A Perth summer simply isn’t complete without a few balmy nights spent immersed in the electrifying shows and surrounds of the Perth Festival Chevron Gardens. Live music is almost always good – but at the Gardens, shows are rarely short of life-altering.
With some massive international names and some of Australia’s hottest talent on the bill, the launch of 2019’s Chevron Gardens program signified one thing: festival organisers aren’t holding back.
For Clara Iaccarino, who joined the Festival team as Contemporary Music Programmer back in 2016, a good program is all about “diversity and cracking live shows”. Jet-setting the globe to scour venues, gigs and festivals for the best live talent the world’s got to offer might sound like a dream job (and, Iaccarino has previously confirmed, it is), but it’s also a lot of hard work to pull together a truly cutting-edge program for the 65-year-running, internationally renowned arts festival.
“My programming goal is to present a plethora of different voices, genres and sounds, while ensuring that I am presenting acts with an absolutely killer live show,” says Iaccarino, just days out from the Festival’s opening weekend. “The album may be astounding, but what we want is an artist committed to connection and electricity in a live context.”
With acts spanning such diversity as Archie Roach – set to perform his moving opening show, Wanju Ba Boorlo, this Friday night – to the sexuality, sass and sauciness of Christine & The Queens who’ll close the Festival on March 3, it’s safe to say that Iaccarino’s goals have been met, if not surpassed.
In between these bold bookends are 13 other shows across the three-week-long festival period that well and truly live up to the Festival’s ‘move or be moved’ mantra.
“Hopefully people will be moving their dancing feet to shows like Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Jungle Brothers and then others will be moved emotionally and spiritually at shows such as Wanju Ba Boorlo, Cat Power and Julien Baker & Julia Jacklin,” says Iaccarino.
The latter show, headlined by two songstresses who’ve emerged with delicate force from the indie-rock and indie-folk scenes, is one of the most hotly-anticipated. Iaccarino is forecasting a totally immersed, motionless crowd brought to tears and back again by the heartfelt and hypnotic melodies of Julien Baker and Julia Jacklin.
Meanwhile, cult-favourite duo Beach House’s otherworldly show is already down to the waiting list.
Another program highlight is what’s set to be a mesmerising show from Rhye on February 24. The band enjoyed a moment of anonymity last year before the heartbreakingly tender yet sultry vocals of front-man Mike Milosh catapulted their debut album ‘Woman’ to fame, and now to the Chevron Gardens stage. Those who’ve shined their dancing shoes in anticipation of the Festival might like to catch Aloe Blacc on February 15, who’s Marvin Gaye-esque soul tunes are flawlessly entertaining. There’s also old-school hip-hop vibes on offer from The Jungle Brothers on February 16, and a stripped-back and intimate unplugged soiree with The Preatures on February 17. By all accounts, frontwoman Isabel Manfredi’s acoustic show is just as dazzling as their blockbuster set, if not even more so.
One of the program’s biggest international names and a highly acclaimed singer-songwriter, Cat Power is back in town for the Festival on February 14 celebrating 25 arduous and masterful years in the music industry. Iaccarino, who’s first experience of Chan Marshall live ended almost before it had even started, describes Cat Power as “where strength meets vulnerability and flowers into … fragile beauty”. She is referring to Marshall’s long-term battle with alcohol and prescription drug dependence and illness, recovery from which culminated in her 2018 album, ‘Wanderer’. The album is a testimony to her autonomy, depth and power as a survivor, a woman, and a new mother, and is reason enough to buy tickets – her back catalogue of smash hits and legendary collaborations just the cream on top.
But it’s the aforementioned festival closers – French electro-pop outfit Christine & The Queens – who’ve got Iaccarino most excited.
“It was a great coup to finally confirm Christine & The Queens after three years of working to present her,” Iaccarino says. “She represents all that I hope to present in the program: political potency, diversity and an absolutely outstanding live show. Her songs are super slick, her dancers are super sexy and as an artist, she’s bold, brave and inspiring.”
In a nutshell, Iaccarino’s message about the Festival’s closing night is this: “Do not miss this show.”