Timber and Steel UK Correspondent

It’s been a busy two years here at Timber and Steel and we could not have covered as much as we have without our contributors. Today we say bon voyage to a contributor who has been with us nearly from the very beginning, photographer and reviewer KT Bell who is taking off “in a big jet plane” today bound for the United Kingdom for a 12 month sabbatical.

Lucky for us, she’s keen to keep writing for Timber and Steel even from the other side of the world! So we’ve created a new email address for all those bands and festivals in or heading to the UK or Europe in 2012/13 who might want a bit of TnS love from KT, she can be contacted on timberandsteeluk@gmail.com.

In the mean time we hope she finds enough time in between her travels to see a few gigs and write a few articles!

Review: The Gum Ball 2012

Review by KT Bell, photos by Stu B.

In spite of all our good efforts, enthusiasm and eager anticipation following last year’s fantastic Gum Ball, Stu and I found ourselves behind schedule driving in to the darkness from Sydney, desperate to get to Lower Bedford for the 2012 Gum Ball and it’s stellar line up. We arrived at 9pm, just in the nick of time before the gates closed for the night. In the headlights of the car we set up our modest camping facilities only a few hundred meters from the main festival area with the roaring set of The Tongue as our soundtrack.

To my delight, we managed to catch the last act of the night, the newly reformed The Bakery. While not really folk, they’re worth checking out in their new format. After an extended period of absence, the band took on a new line up for the 2011 Woodford Folk Festival and their act has been going from strength to funky strength ever since. As the festival’s sound system fell silent, the crowd migrated to the silent disco to revel on in to the early morning. Amusingly to those watching from the outside, it looked like a silent, shuffling human zoo exhibit with the occasional rousing group rendition of some classic chorus. As the silent disco serenaded us with another round of “they paved paradise to put up a parking lot, ooooh, bop bop bop…” we headed to bed in readiness for a huge Saturday to come.

In the morning light, we rose to discover the sprawling tent city nestled among the gum trees and the impressive set up of the seasoned gum-ballers surrounding us. Complex lounge room style common areas complete with couches, tarps stretched over cars, vans and tents, lean to’s and all manner of camping comfort and conveniences. We stumbled off to the festival arena in search of coffee and breakfast, passing impromptu camp kitchens, gas cookers perched on tow bars and the likes with eggs, bacon and all manner of delicious smelling DIY breakfasts taunting and tempting us the whole way. Eating your breakfast in the very grounds of the festival watching the place slowly waking up as the morning fog burns off certainly starts that excited feeling that only this kind of festival can inspire.

Just prior to 10am, Stu and I positioned our camping chairs just to one side of the sound mix tent where we had an excellent view of the side by side stages, ready and comfortable for a long day of The Gum Ball. To start off the day and brighten up the morning for some rather dusty heads, the Perch Creek Family Jug Band bounded on to stage not dissimilar to the endless enthusiasm of the Brady Bunch or Partridge Family, and we’re bedecked in much the same garb. A 5 piece family outfit saw the stage awash with banjo, washboard and jug, acoustic guitar, harmonica and double bass all blending together in a wholesome family vibe. They produced great rhythm and a great way to start the morning. Recently turned 17, Christi has become the bad boy of the family, proving his status with a cover of Justin Townes Earl’s “If you ain’t glad I’m leaving, girl you know you ought to be”. The crowd quickly grew as daughter Eileen delivered a sultry cover of “Minnie the Moocher”. A bit kitsch but a whole lot of fun, their onstage family banter must have been what it was like for our Evan Hughes growing up in a folk family, as the kids all complain to mother Camilla that, in spite of her Train Whistle opening, they “don’t do the ready stances anymore”. But after some ‘gentle’ motherly advice and encouragement from the crowd (would I do a thing like that? *looks innocent*) they struck their very silly and quasi rock star poses and launched in to a bit of honky tonk, country tinged, bluegrass. It was all very cheesy, but in the right way for that time of the morning. I had to question whether there is anything this family don’t do? They are all multi-instrumentalists, Eileen tap dances with a mini banjo, the vocal harmonies while all the time sharing the spotlight and the instruments equally. And to round things out they finally brought out the jug in time for Christi to accompany the jug playing a saw in a lullaby style number. Family nights at their place must be amazing.

