The final night of Umbrella Winter City Sounds (28 July) saw a blood moon on the rise and bad luck strike two of Americanathon’s scheduled performers; the depth of Adelaide’s music scene, though, ensured that the show rolled on unhindered.
Paul Heggart, manager of the Americana Music Association of Australia, took to the Grace Emily stage at the commencement of the evening’s proceedings to inform the early arrivals that there had been a change to the programme; blues-folk songstress Courtney Robb had been rendered voiceless by a lurgy, and had been replaced by young Darwin born local artist, Katie Miller.
Katie charmingly introduced herself, fumbled nervously with her effects peddle mid-opening riff, then proceeded to uncork a voice of such richness and character, that a crowd of uninitiated listeners was immediately and irresistibly converted.
After Katie’s set concluded with a track that endearingly caricatured her prickly boss, there was a swift transition to Indie pop three-piece, Panacea, fronted by Adie Haines. While not necessarily a distinctly Americana songwriter, Adie, like Katie before her, was a skilled story-teller.
The dreadlocked Kelly Brouhaha followed on from Panacea and was supported by a pair of backing vocalists. With songs about her ex-husband leaving her and stealing the dog, there was no disputing her country music credentials. While her stage banter tilted heavily towards the comical, her lyrics hint at a pain within. Her most poignant song, an ode to her Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, contained the aching couplet: “I’m going to miss you when you’re gone, I’m going to miss you when you’re still here.”
Mortality was a theme of the evening, as the penultimate act, Melbourne’s Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes was a little less wild than usual, as their guitarist was forced to stay at home, nursing chest pains in the Frankston Hospital. Lachlan, a Country Music Association of Australia award-winning artist, remained in a jovial mood, though, as he recounted his first visit to the Grace, which was replete with a late-night glimpse of a stark-naked bass guitarist. As a two piece for the evening, they delivered tracks from acclaimed 2014 album, ‘Black Coffee’, as well latest release, ‘Some Girls (Quite) Like Country Music’.
Kelly Menhennett, wearing her customary ascot cap, closed out the evening. Kelly, despite having played giant festivals such as WOMAD and recorded in Nashville, is an amiable and welcoming member of the local scene; the kind of person that will say “how’s it going mate?” to a stranger standing on their own. Kelly, with her voice tinged with a hint of Billy Holliday, has had a four-year hiatus from releasing new recordings, but her undisputed talent has kept her perpetually busy; she is set to take the stage at the Adelaide Guitar Festival in August.
Americanathon presented a diverse offering of local and interstate talent, wood fires and flame-grilled burgers. Importantly, it was a gateway into discovering the next crop of Adelaide talent, and an opportunity to become reacquainted with old favourites.