"Crowd-friendly scheduling makes it easy to cram in back-to-back sets, which is good news, since there's very little dead weight on the bill."
Break out your cowboy hats and checked shirts: it's time for a feast of Americana by the bay. It's a cracking day for it, too — a breezy, sunny 20 degrees, perfect for traipsing back and forth between the two stages inhabiting Seaworks' big sheds — and the crowd-friendly scheduling makes it easy to cram in back-to-back sets, which is good news, since there's very little dead weight on the bill.
Nashville chanteuse Shelly Colvin's voice weds pop-star sparkle to back alley swagger, and her songs routinely build to big, atmospheric finishes that fill the main-stage shed to its seams. She's assisted in this task by Out On The Weekend's top-notch house band, featuring duelling electric guitars from Robert Ellis and Kelly Doyle, a rocking rhythm section consisting of Michael "Tank" Lisenbe on drums and Geoffrey Muller on bass, and Will Van Horn bringing countrified edge and attitude via his nifty pedal steel. This distinguished Texan ensemble, plus violinist extraordinaire Josh Hedley, return later to help out LA based Sam Outlaw — whose latest album Angeleno was produced by no lesser American music luminary than Ry Cooder — and Nashville singer-songwriter/irreverent raconteur Jonny Fritz on their entertaining sets.
Barna Howard has an early-Dylan aesthetic and a set of songs of heartbreak and angst that sound like they might well have been written on his front porch back home in Missouri. West Australian Ruby Boots is more pop-country than alt-county, and brings some nice hooks and melodies to her upbeat albeit vanilla set. Melbourne's Mustered Courage however are anything but vanilla: swift drumming, guitar and mandolin, and massive four-part harmonies are the driving forces behind the band's hyperactive bluegrass and rousing country rock. Their manic shifts in pace and mood and stellar musicianship make their set one of the highlights of the day.
Later, a visit to the Pirate's Tavern bar opposite the big sheds reveals T Bones playing some stomping, down-and-dirty country, that really has the dancefloor humming. It's a fun way to kill some time ahead of a return to the main stage, where Australian alt-country elder statesmen Tex, Don & Charlie breeze through a laconic set of songs from 1993's Sad But True and 2005's All Is Forgiven; drummer Charley Drayton, lately Don Walker's Cold Chisel bandmate, delivers some nicely restrained beats that lend an avant-garde tinge to songs like Harry Was A Bad Bugger and Still The Same. LA band Dawes closes out the day, showcasing songs off their fourth album All Your Favourite Bands along with some older songs. They build a wall of finely crafted pop-and-country-tinged alt-rock and lather it with shimmering melodies, catchy hooks and some downright sublime guitar work, while frontman Taylor Goldsmith keeps the crowd engaged with his easygoing charisma and crystal clear vocals. It's an enjoyable end to an enjoyable day.
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