A little later in the morning we were treated to the Irish lilt of Roesy. A modest chap, he thanked his family, saying he wouldn’t be here without them. Performing solo with just his acoustic guitar, full voice and genuine story telling style, Roesy told tales and drew the audience in to his melody of worlds. Enjoying his set, I often felt like we may not have been at a festival but relaxing in Roesy‘s backyard while he told us tales of the songs his Dad used to sing.

Benjalu is a name I have heard but not a band I have followed so I was interested to see what they had to offer. From the outset, it was clear they were on fire, sounding really tight with an excellent mix of acoustic guitar and electric. Their indie sound is heavily grounded in roots with a dash of rock and a touch of folk to round out their style. With their subtle harmonies and great energy, they had the crowd up and dancing instantly and it’s no surprise their infectious sound had the audience in raptures. I really enjoyed their song about being hungover complete with bongos for that pounding headache feel with strummy acoustic guitar and harmonized melody to sooth the soul. We’d seen him lurking at the back of stage but it was a great delight to see a cameo performance on their last song by none other than tour buddy Kim Churchill. It was clear that they had great rapport which delivers an excellent collaboration, they worked well together on stage and brought their set to a crescendo finish. Benjalu was an utter highlight and I shall be watching them like a hawk.

You all know that we here at TnS love Kim Churchill and we’re always very happy to see him on a festival line up. He took to the stage in his one man band style as we’re so used to seeing him. He opened with echos of “Waltzing Matilda” woven throughout “Loving Home” which attracted a big crowd to his set, it was clear people were drawn to him and his sound. In such a picturesque setting, it was easy to appreciate such musical layers all produced live by one person! Currently touring with Benjalu, it was clear they are all very good friends. He told the story of how Benjalu‘s van had broken down 2 days ago, that they have been saving every cent from every EP sold to record a new album and that he would hate to see that money to go to a van. During his next song, “Revolution”, donation buckets were going around collecting donations to help fix the van. Using his ethereal loop echo to advantage his passionate performance in songs both new and old, (like his LA song, telling how he dislikes the big cities), Kim’s raw performance energy is apparent. Close up, you can see him tremble as he performs, hands as they strum, face as he plays harmonica. Title track from his new album “Detail in Distance” is very reflective, he has learned over the years that sometimes distance is the thing that helps you see clearly. Kim likes to tell stories between songs, of how they came about. By far the most compelling was about a song written in French Polynesia while on tour, “Bathed in Black”, and how on a bad day he chose to change his own mindset and outlook. How a man in his early 20s could be so wise is beyond me, but I am grateful Kim Churchill is such a keen and regular performer who can bring this wisdom to us all through his enthusiasm and music.

Wagons wasted no time getting deep in to the bluesy country goodness as they burst forth onto the stage. In the between song banter, Henry Wagons dedicate a song to all those bad choices made at festivals, and “I Blew It” rang around the festival arena. Jovial with the crowd, Wagons was not shy of dedicating the next song to all there, especially a woman in the crowd looking at him skeptically who he was determined to win her over in one song. A deep, pounding rendition of “Love Me Like I Love You” may well have succeeded. An emphatic “Willie Nelson” had the crowd singing along and Si the Philanthropist’s hip hop gave Henry a moment to wipe his brow and take to the drum kit. Wagons whirled through their set getting the crowd totally involved for an energy filled finale that left the gum trees ringing.

Mat McHugh had quite the following gathered at front of stage well before his set began. His solo set up included an acoustic guitar and laptop to provide a variety of additional backing sounds as he launched in to “My Mind is an Echo Chamber”. I thought to myself that he sounded like a stripped back Jack Johnson or Xavier Rudd. I looked him up on The Gum Ball site and realised he is the lead singer and songwriter of The Beautiful Girls. Cue the moment of feeling really ignorant, no wonder he sounded familiar. After touring solo in support of John Butler Trio, Matt discovered his new stripped back solo career and the Gum Ball audience seemed impressed with his new solo exploits.

