Why John Southworth Rules by Andrea Patehviri (2017)
In order to talk about why John Southworth rules, we need to talk a bit about why festivals like Wavelength Music Festival, Sappyfest and Kazoo! Fest rule. Being a festival mandated to showcase emerging independent musicians means it’s a festival where you’re gonna hear musicians that are unlike anything you’ll hear at any of the big, beer-sponsored fests. It’s a space for artistic weirdos (the best kinda weirdos), where it’s inevitable that you’ll experience music played in a way you’ve never heard before and will probably walk away with a new favourite band.
But even amongst the musical misfits that grace Kazoo!’s lineup, John Southworth stands out like the kinda sore thumb you’d be proud to sport. Not only is he difficult to place genre-wise, somehow managing to combine cabaret, chanson, folk, and AM-oldies into something exquisite, he is also difficult to place temporally, making it seem like he comes from multiple musical eras, yet also none at all. If you can’t be pinned down to an era, then you’ve also got no contemporaries, and Southworth certainly stands on his own with a repertoire that’s as singular as it is prolific.
The timelessness and indefinable quality of his music lends a mystique to the man himself, and it all combines into a wonderful whole that, although translated well on record, is brought to whole new levels in his live performances. If Southworth has somehow found a way to transcend the boundaries of time, then being at a Southworth show allows the audience to temporarily step out of their own world and join him in this in-between. Surreal lyricism combines with his signature dark humour that is delivered in a delicate croon, all melding into the kind of atmosphere that allows Southworth’s shows to be the kind that will haunt you long after the show’s over, leaving your wondering whether it was all just a wonderful phantasm.
Andrea Patehviri is the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator at CFRU 93.3 FM and a member of the Kazoo! Fest Music Programming Committee.