WOMADelaide @ Botanic Park, Adelaide 8/3/2020

It’s Sunday afternoon, the sun is out… and the bats are screeching. The third day of WOMADelaide commences on the Foundation stage with KermesZ a l’Est from Belgium, a rag-tag punk gypsy brass marching band. The stage is decorated by punk attired dolls, a dilapidated baby carriage carrying a makeshift drum kit and animal skulls adorning the mic stands. At this time of the day, shade is limited and there are islands of people starting to build their settlements under the trees. In contrast to their dressed in black and leather anarcho-punk attire, the band are enjoying themselves, clowning around during their loose set of energetic east European free jazz.

Over on Stage 7 Finnish female a capella and beatboxing quartet Tuuletar start their set of self described trip hop and folk song competing with the “ambient” bat calls that are a constant in this area of Botanic Park. Their beautiful unadorned harmonisations range from including spoken word, operatic and literal breathy vocals within the same song. Their set ends with a successful improvised freestyle rap battle with lyrics taken from a Finnish compilation of poems called the Kalevala.

Inexplicably, Bill Callahan’s set was seated so there was a need to get there early as like the other one show only performances, this was bound to have a large audience. He commenced with Son of The Sea, a tale of domesticity that is perhaps a reflection on his focus of family life during his musical absence in the past several years. Although having now been performing under his own name for some time after years as Smog, his song style remains greatly unchanged. In acknowledging the bright sun, he comments, “Everybody’s got a goddamned hat. You couldn’t have told me?” and when a cap is thrown onstage, he throws it back and jokes that his preference is for something more Peter Pan or Dr Seuss. Amongst his set of mostly latter day material there are a couple from his years as Smog and he ends with the drawn out drone of The Beast before leaving with a simple thanks.

The Zoo stage is one that the audiences have outgrown this year and while not to the extent of the massive audience for Dr Piffle & the Burlap Band last night, there is a fair sized crowd assembled for Artefactum from Spainplaying authentic medieval music from the 11th to the 14th century similar to ethnomusicologist Franceso Turrisi who had played the previous day with Rhiannon Giddens.

I briefly pass through the ecstatic dance rave that is being lead by the infectious party grooves from Los Amigos Invisibles and consider that some of this audience may need a rest before they bow out too early.

Ezra Collective follow an opening jam song that includes every member having their own solo with their drummer then coming front of stage to warm the audience up for their energetic jazz set to follow and praises WOMAD as being his favourite festival, commenting that even if you know music, you are only likely to know three bands on the line up and that the festival is really all about everyone coming together to have a good time. 

Tami Neilson on the Moreton Bay stage is another performer with a far greater audience than expected for her set of Appalachian folk and rockabilly. Meanwhile, on Stage 2, Flor de Toloache’s mariarchi-styled neoclassism catches the heart of their crowd and their solely female line-up along with that of Tuuletar earlier are nice consideration for International Women’s Day. On the Foundation stage, the live return of Hiatus Kaiyote has been highly anticipated and each song of their unclassifiable blend of idiosyncratic vocalese, jazz and mellow psychedelia is an experiential free-form journey. Upon my arriving to witness the latter part of the set by Gelareh Pour’s Garden it immediately came to mind that this spectral music could be what Portishead might sound like if they were a folk band.

What the WOMADelaide audience is looking for at this time in the evening (well anytime really) is something to dance to and Jorge Ben Jor was able to oblige. Young and old alike were grooving to his mellow boss nova and the contingent of Brazilians in the audience certainly made their presence known.

As The World Tipped by Wired Aerial Theatre started as a faux silent film style farce about climate change conference administration before literally transforming into something far more kinetic and dynamic with the stage set being lifted by crane to become a stage-screen. The interaction between the aerial performers and the projections was skilful and ultimately moving in conveying a message of global warming and destruction relevant to our times.

To close the night on Stage 2, Briggs worked the crowd with an enjoyable set including humorous asides. The were welcome guest appearances by the True Vibenation horns, Thandie Phoenix and Ngairre throughout the set and the performances of The Children Came Back and January 26 were especially moving. This was almost a reprise of the all stars concerts held at WOMADelaide in the past and was the perfect culmination of the day’s events.

WOMAD Review By Jason Leigh