I’ve been a fan of Ash Grunwald for a while and enjoyed interviewing him at Bluesfest last year, but Stu had hardly even heard of him and looked at me dubiously as I enthused about his upcoming set with Vika and Linda Bull. As Stu stood in the audience ready to photograph the set, he casually chatted to the crowd who not only echoed my sentiments, but got Stu intrigued and pumped for the set. Ash delivered a powerhouse opening, engaging the crowd with thumping kick drum, strumming rhythm guitar and wailing vocals, brought down to a cool, bluesy lament. With notes like gospel howls, Ash’s voice took over the Gum Ball arena and the crowd was transfixed. He then welcome Vika and Linda to the stage and using a loop recorded in Melbourne of Linda, which according to her “sounds like my grandpa” brought a whole new dynamic of sound to the festival. Ash sang and delivered running commentary throughout the set, nothing phases him. He explained that the chorus of his next song was inspired by The Hangover II, the tattoo faced “Demon in Me” from his new release Trouble’s Door. A diverse set, the next song built from a slow start into a speedy intro for “Shake that Thing”. With out hesitation he slid in to a cover of “Sail”. Ash’s voice carried over everything, electronic backing track, the swagger of the guitar and sultry backing vocals by Vika and Linda. An a Capella with a gospel style changed the feel of the set but still had the audience clapping and singing along. A grungy recorded backing loop accompanied “Raw” which true to it’s name has a raw sound and heavy dirty beat. At the end of the set, he thanked good friends Vika and Linda as this was their last performance together in the collaborative format for some time as Ash moves forward with promotions and tour for his new album Trouble’s Door. After the set had finished, Stu returned to our spot, grinning. Turns out Ash Grunwald had been awesome.

We had munched on some terrific festival food including the Wagons‘ endorsed wood-fired pizzas, and enjoyed dutch poffertjes for dessert and then it was time for the dessert finale of Jinja Safari. Their excitement was evident as they took to the stage, full of energy and life. Without hesitation they delivered their ethereal, tribal drum soaked intro, layered with harmonies and rich melodies oozing forth over the crowd with everyone swaying in time. Their set was smooth and sweet like treacle and the perfect ending to a rolling, rollicking, eclectic day of music. The keyboard was fanciful and lyrical and they all danced with their instruments while they performed, the bongos energetically shooting between phrases of songs.

We collapsed in to our camp beds exhausted but very satisfied by a fantastic festival with a well considered and varied line up to cater to a wide range of audience tastes. It’s hard to believe that The Gum Ball has been going for 8 years and hasn’t yet exploded in size or grown too big for it’s earthy and natural soaked site. We arrived home just after lunch and were really impressed to have fit a trip out of Sydney and so much music in to one weekend and still have time to relax before the working week started. Clearly the folks at Lower Belford and the surrounding Hunter Valley know how to put on a truly inclusive and inviting gig and the locals have discovered what a gem it is, now the Sydney-siders and Central Coast people just need to clue on and The Gum Ball will soon become a sell out success year after year. This year some punters had traveled form Canberra just to see headline act Custard and they wouldn’t have been disappointed with their set as well as the whole event. So it’s a sure thing that next year’s Gum Ball will have just as brilliant a line up and hopefully, as they note in their wrap-up blog post, a whole lot more people will come and enjoy the festival alongside the regulars.

Preparing for The Gum Ball

The Gum Ball 2011The Gum Ball 2011 by KTBell

After last year’s taste of The Gum Ball, we are very keen to be heading back to Belford for what is sure to be a folkin’ great weekend away. We’re making plans to catch as much of the weekend as possible by packing the car on ANZAC day so we can get the jump on the traffic on Friday afternoon. We’ve got our gumboots at the ready, just in case of rain, and we’ve been going over the playing times and are hanging out to see the newly reformed The Bakery, TnS fave Kim Churchill, the country swagger of Wagons, raw roots power of Ash Grunwald with Vika and Linda and can’t wait to see where Jinja Safari are taking their tunes too. And they’re only the ones we’re familiar with, with the Perch Creek Family Jug Band opening Saturday’s bill and a raft of our faves from other genres, this is going to be an exciting festival in the perfect setting!

With less than a week to go, and with a spate of struggling festivals cancelling across media headlines for months, it’s dishearteneing to see a news story this past week about the struggle the event is experiencing with lower than anticipated ticket sales and the bureaucratic red tape faced every year. The most inspirational part to come out of the struggles is that the festival still manages to support Beyond Blue, The National Depression Initiative.

