Festival spirit alive in livestream

Fenn Wilson

By Luke Voogt

With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of the 2021 Port Fairy Folk Festival, three talented musicians will combine to keep its spirit alive in a special Geelong livestream.

Festival favourites Fenn Wilson, Sal Kimber and Van Walker will hit the stage for a 30-minute set each next Friday (October 9).

Clifton Springs born-and-bred singer-songwriter, Wilson, was excited to play from Geelong Arts Centre direct into locals’ loungerooms.

“When people heard that Port Fairy wasn’t going ahead, [many] realised how much they were going to miss it,” the 24-year-old said.

Like many thousands of Australian artists, Wilson is missing live performing a “great deal”.

“Every performer worth their salt, their performances are dependent on their interaction with the audience.

“A good performance is an exchange between the crowd and the performer.

“I try to read the crowd and create a space where they can feel what I’m trying to portray.

“Or even better, they interpret it completely different and find themselves in it.

“When it all sort of went online, it was a really jarring adjustment. It’s sort of become a little easier [to live stream shows] but it’s more of a patch for live performing.

“It’s still worth doing and nice to play for people who want to listen.”

Wilson planned to “keep an eye” on the comments and the online feedback next Friday, especially when playing a few new tracks.

“That’s been one of the plus sides to COVID and isolating; it’s left a lot of time to develop and write music,” he said.

“The first lockdown was quite uninspiring but now I’ve started to work on a new body of music.”

Wilson is the son of Bellarine ‘Ukulele Queen’ Sarah Carroll and blues icon Chris Wilson, whose death in January 2019 shook the local music industry.

His father’s passing influenced his debut album Ghost Heroin, which he released in October 2019.

“I’m trying to tell the story of when I met my girlfriend,” he said.

“We started dating at a time where we just found out dad was sick.

“I was falling in love in a time of great loss. I was losing so much but gaining so much at the same time.

“It’s about how sort of juxtaposing those things are.

“A lot of it has a darker tone. Often when I’m writing it’s a cathartic exercise almost – I’m getting things out.”

“A lot of what I’ve written lately is more celebratory and about what is beautiful in life. It has an element of redemption to it all.”

While Wilson has always “sung to varying degrees”, his dad was one of the main reasons he learned guitar at age 14 and began playing live a couple years later.

“My dad just started teaching me a couple of chords and stuff.”

Wilson will bring his rich baritone, acoustic guitar and piano player Jack Meredith to the 30-minute set.

“You can sort of feed off each other and have banter or rapport amongst yourselves,” he said.

Geelong-based former Tasmanian singer-songwriter Van Walker, a long-time friend of the Wilson family, joins next Friday night’s card after releasing his latest album Ghosting in August.

“He’s great guy, a terrific writer and great player. I think he’s fantastic,” Wilson said.

Mountain valley storyteller Sal Kimber rounds out the trio with musical tales of rivers, wild horses, flood, fire and the strength and vulnerability of the human spirit.