RTRFM FREMANTLE WINTER MUSIC FESTIVAL

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Nevermind the water, there’s something in the coldening air that makes a melodic stomp around Fremantle on a musical evening out such a fine thing indeed.

A few weeks back the Harbour Road Porch Fest eased South Freo into the winter of our content and now it was North Fremantle’s shot as RTRFM strolled back into The Shire once again with its annual Winter Music Festival across the hallowed stages of Mojo’s, the Swan Lounge, Swan Basement, Port Beach Brewery and the footpaths betwixt and between.

There’d been a wee dust-up out the front of Port Beach Brewery, but rest assured it was a gaggle of day-drinkers raining fists like cats and dogs and not any of the cockle-warming RTR massive, who were already imbibing to Mal De Mer’s laconic takes/tales of suburban lives interestingly powered through an indie-funk propulsion and the words of vocalist/keyboardist Saskia Fleming, whose voice seems somewhere between Missy Higgins and Stella Donnelly but whose intent and tone is all its own.

‘Maybe not today but one day’ Fleming pondered in a poignant moment during the alluring Pray To You. Perhaps that one day is July 8 when Mal De Mer launch their second EP, Sanguine. Catch the video for the first single from it, Mirage, here.

On the outside stage (pictured above) the genre-diverse sounds of Romeo Walker were filling the night air, which was gratifyingly wind and rain free. Benjamin Witt’s music on the other hand, carries many elements both earthly and ethereal and with members of Grievous Bodily Calm serving as his backing band, they sure do make a lot of intricate stuff look effortless. The set referenced earlier solo moments such as the delicate-to-dangerous sounds of 2016’s Future Reset, but mainly focussed on songs from recently released album, The Shape Up. As such Transformer and Ketchup conveyed menacing film noir brushstrokes, whilst Everlasting caresses you all feathery like a love song for the ages.


Inside the Railway Hotel Bar Hector Morlet and band – a pleasing presentation of hairstyles and hats – were rolling out his blend of sophisticated yet fun lo-fi pop, with the most exquisite falsetto ever heard at 9.50pm on a Saturday night. “They’re more a 12 o’clock/1am band,” someone uttered between songs. You take it when you can get it, would be my thinking. Hector Morlet’s presenting a Variety Night at Mojo’s on Tuesdays in July/August. Go get some!

Ra Ra Viper give off an impression that they’re mainly just a bunch of mates having a laugh, but it’s more likely a shared confidence that comes from their experience with previous bands (Pissedcolas et al) and the clear fact that they simply love playing and performing. Clearly it’s infectious, as their recently sold-out show at Freo.Social attests.

A version of Alt-J’s Breezeblocks (‘Please don’t go, I love you so’) was sweet fun, even if vocalist Oliver Bolt decided to stop the song to announce to everyone that he couldn’t sing the high part. The highlights came from their own material in any case, current single, Big Surrender, is modern indie rock at its most charming. Ra Ra Viper are taking their good times on an East Coast tour at the end of the month. What could possibly go wrong?

Over at the Swan Lounge it was feeling like a cool night out somewhere in Melbourne. WAM Song Of The Year nominee Anna Schneider’s solo set was just sublimey. Her lilting confessional songs have an alluring, caressive nature to them and are well worth diving into. Down in the Swan Basement it couldn’t have been more different, with Electric State romancing the rock with a balls-out set that was met with literal screams of delight and a good deal of folk singing along word-for-word as frontman Rob Viney prowled the front of the stage locking eyes with almost every individual in attendance. Let’s hear it for hard rock showbusiness.

Over at Mojo’s Otiuh were bringing this thing to a salubrious close.  Touting themselves as ‘men of leisure and your favourite rappers you haven’t heard of yet’, Cesare Papa (wearing the biggest safety glasses you’ve ever seen) and Jahmeil Baker have been RTRFM favourites for a while now, and they were the perfect choice to end proceedings. The dancefloor was full, the venue was vibing and with guest appearances by the likes of Downsyde’s Optamus and Super Ego’s Nelson Mondlane, this block party was on for young and old… well, not that old.

This was but a portion of the line-up, what we happened to catch on our little rock’n’stroll. It was the warmest cold winter night you’d like to imagine.

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