In an effort to make the Bedford location more accessible for all, The Gum Ball have announced on their facebook page that they will run a shuttle service from Newcastle on Friday with a return service at 10am Sunday, all accessible by train from Sydney. Bookings for all are essential for all services info@thegumball.com.au.

The Gum Ball 2011

That’s all well and good if you live near-by, but this festival is really the perfect escape for any Sydney-sider but it’s like Sydney just haven’t grasped that yet. Perhaps The Gum Ball needs to be compared to something a little more familiar. Stu and I have been looking forward to the Gum Ball for a year, and I’ve been contemplating why. The Gum Ball has the crowd participation and pleasure of The Falls Festival (Falls is like the Op Shop Bop on steroids), the atmosphere and idyllic setting of Peats Ridge Festival and the community spirit and village vibe of Woodford Folk Festival, it just doesn’t have the sense of occassion of New Years Eve.

Perhaps the problem is the comfort zone – the big, established festivals are a given and punters will make the trek. It’s boutique festivals like The Gum Ball, tucked away in the most divine bush setting, that are an unkown quantity, but music lovers should bite the bullet and make the effort because what awaits you is a spectacular and unique experience. Still not convinced? Check out their blog for details of the Op Shop Bop, Sid’s Circus Playground, Yoga, Tai Chi and Hula Hoop workshops, the Silent Disco for all those night owls that want to rage in to the early hours of the morning. If you’re worried about camping and food – the festival food on site is guaranteed to be great once again – we’re not planning to pack anything to eat! However, it is a BYO festival (no glass!), so no queues at the bar and no disappointment at having to choose from drinks you don’t like.

In reality – this is the kind of festival punters have been crying out for for years after over-regulation of the large scale events have placed more rules and regulations on the festival experience. This is the chance to get back to great music and a brilliant music festival experience. With tickets still available for only $120 for Saturday or $165 for the whole weekend, plus a tank of petrol split between some friends – this is the perfect way to spend a cheeky weekend away with mates.

The Gum Ball 2011

Not coming this year means you might not get another chance if numbers don’t rise. So come and support Australian music and a family run festival. They’re welcoming you on to their property, we guarantee you’ll welcome them in to your hearts.

Vale Jimmy Little

Image courtesy of The Australian.

Reports are flooding in that Australian icon, Jimmy Little, has passed away in his sleep aged 75. We’re not the first, and we won’t be the last to acknowledge what a loss to the music industry this is. Jimmy Little made such a huge contribution in so many ways to country, folk and indigenous music and to the fabric that makes up the Australian way.

Diagnosed in 2004 with Kidney failure and receiving a life-saving kidney transplant two years later, Jimmy went on to set up the Jimmy Little Foundation in 2006, in order to bring a healthier future to indigenous Australians.

Inducted in to the Aria Hall of fame, winner at The Deadly’s and influential across the music industry, Jimmy Little will be missed. As the first indigenous Australian to achieve mainstream success in music with his 1963 number one hit Royal Telephone, it seems only appropriate to remember where he started, and reflect on his life’s achievements.

Surviving Corinbank

Corinbank 2010Photos by KTBell 

It’s been a long 2 years since my last trek to the Corin forest for Corinbank, and with only 2 weeks to go, it’s time to get ready for one of the most enchanting festival’s I’ve ever experienced. For those who haven’t been before and are planning on making the trip to Corinbank, I have put together the tips I learned, the hard way.

You can check out our announcements about the Timber and Steel friendly acts on the bill here, here and here.

You can also see the first set of tips I’ve already divulged in my post about preparing for the Summer and New Year Festivals. To refresh – take gumboots, a bucket for water and at least one if not two old towels, pack appropriate camping gear, and plan ahead.

But let’s extract some more tips from my own Corinbank experience.

