WAMFest 2016 Takes Over Perth

– by Kristina Wilford

West Australian music fans were spoilt for choice last weekend. With the 2016 West Australian Music Festival engulfing Perth yet again there were standout gigs taking place all over the city all weekend!

Proceedings kicked off on Thursday night at the Claremont Showgrounds with the 2016 WAM Awards. The sold-out event presented by Drug Aware boasted superb performances from Best Folk Act Lucy Peach, Best World Act Grace Barbé, Hideous Sun Demon, Phil Walley-Stack, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets and Abbe May Gospel Choir.

Abbe May was one of the bigger winners of the night, taking home the two awards that she was nominated for: Best Single (for “Doomsday Clock”) and Best Female Vocalist. Other winners included the bombastic POW Negro for Most Popular New Act and Most Popular Live Act, Jacob Diamond for Best Male Vocalist, Jacob Snell Golden WAMi and Management award and Methyl Ethel beating international sensation Troye Sivan for Best Pop Act.

Visit WAM.org.au for the full list of winners.

The night was topped off by inducting two beloved acts into the Hall of Fame. Being such an important part in developing the West Australian music scene, The Triffids and Rick Steele were well-deserving of their place. It also paved the way for a touching moment when Rick’s incredibly, talented children, Katy (of Little Birdy and solo fame), Jake (Tobacco Rat) and Luke (Empire of the Sun/The Sleepy Jackson) presented him with the honour.

After a wonderful night of celebrating WA music, it was time to get down to business on Friday. 2016 saw the biggest WAMCon yet. There were over 65 speakers, 14 panels, Gareth Liddiard (The Drones) serving as keynote speaker and a boat cruise to top it all off. Held over two days, the conference was highly educational for anyone looking to make it in the music industry.

Friday night saw an abundance of showcases and gigs to choose from. Just to name a few, there was Rag n’ Bone at this year’s first edition of the Courtyard Club, Tom Day and Formidable Vegetable Sound System at the Southwest Showcase, Tempest Rising and Claim the Throne at the Metal Showcase, a night of Perth punk at The Boston and some of WA’s best electronic acts at The Bird.

I was lucky enough to catch the WAMFest edition of the Newport Record Club in Fremantle. Two supergroups featuring multiple WAM Award nominees and a winner, Steve Hensby, tackled Jebediah’s 1997 platinum-selling Slightly Odway and the critically acclaimed 2005 release Lovers, from The Sleepy Jackson. With the Slightly Odway line-up consisting of Belle Harvey, Russel Loasby, James Rogers, Ben Gray and Matt Geary. With Todd Picket and Michael Savage joining Steve on Lovers, I was expecting big things. The Sleepy Jackson ensemble kicked the night off, playing the release from start to finish.

There was just the right amount of their own unique energies shining through but never straying far from the original. The slow and smooth yet attention-grabbing elements of the album were perfect for the small but vocal crowd. There was nothing slow or mellow about the next set. The punchy songs of Jebediah were flawlessly brought to life by this talented supergroup. The crowd had doubled in size by the end and were eating up every moment of it.

Saturday evening was time for the big event, the Saturday Spectacular.With over eighty acts across eleven venues with free entry, it certainly lived up to its title! There was a host of WAM Award nominees and winners playing all over town; Lucy Peach wowed the crowd at Mustang Bar with her superb set, Ah Trees got the ball rolling on a sensational bag of acts at The Boston, Jacob Diamond joined a wonderful line up at The Bird and POW Negro kept the party going with their electrifying set at the Block Party.

Also playing at the carpark Block Party were rock-ensemble Sugar Army. Not knowing much about them myself, I happened to arrive just in time for their set and I walked away with a newfound appreciation. Their hard-hitting songs and cool and confident stage presence had the crowd jumping and tapping their feet to every song.

I was also treated  another act I hadn’t heard much of before, Angus Dawson. The intimate feel of The Bird was perfect for his haunting, indie melodies. Backed by a wonderful gathering of musicians, he well and truly made a fan out of me. Afterparties at Badlands Bar and Jack Rabbit Slim’s, capped off the main event, with sets from DJ Sleepyhead, Troy Division, Pat Chow and DJ Sophie Hopes.

The amazing weekend of WA music was brought to a close with Sunday Best. Partnering with Parlour, the artists could find fans willing to host gigs in their own homes. There was the Lush Music Management Showcase in Northbridge, The Jayco Brothers with Railway Bell and Wayward Johnson in Bayswater and Teischa in Doubleview. The intimate (and, in the spirit of community music, free) gatherings were the perfect way to end an unforgettable weekend. It was also an awesome way to give back to the fans, the people that make the WA music scene what it is.

With a city filled to the brim with exciting and exceptional music, we are some incredibly lucky music fans.

Be sure to follow WAM for more local WA music updates!

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