Caxton Street Seafood Wine and Music Festival


Caxton Street Seafood Wine and Music Festival

Caxton Street, Paddington

Sunday May 5th 2013


Jennifer Johnston

Paniyiri 2013

Did you miss the Caxton Seafood Wine and Music Festival?

Don’t worry, Australia’s largest cultural festival is coming up!

Don’t miss PANIYIRI! OPA!


In case you didn’t make it to Caxton Street on Sunday, here’s Jennifer’s write-up of the day.


Billed as one of Australia’s biggest street parties, The Caxton Seafood and Wine Festival 2013, thanks to reasonably good weather and a barrage of publicity, drew a large crowd keen to sample seafood delights and enjoy some wine whilst being entertained by an interesting array of top musical artists throughout the day and into the evening.


At 11am on Sunday, the enticing smell of freshly cooking seafood already wafted up and down the cordoned off Caxton Street. The local restaurants offered an array of delicious options, with many set up on the shop fronts, providing street-style eating experiences for diners willing to part with some cash. There were prawns on skewers, bain-maries filled with fish and rice combinations, massive pans filled with seafood paella, and for those wanting to deviate from the seafood, German Wurst hot dogs. One fridge featured pre-made seafood pizzas, ready to be to be dished out hot on cardboard slabs.


Image by Jennifer Johnston

As official sponsors of the event, local winery Sirromet held the monopoly on the vino. The Caxton Hotel were selling alternative alcoholic choices.  I am not sure why the staff there were decked out Hawaiian style (well, the females were!). It must be a pre-requisite to be as close to 18 years old as possible to work at these places. Maybe the young ones are better equipped, with greater tolerance levels, for the scenes that are bound to unravel in the evenings…or maybe their lower pay rates allows management to hire so many of them?


A wander up and down Caxton Street allowed time to really look at the surrounds – there are still a few older style buildings and some interesting architecture. It’s a shame, but the unique character of the place is not something you would necessarily observe as you drive through the area, or when frequenting the clubs, bars and restaurants in this busy inner-city pocket.


I am not sure what the local residents make of the street closures. Caxton Street was blocked off the night before and only re-opened at midnight on Sunday. Judging by the revelry when we left at 7pm the residents would have the right to demand compensation for the disruption to their inner city living. Maybe the residents have been paid to leave for the weekend! At least two houses at the Petrie Terrace end showed  no signs of life.


The weather remained friendly – there was a moment when rain looked imminent – but  the official opening by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk was (maybe) enough to scare those rain clouds away!


At the Petrie Terrace end, the first act started at 12.20pm. James Johnston and Matthew Graham opened the afternoon and set the scene with a few relaxing songs. Relative newcomers to the music scene, this duo had a number of eager listeners and local fans gather to hear their acoustic guitars and pleasant harmonies.


Mr Cassidy changed the pace with their bluesy country sound. Danni Carr (vocals/banjo) and Emile Owen (vocals/mandolin/violin) injected  a folksy feel into the festival. Joined by Emile’s husband, Scott Owen (Living End), on double bass and vocals and Fingers Malone on drums, the crowd was treated to some entertaining sounds.


When Danni’s husband, Ash Grunwald, joined them for the final song (Mountain Side) the finale turned into a family fun day, with the couple’s kids up on stage happily dancing along. We saw Ash’s laid back parenting style in action as he confidently played the banjo with their youngest slept in a baby pouch against his chest.


The area began to fill as Melbourne based band, Taxiride, hit the stage with their opening track Get Set. The mood remained mellow and relaxed until lead singer Jason Singh managed to raise the audience off the bitumen with their final iconic song Creepin’ up Slowly.


Image by Jennifer Johnston

A diverse crowd gathered for 80’s band Mental As Anything. Greedy Smith (keyboard and vocals) literally assaulted the senses with a screaming introduction to the afternoon. The sound quality of his mic was questionable. Opening with Too Many Times, I began to wonder if Greedy had passed his use-by-date. But you can’t deny the man’s energy, antics and his banter (the same satirical take on the world as he introduced each song…if you could understand it!). As he sipped on his mug of tea throughout the show (declaring that it was indeed, only herbal tea), he gave the Caxton Street crowd a clown-like performance. Literally, dressed in the typical attire of a circus clown; a striped red and white t-shirt, round John Lennon glasses perched and sporting grey, flowing locks pinned un-expertly off his face with a young girl’s clip. Despite his dishevelled appearance,  his unpredictable and slightly warped antics managed to rev up the crowd! Finally they were all up and dancing.


Martin Plaza. Image by Jennifer Johnston

Martin Plaza was unfailingly stoic on vocals and guitar (If you leave me, can I come too?). The crowd forgave Greedy and his increasingly tea-stained shirt as they enjoyed an entertaining version of (Just like) Romeo and Juliet. When attending a LIVE performance of this much loved Aussie band from the 80s, maybe it’s better to close your eyes to the visible signs of ageing and simply listen to their sound, which still manages to pump the crowd.


The years seem to have been kinder to the Choirboys. Their lead singer, Mark Gable, has certainly aged more gracefully. After the Mental’s Greedy Smith’s screaming (unintelligible) comments between each song, their appearance on stage was a welcome relief. Another iconic Aussie band from the 80’s, the Choirboys got the crowd dancing and singing along to Run to Paradise and Never Gonna Die.



The Choirboys were the highlight of my night and we figured it was timely to leave on a good note. We made the slow departure north up Caxton Street, past the partying crowd and the more animated festival goers. The seafood stalls had slowed in trade, but the empty bottles and drink vessels were multiplying. As the revellers kicked on, you couldn’t help but think there would be a few sick days called in on Monday morning.


So why not run the Festival on a Saturday next year? It makes no difference to the residents in the area; it’s yet another night to listen to the sweet festival sounds. But regardless of the dedicated day, fun comes at a price. Think of the logistics. As well as a few sore heads around the place, it’s a big clean-up the next day! Spare a thought for the locals with wheelie bins filled to overflowing with seafood remnants sitting outside their place and rotting in the sun. At least the seagulls will have been happy.


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