Fremantle Folk Festival @ Clancy’s Fremantle & Princess May Park
w/ Peter Bibby, The Little Lord Street Band, Grace Barbe & more
Saturday, December 1, 2018
The sun shone down on Fremantle on the first day of summer and the 2018 Fremantle Folk Festival. Clancy’s Fish Pub became a hub of mandolins, cute kids and even a furry petting zoo for this year’s instalment of the best of Folk in the West. Nika Mo opened the proceedings with a stella set confirming the whispers that she is one of the best new acts in town. With dreamy soundscapes and a huge influence coming from the natural world, Nika’s music matched the perfect setting of the fresh outdoors that Clancy’s offered.
Emlyn Johnson is always a surprise; blending folk with experimental music and movement. At one point he was wriggling on the floor of the inside stage. He was the first of many acts in the festival to challenge the ‘folk’ genre he was supposedly representing. Question marks were again raised to see Grace Barbe on the bill. Yet these performers who may not fit the definition of traditional western folk made up for it with charisma and stage presence – so there’s no need to complain about genre bending and blending.
One of the highlight’s was Frank’s Fish Tank. Fran’s voice is an instrument of it’s own, sending crystal ripples through the air that silences the crowd (who had a little help being quiet by the “shooshes” coming from the serious Freo folkies). Rach and Jason accompany Fran with the most subtle and gracious energy, it’s like they are all linked up. It’s really special watching two sisters play folk together with such ease; you can tell they’ve been doing it their whole lives.
Bass Lemon were another band with questionable folkiness to their name. It was startling to see how young they were, but super obvious how exciting it was for them to be onstage. The lead singer gave it non-stop effort; jumping around onstage, dancing, singing at the top of her lungs. Bass Lemon are a great band with stacks of potential, it will be great to see where they are in a year’s time.
The Little Lord Street Band are no strangers to the stage at a folk fest, but there was something about their set on this day that didn’t quite feel as genuine as the others. Perhaps it was the length of the day and the loads of performances that had already been witnessed. They have an endearing sound and are favourite on RTRFM, so their songs were catchy and familiar.
Noah Dillon was an absolute standout. It’s clear this year has been huge for the songwriter, both in and out of his music world. He lays it all bare for his audience, and his bandmates watch him closely, waiting to respond to the emotional highs and lows he twangs with his guitar. The set was tight, the sound was great, and the crowd were hooked.
Fremantle folk royalty Peter Bibby was dissapointed to discover his planned folk orchestra could not fit on the outside stage and therefore had to play solo. It was clear his set had been dampened by this big change, and it’s a shame to have missed out on what no doubt would have been an awesome show. He pulled through, playing favorite’s such as Red XF Falcon. Kids were dancing and jumping and kicking into eachother on the grassy patch in front. A lady approached Peter and asked “Do you think it’s appropriate singing those (swear) words in front of all these kids?”. He replied that he was just doing his thing. At the first chords of his next song, he asked the crowd; “Should I play this one? I think I’m upsetting some people”. The crowd urged him to push on (in a very chill, Freo, folk way), and he did.
The festival was eclectic, surprising, and yes, quite folky.