Day three of AWME kicked off at the APRA|AMCOS outdoor stage at The Curve Bar at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Eight diverse acts from all over the world played all afternoon under a windy and threatening Melbourne sky, showcasing their new music to AWME delegates and coming-and-going Face The Music attendees.
Scottish bands Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson and Finding Albert got the day underway playing their second AWME show, picking out a handful of energetic songs from their Ding Dong Lounge set the night before.
Having recently earned herself an East Coast Music Award in Canada for Rising Star of the Year as well as multiple nominations for Female Artist of the year, Canadian singer-songwriter Kim Wempe has made a big, bold leap into a new sound that puts her Janis Joplin and Melissa Ethridge-esque vocals in the spotlight.
Bare-foot onstage with only her raw, husky vocals and acoustic guitar, Wempe performed a solid set, albeit, to a sparse and distracted crowd. She introduced every one of her songs with her sweet Canadian drawl, telling of her log-cabin home in the woods and spending time away from her chicken-raising husband whist on tour. She played stripped backed versions from her latest album Coalition, featuring a range of earthy explorations of love, loss (‘I Never Promised You Nothing’) and life (‘Got It Good’), with her distinctively emotive smokey vocals shining through each track.
Next up were fellow Canadians Digging Roots; a five-piece indigenous band from Toronto. The band’s lead singers and songwriters, husband and wife duo Raven Kanetakta and ShoShona Kish, revved up the wandering crowd with sweet harmonies and heartfelt, melodic pleas to humanity. One of their more political songs, ‘Cut My Hair’ spoke to the Stolen Generations of both Australia and Canada, with the title suggesting the forceful cutting off a culture’s metaphorical roots.
Raven’s stage presence was reminding of that of Sixto Rodriguez or Jose Feliciano, sporting long raven (pun intended) hair, dark-tinted sunglasses and a white suit ensemble. His petite wife swayed daintily behind the microphone, baring whiter-than-white toothed smiles at her husband when the pair met eyes. The group’s third album For the Light, features smatterings of ukulele, banjo & melotron (an electronic playback keyboard) — none of which were re-created live for AWME. But nonetheless, the sound was still great. Raven in particular blew me away with his warm-toned lead solos, even jumping off the stage and into the crowd at one point.
Then came the half-time entertainment in the form of Uptown Brown – the alter ego of The Bombay Royale saxophonist Andy Williamson. His character is a one-man-band street style performer, with full steampunk-aesthetic and ragtime jazz tunes. Decked out in a top-to-toe brown suit and his homemade musical apparatus, the solo entertainer stomped his way in and around the crowd, prompting many to record the amusing act on their phones.
Uptown Brown did three small performances in-between the final three acts, keeping the crowd (particularly those of us that had been there all day) energetic as the afternoon drew on and distracted us from our inevitable windburn. He sung from a reputable repertoire of historical musicians, from Fats Waller to The Kinks, and even threw in some of Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ for good measure.
Then came Brisbane-based singer-songwriter Black Indie. The solo artist (fresh from his opening night AWME showcase alongside Ash Grunwald and Digging Roots at the Hi-Fi) performed a quiet, stripped-back set of songs from his upcoming debut EP Walking On Flames.
Influenced by eclectic artists such as Adele, John Mayer and Bob Marley, Black Indie may have had a distracted, coming-and-going audience to play for, but it didn’t dampen the comedian’s spirits. Riffing along to subjects including growing up in a Sicilian family to relationships; the young, soulful performer chatted candidly between songs about scoring his beautiful but sulky girlfriend by following her around and annoying her, joking “that’s how you get ‘em guys!”
The Burundian Drummer Group of Victoria were up next, setting up their circle of drums just before the stage (they performed on Friday night at the Hi-Fi before US group Nahko & Medicine For the People). Draped in traditional African coloured togas, the cheery men of young and old struck their barrel drums (sweetly patriotic with a Burundian flag painted on one side, and an Australian flag on the other) to choreographed rhythms and dance.
The group started in 2008 to bring the African community together and maintain important aspects of the Burundian culture to teach to the younger generation. The muscled group thrive off audience participation and this AWME show was no exception. Within minutes, two delegates were coaxed up to the large centre drum to join in in the thunderous pounding, entertaining the audience with their humiliation and lack of natural rhythm.
Then, the full band got set up for the headline – Chelsea Wilson. Known for delivering high energy, disco-soul style live shows, the Melbournian singer teetered onto the stage in a teeny-tiny white wing-sleeved dress and stilettos to join her seven-piece band. Dancing on the spot (a technique she quickly learnt performing for six months on Caribbean cruise ships), the afrobeat-inspired band eased into Wilson’s original 70s-style tunes.
She performed the latest tracks from her Jake Mason (Cookin’ on 3 Burners) produced debut album, I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me, which contains ten songs influenced by blaxploitation soundtracks, sixties northern soul and soul jazz. Joined halfway through her set by her backing singers, matching in sequined tank tops and hot pants, the set became more upbeat than before. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, popular single ‘Through With Lovin’ You’ showed off Wilson’s funk singing style, with a nasal hint a la Kylie Minogue.
Despite the erratic Melbourne weather, the outdoor performances on day three were fun. The music was eclectic – a coming-together of cultures, countries and musical influences – and showcased a professional and diverse range of musical talent. Only at AWME.
* photos courtesy of Carl Dziunka