MoFo at The Gaelic Announces December Lineup

The Tiger and Me
Image Courtesy of The Tiger and Me

Next Friday 6th December Sydney folk night MoFo at The Gaelic Club will be celebrating their final show of 2013 with one of their most exciting lineups of the year. Taking to the stage will be Timber and Steel favourites The Bearded Gypsy Band, bringing their eclectic gypsy and jazz infused folk music and The Tiger and Me who have been described as “Cabaret/Circus/Euro Indie Folk-Pop Wunderkinds”.

MoFo at The Gaelic Club, as the name would suggest, takes place at The Gaelic Club in Sydney’s Surry Hills, kicking off at 8:30pm. Tickets are $20 and can be picked up here or on the door. For more information check out the official Facebook event here.

The Woodford Folk Festival Announce 2013 Lineup

Woodford Folk Festival
Image Courtesy of The Woodford Folk Festival

Over the weekend The Woodford Folk Festival revealed its 2013 program and it’s pretty darn impressive. With over 500 artists announced in 28 venues over six days Woodford 2013 is arguably Australia’s biggest and most diverse folk festival.

The festival doesn’t really have headliners as such but we’ve spotted a bunch of international and Australian Timber and Steel favourites including Bearded Gypsy Band, Beth Orton, Buffalo Tales, Busby Marou, Castlecomer, Clare Bowditch, Darren Hanlon, Jordie Lane, Rose Cousins, Matt Corby, Sam Amidon, The Crooked Fiddle Band, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, The Twoks, Andrew Winton, Claude Hay, Hat Fitz & Cara, Whitetop Mountaineers, Andrew Clermont, Andy Irvine, Spooky Men’s Chorale, Thelma Plum and many many more.

The Woodford Folk Festival takes place from the 27th December to 1st January. Tickets are available now – for more information including the full program visit the official site here.

Bearded Gypsy Band to Launch New Live Album at The Gov, Adelaide on January 24th 2013

Image courtesy of Bearded Gypsy Band

Timber and Steel were lucky enough to pick up a copy of The Bearded Gypsy Band‘s new live album when they supported Tin Pan Orange in Adelaide late last year, and if it weren’t for the fact that the record wasn’t really officially released yet, it would have definitely been pushing for contention in our 2012 top album lists.

Bearded Gypsy Band may look short of a few rings in their timber, but since I first stumbled across them in a crowded  Higher Ground Basement in 2010 I’ve been pleased to see that they’ve been gigging relentlessly and have established themselves as one of the nation’s most exciting live touring acts in the folk/blues/roots spectrum. It might seem a bit ambitious for an emerging act to release a live album as a follow-up to a debut, but there’s an energetic quality to BGB‘s live shows that probably can’t be captured in a traditional recording scenario. I was secretly hoping that BGB would take a leaf out of The Shaolin Afronauts‘ book and record their next album in a live-studio setting, but I suppose a live performance at Adelaide’s iconic Wheatsheaf Hotel is even more befitting.

Bearded Gypsy Band Launch their new Live Album with support from Max Savage and the False Idols and Monkey Puzzle Tree at The Gov in Adelaide on Thursday January 24th starting from 7:30pm. Purchase tickets from Moshtix via this link.

Follow this link for the Facebook event page.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 18th January


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

- The latest song from the upcoming album Son of Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys has hit the internet and it’s a version of “Shenandoah” featuring Tom Waits and Keith Richards. Details here

- UK indie-folk darlings Daughter has announced the details of their upcoming debut album If You Leave, complete with 10 single word track titles. Details here

- The Crooked Fiddle Band are taking the crowdfunding route with their second album and are asking fans to contribute to a Pozible campaign. Details here

- UK singers Eliza Carthy, Lucy Farrell, Kate Young and Bella Hardy have joined their considerable talents for a brand new folk supergroup project Laylam, with a new album due on the 28th January. Details here

- Donavon Frankenreiter is bringing his brand of surf-roots (and his moustache) back to Australia this February and March for a massive 30+ shows. Details here

- The new video from Hayden Calnin, “Summer”, is better written, acted, shot, directed and of course soundtracked than anything on Australian television at the moment – that’s my claim anyway. Details here