Tip 1: Chill

Sounds like I’m suggesting you relax and enjoy the festival – which you should, but I learned, the very hard way, just how important packing for all weather is. Corin forest is the setting for Corinbank, and although the festival takes place in early March, the autumnal weather in this Alpine region is considerably different to what you would expect at any of the usual festivals. To put it in perspective for you, last Corinbank, I packed a few days worth of clothes, a jumper, a stretcher, a sleeping bag that goes to 10 degrees, a sheet and a friend was providing the camping gear. We had a fantastic time the first night, rocked out on the first day and sure it was cool, we just threw on our jumpers and hats and danced the night away to Dallas Frasca. The problem came at bed time. I climbed in to my tent and put on my pajamas and climbed in to my bed. I was cold but I figured I would warm up soon. Wrong, when I started shivering, I got up and put on the day’s shirt, the jumper and wrapped myself in my sheet and climbed back in to my sleeping bag. I was still shivering. I put on every piece of clothing that I could and even lay my towel out over the top of me. Short of getting in to my suitcase, I was out of options. I slept in short bursts and shivered the rest of the night. Lesson learned – pack to ensure you will be warm in close to zero degrees over night.

The Literary Revolution - Corinbank 2010The Literary Revolution

Tip 2: Explore

One of the most unique elements of Corinbank that I truly adored, were the creative camps. Now, it’s too late to get in on the Creative Camp action in the sense of putting one on, but once Corinbank opens, it will be the perfect time to discover all kinds of new activities and friends. The one that I really took to was the Literary Revolution which has number of typewriters and themed stationary. You wrote a letter to any person by hand or on the typewriter and hung it up on the makeshift clothes line and check back in over the weekend to see if you have any replies. Some people just left notes for each other, some wrote notes about aspects of the festival others should see, I managed to have an ongoing conversation the entire weekend culminating with 6 letters to and from an anonymous festival goer. It was probably one of the Creative Camp people in reality, but it was a complete highlight to drop by and check up frequently to see both my series of letter and responses as well as all the other marvellous conversations going on in such an old school way. The Creative Camp themes are different every year and occur at different times over the weekend, but there will be something to intrigue you, I guarantee.

Tip 3: Get with the Program

It seems obvious, but really, grab a program which was released last week and plan ahead lest you miss all the good bits! Be sure to visit as much as you can, including The Bally, though you want to arrive early at The Bally to be sure you even get in as it has a limited capacity.

Dress up, get involved, maybe sing in the choir created at the The Fashion Police - Corinbank 2010event or compete in any of the crazy challenges on site, volunteer if you can spare some time. Also check out the merch, the last two festivals had special edition underpants, Corinspanks, and I forget the name of the previous ones but what ever they come up with this year will be equally amusing. Whatever you do, don’t just sit in camp waiting for your favourite band, there is so much to discover at Corinbank that everyday is more intriguing than the last.

Tip 4: Make the Effort

It’s a wonderful festival and truly worth the trip. If you’re not in Canberra but like the line up, get some mates together and make a weekend of it, you won’t be sorry. It’s not a huge drive from Sydney or surrounding regional areas, you might think it’s just another festival, but I can tell you that I trekked from Sydney last time and was so very glad to be in a whole new setting, almost like we were in an alternate universe. Check out the arts and sustainability practices, plan to car pool via the forum and generally follow the ethos to leave no footprint. You’ll come away feeling refreshed, I promise.

Check out the Official Corinbank Survival Guide online and make plans to take Corin Forest by storm!

Falls Festival Review: The Countdown

Crowd Panorama at Falls Festival by Stu BReview by KTBell, photos by Stu B

The most glorious, sunny morning greeted us on New Years Eve, and the main arena looked like it had been hit by a maelstrom of rubbish… Or perhaps like 16,000 people had used it as their own personal rubbish disposal the night before. Bright and early the army of volunteers were attacking the clean up with vigor and precision, Emu Parade style. It didn’t take long for the Valley to be returned to it’s rolling, green, inviting condition in preparation for what was sure to be an epic day. The weather was a completely different beast with punters huddling and scrabbling for shade wherever possible. Clamoring for relief from the scorching heat, we clung to the shade cast by recycling bins more often than not.

Gossling by Stu BA modest crowd assembled for Gossling‘s Valley Stage opening set, scrabbling for shade right up by the barrier. Overhearing the chatter about the previous night’s exploits resulted in a pair of lost thongs, purchased mohair and bravado personified. Drawn back to the promise of music and opening with a piano intro, Helen’s voice welcomed everyone to the day while “Days Are Over” gently greeted us all. It’s great to see her with a band behind her, giving the tracks a full sound. Among the pinwheels, Helen thanked the crowd for “coming down the hill and giving us a listen” and proceeded to hypnotise the growing numbers with “War”.

