Iconoclasts, top-shelf world and soul acts, and white-hot young talent add up to arguably the strongest music line-ups for next year’s Festival.

Sinead O’Connor, Rufus Wainwright and UK electronic trio London Grammar will perform headline gigs outside the Chevron Festival Gardens, which boasts Spoon, Neneh Cherry, Sunnyboys and leading ARIA Award nominee, Chet Faker, on its impressive bill.

The outspoken O’Connor, who plays at the Perth Concert Hall, is currently enjoying a revitalised profile thanks to acclaimed new album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.

Program manager of contemporary culture Sarah Dennehy said the Irish singer-songwriter was “an icon in the music industry”.

“I would have booked her even without the great reviews of her latest album — but obviously they help, ” she said.

Like O’Connor, Cherry has also recently unveiled an excellent album in Blank Project, her collaboration with London duo RocketNumberNine, who join the Swedish-born vocalist in Perth next year for two shows in the gardens. Dennehy has been trying to get Cherry to Perth since she started at the Festival three years ago.

Fellow maverick spirit, singer/pianist Wainwright promises a solo show brimming with the North American’s hits and wit.

Another member of his famous musical family in sister Lucy Wainwright Roche will join him on stage at the Perth Concert Hall on March 2.

O’Connor, Cherry and Wainwright along with several other Festival Gardens acts also appear at WOMADelaide and/or the Golden Plains festival in rural Victoria in March next year.

With PIAF a week later than previous years, Dennehy says the timing worked and “we have a very good relationship with both festivals”.

The Festival has taken a calculated risk booking London Grammar for the 5000- capacity Red Hill Auditorium on March 5. While the young threesome have proved a drawcard at one-day festivals since the release of debut album If You Wait, they are yet to confirm their status as headliners.

Meanwhile several acts performing in the gardens between February 12 and March 7 are sure to sell out quickly. Critically adored Texan alt-rockers Spoon open proceedings on Festival eve.

Led by Britt Daniel, the quintet’s latest album, They Want My Soul, is among this year’s best and Spoon are renowned for killer live sets.

Other guitar-touting must-sees include former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus and his band the Jicks on February 22 and, on the next two evenings, a double-bill of Scottish instrumental experimentalists Mogwai and Dinosaur Jr. legend J Mascis.

Faker leads the Class of 2014, who will arrive in Perth clutching multiple ARIA Awards. The 26-year-old Melbourne producer of down-tempo soulscapes had already collected three gongs, including producer of the year for his chart-topping debut album, Built on Glass. He was then nominated for six awards at the ARIAs held in Sydney late last month, taking home best male artist and best independent release.

Currently touring the US, UK and Europe, Faker hinted at a brand new band line-up for his PIAF shows on February 20-21.

Other hot new acts include New York’s Parquet Courts, whose raw indie-rock sparked frenzied moshing at this year’s Laneway Festival, Swedish indie-folk sisters First Aid Kit and fearless Seattle-based chamber pop songman, Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius.

Zimbabwean-born R&B singer and model Tinashe seems better suited to a dance event or club night.

The same thing could have been said about 2013 Festival hip-hop highlight Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, according to Dennehy.

“I hope that over the past three years we’ve managed to achieve a broadening of the Festival’s contemporary music program, where we program on merit rather than genre and box ticking, ” she said.

Three diverse acts out of the box headed for Perth next year are Lake Street Dive, Bombino and Soul & “Pimp” Sessions. (All three also appear at WOMADelaide)

Led by superb soulful singer Rachael Price, the Brooklyn-based Lake Street Dive could be the big surprise of PIAF 2015.

Melding Beatles, Motown and traditional rhythm and blues, the fast-rising quartet have appeared on major US television shows — Letterman, Ellen, Colbert.

They play the gardens on March 3 before heading down to Albany for a gig the following night.

Anyone who caught Bombino at Southbound this year will be excited to hear the Tuareg guitar wizard dubbed the Santana of the Sahara is returning for the Festival.

Japanese “death jazz” outfit Soul & “Pimp” Sessions, consisting of five musicians plus an “agitator” known as President, were the first unsigned band to play the Fuji Rock Festival.

Dennehy has seen the wild sextet at UK jazz festivals, where they delivered an “awesome live show, full of energy, slight mental and, yes, very loud”.

Seventy-year-old electric blues harpist Charlie Musselwhite and 80s rockers Sunnyboys, coming for their first headline Perth gig since 1991, round out a line-up offering something for everyone — even if you don’t know it yet.

“That’s what arts festivals and the Festival Gardens are all about — discovery, ” Dennehy said.

Chevron Festival Gardens run from February 12-March 7. For full details, visit perthfestival.com.au .


© The West Australian

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