- The Counting Crows have confirmed a handful of sideshows when they’re in the country for Bluesfest. Details here

- Melbourne instrumental three-piece The String Contingent announced their new album Talk and started streaming it online all at once. Details here

- “Winter Make Way”, the new single from Melbourne’s Sleepy Dreamers is pretty stunning. Details here

- Matt Walters has finally released his Vacant Heart EP, four months after the original release date. Details here

- Ex-Middle East memeber Mark Myers has unveiled his new solo project, The Starry Field, with a poppy debut single and a bunch of east coast tour dates. Details here

- The Starry Field’s debut single “All Of My Love” also has a brand new video to go with it. Details here

- The Perch Creek Family Jug Band have teamed up with the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats and the Bearded Gypsy Band for a east coast mini-festival tour this February. Details here

- “Line of Fire” is the brand new single from Junip from their upcoming self titled album. Details here

- The Staves released their brand new video “Winter Trees”. Details here

- UK trio Bear’s Den have made their latest single, “Pompeii”, available as a free download. Details here

- Passenger has revealed a brand new song “A Thousand Matches” via a live video that also features Stu Larsen and Isobel Anderson on backing vocals. Details here


“We started off on New Year’s Eve at Peat’s Ridge, and that was amazing. We’ve also ended up with large amounts of nude Australians, twice in a fortnight” – Jorge Kachmari from The Underscore Orkestra chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“We’ve decided quite recently that we’re not going to record anything all three of us together. Because Laura wants to focus on her career and I want to focus on mine. And I’m happy to play with Amelia and Laura when we’re together, but it’s kind of like a side project being The Miss Chiefs”Laura Zarb, Amelia Gibson and Vendulka Wichta of The Miss Chiefs chat to Bill Quinn. Interview here



“As a country-wide heat wave began to take hold you’d be forgiven for thinking only a crazy man would leave the beach lined coastline of Sydney for a weekend in New South Wales’ central west. And you’re probably right except I was driving over the mountains to take part in the Gulgong Folk Festival, an event I had heard so many good reports on in 2012 and which boasted a 2013 lineup that seemed lifted straight from the pages of Timber and Steel – how could I not attend?”Gareth Hugh Evans reviews the Gulgong Folk Festival. Review here

Releases This Week

Vacant Heart
Vacant HeartMatt Walters

Timber and Steel Presents

Grizzly Jim Lawrie
Grizzly Jim Lawrie with Kat Arditto
Sunday 20th January – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Archie Roach
Friday 25th January – State Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Illawarra Folk Festival
Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th Januray – Bulli, NSW

Kim Churchill
Friday 18th January – Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 19th January – Settler’s Tavern, Margaret River, WA
Sunday 20th January – Indi Bar, Scarborough, WA
Tuesday 22nd January – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Wednesday 23rd January – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 24th January – Sol Bar, Maroochydore, QLD
Friday 25th January – The Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW

Leah Flanagan
Sunday 20th January – Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Lianne La Havas
Friday 18th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 20th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Monday 22nd January – Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Tuesday 23rd January – Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Tamworth Country Music Festival
18th to 27th January – Tamworth, NSW

The Mouldy Lovers
Friday 18th January – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 19th Januray – The Rails, Byron Bay, NSW

The Starry Field
Sunday 20th January – The Public Bar, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 23rd January – The Round, Dowse Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 24th January – The Barcode, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 25th January – Hibernian House, Sydney, NSW

The Underscore Orkestra
Tuesday 22nd January – Bendigo Hotel, Collingwood, VIC
Wednesday 23rd January – Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC

The Waterboys
Wednesday 23rd January – State Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Don’t Forget Your Shovel” – Christy Moore

Was stoked to discover this song has an official film clip complete with a shirtless Christy Moore. This was one of those songs I used to love when I was a kid, mainly because the lyrics (and the way Moore sings it in his staccato Irish accent) are just so absurd, at least to a kid. But it really has a timeless message – that “if you’re going to do it don’t do it against the wall”. Mind your sandwiches.