Helen switch to an acoustic guitar and commented that she had never played guitar on stage before and proceeded to play what I think was a new song as I didn’t recognise it.  The crowd steadily grew as songs progressed and once returned to her keyboard, “Hazard” presented itself to the eager listeners. A drawn out note and solemn mood came over the stage as “The Only Way” seeped forth and the lament spoke solemnly across the valley.

Sharing the Falls Festival bill with 360, Helen went on to divulge that she would indeed be appearing as a part of his set later that day in The Grand Theatre which made the crowds very happy. The familiar heartbeat like thump of the bass drum introduced “Ancient Love” beautifully. To follow up, Helen explained that the next song was a slower song and not really a festival song but that they would give it a go anyway and delicate chords introduced “Oh Darling” to the valley. Her popular cover from Uncovered, “Dance The Way I Feel”  was very well received and it seemed only appropriate to close on crowd favourite “I Was Young” to mark the start of an exciting afternoon and last day of the year.

Kim Churchill by Stu BWe headed up the hill to The Grand Theatre to see one of  Timber and Steel’s favourite yet relatively undiscovered acts, Kim Churchill. A very chilled out crowd lazed all over the grass inside the huge tent, we weren’t sure whether they were there to see Kim or not, but were soon roused by Kim‘s striking presence and opening performance. Kim had a whole swag of songs for his set, one haunting and introspective about life dreams and goals, laced with a questioning tone, another inspired by a literal dream after attending a party and catching up with childhood friends. One thing is sure, after early afternoon festival slots his presence, charisma and cheerful manner will impact on audiences and Kim Churchill will soon become a staple festival draw card.

Alpine at Falls Festival by Stu BAs we stumbled out in to the blazing sun and trekked back down the valley, Alpine were blowing retro styled socks off left, right and centre on The Grant Theatre stage. I haven’t heard much from these indie popsters but their retro onesies, girl pop voices and super on stage presence had an energy that could draw anyone in for a bit of a fun fling in the sun.

Down at The Village, a shirtless, Swedish Larry Bang Bang pondered ‘Who put the c*nt I country?’ and rambled  about a ‘British politician lady, fortunately not in power anymore’ and amused punters with “Margaret’s Grey Eyes”. His guitar was covered in bright stickers and he even managed a costume change while he introduced a song, ‘an Egyptian love story of a love that failed because of camels’ and both confused and amused the audience. Larry had a comedians air about him as he told endless jokes that introduced songs or gave context, including his harmonica supposedly sold to him by Bob Dylan a a flee market and that we should support independent musicians like Bob. Larry specialises in just weird songs that are amusing really, including what seemed to be an Eskimo song.  He also managed to speak to us or say Thank you in 9 languages (I’m not sure which). Brite Fight who had performed on that stage earlier in the afternoon and who has been touring Europe with Larry, joined him on stage accompanying his next song “Postcard From The Moon” on grater and spoon, kind of a Clayton’s washboard I guess. All in all an intriguing alt-country and somewhat cheeky and vaguely folkish act I’d see again, just for the laughs.

Emma Louise by Stu BIt was time to head back to The Grand Theatre for Emma Louise where the crowd was quickly settling in. She had played at the Marion Bay festival the day prior and was very excited that it was her first time ever to Tasmania. 2011 was a crazy year for her, where in previous years she was ‘busking to no people’, suddenly she’s in a position of success and lots of plans to go overseas and regularly playing festivals like Falls. Backed by a band, complete with members switching between instruments to complete the right sound for the right song, Emma Louise is at the forefront with a burgeoning unfolding in front of her.

We went to check out Kimbra on The Valley Stage based solely on her collaboration with Gotye. Bedecked in a fun, pink, puffy, frilly and outrageous frock, akin to something Bjork might be seen in, she really let rip with funky pop, soul fusion. Every step and every note captured the crowds imagination. A truly enigmatic performer, Kimbra seems to have an endless source of energetic on stage. Her second song was the hugely popular “Settle Down”  which had the crowd excited, opening with looping and just keys as support, building through the first verse and ramping up with the crowd in tow. Funky staccato rhythms and attitude filled vocals made her a great act to watch.

