Rodriguez returns to ‘the land of wonder’

FESTIVAL APPEARANCE: Rodriguez first toured our shores in the late 1970s, long before the rest of the world caught on to his talent.

FESTIVAL APPEARANCE: Rodriguez first toured our shores in the late 1970s, long before the rest of the world caught on to his talent.

The Fairgrounds Festival returns to Berry on Friday, December 2 and Saturday, December 3, boasting a star-studded line-up. 

Now in its second year, the festival presents live music over two nights. 

Rodriguez first toured our shores in the late 1970s, long before the rest of the world caught onto his talent thanks to Malik Bendjelloul’s Oscar-winning documentary film Searching for Sugar Man.

The legendary self-taught American rock guitarist’s love affair with Australia is no secret.

He laughs as he refers to Australia as “the land of wonder”.

Following what seemed a prophetic screening of Searching for Sugar Man at the festival in 2015, Rodriguez will play the expanded Friday night at Berry. 

The Independent had a chat with him ahead of the festival. 

Q: Australia has a unique place in your history. 

A: Yeah, I really mean that when I say it’s the land of wonder. In ‘79 and ‘81 I went there, prior to South Africa. But it wasn’t in the film credits (laughs). 

Q: Was that a key component of the film you felt was missing – that it discussed your popularity in South Africa, but didn’t really acknowledge your history with Australia?

A: It didn’t develop that idea, no. I can’t say why or anything because I didn’t make the film. Australia, I’ve been down there six times. Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens only went there twice. 

A lot of my audience are musicians, so we talk about music and stuff like that. My audience varies a lot. A lot of young people in the audience, a lot of curious people… But I’ve gone there with different bands, and Australian bands as well. I have an Australian drummer and bassist. We’re getting ready for you and we’re looking forward to it. (Adopts Australian accent) Yeah, mate (laughs). 

Q: Have you witnessed the long-term effect your music has had on Australian audiences, such as fans who saw you perform decades ago and continue to attend your shows?

A: Oh yeah. Some, they tell me about their mum and dad listening to the music in the kitchen and stuff like that. I love hearing that, from the young bloods, so to speak. That’s exciting. I’m 74, so a lot of people are young bloods to me, man (laughs). 

Q: During those years in the wilderness were you more or less resigned to not gaining the recognition you probably deserved? 

A: Oh yeah. I think disappointment, criticism and rejection is a big part of rock ‘n’ roll, so it’s good to... I got lucky in that very real sense. But Australia was there for me in ‘79 and ‘81, so I have a lot of strong memories of Australia. I consider Sydney, Australia the capital of the world. I guess I say that a lot, but it’s a jewel to me. My first time out we sold out a lot of shows, it was crazy times. 

Q: What’s the feel like at your live shows?

A: Well, I do my stuff. I’ve got my stuff, I’ve got my catalogue of stuff I’ve written and people seem to like to hear that. And I do covers. I keep my songs to three minutes. I try and do that, but it goes over (sometimes); three minutes and 20 seconds. I try and do as much material as I can, that’s how I play. It’s therapeutic for me.

I’ll play as long as I can (laughs). I enjoy it, and we’re doing pretty well with the touring. 

The festival line-up also includes Angel Olsen, Big Scary, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Drones, The Tallest Man On Earth and Japandroids. 

Tickets are on-sale now from the website. 

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