but the Reds were all over it. Again, in some spots in the tent the sound wasn’t always crystal clear, but the songs spoke loudly enough. Racing through most of the new album, and airing old faves such as Waiting and Coca-Cola, Little Red had the noticeably younger crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. The show and songs are much bigger than they were back on stages such as The Tote, but the essence of their live performance remains the same. Little Red are friggin fun.

Saturday is when the festival really gets going, and, like most events of its size, it’s impossible to see everything. Timing your trip on Queenscliff’s Blues Train is always one of the weekend’s big decisions. After some cool adult beverages at the hastily assembled Car Stage (those who were there will never forget it), we boarded an early evening train, along with what seemed like half the festival. Entertaining us on the outward journey was The Mojo Corner, a Geelong five piece whose energetic blend of blues and soul, along with just a touch of rock n roll, has gathered quite the following along the surf coast. A half hour of toe tapping and shoulder shaking later, we changed carriages and returned to Queenscliff to the sounds of Ghost Mutt. Interesting name, Ghost Mutt. Reminds me of Round The Twist for some reason. They didn’t quite hold the attention of their carriage like The Mojo’s did, and their rock sounds perhaps didn’t suit the family vibe of the QMF Express.

Saturday afternoon saw the likes of Dan Kelly, Gareth Liddiard, The Bedroom Philosopher and The Go Set draw big crowds and all played strong sets.

Saturday night brought with it more rain, beer and Australian legends. Men At Work may have had their recent legal battles, but Colin Hay was on form on the Lighthouse Stage. One man and his guitar can often be a recipe for disaster at big festivals, but in this case, it was perfect. The set was made up of a fine blend of Men At Work songs and his solo material, each interestingly drawing sing-along’s from different parts of the crowd. The generational factions combined for Land Down Under though, providing one of the festivals biggest moments.

These big moments kept coming when Mark Seymour took to the stage. With the backing of a full band, Seymour pumped out hits from throughout his entire career, and as expected, there were plenty of Hunters and Collectors fans in the crowd lapping up every moment. And if Hay’s Land Down Under was a big moment, Seymour performing Throw Your Arms Around Me was probably the Biggest Moment, arms linking, lighters held aloft, young children being sacrificed in the front row, it was everything that song deserved.

Saturday night finished off with the almighty Meanies, and they were probably LoudNLocal’s QMF highlight. Contrasting nicely with the blues, folk, and Dad-rock that had preceded them, the Meanies punk sounds packed out the smaller Crossing Stage. Celebrating their 21st birthday, the music was clearly older than some of the punters, but there was no holding back. Memorable slam dancing ensued, and the arrival of Dan Kelly in a spotless white suit provided those of us up the front with extra incentive, and yet another target.

Sunday was a day for the younger generation, and it was a day for the girls. Sally Seltman, Clare Bowditch and Kate Miller-Heidke provided the recovery soundtrack for those nursing Car Stage induced hangovers and Meanies/Dan Kelly Slamming bruises. Along with local boys The Vasco Era, those that stuck around for the Sunday were treated to some fine local acts. Perhaps in a few years time, the younger festival goers will bring their own children, and perhaps, if Bowditch and the like are still kicking about, they can tell their kids about the first time they saw them at Queenscliff. And maybe, just maybe, we can have Mum-Rock, sitting proudly alongside Dad-Rock, and wonderful festivals such as this will continue to thrive.