The Wooden Music Festival Tour

Perch Creek Family Jug Band
Image Courtesy of The Perch Creek Family Jug Band

This february will see three of our favourite Australian acoustic acts will be up and down the east coast this February for a mini-travelling music festival. The Wooden Music Festival, as it’s been titled, is the brain-child of “family” band The Perch Creek Family Jug Band and they’ve asked the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats and the Bearded Gypsy Band along for the ride, playing dates in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

With that combination of artists you know this is going to be one hell of a fun tour. The full list of dates for The Wooden Music Festival are below:

Friday 1st February – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Saturday 2nd February – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 3rd February – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 6th February – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 8th February – Diggers Club, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 9th February -The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 10th February – The Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoombe, NSW
Friday 15th February – Beetle Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Review: Womadelaide, 2012

Timber and Steel are big fans of Womadelaide festival. The event takes place over 4 days during the March long weekend every year and brings dozens of the world’s best traditional musicians to the city for a romp of cultural celebration and unique performances. As a full time student and worker, the festival holds a strong significance in my life, as it surely does for tens of thousands of others as well. It’s the time of year that life slows down for a moment, the pressures of work and study are lifted, and curiosity and enjoyment take over. Its brilliance is that it has the power to make the most tightly wound folk feel like a carefree traveller, even if it’s only fleetingly before it all starts again. Testament to this is the fact that I can only get around to reviewing the festival a month after it took place. Even reflecting on it is somewhat soothing.

Whilst the previous year’s lineup was perhaps more folky in the sense of what we mostly write about here at Timber and Steel, 2012 had a lot to offer. The Friday opening night unfortunately clashed with Charles Bradley’s one and only performance at Barrio, so my Womadelaide did not begin until the Saturday afternoon. Penguin Cafe were the first act I crossed paths with, and I immediately recognised most of the tunes although never having listened to the band before. I could only describe it as the most fun you can have with classical music- verging on folk and pop. Apparently the band is really very famous and has been performing at Womad festivals for quite some time, which would explain why some of their songs seemed so familiar.

I spent some time checking out much-hyped Palestinian group Le Trio Joubran before stumbling across the highlight of my festival- The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Lined up in a row with an arsenal of varying ukuleles, this charming and cheeky bunch of fun loving Brits put on an amazing show with both crowd pleasing cover renditions of popular songs and mesmerizing feats of arrangement as they flawlessly recreate all manner of genres entirely with one instrument, my favourite being their foray into Dixieland. Check them out below.

First Aid Kit were probably the only act on the bill that we frequently write about on Timber and Steel, and they were next on the agenda. I listened to their debut album a lot and was very impressed with their title track and first single from the new album. For those unfamiliar, First Aid Kit are 2 very young Swedish sisters that truly embrace the sound of classic American folk music, and remind most of Laura Marling with Fleet Foxesesque harmonies. Live, the flawless harmonies they achieve are all the more impressive. It was gratifying to see the pair perform with such confidence and unreserved passion, showing they aren’t above head-banging in moments of intensity. First Aid Kit had some decent publicity prior to their performance and the crowd was correspondingly strong. The sisters spent a lot of their set introducing the new album, which was the first time I heard it and I must say I am pleased with their direction- veering further towards folk and country and further from indie-pop. Exhibit A- their recent ode to their favourite folk musicians below.

Saturday ended with a fantastic curry and eclectic performances from Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Bonobo and Dirty Three.

Sunday was my girlfriend’s birthday and I brought her along to enjoy an afternoon of decidedly French-flavoured music. French-Senegalese heartthrob Tété kicked off the day’s proceedings with a good set of his trademark acoustic-pop/delta-blues blend. The result is truly unique, I honestly can’t say I’ve heard anything like it before. His guitar work was impressive, as was his voice, but for me the acoustic-pop element of his songs verged too closely to the likes of Jason Mraz and were ultimately slightly too predictable for my liking. Decide for yourself below.

Next we checked out French violinist/looper Chapelier Fou, which translates to “mad hatter”. I heard  from others that he was a highlight of their festival, and he was a very impressive musician. I susppose the experimental nature of the music and the repetitiveness of the looping put me off somewhat because I didn’t make it through to the end of his set before I opted for a trip to the food precinct of the festival. That evening I was lucky enough to catch Gurrumul for the first time, whom I’d wanted to see for a long time. The seated show was amazingly well attended and I only managed to get a spot behind an unfortunately large and dense shrub. Since I couldn’t see anyway there really wasn’t much else to do than close my eyes and enjoy it. I quickly caught a bit of Chilean folk star Nano Stern before calling it a night.

