Julia Zemiro’s Comfort Zone (featuring Megan Washington)
7:00pm, Sat 27 Feb 2010
To say that I was blown away by Megan Washington last year would be an understatement; it was a thrilling performance, the thought of which still raises the hairs on the back of my neck when I think about it now. So when I saw the scheduling for Julia Zemiro’s Comfort Zone included Ms Washington, I was booking tickets at BASS quicker than you scream “ohmygodohmygodohmygod” like a giddy schoolgirl.
Of course, the Festival claimed the use of the Spiegeltent this year, principally for use as a venue for this show – but also to act as the meeting place après-Festival; a poorly-managed excuse for an Artist’s Bar that left many Friends grumbling. And, when looking at my ticket for this performance, I was startled to see the phrase “Seating Not Guaranteed” prominently displayed – scary, given the Spiegeltent’s ability to squeeze oodles of people into poor vantage-points. But the joy of going to these shows solo is, of course, the ease with which one can find a single seat; so I managed to squeeze into a fairly good position in the third row, close enough to see the beads of sweat onstage on this sweltering night.
The format of theComfort Zone seemed to be that of a live chat show; opening with a slideshow of family photos, the ever-delightful Zemiro had a bit of a chat about her French upbringing and childhood before introducing Washington, sporting a pair of red pumps, black pants, and a Lou Reed t-shirt (“from the year I was born,” Washington boasted as Zemiro pulled a face of mock disgust). And what followed was a very informal, friendly interview, which occasionally descended into gigglingly girlish gossip (and – let’s be clear, here – that was a Good Thing).
Zemiro prompted Washington through her early childhood in Papua New Guinea, through family moves to Brisbane to settling herself into Melbourne; they delved into the minutiae of her day-to-day life, and her wider likes (showtunes and Tim Finn – “The Silver Fox”) and dislikes (Andie MacDowell). Interspersed with the questions, Washington teamed up with the RocKwiz Orkestra to perform a handful of songs of import to her, with Megan singing and playing keys and (surprisingly, for me at least) guitar. However, Rufus Wainwright’s Chocolate Milk and Crowded House’s Chocolate Milk failed to yield a cocoa-laden third, though Washington’s breakthrough Clementine got a bit of an airing – which was nice.
Part of the Comfort Zone‘s schtick was to get Zemiro’s roster of guests to choose one of three songs offered each night, and then spend some time with the Orkestra jamming for a couple of minutes, before presenting their “final” version of the song. And, after Washington chose Bob Marley’s seminal Redemption Song, her interactions with the Orkestra as they thrashed out ideas were absolutely priceless; as someone who appreciates music, but knows little of the creation thereof, it was a bloody brilliant experience watching the song evolve with their back-and-forth banter. And the final rendition… wow.
I must admit to being a bit sceptical when I saw the double-pace spread for Comfort Zone; I thought it seemed a bit too frivolous, a bit too… un-arty. Not right for the Festival, anyway. But Zemiro proved to be a charming, sensitive, and funny host, with Megan Washington a stunning subject… and the music on offer was just fantastic. I loved this show, and only wished I could have squeezed in more visits to the Zone throughout the Festival.