with Lilt, Elli Schoen and Benjamin Witt
Chevron Festival Gardens, Perth
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Despite a shaky start due to unseasonably stormy weather washing Friday night’s line-up out, the Perth International Arts Festival was well under way by Sunday, with a transcendant line-up of appealing and engaging talent.
Benjamin Witt opened proceedings on the free Garden Stage in the Chevron Festival Gardens courtyard to early-comers. Then Elli Schoen and band were captivating, a minimalist sound from primal drummer Anthony Doherty, Bill Christensen’s sax and James Dunn’s keys giving full focus to Schoen’s haunting vocals, boosted by backing vocalist Jade Richards and some simple-yet-effective guitar. Schoen’s melodies are beautiful, with recent single Mumma closing her set on an indie pop high with dancing and singing from an enchanted crowd.
Electronic trio Lilt opened the main stage like they were born to be there, elfin singer Louise Penman dancing and prowling through billowing smoke clouds pierced by spears of yellow and pink light. Booming drummer Brett Walsh and electronics whizz Matt McLean laid down a riveting musical score to match the atmospheric light show, while Penman’s mesmerising vocals and inventive guitar betrayed not a hint of the nerves she confessed to feeling in such esteemed company. So High, Don’t Tell Me and Powerless are powerful and brave, and the crowd was buzzing with new fans after their set finished.
Keeping the beguiling theme of the evening’s entertainment going strong were headliners Skye & Ross – Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey, or if you like, Morcheeba in all but name. Legalities may have tied up them using the name Morcheeba after co-founder Paul Godfrey quit a few years ago, but there are no such impediments to playing their old material, which now sounds more organic, with less reliance on electronic elements than ever before.
Godfrey’s slide guitar fits perfectly in the trippy, stoner cool of Morcheeba’s sound, and Edwards’ hubby Steve Gordon and eldest son Jaega on bass and drums laid down a pulsating and hypnotically alluring backbone. Ben Cowen provided keys, but most eyes were on Edwards, clad in tight, tasselled black leather, her cropped head and beaming smile presenting a striking vision as she strolled the stage with feline grace – singing, chatting and joking with the crowd, and enjoying a few sips of Patron tequila with her bandmates.
New songs from their debut Skye & Ross album (All My Days, Light Of Gold, How To Fly) mingled seamlessly with Morcheeba classics (Trigger Hippie, World Looking In, Part Of The Process, The Sea, Blindfold, Let Me See) and a joyously funky Let’s Dance paid respectful tribute to David Bowie.
This is PIAF in a microcosm: new artists shoulder-to-shoulder with established acts; local talent showcased alongside international drawcards; great music that is inventive and unique, yet complementary. PIAF reminds us that the arts are the heart and soul of our community, and it was an hypnotically enthralling way for this scribe to start the 2017 festival.
Photos by Matsu Photography