I made it to the festival on Monday just in time to see local act and friends Bearded Gypsy Band take to the stage for their first Womadelaide show. The group of incredibly young and talented musicians are notorious in South Australia for providing an unlikely party atmosphere with their moving arrangements that draw influence from gypsy swing, jazz and folk. It was a warm day and the crowd was packed in like sardines to get close to the Zoo stage and witness the lads finally get their opportunity to spread their craft with a significant new audience. You never get tired of seeing the Bearded Gypsy Band, and it was lovely to see how much it meant to them to be playing the festival.

We stuck around the Zoo stage for a while and checked out a piece of roving Japanese theatre called Sivouplait before joining in on Ivorian songstress Dobet Gnahore’s vocal workshop, which was a lot of fun.

I was by myself for a lot of the festival as a lot of the friends that I usually go with were interstate or working and I still really enjoyed myself. I probably didn’t make the most of every day but it’s honestly that relaxing that I didn’t really feel the need to. It’s not going anywhere.  See you next year, Womadelaide.

National Folk Festival Interview: The Bearded Gypsy Band

The Bearded Gypsy Band
Image Courtesy of The Bearded Gypsy Band

Since coming to our attention a couple of years ago via 6 on the St Adelaide instrumentalists The Bearded Gypsy Band have really made a mark for themselves on the national folk scene. We sat down with bassist Kiah Gossner following their performance at WOMADelaide to chat about their upcoming appearance at the National Folk Festival and their first foray into the world of vocals, all while avoiding the fact that none of the band have beards.

