Earth Station's final day saw a huge influx of attendees, with the car park overflowing into a second oval and prime stage front positions under contention. It seems like everyone had opted to spend their festival dollars on Sunday's packed schedule, or perhaps word-of-mouth had done it's job, but either way the Earth Station site was pleasantly full and a festival atmosphere abounded.
One of the day's main draw-card kicked off early with the lunchtime Greening in the Community: Case Studies session, featuring Cate Blanchett & Andrew Upton, Tim Jarvis, Stephanie Bolt & Scott Kinnear and hosted by Radio National's Robyn Williams. The Q&A session drew a huge crowd, filling the University of Adelaide Pavillion to capacity and spilling out onto the grass beyond. Informative and interactive, the session covered what we can do as individuals and communities to affect climate change solutions, rather than waiting for corporations and governments to save us. The panel of community leaders presented their thoughts and experiences in doing just this, inspiring the gathered listeners with their insights.
Simultaneous to this, Kronos Quartet took to the main stage to perform their second show of the festival. Performing without the Adelaide Chamber Singers, this set was a more casual affair and saw the group recite a playlist of music loved by & written for them. The laid back vibe sat well with the audience as they reclined on the grass to enjoy the outdoor orchestra with a glass of wine and a spot of lunch.
Emma Donovan's late afternoon set provided the perfect way to ease into the balmy evening. Her self-penned, blues tunes, sung mainly in her native Gumbayngirr language, had everyone swaying blissfully on their picnic rugs. Cruisey and melodic in sound, they are powerful in lyric and sentiment. Representing her people in her solo work as well as in the indigenous master group The Black Arm Band, she is a gifted performer equipped with determination and a beautiful, unpretentious voice.
Unfortunately, due to a passport kerfuffle in this homeland, Toumani Diabate was not able to make either of the advertised Saturday nor Sunday appearances, but was covered in the Sunday time slot by a schedule rearrangement that saw Paris Wells take the to stage early in the afternoon. A ballsy, take-no-prisoners presence reminiscent of Shirley Manson, Wells had the crowd on their feet and in the mood within seconds. Armed with her amazing voice and striking appearance, she was a magnetic performer and a winner with the audience. The only shame was that the last minute schedule change no doubt meant some late-comers, who had planned on arriving in time to see her, will have missed out.
Donono No. 1 brought a unmistakeable world music vibe with a loud and upbeat set. Their brand of traditional Congolese music has won them global acclaim, including a Grammy nomination, BBC Radio 3's 2006 'Newcomer' Award for World Music, and collaborations with international artists such as Bjork. Hailing from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, theirs is an intense style indigenous to their homeland and categorised by the electric likembe, a handmade thumb piano. Performing on Earth Station's main stage, they brought no less than 3 likembe to the festival as well as vocals, dance and percussion, and had no shortage of grooving bodies pummeling the grass to it's roots stage front.
Not surprisingly, Rickie Lee Jones was a "must see" on most people's list. She drew a large audience to the main stage as the evening drew over Long Gully. With a long musical pedigree and a highly successful career of her own, Jones is a stalwart of American country rock music. It's without doubt that I say the gathered audience would not have been disappointed with her show, as she rocked a set of great country and jazz tunes. A charismatic performer, she chatted between songs and kept everyone entertained.
All-in-all, with first-run teething issues to consider, Earth Station's first year was a great success. The organising team should be applauded for successfully applying all the lessons learnt from Womadelaide and managing all the new challenges admirably. While, in the busier periods, the lines for the transfer bus to the site were longer than one might hope, the process generally ran smoothly and pain-free. As the popularity of the festival grows, these logistical issues will require more thought, but I look forward to the Earth Station team experiencing this problem - bring on next year's festival!
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