Review:Riverboats Music Festival

Brian Nankervis-7
Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

Here at Timber and Steel, we’ve been to a fair few festivals. From huge national events, to small and intimate gatherings celebrating local. For quite some time, The Riverboats Music Festival on the Victorian border has been on our radar, and 2020 was the year we made the trek.

We are used to Folk Festivals being set on gorgeous land with camping facilities and asense of remoteness. The Riverboats Music Festival however is nestled in the center of bustling Echuca in a natural reserve come ampitheatre. With modern accommodations surrounding the venue, a strong local supporter base, and performer curation to die for, the festival clearly is on a winning ticket. See our full gallery on our Facebook page, and read on for our full review.

Welcome to Country-3

We were welcomed on Friday with the caress of the afternoon sun and a Welcome to Country that gave a great account of Yorta Yorta country and its history, delivering a friendly warm welcome in local language. The festival kicked off with the Americana stylings of charismatic Matt Joe Gow. He wowed the crowd with an assortment of pieces, changing pace and rhythm to mix things up, sliding some blues in and telling great stories and tales of how songs came to life between. Amongst his tales, the truth behind Break Rattle and Roll lit up the crowd as the favourite track echoed across the space. A perfect opening to a weekend of great music.

 

Dyson Stringer Cloher-11

Next was a delight, surprise, and treat wrapped in one – Dyson Stringer Cloher, the trio made up of Jen Cloher, Mia Dyson, and Liz Stringer. Dusting off their 2013 collaboration project, and bringing recent debut album to life on stage, the exceptional trio were a vision in technicolour. In fact, if The Wiggles were an all female indie band, this would be it. Their clever multi-layered vocals complimented the inspired guitar, creating rich captivating aural textures. Their beautiful harmonies reflected the beauty of the setting sunbeams shining through the leafy green glen. Sultry harmony soaked ballads slipped innocently between upbeat indie fun times, and the stage was set for the night.

To round out the opening night of the three-day festival, Country star Troy Cassar-Daley made his own dreams come true, finally taking to the Riverboats stage. He was at once friendly, yet charismatic, filling the stage with his presence. The set revolved around his storytelling prowess, drawing upon his family heritage to weave musical magic. He played both instrument and audience perfectly, switching from country to blues, kicking up in to higher gears, bringing the tone back down with harmonica trills, and the audience singing along.Troy Cassar-Daley-2

Saturday morning brought a number of options for festival goers – the morning was full of sideshows on the water, with one-hour riverboat cruises. But the main gates and festival tunes kicked off in the early afternoon with delightfully insightful Ainslie Wills. Performing as a 3 piece, the clear, scintillating harmonized duet reached out grabbed attention. Storytelling intertwined with her own musical style uncovered tricky relationships past, fear of missing out, and treated the crowd finishing with Triple J hit favourite I Blame Society.

Hailing from Go-Betweens fame, Robert Forster’s presence on stage filled the ampitheatre with an indisputable warmth. Working alongside talented musicians, the troubadour was revealed as tales tall or true build vivid imaginings whether a scandal or a flood, a secret rendezvous, the stories unraveled in front of a willing crowd, with a big  city dreams flowing.

Horns Of Leroy Feat. Thando-9Switching gears, the Horns of Leroy, featuring Thando turned the energy up to 11. With their own take on nostalgic track Dancing in the Moonlight, they serenaded the newly wed couple who chose the Festival as their wedding reception location! The party was truly started as combos of instrumentals, smooth vocal tracks, sassy blues, hit covers, hip hop and rap, soul, blues and more and big booming voices got the crowd up and grooving. They delivered a toe tapping, head nodding good time from start to finish. The clincher was the finish, a rendition of I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and the entire festival singing along word for word.

Mama Kin Spender-7

Two long-time friends made their festival debut together as Mama Kin Spender. Mama Kin, and Tommy Spender have a stripped back duo style that allows music to rattle, roll and tremble forth. They knew how to whip up a crowd, bringing a soulful opening, punctuated with clever harmonies and snippets of sass. Their spellbinding on stage rapport was elevated by the amazing 15 piece choir on stage throughout to bolster and support their music to deliver moving moody melodies alongside a playful, eclectic, inclusive and engaging repertoire of rejoicing in song.