Evan Hughes: So you’ve just performed at WOMADelaide, is that right?
Kiah Gossner: That’s right, yeah. It was a fantastic weekend.
EH: Did you enjoy the festival?
KG: We had the best time. It’s been a dream come true for us because being Adelaide boys we’ve been going to the festival for years and years. We were so chuffed to play and had a great turn out so we really can’t complain – we’re pretty happy with it.
EH: WOMADelaide doesn’t always have a lot of local Adelaide acts – they mainly focus on international acts – so it’s pretty special that you guys got on the bill.
KG: Yeah it was. They only really have one or two acts from the Adelaide scene. It’s a great international platform. There’s people from all corners of the globe so we’re very lucky to get on the bill.
EH: Did you get a big crowd?
KG: Yeah, we got a lot of support from our usual fanbase but then there was a bunch of other people we’d never seen before so it was great for exposure. It was a good crowd, really happy with it.
EH: Your music fits really well with the WOMADelaide crowd. You probably get this a lot but how would you describe your music?
KG: [laughs] That’s always a tough question. If I had to describe it in one word I’d say “eclectic”. It’s a blend of gypsy jazz, folk, blues, swing, a bit of bluegrass, funk now and then, all thrown into this melting pot.
EH: I normally find it easy to describe you as gypsy, mainly because it’s in your name, but you’re so much more than that. You pull from all sorts of traditions.
KG: Definitely.
EH: Your music is not really mainstream but you guys have a bit of a following at the moment and you’re popping up on festivals all over the place.
KG: We’re flabbergasted ourselves with that. Originally we never thought we were going to be any kind of band at all, we were just kind of thrown together in school and started writing our own material and playing some shows around the place. Playing WOMAD and stuff it’s all snowballing, very surreal.
EH: Did you manage to hang out with any of the other artists at WOMADelaide?
KG: We were hanging out with The Barons of Tang, they were cool. We got to see a lot of great music – there’s a lot of inspirational stuff out there. It’s fantastic.
EH: And now of course you’ve got the National Folk Festival coming up. Have you been before?
KG: No! We’re only just getting old enough to do the whole festival thing. I’ve heard great things and the lineup’s always interesting. It’s a huge lineup.
EH: It’s such a fantastic festival. I think you’ll have a ball there.
KG: Definitely, we’re really looking forward to it. It’s got a bit of everything like dance and music and storytelling.
EH: And the crowds that are there are really there to discover new music. People aren’t just there to see a headliner.
KG: That’s good to hear. I think WOMAD’s got a bit of that element. There’s artists that you know but then there’s always those bands around that you’re not quite sure about, that you stumble across and fall in love with them.
EH: Do you get many people up and dancing at your gigs? Was WOMADelaide a dancing gig?
KG: Yeah. We had some help from our friends I think, they really got into it. Got some dancing going on which is always fun – its good to feed off and everyone has a good time.
EH: It’s funny – the kind of music that you play, the traditions that you draw from, is all about dancing. It must be surreal to play to a crowd that is sitting down or staying still.
KG: I think it takes that one brave soul to start the dancing but by the end of most shows we often get a bit of a dance floor happening. We try our best to get people into the music and moving around.
EH: You’ll also have to check out the Session Bar at The National. That’s basically a jam session that lasts all weekend – it gets pretty rowdy at night time.
KG: We had a bit of that at the Illawarra Folk Festival. There were sessions everywhere. You just walk around the corner and there’d be people playing all styles of music. You just rock up with your instrument and join in – it was great.
EH: So you join in on the sessions?
KG: Definitely. One night we just started jamming at about 12 and ended up finishing around three or four in the morning. It was bucketing rain and we were under this pavilion. Really good times. The collaboration, the sharing of musical ideas is really valuable. It was just a great experience.
EH: There must be quite a jam element to your band.
KG: It often starts with someone bringing an idea to the band, a rough idea about the melody, a bit of a chord progression, and goes “alright, lets work it out”. The way most of our songs are formed at the moment is just by performing them and getting them up, deciding what works and what doesn’t with an audience. The song just develops.
EH: I guess you never get tired of playing the songs because they evolve so much.
KG: I think that’s why they evolve – we’re just trying to keep it interesting for ourselves and everyone else.
EH: If you enjoyed the Illawarra Folk Festival, in particular the sessions, the you’ll love The National. It’s like Illawarra on a much bigger scale.
KG: We’re really looking forward to it. I think we’re a little bit addicted to the folk festival scene and the community that is behind a festival. We’re really excited about the folk festival season.
EH: You’re the perfect band – your music is so infectious. It’s the kind of music that draws people into a tent.
KG: Cheers – appreciate that.
EH: So apart from The National what have you guys got coming up?
KG: We’re in Adelaide for the few weeks before The National and then the Apollo Bay Music Festival. Then off to Brisbane after that. Just moving around and stuff.
EH: It must be cool being a band from Adelaide and being able to go to all these interstate festivals.
KG: It’s a blast. We have to thank our management for that. They make our lives easy.
EH: The Adelaide music scene is so vibrant but it tends to get ignored by the rest of the country. It’s great that you’ve broken through.
KG: Totally. I think Adelaide it overlooked a lot which is a shame because there’s really cool things going on, especially this time of year.
EH: The amount of talent that’s there is amazing.
KG: That’s so true. And in a variety of different styles. It’s hard to beat.
EH: We’re big fans of 6 on the St here. Do you think they were a catalyst for Adelaide bands, like yourselves, to get heard outside of South Australia?
KG: I think 6 on the St was a catalyst for the music scene in Adelaide, not just the bands that were involved. It was definitely a catalyst for us. It showed a lot of people who live in Adelaide what was going on in Adelaide and the rest of Australia as well – there are things going on in Adelaide and there’s plenty to get involved with. It exposed what was there in a really beautiful way.
EH: It’s funny that all the bands they featured have seen their national profiles explode.
KG: In our case it was a turning point. We went from not having a foothold anywhere to people knowing our name.
EH: And you still use the photo they took to promote the shoot (above) as promo.
KG: And we send out their video. It’s really well done.
EH: Do you have any recordings coming up?
KG: We’ve just been recording an EP in fact which is going to be digitally released soon and, depending how things go, a hard copy will be released as well. That EP contains our first two vocal tracks.
EH: Nice
KG: And we’re also working on an album for release towards the end of the year.
EH: That’s really cool. And you’re branching out into vocal tracks?
KG: We find that instrumental music is what we’re mainly doing but having that element of vocal opens up a whole new avenue for the audience to understand. The vocal just instantly gets across. A guitar solo or a violin solo or a melody works well but the vocal just adds another element for people who might not get the whole instrumental thing.
EH: That’s really exciting. You’ll have to let us know when that hits the web. Thank you so mcuh for chatting to us today.
KG: No worries at all, thank you.

