Review: Robe Village Fair

I spent the last three days (or a fair chunk of them, at any rate), down in the lovely seaside town of Robe, located about 3½ hours drive south of Adelaide. Around this time every year, and instigated originally by my good friend Hugh Koch, Robe hosts the annual Village Fair: a showcase of local food and wine, with internationally reknowned musical entertainment.

This year saw the inclusion of Jimmy Barnes, the former front man of 80s Rock Band Cold Chisel, as the lead act, with (Johnny) Diesel (formerly of Johnny Diesel and the Injectors), supporting him on Saturday night. (Which reminds me, he didn’t do the song Saturday Night!) Vanessa Amorosi played on Friday evening, and Kate Ceberano was the Sunday afternoon act.

I arrived in Robe early in the evening, and had some dinner with my family before we headed off into town for the first concert. I’ll start by stating publicly that I hated Vanessa Amorosi’s songs, especially Absoloutely Everybody, and, Oh, that’s right, she didn’t have any other songs! So I went into Friday’s gig with not too high expectations. And saw them stripped by her talent. Amorosi was really quite a reasonable singer, performing a whole lot of cover versions: I actually commented (very much tongue-in-cheek) that I didn’t realise I knew so many of her songs.

Anyway, I was quite enjoying her performance, until the encore. She persisted with the flawed concept that has riddled the Australian version of Pop Idol, that dancing around the final note a composer had planned as the finish of their song shows everyone just how talented you are. Like Guy Sebastian did when he butchered just about every song he performed. It just annoys the hell out of me that singers continue to think that this rubbish sounds good. Sure, interpret the song in your own way, but don’t kill the end of the song by over-singing the f•ck out of it. Still, to her credit, Amorosi really only did this with her second last song. Unfortunately, her final song was the annoying song that Mark Holden wrote (is that the right word. Was this really written?) for her all of those years ago. And the f•cking thing stayed in my head all night long!

Saturday looked like it might be a downpour - it actually did rain rather heavily at around 6 am: I don’t normally wake up when the weather’s bad that early, but I did for some reason. Still, it had fined up by the time we made it back into the main street, and we got some lunch (dry old baked potato), and some drinks. Plenty of the new Coopers Lager - it’s really quite nice - and several bottles of varying wines, both red and white.

Diesel came on at about 5, and didn’t really do much for me. Don’t get me wrong, he was great as background music, but I didn’t really know that many of his songs. It did give me some time to really load up on the lagers, at least until they ran out. Then it was onto Doctor Tim’s… which someone tells me is just like Pale Ale, but in a can. I didn’t notice the taste.

Barnesy came on sometime around 7:30 - I’d pretty much lost track of time by then. Actually, I recall that it was still light, just. I’d promised Jason I’d get a photo of me and him together, and there were several (rude) text messages about money changing hands. The proof will be in the (faked) pudding, I’ll just leave it at that.

I always say I’m not a big Barnesy fan, but having someone like him, who plays a heap of songs that you knew the words to right throughout your youth means you can really get into it. It always helps when there’s a thing you can relate to in a song (happy hour at one of the two Hotels: the same number that are in Robe…), and when you are surrounded by a throng of people all screaming along at the top of their voices. I loved it. In a different way than I love listening to Beethoven or Mozart, but it was great nonetheless.

The ringing in my ears had subsided by Sunday morning: we had 17 people (including one baby, my gorgeous nephew Jack!) staying in the house, and I made French Toast for all; and by midday we headed back into Robe proper to hear Kate Ceberano. I really dig her as a performer, and was really looking forward to hearing her live.

And I felt she was the most disappointing of the lot. Nothing wrong with her singing (although, I don’t think she did Young Boys Are My Weakness), but she certainly crapped on a lot between songs. And whilst sometimes that it part of the act, with her it really felt like she was just talking to try and push the length of the set out a bit. Yeah, I suppose it was cute having those six kids get up on stage for Pash Me, but it took about three times the length of the song to set it up. And they couldn’t sing to save themselves!

When Ben Folds talks between songs, or sets up the audience to join in, it’s worth the wait. And that reminds me, the big difference is that, a couple of times, Ceberano basically berated the audience for not giving her ‘enough respect’, but I think crowd interaction and ‘love’ is something a performer needs to build up each time they perform. Not just expect it because they can command $25,000 for a performance.

I didn’t dislike Ceberano because she is a Scientologist, but I don’t respec’ her nearly as much as I did before I’d seen her live. And with Barnesy (and to a certain extend, Amorosi), it’s a bit the other way.

The wines on show seemed pretty good - I really only had about 6 or 7 glasses worth over the three days, and only about three different types, but it was the first time for a while I’d really drunk any red, so that was nice. And the coolest thing was that they were a) local wines and b) cheaper there than back up here in Adelaide from bulk liquor stores. Speaking of price, I didn’t eat any lobster - but I wish I had. It was $15/half, which doesn’t sound like much, when you compare it to $4 for a (very) small serve of chips, or $8 for even less chips with one piece of fish.

Just about everyone there was eating lobster, they must have sold shitloads of them. Oh well, live and learn. Overall, I hope it didn’t sound like I didn’t have a good time. I had a great time. Mostly this was (for me) being able to catch up with lots of people from my past: including an ex-girlfriend who has two (very cute) daughters. Hi Libby. Your kids are gorgeous.