The Adelaide Guitar Festival once again aimed to please over the weekend with the addition of The Panics to their already impressive program. Originally from Perth, The Panics are an ARIA award winning band based in Melbourne who have a concrete history in the music industry having played with the likes of Morrissey, Gomez, Grandaddy, The Church and Badly Drawn Boy. Don’t Fight It from their award-winning 2007 record Cruel Guards, was one of their biggest hits that in my opinion still gets me humming along each and every time. But their latest work revealed some incredibly powerful pieces of music that fully engrossed the crowd til the very end.
Additionally, they performed their soundtrack live to accompany the ABC archival documentary Girt by Sea (2014), directed by SA’s Shane McNeil. A compilation of vintage archived films featured snippets of the Australian coastline, land and the connection to Australian culture to create a ‘mesmerising evocation of our long standing love affair with the Australian coast’. It premiered at the Perth International Arts Festival in February 2014 where The Panics performed live to a sold out audience.
Shane McNeil braced the stage and spoke of the affinity that Australians have with the ocean, incorporating real-life videos to powerfully evoke fond memories spent with family and friends. He weaves an overlapping of commentary from these clips to assist in this poetic and creative method of storytelling that celebrates our connection to the sea as documented over the past 100 years. Likewise, scenes of boats arriving in Sydney remind us of the migrants who helped shape Australia into the beautiful and multicultural nation it is today.
Emotive scenes were heightened by the accompanying score of live music by The Panics that helped to create an immersive visual experience, taking the viewer along Australia’s historically evolving journey. Drummer Myles Wootton is worth noting, as he captivated the audience with his intense enthusiasm that strikingly displayed his connection to both the film and the essence of post-rock indie music, taking us elsewhere as each melody filled our ears. Drew Wootton on guitar showed us what the Guitar Festival is all about as he crooned away alongside Paul Otway on bass and Jules Douglas and Jae Laffer on keyboard, guitar and vocals.
Her Majesty’s Theatre was transformed into a nostalgic haven, with the projected video resurfacing forgotten moments within Australia’s cultural timeline. Although the majority of the film positively encompassed the greatness of Australia, Shane McNeil simultaneously aimed to highlight some of Australia’s darker moments, including our history of whaling which ceased in 1979, the impact of colonization on indigenous culture and the ways in which Australia’s views on migration has transformed over time. Girt by Sea reveals both the good and the bad, but in the meantime wholeheartedly represents a true reflection of how far our continent has come.
Image and video: Adelaide Festival Centre