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July 23, 2018

Five of our music industry favourites tell us what to see at this year’s Guitar Festival

A decent pattern emerges.

You feel the weight of South Australia’s reputation as the ‘festival state’ every time a new festival program lands on the streets of Adelaide. You can hear a very literal thud as the programs land – windows shudder. The Adelaide Guitar Festival is in this vein – heavy, drenched in world-class talent and decades of experience across a whole galaxy of guitar music genres.

It’s easy to feel put off by this weight and dodge your cultural duty to engage with the bountiful arts this state puts on your plate. It’s never been easier or more enticing to skip the “show” and go straight to dinner (or the bar).

But relax, CityMag has carved a way into the Adelaide Guitar Festival without your needing to know your Bushdances from your Bad Habits – we asked some friends. We asked five.

Koral Chandler – photo by Jarrad Seng

Koral Chandler is a rock-solid songstress and guitar wrangler. Her projects span bands, solo projects and Ernie. Aside from having impeccable taste, and skill on a guitar – Koral runs publicity for Garden of Unearthly Delights and knows a good show when she sees one.

 What are your top three picks for 2018 Guitar Festival?

  1. Marc Ribot – if you’ve ever started to listen to Tom Waits stone cold sober, not had a drop to drink and after one song felt entirely blurry, Ribot is the reason. The tone, placement of notes and general fuck-eyed glory of his sound are all reasons to witness this singular guitarist. 100% would recommend. [Editor’s Note: This show has been cancelled as Marc Ribot has had a family emergency]
  2. Abbe May and Clam Jam – Abbe is a sick blues guitarist. She is a badass. She is fierce and doesn’t take shit. I like Abbe. The ‘Clam Jam’ part of this lineup excites me also. Local rock babe (and gun footballer) Annie Siegmann has programmed a slew of local ladies to slay the stage, setting it on fire before May shreds it to pieces.
  3. Kaki King – Kaki changed the guitar game when she hit the scene (and her guitar). Her innovative method and thoughtful composition has cemented her place amongst the six-stringed gods of today. I’m also pretty indebted to her for my love of platinum blonde quiffs.

Why did you put Marc Ribot at number one?
It is my mission to be able to play the kind of guitar that makes people feel all at once uneasy and enthralled. Forget wanting to be like Mike, I want to be like Marc.

When someone really excellent is playing the guitar it sounds like… you’re not even aware it’s a guitar anymore. Like you have lost a sense of where you are, who you are, and why you were there in the first place. Guitar playing (any music creation) is not about the athletics and skill of it: how fast, how loud, how many notes you can cram on one line. It’s about translating a feeling, a place, a vibe. That’s what it is: it’s a vibe. Like Mabo.

Follow Koral here.

George Swallow behind the beer taps at Grace Emily Hotel, drinking tea. Photo – Josh Geelen

George Swallow will be found in the crowd at the Grace Emily Hotel on gig nights, illuminated by the iPad he uses to monitor and adjust the sound for the musicians on stage. George has probably seen more guitars than anyone else we asked but he’s not showing any signs of fatigue.

What are your top three picks for 2018 Guitar Festival?

  1. The Family Bushdance
  2. Hana & Jessie-Lee’s Bad Habits
  3. Abbe May and Clam Jam

Why did you put Family Bushdance at number one?
I’m a big fan of the Family Bushdance podcast and it’s always a hoot being at the live recordings. Fronted by local legend Max Savage and one of Adelaide’s best backing bands, the Bushdance is a little snap shot of some of Adelaide’s best singer songwriters.

When someone really excellent is playing the guitar it sounds like… an extension of who they are.

You’ll be able to connect with George on any given Monday at Billy Bob’s BBQ Jam at Grace Emily Hotel

Sose Fuamoli. Photo – Michelle Grace Hunder

Sose Fuamoli is that rare person who’s making their way in the world as a music writer. Her credits include the AU review, Rolling Stone Australia, Beat Magazine and The Big Issue. She also currently serves on the judging panel for the prestigious Australian Music Prize and you can read a bit more about Sose here

What are your top three picks for 2018 Guitar Festival?

Why did you put Heath Cullen & The Yearlings at number one?

Heath is one of Australia’s most talented guitarists and yet I feel like he remains one of the country’s most underrated. His vocals are rugged, his approach to playing peppered with grit and drenched in soul, seeing Heath and his band perform is such a fulfilling experience for any fan of the non-distilled blues, rock n roll. A great songwriter and storyteller – Heath’s music is music Guitar Festival punters should definitely be getting around.

When someone really excellent is playing the guitar it sounds like… the most buttery of sounds, or it can sound like the most chaotic of sounds – all delivered with such ease. Guitarists always catch me off guard when they’re really, really good; because they’re such a mainstay element of many bands, when you hear an excellent player at work, it can stop you in your tracks.

Ross McHenry

Ross McHenry has a musical CV not dissimilar to an arts program – weighty. Red Bull Music Academy alumni, Conservatory alumni, Shaolin Afronauts alumni – Ross composes and plays and lives and breathes music. A guitarist himself, we take his recommendations very seriously. 

What are your top three picks for 2018 Guitar Festival?

  1. Grigoryan Brothers
  2. Wanderers
  3. Marc Ribot [Editor’s Note: This show has been cancelled as Marc Ribot has had a family emergency]

Why did you put Grigoryan Brothers at number one?
In terms of outstanding guitarists you really aren’t going to get any better than the Grigoryan brothers. They’re both technically brilliant and musically ambitious, which is the combination I most desire in all genres of music. On top of that they’re two of the nicest people you will ever meet. A little shout out also for Wanderers here too,  I think they’re are the best band to come out of Adelaide in ages and Dusty makes that guitar sing! In short they’re the real deal and if you haven’t seen them you’re missing out.

When someone really excellent is playing the guitar … you forget about the instrument altogether. Instruments are simply tools, when someone is amazing at them you are transported by the music and you forget about whatever instrument you’re listening to. It feels like you’re being carried along by the artist in that moment; it’s both mediative and euphoric!

Check out Ross’ Bandcamp and follow him on Instagram.

Dave Blumberg

Dave Blumberg is an enigma wrapped in a cryptic crossword in the back of The Advertiser. The stalwart of The Exeter Hotel’s front bar for many years has moved on – touring Europe before returning home to set up a new live music venue in Adelaide. His low key and laconic manner is as effortlessly cool as his sometimes mullet haircut. We take Dave’s recommends to heart because we heart Dave Blumberg.

What are your top three picks for 2018 Guitar Festival?

  1. Marc Ribot [Editor’s Note: This show has been cancelled as Marc Ribot has had a family emergency]
  2. Hana & Jessie Lee’s bad habits 
  3. Festival Finale

Why did you put Marc Ribot at number one?
Marc Ribot is my pick and I wish I could be here to see him! This world is awash with 6-stringed strumbots, and the reality is that it is a rare thing to find a truly unique voice on this most widespread of instruments. The way he uses the guitar is genuinely innovative, a brilliant combination of chops, experimentation and originality, which is exactly what I want to be listening to. I would also love to have a hoedown with Hana Brenecki and Jess Zubkevich and their s##t hot band of local legends. The Grigoryan Bros are pretty damn nifty too. 

When someone really excellent is playing the guitar it sounds like… a pod of wild Gibson SGs swimming through an ocean of electric stout full of Bigsby seaweed and tweed sand.

Dave Blumberg’s works can be found on all the major streaming platforms and purchased on LP and digital at Drongo Tracks.

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