24 August, Leadbelly
May I give everyone some unsolicited advice? Don’t bring your parents to work.
I made the mistake of inviting not only my parents, but my sister, two wild farming cousins from New Zealand and a slew of creative family friends to The Leadbelly in Newtown for the Sydney Guitar Festival.
We were there for Joe Robinson, a long-time favourite artist of ours since 2011, and we saw him at the tender age of 21 for Woodford Folk Festival. My Dad and his best friend have gone so far as to only refer to him as ‘Smokin’ Joe’. They truly are his biggest fans.
However, come Thursday evening, and an hour since the doors opened, it appeared that while I am used to late nights and indulging responsibly, my family are as raucous as ever. When the opening act came on at 8pm, quick-witted and sweet-hearted talent Adam Miller, the tables were overflowing along with their enthusiasm. Miller delivered an astounding set, his calm, collected yet charismatic performance was truly a joy to watch.
With little nods to his grandfather, nephew and wife, Miller managed to inject enough of himself into the show that you were really able to feel the stories behind the purely instrumental performance.
Next up was Michael Fix. While he was indeed gifted, something didn’t seem to connect with me. I feel like the particular skillset and atmosphere of the other acts on the bill didn’t quite fit with Fix’s own performance style, which led to the set being accessible but slightly out of place.
When Smokin’ Joe Robinson hit the stage, the crowd on the balcony – by this point was completely dominated by my extended family unit – was gagging for a taste of what we knew he had in store. Opening with Adelaide, a favourite track from his 2012 album Let Me Introduce You, and then following on with an impressive display of skill, managing to play two guitars simultaneously.
At one point, inviting his equally as astounding younger sister on stage, the pair went on to perform Lethal Injection, the song which Claire had chosen as her performance piece for the upcoming HSC.
The whole evening was an event of sheer wonder. Joe Robinson plays the guitar like no one I have ever witnessed, bashful and sweet, he was as much a gentleman as he was a cheeky scoundrel.
The show ended with a round-up of all three musicians jamming on stage, accompanied by uninvited hoots and whistles from my cousin, who by that point was three espresso martinis down. Taking on Johnny Cash’s I Shot A Man In Reno the finale was a crowd pleaser.
Next time Joe Robinson is in town and you want to be annoyed by a bunch of rowdy New Zealanders at a bar and at the same time witness some of the best guitar playing the world, I highly suggest getting tickets to the show. A great night, with a few sore heads the next day.