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Live Review: The Gum Ball

29 April 2013 | 4:23 pm | Lucia Osborne Crowley

As the group finished their wildly energetic performance, tired but excited punters slowly drifted back to their tents and bade farewell to the charming Belford property and the Gum Ball for another year.

As an outsider you'd never guess it, but this weekend a vast property hidden away in the Hunter Valley was descended upon by an army of music-lovers for the annual Gum Ball festival. The space was filled with colourful tents, enthusiastic dancing crowds and two stages whose sound filled the festival grounds with remarkable ease across the whole weekend.

The energy at the festival was overwhelming as John Schumann and Hugh Macdonald of Redgum took to the stage on a chilly ANZAC day evening. The duo displayed remarkable stage presence throughout the set, constantly engaging with the enthusiastic crowd. The two men told the crowd endless stories of Australia in the '60s, culminating with the crowd favourite, Plympton High. The two then closed an impressive set with a thunderous rendition of the classic I Was Only 19.

The adjacent stage was then graced by New South Wales rockers The Re-Mains, who also delivered an incredibly energetic performance to an enthusiastic crowd. One of the highlights of the set was undoubtedly the band's performance of I'll Be In Your Dream Anytime. The band then introduced the steel guitar with remarkable prowess and performed Endless Mystery, another of the set's highlights. The first night was closed by Novocastrian rock/roots collective Benjalu. By this point, most of the festivalgoers were on their feet and dancing excitedly to the group's catchy melodies. Singer Ben Gumbleton's voice filled the Gum Ball arena effortlessly and the band's exciting, musically masterful set was a fantastic way to end the evening.

The second day of the Gum Ball was a bright, sunny Friday that brought high spirits and even more energy from the crowd. The highlight of the afternoon was Mojo Juju, who showcased her exciting roots/rock'n'roll blend with an incredibly enigmatic stage presence and seemingly unending energy. Perhaps one of the most technically accomplished and also one of the most exciting performances of the festival came from Steve Smyth, a confidant indie-rocker whose set combined rock sounds with the occasional blues melody which got everyone dancing excitedly. The energy in the festival grounds then increased once again with the very straightforward rock'n'roll sound of Melbourne outfit Money For Rope. Obviously very accomplished performers, the band had a charming stage presence and an incredible amount of energy, with heavy drums and guitars filling the Hunter Valley air.

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The tone was then brought down a notch by the mellow, entrancing vocals of Jordie Lane. A soulful combination of roots, country and folk music had the audience swaying and singing along as the night set in, which was a very pleasant scene all round. English folk duo Turin Brakes were one of the more technically accomplished performances of the whole weekend, the two combining flawless vocals with intricate melodies throughout the entire set. The duo's energy was understated in comparison to preceding acts, but this worked to draw the crowd further into their insightful folk tunes. Comedy rock band The Beards performed a set comprised of catchy rock tunes and endless beard-related jokes, all of which were thoroughly appreciated by the attentive audience. The band were incredibly successful in encouraging crowd participation and ensuring every audience member was enjoying themselves, making the set one of the highlights of the weekend. The second night of Gum Ball was closed out by Saskwatch. The very impressive Melbourne nine-piece collective brought an incredible amount of energy to the festival with their upbeat, catchy melodies and remarkable vocals. Lead vocalist Nkechi Anele's soulful singing was perhaps the most impressive vocal performance of the festival. A remarkable array of instruments and a consistent dose of infectious horn lines throughout, the set was a perfect way to end the evening.

On the final day, The Preatures' charged show was a great way to wake ourselves up for the day (in the early afternoon, mind you), with classic rock'n'roll melodies combined with strong vocals and very confidant delivery. This was followed by a remarkably fun performance by Howlin' Steam Train, who delivered an exciting combination of rock, and soul with a hint of blues. Later in the afternoon, the crowd received another impressive rock show courtesy of The Medics, energised by catchy guitar melodies and impressive vocals that displayed incredible range, confidence and technical ability.

The true standout of the festival, however, was Australian singer Mia Dyson. She combined accomplished blues and roots melodies with emphatic vocals to create an enchanting all-round experience. The singer also upheld an understated yet very charming stage presence throughout the performance. The crowd was engaged from the opening to the closing moments, dancing and singing along throughout. The Hillbilly Killers collective formed based on a love for Hank Williams music. This was very evident throughout the set, with the three performing their own songs with this country influence shining through. The set was comprised of impressive finger-picked guitar melodies and a lot of witty banter, with the crowd on board from start to finish. Wollongong rockers Tumbleweed featured heavy guitar and drums with classic rock vocals and typical rock'n'roll attitude; the set was an excellent way to watch the evening truly set in on the final night.

The vibe changed completely as Australian producer Katalyst took to the stage and the entire festival was transformed into a wild dance party. The DJ/producer played a combination of soul and r'n'b tunes and the whole crowd danced excitedly throughout the entire set, the vibe enhanced by Katalyst's charming attitude. This incredible vibe persisted as The Bird closed the live acts at Gum Ball with an explosive performance of exciting dance tracks. The group's combination of dance, synth-driven electro tunes and even dubstep beats changed the tone of the weekend completely, but was greatly appreciated. As the group finished their wildly energetic performance, tired but excited punters slowly drifted back to their tents and bade farewell to the charming Belford property and the Gum Ball for another year.