As the night set in, Something for Kate took to the stage amongst rapturous applause. Opening with Electricity, it was an apt description as the crowd quickly swelling to see nostalgic favourites and Paul Dempsey in the lead did not disappoint. They kept the energy going, moving in to Echolalia much to everyone’s delight, and then delivering new album tracks that had the unmistakable, iconic sound and emotive edge we’ve come to know and love from Something for Kate. Using a haunting red stage lighting, Stop had the crowd enraptured, before rounding out their set with a rousing performance of Captain.

Something For Kate-15

As the night came closer to an end, the much anticipated performance of the night was finally here. Bernard Fanning took to the stage to huge applause and enthusiastic crowds waiting to sing the night away. He was in fine form, warm yet rugged, and a knowing look in his eye, ready to take us all on a journey. A robust musical tone, strong and vibrant, built an anticipation and eagerness as the musicians melded their prowess in to an all round satisfying and comforting blanket of music. Highlights of course included an emphatic Songbird, the set was a walk down memory lane as Day You Come, and Wish You Well particularly carried the crowd on a tide of good wishes.

 

 

Mama Kin Spender-16

Sunday morning saw the customary festival breakfast treat the crowds who snapped up tickets to see some of the festival acts do it all again in a more intimate setting offsite.

As the Festival proper kicked off late morning, the somewhat smaller crowd (perhaps some sore heads from the night before) gathered to appreciate the dulcet tones of Jess Locke. Her mellow tunes were a perfect, lilting, comforting way to wake up to the final day, her style not dissimilar to Julia Jacklin (appropriate given she toured with Jackiln), had an understated passion and vibrancy to enliven the day.

Bob Evans-7

Bob Evans received a very warm welcome from the crowd as he took to the stage, his set eagerly anticipated. His quintessential rapport with the audience, with nothing but his acoustic guitar and wit set his charisma filled set on fire. With backing from violin punctuating through the gum-scented air, the singalong was strong and a happy crowd lapped up every reminiscent note that hung in the air.

Australian music royalty took to the stage, filling the audience with reverence and anticipation. Archie Roach’s magical storytelling took the crowd on a journey through different times, both dreamtime and modern, with dreamlike qualities to transport the mind, heart and soul. A passionate and engaged crowd lapped up every moment, giving Roach attention and energy to uplift his voice. It’s no surprised his set ended to a standing ovation.

Kate Miller-Heidke-5As the sun started to shine through the trees, signaling the impending sunset, the final act of the festival, probably the most anticipated performance took to the stage. Kate Miller-Heidke, to rapturous applause took her place on stage and beamed just as brightly as the sunbeams soaking her in gold hues. A lively set full of energy to the biggest crowd really was the most magnificent end to a weekend full of mirth and joy. Miller-Heidke’s set was laced with all the big songs you wanted to hear, and her genuinely delightful demeanour and powerhouse performance had every set of eyes glued to the stage. Her set transitioned from slow and insightful to upbeat and poppy, adding a lively breath of fresh air to the ampitheatre and every attention was captured by her mesmerizing vocals. Zero Gravity was of course the finale and was every bit as breathtaking as the audience had hoped. A stellar performance that absolutely stole the show.

All in all, Riverboats Music Festival is probably the most comfortable festival to attend – accommodation is nearby, the venue is easy to navigate and facilities excellent. The curation of the line up ensures a great variety of complimentary acts. MC Brian Nankervis of RocKwiz fame kept acts rolling and entertainment between sets going – never have we seen so much dedication from a crowd to either quiz answers or a Frisbee competition.Brian Nankervis-3

With programming allowing late starts so festival goers can appreciate surrounding businesses is a great way to integrate the local community in to the whole weekend vibe, it’s like all of Echuca is the festival, not just the grounds. No doubt the 2021 line up is going to be just as great (but we won’t know what it looks like until 12 October), and the die hards with their chairs for the central ‘island’ will be there bright and early each day to secure their best position – so be sure to get your tickets early, make your way along to pick a spot, set yourself up for a full weekend of great music, no matter who is on stage.

 

1 Comment

  1. March 20, 2020 at 16:49

    […] “Riverboats Music Festival is probably the most comfortable festival to attend – accommodation is nearby, the venue is easy to navigate and facilities excellent. The curation of the line up ensures a great variety of complimentary acts. MC Brian Nankervis of RocKwiz fame kept acts rolling and entertainment between sets going – never have we seen so much dedication from a crowd to either quiz answers or a Frisbee competition” – KT Bell reviews Riverboats Music Festival. Read the Review here […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: