Kuranda Roots Review

Kuranda Roots Festival 2014

Kuranda Roots festival has become one of the best small scale festivals in the country, due to a combination of savvy programming, great venue and and generally relaxed vibe. In its 11th year and its third at the fabulous Billabong site, the event like all good festivals has too much to see. NQ Music Press managed to catch up with a few of the bands.

Friday night saw a new amalgamation of some top-shelf FNQ talent – 10497453_10152570860908729_5524786960503442623_oThe Diallers, playing a set of their self described funky synth hop to great effect. They gave it up and popped out some fine and considered grooves – the band meshing into a shakedelic kinda machine. The funk and syncopation was hot but it was smooth and slinky at times too. Everyone dancing looked good. The Diallers were digging it too on stage, moving to their own groove, sounding like a group getting off on their own songs and enjoying playing. And with the irrepressible Robbie V smiling and rhyming, dropping tales and lyrics over it all, this very fine mix of musicians cracked brain-cells and moved rumpola with ease.

Roots Festival favourites Zennith create a great set full of dynamics, lots of good songs and passionate playing. Since pioneering their tropical Hiphop reggae sound they have become a very classy band indeed. They have their unique style and their show is just right -not a wasted moment and no filler. There is also the sense of being taken on a journey with them helped in no small part by frontman Aden Brim, who has the right combination of charisma, authority and humour. Zennith just burst with talent -three generations of musicians in fact, and everyone does two or three things. The young guitarist and conga players both rap. Instruments get swapped around but the good groove and solid NQ vibe stays the same making the crowd BOUNCE.

Saturday is the big day with acts from 10.30am to 1.00am. In the late afternoon amongst giant datura flower lights and shady gumtrees local lyrical addicts the Jungle Funk Trio started floating their right-here rhymes over the beats and machinations of the very talented Mr. Jimmy Flipshyt. With charm and brio the lads bring us up, in a mindful and hilarious way, keeping it buoyant and fun. Without bluster & bragging to get their vibe across they got sang-froid in spades just telling us their smart and sly tales without hype or fuss. Dis real Hiphop.

The winter sun was going behind the tree-line when Koalition took the stage. Band leader Rohan Rusch description of the band as “just a reggae band” is both perfect and wayyyy too modest. Yes indeed -they sure play reggae and their understanding and respect of this Koahlition Kuranda Rootsmusic is obvious in their playing & their original songs sound undiluted. Koalition is probably rootiest band of the festival. Every little Jamaica flavour, reggae throb or dubby colour that could be heard over the Roots week-end is right here being created by them. They’ve got the real sonic alchemy in full effect, giving the grooving crowd the true hypnotic skank, the super wobble, that reggae sway, that deep end bubbling swell that makes hips sway.. Band with beautiful harmonies from three singers nice original songs and some choice electric guitar solos

Schoolfight Kuranda RootsSchoolfight are the nominal bad boys of the festival with their feisty high voltage musical style and cheeky lyrics about…check out their songs. Taking big slugs of Hiphop, funk and rock, with some metal and jazz chasers on the side, this band make tension and dissolve it with intelligence and wit. The band are tight’n’springy and easy with the massive sound they lay upon us. The vocal energy of mad-for-it MC eMcyte (and da keyboard player) is the knock-out punch. Even an authorities sanctioned gap in their set didn’t stop Schoolfight from keeping the energy level way way up, coming back on to entertain the crowd in grand style, leaving everyone both sweaty and refreshed.

Direct from Brisbane the mighty Bullhorn take the stage -a drummer and seven horns. From the get go they grabbed the audience with infectious killer grooves, getting ’em up and rocking. The giant souspahone and bass sax make for phat as phuk basslines. The other horns riff and solo away – combining into a stream-lined dance machine. Just as we got our head and asses around this fabulous line-up -then front man Roman appears on stage. He’s an affable giant with a motor-mouth and marvellous stage presence who gives every other MC and toaster here a run for their money.
The delighted audience start pogo-ing madly as Bullhorn step it up, enveloping us in supersonic bliss. This is the party band of the festival with high octane songs, virtuoso playing and great arrangements. They even bring the jazz.

Progressive Tan’s Sunday afternoon show is just plain lovely. It’s Progressive Tan Kuranda roots 2014sunny and warm, the crowd super loose after a few days of festival. The front row of singer/guitarists has some combined talent -including Kazman, Rudi Quinzalez and Dougie Fresh. They’ve got heaps of original songs that sound like classics you’ve heard on the radio. Taking their inspiration from Jamaican vocal groups they touch on many forms of Caribbean roots -ska, blubeat, mento, reggae and latino. At times Progressive Tan chant down Babylon with tough lyrics but they never lose the sunshine or stop the dance. We are swept away by their effervescent charm.

Dillion James plays with other bands, but today he’s here with his own sweet, sweet band, and takes us on a kind of old school soul revue journey back into the seventies and sixties, back into the blues and funk. Playing Hammond organ most funkily indeed and singing from that good place deep inside, Mr. James and his mob filled the sunlit afternoon with heartfelt music that was both gritty and urban and Arcadian and green too. There was no pretence, no artifice – just real soul

Overall the quality of the music was pretty damn good with some absolute banging sets being dropped. The weather was divine, the outdoor setting most conducive to relaxing and enjoying the music. All of this along with the endless good cheer of the crowd made for a splendid weekend. Bring on next year’s Roots!

Gawain Barker

Photography by Pete Dillon