By Matilda Grace
To many it is just sunburnt country-side, bushland, a paddock or whoop-whoop but this is Dashville; home to not only the Johnston family but the Hunter Valley’s The Gum Ball, PigSty in July and now the Dashville Skyline Festival.
It is October long-weekend and it is going to be blood, sweat and Dashville finest. We hit the road at 8.15am and the sweat has already begun. A quick coffee stop and we are flying down the Hunter Express Way toward Belford.
Hearts are racing with anticipation as car loads of families, friends and locals line up to enter into a weekend celebrating Americana music and culture with a twist. Local bands from the Hunter Valley and Sydney with some international bands make up the exciting line-up.
By 10am we had set up camp (and by camp we mean throw swags on ground) and we were off to explore the campsite and grounds. With film camera in hand we captured our fellow Dashville campers and unwilling film participants as they awkwardly put up tents.
It was 11am when I first fell in love (for this weekend). For those early arrivals no one could miss Sydney duo Betty and Oswald. The couple opened with an indie-folk inspired set with every beat, note and tune radiating harmonious energy through out the crowd.
The Willie Wall stage may have been the smallest of the three stages Dashville presented but that did not stop Bagheads from a big performance bringing the stomp and rock to supporting fans.
Leo Rondeau and band brought some smooth Texan charm to the afternoon set. A performance that welcomed the Aussie crowd to the sound of his America. Firey red-haired Ruby Boots followed and despite breaking a string on her guitar her energy was electrifying.
Tears of sweat ran down the faces of the crowd as the sun finally started its descent and Dashville had a special way of celebrating the sunset with a collaborative set of famous Americana covers. The Sunset Super Round delivered a range of beautiful performances from the artists that had even the youngest of the crowd on their feet.
The Sunset Super Round is what makes the Dashville Skyline Festival stand out from all other festivals. Music runs through the Johnston family and at sunset it brought family, friends new and old together.
Love hit me again for the second time that Saturday when the four charismatic ladies from All My Exes Live in Texas hit the stage. Personalities shone high through their music as well as their charming sideshow humour by far one of the best musical groups with stringed harmonies and the unique piano accordion sound.
Papa Pilko and The Binrats hit the stage hard Saturday night and I am still in shock with what can only be described as an eye-opening had-to-be-there moment. Self described country rock n roll band these cowboys could play. It is hard to explain this performance but needless to say it was outrageously entertaining.
It can be said lead singer Cyrus Pilko took his frontman duties to the next level while bands mates watched on. Amazingly Pilko did not face-plant off the stage but it was hard not to watch on mesmerised at his hip-swinging, strip-teasing, pelvic thrusting pole dancing performance.
As Sunday began I was still crushing on William Crighton’s performance that topped off the end of a brilliant Saturday. Nighthawk Diner delivered the goods for breakfast with a smokey bacon and egg roll followed by another set from my first love Betty and Oswald with a coffee wait of an hour.
The much-anticipated Magpie Diaries with frontman and festival host Matt Johnston hit the stage just before midday. Born and bred on the Dashville property left local singer/songwriter Matt (Magpie) with many childhood stories to tell.
Sunday was packed with many local artists who delivered top-notch performances. James Thomson and band despite the heat brought a cool and chilled vibe to the many onlookers couched in the shade.
The beautiful Melody Pool was admittedly struggling with the heat but did not show any sign of slowing down. Paired with friend and cellist Madeleine Becker the singer was beautifully transcendent and confirmed a second record is in the near future.
As you did not think it could get any better the second Sunset Super Round had the stage filled with artists collaborating on yet another tribute to Americana music. It was defiantly a girl power performance with Ruby Boots, Melody Pool and All Ours Exes Live in Texas conquering the set.
As the sun finally began to set on yet another splendid day at Dashville Canadian band Bahamas created a mesmerising gospel-inspired set. It was angelic and heavenly having the crowd transfixed.
Later that night the delightful Wagons delivered the right amount of finesse having every one on their feet. The graceful Holy Holy followed with an electric rock alternative country sound. Their music stood tall with a high-energy performance from both band and crowd.
It was a weekend of great performances, friendly people, cold drinks and many laughs. I fell in love many times with every cowboy in sight and every amazing vocal performance. It was a dashing Dashville festival with staff that assured we camped in comfort. I look forward to next years line up and more great performances from local bands.