The first Saturday of the year marked the beginning of the Sydney Festival for 2010. Although this is my favourite time of the year and my favourite festival of the year, holiday plans in the past meant that I always ended up on missing out on the Festival’s First Night. Not knowing what to expect I wandered into town expecting underwhelming attractions and was pleasantly surprised to see otherwise.
Despite the humidity, Sydney siders thronged into the centre of town. Wandering down Hyde Park you can hear Indian drums, or see acrobats on swings. The only blight to the evening was the army of teenagers roving around looking for free entertainment. Perhaps I am getting old when the sight of yet another group of screeching teenagers made me want to douse them with precious water to shut them up.
We somehow managed to sneak into the domain just in time before they shut the gates due to overwhelming number of crowds. Even so, the photo above was the closest I get to see Al Green in a packed park.
I went back the next night to watch Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Beck’s Bar. This swing band had been on my to watch list for years, but I never managed to catch them live! Supported by the soulful Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears , it promised to be a fun gig to watch.
I turned up outside Beck’s bar around 8 and joined a queue that was snaking its way around Hyde Park Barracks. I knew I was in the right place when I spotted a number of ladies dressed in 40s fashion with billowing dresses accompanies by men with 50’s sideburns.
Moments before BBVD came on stage some impromptu swing dancing took place in the courtyard. The crowd was restless and I can’t wait to see them live. It wasn’t long before these sharply suited crooners stepped on the stage and the big sound of brass instruments took over the stage.
I was hoping they would play I Wanna Be Like You, and was rather chuffed when they did. A number of songs came from their new album – How Big Can You Get? such as Reefer Man and The Jumpin’ Jive, but it was the old favourites such as Zig Zaggity Woop Woop and Go Daddy O that brought out the biggest response from the die hard fans.
One of the highlights for me was when they started playing a scat version of Teen Spirit just before they left the stage. There was a momentary pause by the audience as they collectively entertained the idea of moshing for a split second…
You might wonder at this point why the obsession with this band and swing in particular? Isn’t it a type of music played by retirees when they want to remember their youth? I always wonder whether this same sentiment would apply to aging Heavy Metal fans couple of dozens of years from now. Swing with its strong rhythm and Big Band sensibilities has a charming in your face liveliness that always made me want to tap my feet on the dance floor. It doesn’t hurt that I like watching and dancing swing (for a time) and love love the fashion of the era.
I don’t quite remember how I managed to stumble upon this genre, but being forever unfashionable I might have caught the tail end of the swing revival in the late ’90s. It was during that time that I picked up bands like Royal Crown Revue, Cherry Poppin Daddies and Indigo Swing. It’s a love affair that is rarely shared by others and I was often told to change to a different CD on long drives to something a bit more lively
If you are based in Sydney and you have not explored what the Sydney Festival has to offer, you should hang your head in shame and mossy over to see what it has to offer this year. The Festival is growing bigger by the year, attracting an international group of performers that are rarely seen in this side of the world!I am rather sad that I missed out on tickets to watch Laura Marling in my home turf, but I do have a number of theater tickets to look forward to.