Josh Pyke by Stu BThe crowds stayed through the blistering sun and were rewarded as Josh Pyke took to The Valley Stage to cheers and clapping. He’s a stylish lad, looking cool in a pink shirt and aviator glasses. The airy opening to “Clovis’ Son” with full band bolstering the melody had us cruising through the afternoon. Josh looked very comfortable and happy on stage and said it was a ‘pleasure to be back here at Falls’ shortly followed by “The Summer”, a very appropriate choice that had the audience swaying.

He wanted to play a few songs form the new album and asked the crowds if anyone had the new record. Looking out at the crowd’s response, he delighted announced ‘Most! That’s sick… As in what the kids say’ and broke in to “Good Head Start”. His set also featured “Goldmines”, “No One Wants A Lover” and of course the sing-a-long favourite “The Lighthouse Song”. It’s easy to see why Josh has become a popular festival act, with strong sets, affable demeanor and really delightful performances, he is a clear crowd favourite.

We popped in to The Grand Theatre to try and catch the end of The Head And The Heart and caught enough to be enchanted and excited by their music, but not enough to give them a whole review. Though their distinct harmonies and lilting melodies certainly have me keen to hear more and their confort on stage, jovially interacting with each other tells me they shall become a furute hit festival act.  Happily Timber and Steel caught them elsewhere on their tour and you can read the review here.

With all of the folk focused acts over for the festival (or even acts vaguely and tenuously linked to folk), we settled in to just enjoy the last acts of the night.

Aloe Blacc by Stu BAloe Blacc is a soul singer I’ve been keen to see for some time and to be honest, he stole the show! His infectious tunes infected the entire valley with ‘cool’ and proved he’s certainly no one-hit wonder. Timed in the early evening, his original crowd wasn’t overwhelming, but by the time his first song had finished, the crowd had swelled to at least twice the size and people were just flocking to be closer to the sound he and his band emanate. Almost every song was uplifting, one even inspired an impromptu flashmob style dance (which we were a part of) and was so big Blacc himself could see us from stage and some video footage made it online. I’m very keen to keep an eye on Aloe Blacc and would love to see him again.

One of the big pieces of news from the Lorne Falls Festival was the midnight countdown that went awry when the Arctic Monkeys left the stage, assuming someone from the festival would be leading the countdown. They were mistaken and came back out on stage to lead an amusingly arbitrary countdown at about 12.02am. I applaud them for their ability to roll with the punches and then rock on straight back in to their set. It didn’t matter if it was a countdown at the exact time, it was a countdown on a hillside with 16,000 of your now closest mates. Falls Festival, a truly astounding New Years experience.

You can have your say about the Falls Festival by completing their online patron survey and go in the running to win a double pass to the 2012 Falls Festival.

Read our other Falls Festival reviews, part 1 In The Beginning and part 2 Mid Stride, also take a look at our feature reviews from The Countdown, Kim Churchill and Emma Louise.

Falls Festival Feature Review: Emma Louise

Emma Louise by Stu BReview by KTBell, photos by Stu B.

Emma Louise at the Falls Festival, Lorne VIC
The Grand Theatre, Saturday 31 December 2011

We arrived at The Grand Theatre for Emma Louise where a considerable crowd had gathered. Starting out on stage solo, she played a song written the previous week called “British Admiral”. Inspired by a visit to King Island for Christmas, the reef is littered with over 200 shipwrecks and the song reflects upon all the sailors who never came home to their wives. With a sweet, tender opening on acoustic guitar, the lament and mourning was clear. Emma was joined on stage by her band for “Sandalwood” allowing her angelic vocals to fill the tent.

Next was “Our Song”, though I might have the name wrong, based on the experience of being dumped yet still going back for more. Interestingly opening with vocal harmonies and a strong beat, it was a song full of concern yet able to achieve a quiet, calm moment of stillness of held guitar and keys notes among the drumbeat. Having last seen Emma Louise in the support slot for Boy and Bear last year, I was impressed to see her showmanship has improved performance wise, possibly part of that lift is the band behind her, but on stage experience seems to have served her well.

She told the audience that she had lived in Brisbane during the floods, and to escape that scene, had gone home to Cairns only to be stranded by cyclone Yasi. “Warning Eyes” was written while waiting for Yasi to arrive and delivered a quiet, solemn opening, building with the imminent story. “Darts” was about a good friend not long passed away, a slow song where memories unravel and intertwine through melody and emphatic versus. She reveled in the fact that she was playing a few new ones for the crowd and
played another which I think was called “Staying”.