Banished Now From My Native Shore: The Verse of Frank the Poet

The Frank the Poet demo letter blocks by Stobie Sounds

How rare it is that Australian blues and roots artists take the opportunity to reflect on our own history. It seems to be the case that those paying homage in the contemporary arena tend to look to periods in the USA when society’s movements and the movements in music are well documented and inseparable, which is fine, but comparatively, Australia’s history goes mostly overlooked as a source of inspiration (with the exceptions of the old codgers in the RSLs).

Stobie Sounds, a South Australian community blues & roots record label of tremendously noble creed who previously brought us These Are My Blues: A Tribute to Big Joe Williams, are at it again having put the line out, reaped and collected the finest songs from some of the nation’s best up and coming and established blues and roots artists- all derived from the poetry of one of Australia’s most important early poets, Francis “Frank the Poet” McNamara (listen to The Timbers‘ interpretation of Frank’s poem “Labouring with the Hoe” below). It’s worth noting that amongst the national and international artists contributing to the album, at least half are South Australian. We’ll provide the full track-listing when it is finalised shortly.

As a convict arriving in Australia in 1832, and a man that spent what was his second chance of freedom in a new land incarcerated and condemned to hard labour, Francis McNamara’s poems speak poignantly of the hardships of life in a new and undefined land. This project, graced by dream-team of blues and roots highlighted by the likes of Mia DysonPossessed By Paul James (US), The Timbers, Todd Sibbin, Emily Davis, A.P D’Antonio, Bearded Gypsy Band and Tom West, will provide a beautiful opportunity for a rare link to be made from blues and roots music to the history of Australia and breathe new life into these moving chronicles of our past.

You may have come across Stobie Sounds before. Despite administrating a non-for-profit community record label (gods), they’ve also made a name for themselves for their handmade products using traditional letter-press, lino cuts and screen printing techniques for t-shirts, album covers, CDs, tea-towels, posters and even the odd kick drum. Check out the video of below of the making of the Frank the Poet demo release.

To launch the record, and hopefully reign in a welcome top-up of funds for the project, a fundraiser gig will be held at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Adelaide on February 11, 2012 featuring Max Savage and the False Idols, The Yearlings and The Tea House Fire. A donation of $20 to the Pozible fundraising page (click here to visit) will get you into the event.

First Artists Announced for WOMADelaide

Eddi Reader

We’re getting pretty good at this prediction thing. In the last month we have started rumours around festival appearances next year from Eddi Reader (above) and Sharon Shannon and lo and behold they’ve both been announced for the 2012 WOMADelaide festival.

And its looking to be another Timber and Steel friendly event again next year with Blue King Brown, First Aid Kit, The Pigram Brothers and The Bearded Gypsy Band also making the WOMADelaide first lineup.

Obviously this is just a taster of what’s to come next year but it’s a very exciting taster. WOMADelaide is held from the 9th to the 12th March in Adelaide. The full lineup so far is below:

Blue King Brown (Australia)
Diego Guerrero y El Solar de Artistas (Spain)
Eddi Reader (Scotland)
First Aid Kit (Sweden)
Groundation (Jamaica/USA)
Johnny Clegg (South Africa)
Lo’Jo (France)
Master Drummers of Burundi (Burundi)
Sharon Shannon Big Band (Ireland)
Shivkumar Sharma (India)
Staff Benda Billili (Democratic Republic of Congo)
The Pigram Brothers (Australia)
Tinariwen (Mali)
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (UK)
The Bearded Gypsy Band (Australia)

Review: Saturday @ Snowy Mountains of Music Festival, Perisher NSW

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 
Photos by KT Bell

When they called the festival, “The Coolest Festival in Australia,” they really weren’t kidding. Set in the snow resort of Perisher, the third annual Snowy Mountains of Music festival (SMoM) was set for an exciting long weekend with a huge range of music on offer, but with a massive dumping of snow coating the mountain in white, this year’s festival had a whole other level of excitement to it.

