Josh Earl’s Festival condenses spending a day at a music festival into an hour using songs, sketches and even interpretive dance. It is at times nostalgic, derisive, kooky and hilarious. All that’s missing is the dirt/mud, sweat and Tinnitus.
Josh Earl and Daniel Tobias (and a mystery guest) do a brilliant job in lampooning all aspects of the music festival experience. From the quirks of the eccentric performers (an indecipherable Dylan-esque song was especially brilliant) to the annoying punters you encounter (I still don’t understand the recent phenomenon of dudes wearing flag capes!) to the frustrating logistics of a large event, all of their targets are hit perfectly.
Structured as a series of vignettes, Earl navigates the site while keeping in contact with his friends by phone. Each call provides a cue for an amusing song involving an act on one of the festival stages. A number of musical genres are sent up including young indie bands in over their heads, anonymous DJs, poorly treated female acts and poe-faced serious artists. All the songs are distinctive Josh Earl songs, even when Tobias is singing, but don’t rely so heavily on the densely spoken lyrics Earl is known for. These tunes aren’t parodies of specific songs instead they make fun of the situations the characters find themselves in using an appropriate musical style and plenty of witty ideas.
Earl plays the downtrodden festival punter perfectly with his beautifully escalating exchanges with characters presented in voiceover. Tobias is always up for dressing up, so he dons many wacky outfits to portray a number of larger than life creations. Josh Earl’s Festival is a brilliant showcase for their years of musical comedy experience and radiant talent.
The audience on this night unfortunately lacked energy for the extravaganza that Josh and Daniel have created. These punters paid attention and laughed at the right places but didn’t really liven up until some Flaming Lips styled audience interaction at the end. This theatrical production put some distance between the characters and the audience even though we could relate to the situations. This was amplified by the polite seated theatre set up, the lack of excessive volume and a noticeably older crowd (possibly some of Josh’s ABC fans).
This is a fun and hilarious piece of theatre about a collective experience which many are nostalgic for or still look forward to every summer, it deserves a big crowd of music comedy fans ready to have a ball. This is one festival within a festival you should attend.
Josh Earl’s Festival is on at Malthouse Theatre (The Tower) until April 23