It is mad March in Adelaide! There is the Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Arts Festival, Clipsal 500, the Future Music Festival, and there is WOMADelaide. If you are in Adelaide at this time of the year, it would be hard to decide where to go, but for sure your taste will be catered for. People have been commenting on the different crowds these events attract. If we are to pinpoint the WOMADelaide audience, then we have to go probably with something like this: ‘relatively well-off families and their children’, definitely a friendly and well-behaved crowd.
This year, there was also the early music audience with many local musicians present. Some of these people may have bought their WOMADelaide ticket only to see viol virtuoso Jordi Savall play revived Celtic music with harpist Andrew Lawrence-King and percussionist Frank McGuire for the first time in Australia. Located on the Morton Bay stage, this gig gathered people who were prepared to sit quietly and wait for the early music masters to tune their instruments repeatedly and for the sound engineers to get the sound right. The musicians commented how different the conditions were from those of the acoustic perfection of the concert hall but appreciated the interaction between audience members and their encouraging yells of approval that would be unacceptable in regular early music venues. What a pleasure to hear and see these artists in action and to feel the presence of Jordi Savall, who has been a major influence on early music performers all over the world! The performance transported us back in time and spoke of the depth of the Celtic soul.
There was also the polite audience. One of the last artists to be featured was visiting artist Goran Bregovic who also participated in the Adelaide Arts Festival and played at the Sydney Opera House with his weddings and funeral brass band, four string players, chamber choir and two traditional Bulgarian singers. Situated on Stage 1 that normally gathers the largest audience, the gig was more like ‘4 Funerals and a Wedding’. The first 20 minutes were taken by some attempts to blend Orthodox chant with Balkan elements, badly arranged and sung by a small group of male voices that couldn’t get their voices to blend because they could not control their vibratos. The crowd was waiting for the music proper to begin wondering how they should react. If there is one word that can describe Goran Bregovic’s music it is the word ‘kitsch’. There is much better music from the Balkans than that, but don’t take my word for it. The people eventually started to dance and I could see fans waiting for an autograph.
Audiences were often euphoric. A case in point is the flock that came to Stage 2 to see The Correspondents. The dancing crowd absolutely adored their electro idiom. Mr Bruce’s charismatic stage presence was probably the one that got the most vigorous response that I witnessed.
For many the festival finished with a crazy dance party fuelled by the artistry of DJ Click. His gypsy-inspired mixes were fun to listen to as there was always a surprising shift in rhythm or turn of melodic material. He has an engaging performance style that includes gestures, dancing, singing, sound effects and use of different instruments. A crowd of mostly twenty and thirty year-olds were dancing, waving hands and singing along. The DJ was so into it that he had to be told to finish the gig sooner than he wished. He could not believe the warmth and responsiveness of the crowd and yelled out in a French accent, ‘You are the best audience’ and then sent a verbal kiss yelling at the top of his lungs ‘Bisouuuuu’. The organisers had to apologise to Womadelaidians for the interruption and invite them to come to WOMADelaide next year. It is good to see WOMADelaide keeping up with the times by programming a healthy dose of excellent electronic music.
Venue: Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Dates: Friday 8 – Monday 11 March, 2013
Written by Daniela Kaleva, University of South Australia