Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunbury Backroad Music Festival (April 10th, 2010) CONCERT REVIEW

(Australia, Victoria - Sunbury)
Well - I never thought I'd get a second chance to attend a legendary 'Sunbury Concert' but after 37 years, the dream is about to come true. I picked up my ticket today for the 'Sunbury Backroad Music Festival' which is to be held this Saturday (featuring the legendary bands Madder Lake, Spectrum and Chain)
I was only 14 years old when the first Sunbury Concert was held in 1972 and I was not allowed to attend any of the 4 annual concerts because my parents said I was too young. To rub salt into the wounds, my brother (who was 4 years older) was allowed to go and went to the legendary Sunbury 73 concert. I was green with envy when he told me about some of the antics he got up to with his mates and the fantastic Aussie rock he got to hear and see.
So now it's finally my turn and I can't wait to see some of my all time favourite bands from the Seventies hit the stage and pump out some of those classic tracks that I have listened to (over and over again) for more than 35 years.
My kids think I'm crazy and my wife just laughs, but hey, I reckon I've got the biggest laugh cause' my bother is currently overseas on holidays, and can't get back in time! So it will be my turn to make him green with envy.
For more details on the concert and how to purchase a ticket, go to the Backroadfestival website
Another interesting link is a newsletter entry for Jan 2010, from Mike Rudd and Bill Putt's newsletter called The Bloody Newsletter
Although the concert is only a one day event (unlike the original Sunbury concerts that ran over a long weekend) I reckon it will be worth every dollar of the $75 ticket (see displayed)

Concert Review (13th April)

Well, it's official, I can honestly say I made it to a Sunbury Concert and what a concert it was!
Not only were the heavens kind (although it threatened many times to bucket down) but the organisation was also top notch with every amenity and service one could ask for. A far cry from the original concerts I believe! and a credit to Bernard Lakey who was the key organiser of the 2010 festival.

One of the highlights for me were the local wines that were available for sampling (at reasonable prices), and definitely helped to keep me focused on the music!
The concert was filmed for Asylum by several Channel 31 camera crew of which highlights will be shown over the next couple of weeks. Rod Quarrel (who presents a radio segement on 3NRG Sunbury Radio on Saturday mornings) was the MC for the day and provided the audience with interesting background information for each of the bands. On ya Ron !
I will try to give as full an account of each band that played over the 12 hour period, but as many bands were new to me, song titles may be somewhat inaccurate. I also missed the opening act (Sunbury Divas) as I was running a little late, so no details for the opening act - sorry Divas.
My only regret for the day was that I didn't organise a better camera - my whimpy Kodak digital was next to useless at night, so most of my shots of Spectrum, Madder Lake and Chain were too dark. I was very envious of those in the crowd who came armed with SLR's and Nikons!
I am told by Bernard that the official number of attendees was 530 (give or take a few gate crashers) which was probably a little disappointing for Bernard and the bands based on the amount of effort that was put in by everyone. However, this did not discourage anyone from having a great time on the day and soaking up the wonderful sounds made during this truly nostalgic music festival. Let's hope there are many more to come !

Tempting Fate
Play List: Rock N Roll, Takin' You Down, Wake Up Call, You're Bitter, Crash and Burn, I'm Restless, Best Of Me

A young four piece rock band from Sunbury featuring Brianna Ridge on vocals, Dave Cutting on drums, Robbie Cutting on lead guitar and Kieran McNamara on bass. From their opening song (a Led Zeppelin cover 'Rock N Roll') these kids caught my attention immediately and proceeded to belt out 5 originals while Brianna commanded the show with her strong and confident lead vocals. Robbie Cutting was also very impressive on lead guitar (looking a lot like Jimmy Page) showing incredible skills for a 17 year old. Favourite tracks were a ballad entitled 'Your'e Bitter' and a hard rock number which I think was called 'Crash & Burn'
The Red Jane Show
Play List: Lips On Fire, Give Me What I Want Tonight, Give It To Me, Barry Hodson Street Light, Bohemian Rhapsody

