By Jess Cate
The sun was hot over the Adelaide Botanic Gardens last weekend, making it the perfect setting for the 2018 WOMADelaide festival. Adelaide’s four-day world music festival features jazz, blues, rock and folk, attracting incredible artists from across Australia and the globe, giving Adelaide a chance to discover many new acts.
This year had a wonderfully diverse collection of performers on the line-up including Tank and the Bangas who opened on Stage 2. The New Orleans act offered a soulful and entertaining performance. Singer Tarriona “Tank” Ball is impressive to say the least; with her almost Disney-esque voice able to switch between hip-hop and a jazzy-blues sound all in one song.
The night was ushered in with an incredible dance performance from internationally renowned Chinese dance troupe, the TAO Dance Theater, who performed an hour-long routine. They performed with fluidity and disciplined synchronicity that was mesmerizing to watch, accompanied by almost eerie vocal percussion and instrumental sounds.
WOMADelaide kept the great acts coming on Saturday. Baker Boy, who hails from the Milingimbi community of Arnhem Land, took to the Novatech stage in the afternoon in front of a large crowd, performing high-energy numbers such as Marryuna, Cloud 9 and Black Magic to the enthralled audience. He said he was honoured to perform his remixed version of Yothu Yindi’s Treaty, and treated WOMADelaide to some new songs including the yet to be released single Mr La Dee Da Di, which spoke of appreciating the good things in life like family and friends over money and possessions.
Hitting the main Foundation stage later was Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Hypnotic is right, as it is hard to take your eyes off of these charismatic performers the seven sons of legendary jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran. They move about the stage with restless energy, performing their own wonderful blend of funk, jazz and hip-hop.
Perhaps the most energetic performance of the day, however, was the final act of the night, the super-upbeat Gogol Bordello. The American band performs folk-rock with a punk attitude, with members of the group coming from Ukrainian and Russian backgrounds. Lead singer Eugene Hütz strides across the stage, swigging out of a bottle of red wine whilst their piano accordion player is spinning and kicking in the air. The act was funny and vaudeville-esque, but also pretty punk rock, even encouraging crowd surfers to hurl themselves towards the stage. This was a great way to round out the Saturday night.
Sundays highlights included Dan Sultan who never fails to entertain. Sultan is an engaging performer, with a varied repertoire of crowd-pleasing numbers up his sleeve. He opens with his hit song Kimberly Calling, followed up by the bluesy Under Your Skin and the rocky number The Same Man both off of his third album Blackbird, before taking things down a notch with a stirring rendition of his song Dirty Ground which he tells us he wrote with Paul Kelly.
Immediately up next on Stage 3, tucked away between the trees is REMI x Sampa. Recent winner of the Australian Music Prize, Sampa the Great lived up to her greatness, as she and fellow rapper REMI delivered a fantastic collaborative set. REMI speaks to the crowd telling us that they are not just performers, they are black people, and that comes with struggles that they need us to understand. Both performers are full of positivity, energy and talent, and they work phenomenally well together.
One of the great spectacles of the weekend was the aerial performance from Gratte Ciel (France), which had punters talking and crowds filling up every spot beneath the space of sky, which would become the stage. The performance featured angels descending on the Botanic Gardens, dispersing thousands-upon-thousands of pure white feathers into the air. The crescendo came when, beneath a giant inflatable cherub, geysers of feathers erupted covering the crowd, and every square inch of ground, in white.
The Avalanches live performance was taking place on Stage 2 later in the night, whilst on the smaller stage Cameroonian singer Blick Bassy was drawing a dedicated crowd of punters, seated and ready to witness the gorgeous voice of the blues performer. Bassy performs on the banjo, accompanied by trumpet. He has amazing vocal range, singing in his native tongue, and is an eclectic, soulful performer.
For the final day of WOMADelaide, the weather may be cooling down, but the acts are not, especially colourful Ghanaian experimental electro-pop artist Jojo Abot. The sweet-voiced singer performed a high-energy set with synchronised dancers. Later in the evening the unique US artist Thundercat took to Stage 3 to deliver an unforgettable set. Stephen Bruner (who goes by the stormy-feline mokier) is hard to sum up in just a few words, playing a huge six-string bass. He delivers his smooth and funky sound to his enthralled fans.
“So did you guys get the last album drunk?” Bruner asks the crowd, “It’s messed up! This goes out to those who got the last album.” He played many of the tracks from his last album, including Captain Stupido, Jethro and a scattering of songs written with Kendrick Lamar, including These Walls, and Complexion.
Bruner’s musicianship is most evident when watching him perform live, and Them Changes shows us just how fast his fingers can move. Fans were lucky enough to be treated to an encore of Show You the Way followed by Friend Zone which was dedicated to anyone who plays video games, and Elon Musk, to Bruner’s cat.
2018 brought a huge line-up of diverse and talented acts to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, but eventually the weekend winds down, and the magic of WOMADelaide dissipates into the air for another year, like a feather on the breeze.