Originally started three years ago as a way to support the businesses and resorts through the often snowless ski season opening weekend, by all accounts, the patronage of the festival has been steadily growing each year, and it’s not hard to see why. Now, I haven’t been to Perisher since the late 90s and I don’t have many significant memories of the snow resort, though I have now been to my fair share of music festivals and this one bore no resemblance to any festival I’ve ever been too. With multiple performances strewn throughout various bars and venues across the Perisher and Smiggins resorts, SMoM had very little ‘outdoor’ elements but created intimate and cosy indoor stage settings topped off with some gluwein to warm the physical soul.

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011Given it’s a bit of a drive from Sydney, we arrived in nearby town of Jindabyne quite late at night and bundled ourselves in to bed to recover from the drive. Saturday morning saw us catching a lift up the mountain to the Perisher resort and straight inside to grab our wristbands and out in to the snow to start trudging between stages. Our first stop was the Smiggins stage, a short 5 min shuttle trip away, where we found the old world gypsy infused Woohoo Revue kicking off the festival with an outdoor performance in front of the new outdoor ice skating rink which Winter Olympic Gold Medalist Steven Bradbury had just officially opened. Now I was dressed in head to toe snow gear and was toasty warm in the glorious sunshine, how violinist Sarah Busuttil didn’t freeze her butt off in her signature corset, short skirt and fishnet stockings is beyond me. But after the one outdoor song, it was time for them to take over the Smiggins indoor stage. Toe tapping and infectiously catchy instrumentals from this group impressed the crowd, but clearly at a lunch time slot, there wasn’t enough alcohol inspiration to get the audience up on their feet. But no matter, it was a solid performance full of energy and style.

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011With so many acts to see at so many different venues, there was no choice but to duck out of acts before they were finished… or miss the start of the next act I guess. We ducked back over to Perisher to Basil’s Bar to catch Orange Blossom, an act we chose simply because of the name. A delightful trio of gals singing in harmony and playing a variety of guitars, violin and something that looks a bit like a mandolin and backed by two amiable blokes on double bass and banjo really captured the audience and held us mesmerized… well except for the knitting ladies who kept steadily at it through the set, almost knitting in time to the songs. The band weren’t afraid to have a bit of banter with the audience, including the aforementioned knitters. Definitely an act I would catch again.

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 Back on the shuttle and we were off to see Doc Jones and the Lechery Orchestra which I had been anticipating after Spotlighting them in the lead up to the festival. In a slightly pared back line up, this bunch of chaps took to the stage and created an all encompassing sound with some of the most intriguing lyrics to take your daydreams to a whole new level. Though they had an excellent set filled with a variety of tunes, “The Phoenix Hour” really was the highlight of the set for me. The flautist and clarinetest (whose names escape me) really added a boyish flare to the ensemble and often drew they eye, somewhat because of their good looks, but often for their enthusiatic and captivating performance. We had the opportuntiy of attending a workshop with Doc Jones and the Lechery Orchestra straight after their set which explored songwriting and more interestingly, arranging songs. To watch the group demonstrate just how layers were added to songs and accents added throughout to create light and shade was intriguing and to hear of Doc Jones’ writing of songs on public transport was encouraging for all aspiring performers who attended.

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 We managed to resurface from the basement workshop in time to catch the last few songs of the Bearded Gypsy Band, a band somewhat unable to even grow a beard between them it would seem. But no matter their age, their skill and verve for the music made them a real highlight in the line up. Their musical prowess gave them the authority of a band who has played far longer than any of them have been alive. They did play their first song to ever have lyrics, whether they continue in that vein will remain to be seen, but they certainly could create a dynamic set of their instrumentals with lyrically based songs peppered throughout and fans would be well pleased.

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 This year was the first time The Manor had a stage, so it was a great honour for the April Maze to be the very first act to ever tread the boards as well as open the main concert for the evening. I had been looking forward to this act ever since I interviewed them some weeks prior. As a duo on a large size stage, there was potential for them to be absorbed and lost, but their strong stance and presence rooted them firmly in the audiences’ attention and hearts. They need little flair or stage antics as their music moves you and seeps deep in to your soul, staying with you for days and weeks to come. It was such a delight to speak with them after their set as it reinforced what a genuine couple of humans they are, no pretense or artistic pride about them, just enthusiastic performers who like to connect with their fans (or hug fans as Siv does in particular).

