Driving along a gently undulating road surrounded by vineyards on a warm, partly cloudy day was a reminder of why festivals in rural South Australia are so appealing. The 10-minute leisurely stroll from the car park in an adjacent paddock to the grounds of Turkey Flat Vineyard and location of the Silver Raven Festival 2016 provided a grand vista of the winery and its surrounds.
The first act on stage, Ollie English, backed by a solid band delivered his blues-infused soulful numbers with strength and passion. His shyness between songs was in stark contrast to the reckless abandon he exhibited throughout the performance, incorporating instrumental jams and letting his vocals rip at just the right moments.
Most of the audience was still huddled in the sparse mid-afternoon shade as Hana and Jessie-Lee’s five piece hit the stage. Their fringed western shirts were a signpost to the group’s straight up country sound. Jesse-Lee’s tasteful lead breaks on guitar were matched by Hana’s enthusiastic and strong vocals. Mark Curtis (The Wild Things) provided fantastic harmonies throughout the set as well as adding an edge to the set with his mandolin work. Some fine a cappella moments during the performance had the glasses of Turkey Flat Rosé tickling in the perfect Autumn weather.
Koral and the Goodbye Horses brought a haunting presence to the stage. Koral Chandler’s stylistic dance movements and mastery of the brooding chanteuse came to the fore with a chilling version of The Motel’s Total Control. Their scorching set melted the ice in those convenient clear plastic ice-filled wine bottle carry bags sported by several punters.
With the lush lawn area now covered with picnic blankets and low back chairs the Audreys took the stage. With this their last performance before an extended break it was a shame the Audreys couldn’t drum up a bigger on stage line up. However, singer Taasha Coates made up for the absence of a banjo and violin with a melodica solo on a number of original tracks including Banjo & Violin and ukulele on a sensual version of John Mayer’s Come Back to Bed.
The swirling smoke from Happy Hotel’s BBQ wafted over the audience as the charming Eilen Jewell, the festival’s first guest from the USA, took to the stage. The 4-piece quickly had a small group of enthusiastic fans having a wiggle up front, setting a precedent for the rest of the evening. The highlight of her set was the tongue-in-cheek song Bang Bang Bang which features Cupid sporting a gun rather than the traditional bow and arrow.
As the sun disappeared behind tin sheds and grape vines a blanket of grey clouds rolled across the sky. American headliner Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit opened with the upbeat but dirty Palmetto Rose from the 2015 album Something More Than Free. After a rocky beginning Isbell eased into the crowd pleaser Travelling Alone in a special sing-along moment. Isbell trading licks with lead guitarist Browan Lollar on Never Gonna Change was the pinnacle of a dynamic performance from an act finally getting much deserved international recognition.
Jason Isbell was a tough act to follow but New Yorkers Endless Boogie have been around long enough to hold their own, producing a near non-stop jam, keeping revelers shaking their hips for the entire set. Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems were by no means an after thought, despite having to play to a slightly reduce audience. But those who party last party hardest, right? Bad//Dreems kept the Silver Raven loyals vibing with their garage, high-energy rock and rounded off a strong line up in style.
Just a stone’s throw from Adelaide, Silver Raven Festival stands shoulder to shoulder with a number of other boutique festivals held in South Australia. Certainly the stage orientation was great, ensuring performers were not staring into the setting sun, something very few festivals seem to consider. The spacious grounds of Turkey Flat Winery could cater for a few more than the 700 odd people in attendance but festivals like this are special because they are intimate and somewhat exclusive. The ticket price at $75 was extremely good value for what it offered, namely three international acts and an excellent array of local and interstate talent. Festival director Alex Schultz said the day was a great result and summed up the festival saying it was a ‘party in the country in an historic region with good food, wine and music’.
Here’s hoping for another instalment of the Silver Raven Festival in 2017.
by James Hickey