A 5 piece ( 2 girls / 3 guys) theatrical and very visual funk rock band, their 5 part vocal harmonies and animated stage act were a breathe of fresh air.
All members of the group wore face masks while performing well rehearsed actions in unison and I was somehow reminded of crazy Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come stage act from the 70's.
Best tracks for me were Barry Hodson Street Light and their brilliant cover of the Queen classic 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Such a hard song to pull off - and they did it so effortlessly.
Rick Steele
Play List: It's Off The Hook, White Ghetto, Next Time The Blues Comes Around, A Charlie's Daniels Band cover?, Goin' Up The Country, Jessica, Clyde

Opps ! - forgot to take a photo - I was so engrossed in Rick's performance. That's how good he was - his repertoire of blues and country rock was astounding and was aptly backed by Mark Gordon on slide guitar.
Rick has been in the music industry for more years than the early Sunbury concerts can boast and has passed on his musical talent to both his children, in particular his son Luke who is currently enjoying international stardom with the band Emperor Of The Sun.
Rick chattered between songs, giving a wonderful insight into the life he has lead while following his musical passion in life - living the blues. Highlights for me were his covers of the Canned Heat and J.J Cale classics, 'Goin' Up The Country' and 'Clyde' respectively.
Play List: Meet Me On The Corner (Lindisfarne), Next Year (Foo Fighters), The Unkindness Of Truth, Strange Land, The River And The Sea, Falling, Dawns And Departures (all originals), Breakfast At Tiffany's (Deep Blue Something) and Way Out West (Dingoes) - thanks to Greg Judd for supplying an accurate playlist.

The only International band to play at this Sunbury concert, BenziNe are a folk-rock band based in Hong Kong. Although their music was enjoyable, I found it hard not to question why it was necessary to have a non-Aussie band playing at this festival at all. I'm sure there would have been plenty of local bands who could have filled the bill just the same. I think the same question was asked of the 1974 Sunbury concert when Queen performed and Deep Purple headlined Sunbury 75. However, I can't take away the fact that this band played some diverse music and a wide range of instruments. In particular, Scott Hughes was incredibly skilled at playing guitar, mandolin and alto sax; while Nick Benzie held his own on vocals and guitar. The remaining members of the band were Greg Judd (an ex-Melbournite) on Lap Steel guitar, Joshua Knight on bass, Pete Benzie on backing vocals and guitar and Dave Tonn on drums and percussion.
Although I wasn't happy about the band choice, there was some retribution when they chose to finish their set with the Dingoes classic 'Way Out West'.
Note> having received some feedback from a Greg Judd (see comments) regarding my opinion about the choice of an International band for the concert, I would like to qualify that at no stage was it meant to be a criticism of the band itself and I hold the utmost respect for them as musicians and their performance on the day. I apologise for any offense that my review might cause.

Play List: Gravedigger, Diamond and the Thief, Sometime My Lover, Winter Time, Ballad of Jimmy James, Let Dead Dogs Lie
OK - now this was more like it. From the start of their set with 'Gravedigger' I new that this band had all of the credentials to be part of this festival. The band can only be described as an electric folk/roots band lead by a very talented and extroverted vocalist and acoustic guitarist (Wade F Piva), who could easily pass as a Ned Kelly look alike. Speaking of look a likes, the double bass player (Neil Tolentino) looked like Guy Sebastian from a distance while Rennie Paonessa and his dreadlocks could pass as a Bob Marley sibling.
Their music (all originals) was incredibly catchy and portrayed a rich colonial atmosphere that typified what this festival was about. Best songs were definitely their Ballad Of Jimmy James and Gravedigger.
Jan Preston
 Play List: Unfortunately, many songs played were not named (only the styles) and being unfamiliar with Jan's music I can't provide an accurate list, except for Black And White Rag (the theme to Pot Black shown on ABC during the 70's)

