High Voltage Delivers High Energy – And Big Smiles!

Well, what an event. What a sequel to the famous Highway to Hell Festival of Perth event of three years ago, the last major Freo-connected music gig before Covid hit.

And what a way to establish a new Freo music tradition.

The High Voltage extravaganza, presented by Perth Festival for the State Government, with the enthusiastic support of City of Fremantle, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce and Freo People generally, was an unqualified success from the Welcome to Country and the opening ringing of the bell to the final emu stalk by event staff collecting litter around the three fixed Fremantle venues and street circuit as the evening light fell.

The day kicked off at 1pm at Fremantle Oval with the Welcome to Country ceremony. Barry Maguire, a local Noongar elder, spoke about growing up with AC/DC – his mother’s favourite band.

Then The Southern River Band, from Thornlie, rock and rolled for the best part of an hour. Cal Krammer, the lead singer ripped off his singlet and, Bon Scott-like, threw it into the crowd of admiring fans.

Presbyterian Ladies College Pipe Band were up next, followed by the one and only Mark McGowan – wearing a fashionable black tee emblazoned with AC/DC!

The Premier spoke and then opened the event by striking a giant suspended bell 5 times with a hammer – but no sickle – Thor-like!

Simultaneously at 1 pm, as Southern River Band seered into action at Fremantle Oval, Dice did the same at Wilson Park/South Beach, and DJ Bee Rizzi got folk moving at Esplanade Park.

Then at 2 pm, it was time for the impressive trucks, each carrying a mobile stage, to take off one by one. Seven flatbed trucks, each with a different band, left from the oval after performing two songs, to travel a 5km circuit around the streets of Freo – along South Terrace to Douro Road and then back into Freo along Marine Terrace.

The trucks maintained 4 kph musical crawl around the circuit, stopping to perform to the revved up punters at Wray Avenue, Local Hotel, South Freo Hotel, Wilson Park, Arundel Street, Esplanade Park and the Cappuccino Strip before wending their way back to the Oval in the fading afternoon light.

The music was non-stop, the artists bringing a range of distinctive musical genres to the event – all with an AC/DC/Bon Scott flavour.

Event management estimates about 40-50,000 people gathered along the circuit and at adjoining venues.

The threat of rain would have kept many people away from the extravaganza, but that did not dampen the spirits of the folk who rocked up and rocked out, including many family groups at the fixed venues. In a strange way, the grey cloud cover added a certain something to the occasion.

The first mobile stage carried Body Type, an all women, Sydney-formed band that made Acca Dacca fans fall about swooning. The ultimate rock chicks! What a way to get the punters bouncing. They set the standard. Touch Too Much a hard act to follow, truth be told.

They were followed by Natalie Gillespie and Friends, a veritable choir. Natalie is one of Perth’s most soulful singer/songwriters. Her choir, all women, had never sung together before. Amazing energy! What a singalong to Rock ‘n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.

The Desert Stars, a hot, Indigenous band, came next. Nicknamed ‘Blackadacca’, they are the world’s most remote rock and roll band coming from 700kms the other side of Kalgoorlie. They earned many new fans along the circuit.

Eddie Perfect – the WAAPA graduate, singer-songwriter, pianist, comedian, writer and actor – followed. Despite his lame Melbourne-centric WA lockdown jokes, he didn’t disappoint his many fans. If the clouds had been a tad darker, you could have thought his was a supper club performance. Very laid back. Suddenly realised we were shuffling to Gimme a Bullet.

Soukouss with Tina Zando, she of the amazing hairdo, was next. Soukouss is a dance music genre from the Congo. And the two dancers were irrepressible. Tina performed the most unexpected Afro-styled Highway to Hell rendition you’re ever likely to hear.

The uber cool Cash Savage and the Last Drinks were close behind. Cash, a big AC/DC fan was dressed all in black sporting a clerical dog collar. This gig marks the beginning of a national tour for Cash and her band. They’ll wow ‘em.

And a classy Diesel outfit brought it all home with sax, guitars and great vocals. Fantastic.

All in all? High energy!

At Freo Oval, between truck departures, The Bad Piper entertained the crowd with Aussie Rock classics. He’s a regular busker at the Freo Markets and was a contestant on Australia’s Got Talent. Fire really does come out of his bagpipes. Following the trucks, Katy Steele and then Dan Sultan wowed the Oval crowd.

We should also mention that, at the Oval, possibly the next Bon Scott appeared – a 10-year-old kid. First he won the AC/DC quiz – he absolutely knew every song played. Then he got to play electric guitar as his proud Dad looked on.

At the Esplanade, after DJ Bee Rizzi, the show kept humming with a steady stream of top acts performing before the mobile stages arrived – Sour, Perth Saxophone Rockers, Whole Lotta Love, Junkadelic Brass Band, School of Rock, and Twelve Parsecs.

At Wilson Park, Datura4 performed after Dice, and once the trucks passed by, Ningaloo Records appeared around 4.30.

There was love in the air at all venues. What is for sure, is that this was a family friendly event, with many mums and dads and their little ones finding their way to Freo Oval and Esplanade Park where there were lots for the kids to do.

The circuit along South Terrace to Wilson Park/South Beach just hummed. The key truck stops at Wray Avenue, the Local, South Freo Hotel and Wilson Park saw enthusiastic but ruly punters layers deep chanting and responding to the performances. Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution in particular!.

There were family groups, small kids on dads’ shoulders, dogs on leads, babes in prams, old folks – that is, folk the same age or older or just a tad younger than Bon Scott would be if he were still with us – looking for something to sit or lean on, and all ages in between rocking to the music.

Some folk hosted front yard parties along South Terrace, and the pubs and restaurants and cafes all enjoyed great business.

There was even a rival brass band performance and an all male singing group Acca Dacca-ering along the way!

Street performers bounced by.

Police and Staff and Security were here and there.

But more than anything, big smiling faces were the order of the day.

Bread and circuses worked for the Roman Emperors. And there’s no doubt High Voltage works here in Freo!

Supplied Perth Festival. Credit Cam Campbell

Long may it continue!

* Report for Fremantle Shipping News by Jean Hudson at Fremantle Oval and Michael Barker on the circuit. More to follow.
** Photographs by Jean Hudson and Michael Barker at respective locations, except where supplied or credited otherwise.


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