The carefully crafted set by Paul Kelly and his band, at the Summer of Soul festival at Mossvale Park last Saturday night, included four rain-themed songs but thankfully forecast torrential rain failed to materialise and the much-anticipated event went ahead almost as planned. M840215
HE DIDN’T make a big song and dance about it on stage but backstage, after his spell-binding set was over, Paul Kelly kicked back with friends and celebrated a special milestone birthday, three days early.
And they had the incredible horn section of The Cat Empire going on stage, out front, to keep the party rolling.
Kelly turns 60 today, Tuesday, January 13, and while he’ll hopefully remember where he marked the occasion, it’s unlikely that the 5500 people who celebrated with him at the ‘Summer of Soul’ festival at beautiful Mossvale Park last Saturday night, will ever forget one of the concerts of a lifetime.
Highlights of his thoughtfully crafted set included the iconic Christmas-time lament, ‘How to make gravy’, and four rain-themed songs, for the weather that thankfully didn’t arrive, including a sublime version of ‘Smells like rain’ featuring backing singers Vika and Linda Bull.
But as superbly as the day and night of entertainment went off, organisers admit to having some serious concerns about the possible implications of the predicted rain.
One of the main organisers, Suzanne Henderson of the Lyrebird Arts Council, was both delighted and chastened by the experience.
“We always wondered what the capacity of Mossvale was and we found out on Saturday night,” Ms Henderson said.
“There were 3000 tickets sold but when you add in the fact that children under 14 were admitted free, probably contributing another 1500, plus all the industry people pulling in favours, the tickets we give away as contra for support, all the people who put on the show, the stallholders and all the rest – we’d say there were 5500-plus there on the night.
“We saw on Facebook that some people were trying to off-load their tickets with poor weather expected but later they posted messages saying they decided to come anyway, thanking people for not buying their tickets because it was so good.
“It was a terrific night, a lot of highlights but a personal one for me was looking out, towards the end of the night, at all those happy faces and realising that all the work was worthwhile. And it can be a bit of a nightmare at times.”
The arts council’s worst nightmare did not eventuate, thank goodness, but it wasn’t without some serious soul-searching about the implications of a heavy downpour, right up until the night before the festival, during contingency planning sessions with the authorities.
“Mossvale Park sits right on the river (near the junction of Berrys Creek and the West Branch of the Tarwin River) and has been known to flood. The park becoming a lake was certainly a concern, yes,” Ms Henderson said.
“We have tried to find other venues but it’s just so beautiful out there. There’s nothing to match it really.
“It’s a credit to the shire gardeners and all the people who look after it. It’s an absolute treasure.”
Ms Henderson said the massive trees and green-leafy setting was one of the main things remarked upon by performers, that and the tremendous hospitality afforded them by the arts council and the local community.
“They absolutely love coming here,” she said.
A review of the postcodes of ticket purchasers reveals that up to 40 per cent were locals, that figure boosted, according to Ms Henderson, by the booking of mainstream bands this year.
Scanning the crowd, back as far as the eye could see seated on deck chairs and picnic rugs, indicated that half of Leongatha, and big contingents from Mirboo North, Inverloch and Phillip Island were in attendance.
Will it be on again next year?
“We’re probably going to want to change a few things after that but hopefully we’ll be back again next year.”
As well as paying tribute to the attitude of the happy crowd at Mossvale, Ms Henderson thanked the community organisations which back the event with volunteers and the local businesses who supplied services, free of charge.
“People like Jimmy Gibbons from SAFE Scaffolding, Ray Evison from South Gippsland Mini Skips who picks up all the rubbish and everyone else. It wouldn’t go on without them.”
As well as headliners, Paul Kelly and The Cat Empire, others including powerful lead singer Mojo Juju, the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Perch Creek, starting off in the afternoon got the show on the road.
It will be back to their own venue now, the Meeniyan Hall, for the Lyrebird Arts Council but once again the orgaisation’s reputation has been further enhanced with its audience and with top-line musicians.