Jan Preston played Boogie Woogie electric piano while her husband provided rhythm backing on brush & snare running through a multitude of boogie and 12 bar blues tunes during her set, including some Winifred Atwell classics. However, not really my cup of tea I'm afraid and this tired old rocker broke for refreshments and a pit stop before the next act came on.
Jarrah Thompson
Play List: Woke Me Up In My Mind?, ?, Hold On?, On My Own, I Am The One - most tracks coming from his new Stargazer album.
From the first fuzzed out wah-wah (Joe Walsh) rock riff to fingerpicking folk to guitar/flute jams, I new this band was something special. Jarrah had a real Billy Miller (from the Ferrets) look about him, especially while thrashing out his guitar solos and displayed a true professional presence throughout his set. However, the female member of his 4 piece band 'Asha Henfry' nearly stole the show in my opinion, as she gained more and more confidence throughout the set, displaying some brilliant flute interplays that were reminiscent of Jethro Tull in many ways. Her double tonguing technique and command of chromatic scales was nothing short of brilliant.
What can only be described as ‘experimental flute / rock blues’, Jarrah Thompson's band is destined to be the next big Australian act in my opinion.
Bronnie Gordon
Play List: Stranger In My Bed, Whatcha Doing Tonight, I'm On Fire, Ball and Chain (again, many songs played were not named and being unfamiliar with her music, so I can't provide an accurate list)

Bronnie had no inhibitions at being out front on vocals and with a voice that soars and sweeps up the soul emotions, she gives the band a sizzling edge. Bronnie is no stranger to the stage, and was in complete command throughout her set, belting out R&B and soul tunes in fashion similar to Janis Joplin and Etta James. Her voice was both powerful and vibrant, and her backing band consisted of seasoned musicians: Mick Rohotas, Ray Moon, Ian Logie, and John Longo. Judging by Bronnie's response to the 'wind up' call she was getting from Ron, it was clear that this lady doesn't take 'crap' from anyone - on ya Bronnie !
Play List: I'll Be Gone, Jamaican Farewell, Launching Place (Part 2), I'll take You Higher, (I am) The Laughing Man, Some Good Advice, Silicon Valley, I Just Wanna Make Love To You.....
What can I say - simply brilliant. By starting off with their first hit single "I'll Be Gone'" they cleared the way to play their other material, leaving the audience wondering what they would finish their set on. Not only did Mike Rudd and Bill Putt sing some classic Murtceps_Spectrum tracks but they also threw in several Ariel tunes for good measure.
Mike's nasally voice and harp work was spot on, sounding no different to when he first sang 'I'll be Gone' back in 1971. And of course Bill Putt stood out amongst the others with his tall stature and oversized moustache, playing some of his great bass lines. Peter ’Robbo’ Robertson fitted in nicely on drums while Daryl Roberts provided some nice backing harmonies on keyboards.
Highlights for me were '(I am) The Laughing Man' which must have gone on for at least 15 mins and their final song, a Foghat cover "I Just Wanna Make Love To You". So, what more can I say - simply Indelible!

Madder Lake

Play List: Salmon Song, One Star & The Moon, Goodbye Lollipop, Mothership, Money Honey, Calling, Drive My Car?, Song For Little Ernest, 12 lb Toothbrush

I gotta be honest and say that Madder Lake was the one band I really wanted to see the most. Having not had the chance to see them play back in the 70's and Stillpoint is my favourite album, I really thought I had missed the boat !
l, this Sunbury reveler stood gob smacked for the whole hour they played, it was like a dream come true. Mick Fettes was still the extraverted, crazy guy that I remember seeing on T.V, although he's much shorter than I imagined he would be, and of course all of his curly hair has disappeared. Brendon Mason showed that he was the master of guitar and was able to reproduce many of the sounds that we associate with Stillpoint and Butterfly Farm. Kerry McKenna was also sensational on both bass and guitar while Andy Cowan produced sounds on his keyboards that typifies the Madder Lake sound. Highlights? - well there weren't any because every song they did left me breathless and grinning from ear to ear.
To top it off, who should join them on stage to do a few Na,Na,Na,Nanna,Na's while singing their hit single but the great man himself - Matt Taylor.