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 We did take some time out to have dinner in one of the nearby lodges with my family, but as the meal ended, we all rugged up again and trudged back down the snowy slopes to The Manor for the rest of the main concert. Skipping Girl Vinegar had the crowds up and dancing within a song and looked like they were all having a rollicking time together on stage. The enigmatic lead singer kept up a friendly banter between songs and really engaged the audience throughout. The whole set had an easy flow from song to song, a consistent energy throughout and left the audience with a sense of lightness and well-being by the end, oh and there was the signature baked goods for all from Amanthi.

 At some time during the set, Todd and Sivan (The April Maze) came and joined our table, just like any other punter and spent the break between acts chatting with us and our friends about the festival, the Australian music scene, life the universe and everything. We heard the somewhat haphazard story of how they came to be named The April Maze and all sorts of interesting things about their lives. The next act to take the stage is no folkySnowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 act, but a stunning performer none the less. I first saw Dallas Frasca at Corinbank and have enjoyed her album ever since. Her gravelly voice and signature orange dreadlocks  teamed with a wicked set list makes her one of the most exciting acts to see. Before starting the set, Steven Bradbury took a moment to introduce her management to the stage who appeared holding two large framed awards to present to the band, one was The National MusicOz Awards Best Blues and Roots winner for 2010 and the other declaring Dallas Frasca as MusicOz Awards Artist of the Year. Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 The crowd were suitably thrilled with the accolades and the set kicked off with a beaming Dallas at centre stage. Her grungey blues rock filled the Manor and every person in the room moved to her music. Dallas is famous for taking it to the audience, micrpohone in hand and actually wandered all the way to the back of the crowd before returning to the stage. She asked for people to move the seats away and dance, and the crowd obeyed without the batt of an eyelid. A seasoned performer, Dallas told of the Chinese Visa woes that had forced them to leave the festival that night to drive back to Sydney and fly out to New York the next day and implored the audience to buy a CD to help with the visa debacle cause. I saw a lass wandering around selling the CDs at the end of the set and people flocked too her, proof that the set was a terrific musical experience. The crowd had loved it so much that they came back for another couple of songs and the band hung around afterwards to chat with fans while the headline act prepared.

In the cold, dark night, with fire twirling happening and some crazy tobboganers trekking up the slope to try and gain the maximum speed for a late night slide, the outdoor deck was a refreshing spot to catch some very fresh air between acts. The hubbub of people, both smokers and drinkers discussing the acts, the festival and the snow conditions, the night was filled with happy laughter, boasting snow tales and an occassional muso, whether on the bill or not, meeting and greeting new fans and old friends. The air was electric with joy and anticipation.

Snowy Mountains Of Music Festival 2011 Bluesy roots rocker Ash Grunwald has been very busy this year appearing at a number of festivals and when he was announced as one of the headline acts for SMoM, we knew it would be a special show. Pared down to just him and percussionist come dj Fingers Malone, Grunwald looked incredibly relaxed, happy and at home in such an intimate venue. In comparison to his Bluesfest crowd, the gathered audience was just a drop in the ocean, but a mighty eager drop! Anticipation was at an all time high as Grunwald lit up the stage with a huge bluesy opening and the audience erupted in cheers and dancing. His set was full of energy but his delivery was so warm and friendly, it was clear he absolutely loved being there. Although he now lives on the far north coast of NSW, Grunwald is a snowboarder and had hit the slopes earlier that day, retelling of his snow day wearing a huge grin between songs. Throughout the set he changed instruments, from a foot stomping drum and guitar, to shakers and rhythm makers and even taking to the on stage drum kit standing and playing drums, cymbals and singing through the cymbal mic. Grunwald’s performance was a huge pleasure to witness and by the end of the set, late in the night, the room was still packed full and audibly buzzing. 

As we caught the shuttle back to Perisher to catch the festival bus back to Jindabyne, our fellow shuttle and bus mates were all chattering, grinning and humming refrains from songs at the main concert. The entire trip down the mountain was marked with sometimes drunked comments on the greatness of the acts witnessed and stories of new acts discovered. Although wound up from an amazing and packed day, sleep was not far away as we’d be back up the hill the next day to do it all again, though the anticipation of the next days’ line up did creep in to our dreams that night.

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