Choices abound when the October Long Weekend comes about. Some head for the beach houses and some head to the bush. Others look for ways to delve into cultural activities that may float their boat.
Some pick football, some go in search of music. Dashville Skyline, set on the Johnston family spread named Dashville, was the home for the weekend for fans of Americana style music.
Featuring music influenced by The Band, The Grateful Dead Gram Parsons and others, the promoters pulled together a cornucopia of known and somewhat unknown acts from Australia and a few from overseas.
With camping onsite, it appeared the majority of the crowd had settled in for the two days of peace, love and music under the eucalyptus trees that filled the property. The intimacy of the venue and the accoutrements of excellent BBQ, great drinks and fine mellow fun makers made for a chilled weekend.
With the weather stinking hot and campers getting settled, the music kicked off in the morning with Betty and Oswald strumming and singing while tent pegs were hammered in and eskies of beverages unloaded.
Lee Rondeau and his band were a fine slice of Texas country. The four-piece were an admirable choice for one of the few international acts. Rondeau expected a bit more raucousness from the crowd as she thanked them for ‘being pleasant’, but it was hot and rowdiness was going to have to wait until the sun went down.
Australia’s own Ruby Boots aka Bex Chilcott delivered a strikingly good set and did an impromptu solo cover of Joplin’s ‘Mercedes Benz’ due to a broken guitar string. Van Walker played some great tunes on the small Willie Wall stage, so named because of the picture of Willie Nelson overlooking it.
‘Give Back The Key To My Heart’ closed his set and the crowd got into singing along with the Doug Sahm number to help cover up the noise coming from The Green Mohair Suits at the stage adjacent. No egos bruised as each artist made a humorous comment about the bleed coming from the other stage, which was a rare event as the sound was perfect most of the weekend.
The Sunset Super Round was held in the middle of proceedings each day. This involved many of the acts delivering covers of some of the great Americana tunes out in the world. Think John Prine, Willie Nelson, The Band, Wilco and Neil Young.
Holy Holy did wonders with Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ and Melody Pool and Ruby Boots sang their hearts out on a fabulous Lucinda Williams tune.
Saturday’s unremitting joy went on with Lost Ragas from Melbourne, with Shane Reilly on pedal steel and Matt Walker at the helm singing songs about the road and weed. All Our Exes Live In Texas gave us beautiful harmonies and playing as we headed into the later part of the first night.
The magnificence of the venue gave you the chance to be up closeand personal or to sit around your camp site having a meal or a brew while thesounds came to you with crystal clarity. It was like being in a big backyard party with great friends.
Shane Nicholson and The Pee Street Band, Papa Bilko and The Binrats and William Crighton were the last three acts to close up Dashville with a bang on Saturday night. Nicholson has a gorgeous voice and his outfit filled out the songs with expertise.
Papa Bilko, as someone said, is the real deal. Their horn soaked soulful and country sound was a huge hit with the crowds. Bilko growled and prowled the stage, looking like a rodeo cowhand with the soul of Iggy Pop. Truly an act not to be missed if you get the opportunity.
William Crighton and his seven-piece band brought Saturday at Dashville to a close in rocking style. With Jason Walker adding guitar and steel and some fabulous singing and playing by all, it was a stunning selection of songs.
Losing an hour of sleep time due to the commencement of Daylight Savings Time did not help some of the red eyes and sore headed folks stumbling around Dashville on the morning of Day Two. There was no hanging in your tent for a sleep-in because the sun was up and it was hot.
Gleny Rae’s Bluegrass helped you ease into your coffee and breakfast and the morning sort of oozed into the afternoon. Magpie Johnston, the promoter of all things Dashville, had his band Magpie Diaries on hand.
With a new EP out he threw three of them into the sedate crowd to ‘get the momentum going’ on the release. He commented he was too busy putting onfestivals to be a professional musician.
The remainder of the day brought the rollicking Lonesome Heroes from the US and the soulful sounds of Bahamas from Canada. Henry Wagons had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand with a cover of ‘Never Been to Spain’ and had the All Our Exes gals joining him on stage.
His ode to Willie Nelson had the crowd involved in one of the most stimulating sing-alongs witnessed in a very long time. There were going to be some croaky voices on Monday morning, that was a given!
Hank Green and Van Walker, as Goatpiss Gasoline, brought some Mississippi Hill Country Blues to Dashville and got the crowd moving and grooving. Intense guitar playing from both gentleman was met with howls of approval.
The Dashville Progress Society is a conglomeration of about 20 artists and mates that gather whenever there is an event at Dashville. Guitars and drums and microphones fill every inch of the stage and the smiles and beers are flowing in a fine fashion.
With a set made up of covers, the fun is watching them tackle them with joyous abandon. ‘Born On The Bayou’ (Creedence Clearwater), ‘Cinnamon Girl’ (Neil Young), and ‘Woodstock’ amongst others rocked the stage for the final blast of Americana.
Dashville was truly a magical success and there will be fine memories for all that attended. Here is hoping that next year we can all go along to Dashville Skyline 2016. Keep your calendar free!