Play List: Texas, Cold Wind Blowin', Northern Song, Grab A Snatch, Slow 2.30 In The Morning Type Blues, Black and Blue, I Remember When I Was Young, A Tribute to Muddy Waters

Let me first qualify that I may have missed a few songs because Chain played a lot of new material that I wasn't familiar with. That's the price you pay when you're stuck in the 70's !
Having said this, their newer material was great and although it was typical R&B, it had a fresh and exciting feel to it. Matt's ability to spill out flawless lyrics with interplay harp work is pure magic and their 15+ minute epic 'Slow 2.30 In The Morning Type Blues' was no exception. Phil Manning's guitar work was sheer magic and only confirmed what everyone knew beforehand, that he is the Australian king of blues guitar. Dirk DuBois on bass was quite bemused by the whole affair but still put on a solid bass line for the rest of the boys to follow.
Barry Harvey played his drums while stripped down to a singlet top (even though the temperature had dropped quite considerably in the later stages of the evening) and maintained the R&B rhythm without a hiccup. One of the highlights would have to be 'Black and Blue', but not because it is such a classic, but because Brendon and Kerry from Madder Lake joined Chain on stage to sing along with the chorus, as did everyone in the audience - no matter how young they were. With Brendon and Kerry both assisting on guitars, they then proceeded to play a 20 minute rendition of 'I Remember when I was Young' in varying musical styles - a reggae version, a disco version, a rap version, a death metal version, a punk version to list but a few!
How good was this. But just when we thought the concert was over, Matt told the MC to stuff it and broke straight into a Tribute To Muddy Waters which covered the classic 'Rollin' and Tumblin' and other familiar tunes whose titles escape me at present.

It was 12.15am when the music came to an end, and this happy Sunburyite Camper packed his belongings and headed off home - content with the thought that he had finally made it to a Sunbury Concert.
12 hours of great, Aussie Music and entertainment and a lifetime of memories to cherish.


  1. Another that nearly got past me..i`d love to go to this Sunbury..i was 16 in 1972 and got to see it that year..its was amazing..tho my memory isn`t as good trying to remember most of the bands that were on..Madder Lake are and always will be top 3 bands Au ever produced..
    i can`t get to see this sunbury but i`ll be with in mate..ENJOY for us all!!!

  2. An interesting review of the recent Sunbury festival, although I have to take issue with the idea that it needed to be exclusively Australian. My band, BenziNe, played and were well received - maybe we were an "International" act but I was born and raised in Melbourne and went to school in Sunbury. Two of our original songs had an Australian theme. The whole idea that you divide musicians into parochial national groupings is unnecessarily limiting to everyone. I've brought Australian bands to HK before and was pleased to have that reciprocated. We made some great contacts and have been asked by two of the bands who played at Sunbury to tour/gig with them.

    Other than that little rant my main comment would be that the absolute stars of the show were Falloe - destined for big things for sure. That being said all the bands were good and it's a shame more people didn't support the Festival.

    P.S. For what it's worth, BenziNe's setlist was Meet Me On The Corner (Lindisfarne), Next Year (Foo Fighters), The Unkindness Of Truth, Strange Land, The River And The Sea, Falling, Dawns And Departures (all originals), Breakfast At Tiffany's (Deep Blue Something) and , of course, Way Out West by the Dingoes.

    Greg Judd (BenziNe)

  3. Gregg

    Firstly, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on my review and prompt me to rethink a little about the repercussions of my statements regarding the 'choice of bands'.
    The last thing from my mind was to insult your band and if I have then I am truly sorry. As I have now added to my review, I hold the highest regard for BenziNe and the fine music that you create together.
    My opinion regarding the selection of an International band comes from a lot of 'ill feeling' that was about in the 70's with respect to the final two Sunbury Concerts.
    Many people felt that it was the introduction of overseas bands at the Sunbury Concerts that finally caused their demise. Local bands weren't paid for their performances as the larger International bands were paid first (and overpaid at that) while other less known bands missed out performing all together.
    I am also very grateful to you for providing me with the correct playlist for BenziNe's performance and I have edited my review appropriately. I really tried to be as accurate as possible (taking notes) but being unfamiliar with your repertoire made it hard.
    Finally, could I please say a big thank you to BenziNe for providing a very enjoyable 45 minutes of musical pleasure and wish you the best for your Australian tour (hopefully you won't run into too many critics such as me !)
    Again, I apologise for any hurt I may have caused.

  4. Thanks AussieRock, no offense taken. BenziNe is working (slowly!) on an album at the moment - perhaps we'll do a limited release to vinyl, if so I'll send you a copy to review.
    Regards, Greg.