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FAIRBRIDGE FESTIVAL 2021 @ Fairbridge Village gets 9/10

Fairbridge Festival @ Fairbridge Village

Friday, April 9 to Sunday, April 11, 2021


Since its first year back in 1992, Fairbridge Festival has continued to grow into one of the most popular festivals in Western Australia. After having to cancel last year due to COVID, it only felt like there was more demand for its return in 2021, and after selling out almost immediately when tickets went on sale last month, there was a real sense that the experience was one to be cherished by those fortunate enough to have made it there.

Fairbridge is different from other festivals in that it doesn’t rely on big headlining acts to draw in the crowds. The festival attracts punters not just for the music but also for the good community vibes that have become part of its identity. Having said that, the line up at Fairbridge in 2021 looked remarkably different from previous years. With a bill comprised of almost exclusively just Western Australian acts, there were more familiar names on the bill, but that didn’t mean the experience had lost any of its sense of discovery.

With many making the rush to Fairbridge after work on the Friday night, there were plenty content to ease themselves into the evening, getting amongst the action later on in the night. Much of the crowd made their way to The Backlot, where emerging alt-folk rocker Noah Dillon rode on a wave of hits currently getting plenty of spins on national airplay. From his poignant “alright, alright, alright” in Matthew McConaughey to the aggressive, yet tender, That’s Just How I Feel, Dillon had the crowd rocking and rolling along with every word.

Superego followed up with infectious grooves, sparkling synths and bombastic saxophone hooks. A highlight was Outer Body Stranger, which they dedicated to Sampa the Great, who featured on the studio recording of the track. Superego employed a diverse array of vocal effects on the mic, at times thickening it to sound like a robot which worked well with the tracks. As the wind started to pick up later in the evening, the dust blew through the air like smoke, coloured by orange lights that added to the theatre of it all, especially as the group gave props to Pendulum before dropping into an “old school drum and bass” number.

In the light of day, lead singer and guitarist of New Nausea, Albert Pritchard performed at The Backlot sitting down for a change for his solo set of the band’s material including No One Held Me Like It Held Me and Forever is Over at Last from last year’s WAM nominated Fountain of Struth LP. Even if you had caught New Nausea live before, this performance highlighted just how good their songs are. The tone and application of Pritchard’s guitar, synthesiser and his own voice was well considered, letting the tunes sparkle with clarity and class.

There were so many performances happening at any one time at Fairbridge you could wander the grounds and be delighted wherever you found yourself.

The Black Chooks pecked through a set of traditional and modern bush ballads at Mandja.

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse with Russell Holmes and the Dolce Quartet performed an engaging set on the same stage sharing songs from the road such as the lullaby that was written in Benalla, hence named Benallaby, and a stirring rendition of Moon River performed in Gina’s native Noongar tongue.

Smol Fish were full of heart and sorrow on The Backlot stage with their whimsical, dream-pop-esque ballads. 

Diggin The Jig were an eight-piece folk waltz act that had the both adults and kids alike clapping and dancing along in the much welcomed undercover shaded space of Centre Koort.

As far as venues go, The Chapel was hard to beat both visually and sonically. Fairbridge Classics in the Chapel demonstrated how the lush acoustics of the historic building complemented the music even when it was stripped back to just a voice and a piano.

No Nomad brought their funked-up neo-soul, smoky vocals and sparkling keys to The Backlot, and David the sax player even popped on some rollerblades for the song Rollerblade. Now that’s dedication.

The Bambuseae Rhythm Section unleashed their psych flavoured disco funk on the Mandja stage with vocalist Cameron Charles giving definitive Jamiroquai-cum-Michael Hutchence vibes on stage with Stinky Begonia a highlight of their set.

Adrian Dzvuke tore apart The Backlot with standout tracks Baby Don’t You Go and Red Wine taken from his upcoming record. A highlight of the set was I Shoulda Known Better where he was joined on stage by Nelson Mondlane from Superego. 

In the Mandja tent there was a percussion party going down thanks to Wasamba!! Carnival Drummers. The massive ensemble beat the crowd into a frenzy as the set progressed, with new drummers decorated with fairy lights streaming in from all directions and onto the stage for an uproarious finale.

Patrons at Gus’ Bar were able to witness the spectacle from across the road with a beer in hand, before The Albany Shantymen entertained them with their buoyant take on sea shanties.

Carla Geneve
was a real standout of the festival in a homecoming-like show for her after she first came to our attention as the winner of the Fairbridge Festival Quest 2015, wowing the moshing crowds with a high energy set that included Greg’s Discount Chemist and Dog Eared.

The Junkadelic Brass Band may have had as many members on Centre Koort stage as there were in the audience but that didn’t stop them funking things up well into the night. Sporting eye-catching red suits and more brass instruments than you can poke a trumpet at, they had everyone bopping along to popular tunes like Bill Withers’ Ain’t no Sunshine.

Lachy John returned to The Backlot stage that he first appeared on in 2018 as the 16-18s Craft category winner of the Fairbridge Festival Quest songwriting competition, this time with the support of a full band who helped drive the emotions of Lachy’s folk rock such as We’re Still Here, a reflection on growing up in the Pilbara and the Stolen Generation.

Palo Alto at The Backlot showed off some of the biggest, rockiest sounds of the weekend, belting out catchy choruses that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pearl Jam or Kings of Leon record.

Hilary McKenna and Torc Ceili kept people out of the rain and toasty warm as they walked and talked the crowd through some fun and easy Irish Céilí favourites at Mandja. 

Spirit of Alba also brought a lovely vibe to Centre Koort, charming the audience with easy-on-the-ears tunes including a cover of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood.

Fairbridge is not all about the music, the Woodshed opened between 10am and 5pm and had those under 12 busy hammering away, making Money Sticks and other crafty items that they could use at the festival as well cause a ruckus at home with.

Organising a festival in the age of COVID and the uncertainty it brings must have required a colossal amount of courage and cooperation. For this, Fairbridge Festival should be congratulated for what they were able to do in 2021. It already felt like a truly unique festival, but given how few events like this can happen across the world right now, it was a reminder how fortunate we are to be in Western Australia.



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