Pigsty In July
Dashville, Lower Belford
Saturday, July 5, 2014
The experience was first-hand.
The clothes were second-hand.
Music lovers, dressed in opulent op-shop attire, made a pilgrimage on Saturday to the pristine splendour of Belford's "Dashville" property for Pigsty In July, an event touted as the younger sibling of the annual Gum Ball.
The intimate one-day festival featured an eclectic mix of musical acts, a peaceful atmosphere and a well-chosen menu of food, craft beer and wine.
On the Johnston family's private property, the cool and fresh country air was conducive to a memorable day in the winter sun.
The second-hand formal dress code provoked an array of outfits, from wedding dresses to lady pirates and a ginger-bearded Abraham Lincoln.
The bands and soloists alternated across two stages, which meant there was no breaks between acts.
Raw blues-folk troubadour Matt Southon, with his earthy voice and rustic guitar licks, delivered a stomping solo set, before a surprise appearance from the Hunter's "philosophical bogan", stand-up comedian Matty B.
Sydney's Gang of Brothers moved the crowd to their feet with a tight jam of funk and edgy soul tracks.
Their set included a smooth cover of James Brown's The Payback.
The Walking Who brought spacy rock soundscapes and touches of psychedelia.
Magpie Diaries, featuring Pigsty In July promoter Matt Johnston on vocals, were one of the day's highlights, performing timeless folk songs inspired by life on the Dashville property.
Mojo Juju, accompanied by her brother on drums, performed a typically soulful and haunting set that shifted in tempo from slow-burning ballads to heavier interludes.
The "voodoo blues" artist included an impressive cover of Beasts of Bourbon's Psycho.
Dashville Progress Society, a supergroup cover band of Hunter musicians that includes members of the Johnston family, hit the stage as both the sun and the temperature descended, and kicked proceedings into high gear.
The Pigsty crowd danced to Supergrass' Grace, sung faithfully by Grand Junction publican Ben Quinn, and The Black Crowes' Remedy, with King of the North's Andrew Higgs on vocals.
Other songs in the Progress Society's set were AC/DC's Let There Be Rock, an impressive recreation of The Beastie Boys' Sabotage, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's Stop Draggin' My Heart Around and the triumphant and stirring closer, Bob Seger's Hollywood Nights.
As the cold night air wound between Dashville's gum trees and wrapped itself around the cheerful, 500-strong audience, punters gravitated towards the radiant warmth of the many bonfires.
King of the North made a lot of noise for a two-piece, due to Higgs' tailor-made wail and monstrous riffs, combined with the brutal and frenetic drumming of Danny Leo.
While the duo's original material made further listens an imperative, their musical prowess was demonstrated on a pitch-perfect cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.
Then, on the neighbouring stage, Steve Smyth stole the show with a mesmerising performance.
A livewire behind the microphone, he sings each note as if his soul depends on it, throwing his body into every lyric.
From within his voluminous beard comes a voice that can shift between the gravelled, deep register of Tom Waits and the piercing falsetto of Jeff Buckley in a single, breath-taking moment.
Smyth has a voice like no other and it is a potent, captivating instrument.
Joined by Wolf & Cub members Brock Fitzgerald and Wade Keighran, on drums and bass respectively, Smyth reminded the Dashville faithful that he has a big future.
His set ended with Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come, which Smyth remarkably sung without any musical accompaniment, before he was lifted by the crowd and carried across their raised arms.
It was a moment that defined Pigsty In July.
Psychedelic rockers Wolf & Cub brought the event to an end with their stadium-sized sound.
These days the four-piece perform with only one drum kit, and have added walls of droning organ to some tracks.
It's an effective shift that packs an almighty punch.
Smyth joined Wolf & Cub for their closing number, a thundering cover of T. Rex's Children of the Revolution, that would have made the late great Marc Bolan very proud.