Review by Caleb Sweeting
Photos by Dave Court
In it’s seventh year running as a South Australian not-for-profit festival, Blenheim has developed from a humble invite-only event with a handful of bands, to 20 acts with over 1000 punters camping on the Clare Valley property every year. Held on Easter Good Friday, it’s an ideal time for hillside camping – warm enough to boogie during the day and brisk enough to snuggle in your swag at night. What really enticed us was the fact that it’s a BYO festival… So there’s no need to sneak in a flask to avoid paying outrageous amounts for beer in a plastic cup!
Even more exciting, is the skate ramp that is located near the Hilltop and Green Goat Stages, which meant we could shred the half-pipe and listen to a band playing only a couple of metres away (how many festivals have you been to where this is possible?) Of course for Blenheim, it’s more than providing a place for music-lovers and skaters to meet, they use the festival’s profits to support New Hope Cambodia, an organisation that provides education, health care and work training to the people of Cambodia.
As this was our first time at the festival, we were excited to experience something smaller after Laneway at Port Adelaide and WOMADelaide in Botanic Park only a couple weeks ago. While Blenheim is no way as large as those aforementioned, it’s actually part of the appeal – bigger isn’t always better. The fact that it isn’t a mainstream festival means it doesn’t attract dickheads who are there to cause trouble; punters are there for the music and a break from dirty city air.
The day kicked off with Adelaide blues-boy, Ollie English, with his band consisting of Louis Donnarrumma (bass), Joseph Caporaso (drums) and Yewth’s very own Lewis Brideson (DJ YEWIS) on the keys. For an early set there were plenty of fans laying on the grass soaking up the sun and enjoying a cracking opening act. The highlight had to be, ‘I know You’re Gonna Leave’, that showcased English’s impeccable falsetto vocals and eventually led to all out gritty rock and roll. If you missed Ollie English, you can catch him this weekend at Silver Raven Festival in the Barossa Valley!
Next on our list was Jesse Davidson a.k.a. 'Jesse D and DA Bois' including Chris Panousakis (Timberwolf) who is no stranger to Bleny after playing on the bill last year. They played to a packed out crowd of fans that quite clearly can’t get enough of the Adeladian. Davidson looks like an ordinary guy that doesn’t take himself seriously (check out his Instagram and you’ll know what we mean), but as soon as he opens his mouth, gentle vocals follow and you can’t help but be impressed. His set was around 4pm, a golden hour when the sun was low and the synth-pop sound of ‘Lakai’ floated high into the sky.
Born on the streets of Adelaide, reggae outfit Local Revolution provided some colourful tunes for the night. A fusion of Latin, Rock, Funk, Reggae, Jazz, Hip Hop took us back to WOMADelaide, and gave us the energy to dance well into the night.
As the cold air drifted over the hillside, we were ready for a night of boogying under the stars. The Pierce Brothers provided the perfect vibe for this, while they may have started off as buskers on the streets of Melbourne, the twins are making a name for themselves on the big stage. There was a buzz about the brothers and a lot of people singing along to their folk-pop sound, in particular to addictive track ‘Overdose’ from their latest EP Into The Dirt. Straight after Bleinhem they played BluesFest – keep an eye on these bros, they are going places.
The Beards were, as you would imagine, beardy. A bunch of blokes that believe if your Dad doesn’t have a beard, you’ve got two mums. Fans in the front row took every opportunity to stroke their hero, guitarist, Facey McStubblington’s beard, who even took it upon himself to do a solo, not with his hands, but with his (you guessed) it, beard. If you don’t mind facial hair, and comedy-rock bands like Tenacious D are your cup of tea, we highly recommend checking these blokes out at Jive later this year (it also happens to be their farewell tour).
After a day of red tins, dancing, skating and beards we were ready for bed, but there was one more act we had to catch, Adelaide three-piece, Flamingo. It was 12.45am and eyes were stapled open, but we were pleased to be soaking up off-the-hook electronica under the moonlight. While there were some sound issues the boys pulled off an incredible performance that we dreamt about all night.
Personally we think Blenheim is becoming popular enough to eventually become South Australia’s own version of Falls Festival, however the smaller camp ground and family friendly atmosphere is part of the appeal. Another highlight this year was the reappearance of the 'Bait Fridge', an art demonstration that is messier than an AB pack from the chip shop, and has to be seen to be believed. We can’t wait for next year, and to see how this festival becomes better, but not necessarily bigger in the future. A skate comp addition would be sweet!
Check out our full gallery here, and stay tuned for our video montage of interviews with musicians and artists at Blenheim coming soon.