In the tradition of Barrio and Lola’s Pergola, Adelaide Festival 2017 has brought us The Riverbank Palais. The Riverbank Palais plays on distant cultural memories: in the decadent and roaring 20s, Adelaide was home to Palais De Danse, a hub of “dancing and merrymaking” on the river Torrens.
The Palais De Danse became entwined in legend when, one Sunday morning in 1928, the dance floor slowly sank into the river. This was a spectacular albeit mysterious end: rumours circulated of explosions, of .303 rifle cartridges abandoned in the shrubs of the riverbank, of suspicious young men roaming the area. Yet police reports into the causes of the disaster were ultimately inconclusive.
With such a glamorous namesake, the Riverbank Palais carries heavy expectations. The opening weekend promised a collision of worlds. Multi-instrumentalist producer and DJ, Lord Echo, was billed to bring forth a reality where “reggae and rocksteady rub shoulders with Latin music, disco, African soul and techno.”
Musically, Lord Echo delivered on his promise. He masterfully laced funk with a salsa clave, infused disco with African rhythms. Joined on stage by singer Lisa Tomlins and Mara TK (Electric Wire Hustle), the result was smooth and enticing. They made you want to dance.
Off-stage, however, the ingredients didn’t quite blend. There were glimmers of potential: the aesthetic could have been part-Wes Anderson film set/part-Berlin rave. Yet the crowd numbers were lacklustre and the dance floor was too well behaved, perhaps a consequence of the very early booking time (8:30 pm).
Had the crowd numbers peaked, the opening of The Riverbank Palais would have been a dazzling and decadent party on the river. Unfortunately, the ‘merrymaking’ possibilities of Lord Echo’s world were unduly limited. The ghosts of parties past whispered rather than roared.
Lord Echo Sound System (featuring Lisa Tomlins and Mara TK) played at The Riverbank Palais as part of The Adelaide Festival on Saturday, March 4.