Emma Louise by Stu BNext she pulled one from her EP from when she first moved to Brisbane and was living in a share house with smelly boys. “Bugs” had a delightful full sound, with a strong guitar, piano, drums and a massive wallowing bass riff. Given that the previous year had been a whirlwind of activity with her sudden rise in popularity, among all the changes, she wrote “Flannelette Sheets”, a song about being away from a loved one. The opening harmonies were like a light rain shower building up to a heartfelt yearning crescendo ending. “Sun And Moon” was punctuated and rhythmic with echoey harmonies throughout the chorus. And to bring her set to a close, Emma Louise pulled out a punchy rendition of the hit “Jungle”. She had a dedicated audience and a solid, entertaining performance. Her style still holds on to much of the floaty, delicate intimacy created by her breathy style, but she has stepped in to her own as a festival performer.

2012 will certainly be Emma Louise‘s year.

Read the rest of our Falls Festival reviews, part 1 In The Beginning, part 2 Mid Stride and part 3 where Emma was featured, The Countdown.

Falls Festival Feature Review: Kim Churchill

Kim Churchill by Stu BReview by KTBell, photos by Stu B

Kim Churchill at the Falls Festival Lorne, VIC
The Grand Theatre, Saturday 31 December 2011

We headed up the hill to The Grand Theatre to see one of Timber and Steel’s favourite yet relatively undiscovered acts, Kim Churchill. A very chilled out crowd lazed all over the grass but were woken with Kim’s stomp box, strummy guitar and wailing harmonica opening to “Tides”. With the crowd well and truly intrigued, he brought “Smile as He Goes Home” to the table and piqued the collective crowd’s attention.

It seems like Kim should be far better known in Australia a feat yet to really be achieved. Kim manages to create a full band sound all by himself in an exceedingly impressive one man band style, so much so that his finger picking can almost sound piano like. I think this alone may be a part of the reason new audiences don’t always take in every aspect of his performance, because they may not even realise the skill that goes in to being your own accompaniment. I would love to see him sometime with a band in support, perhaps his charisma and talent would translate better with a backdrop.

Kim Churchill by Stu BI have to admit, I haven’t committed all of Kim‘s song titles to memory, but that’s because he so often plays new material and his Falls set was no exception. He explained he has been traveling a lot in the last year and proceeded to play a song written in LA where he was trying to work out if he liked the big city or not. With lyrics like “And water doesn’t care where it’s running” and “Keep them safe within their concrete walls”, it was a really powerful performance. Kim put his all in to every song and was rewarded with a now receptive audience, whether they were there to see him intentionally or just for the shade, they were drawn in.

Trying a song he wrote the week prior, he commented it might be a dumb idea, but ‘we’d see how it goes’. I think it was called “Detail Of Distance” and really struck a chord for myself with lyrics like “I’ve been running all along for something that’s not there”, I’m sure many others had the same connection. Kim‘s verve for performance is a sure reason for his continued appearances at festivals, and hopefully Kim Churchill will soon become a staple festival draw card.

Read the rest of our Falls Festival reviews, part 1 In The Beginning, part 2 Mid Stride and part 3 featuring Kim, The Countdown.

Falls Festival Feature Review: Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes by Stu BReview by KTBell, photos by Stu B

Fleet Foxes at the Falls Festival, Lorne VIC
The Valley Stage, Friday 30 December 2011

The sun was setting, the air temperature was dropping and glistening bubbles danced over the heads of the buzzing crowd. The reputation of the Fleet Foxes proceeded them and I was excited to see them having very little real idea of what their music was like. Judging by the crowd’s anticipation, I knew something special was about to occur.  Thumping double bass and a steely chords intro lead into harmonized ‘aahs’ to a song that filled the arena but the name of which eludes me. The drummer was wild on the cymbals but their beautiful harmonies among the beats were reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. After a glowing opening, I was transfixed by “The Plains”, it was just enchanting.

Their third song, featuring an electric mandolin, was up beat and sounds like chimes. I was struck by the fact that they were such reserved performers but still sharing their energy and and bewitching the crowd. It was clear the entire valley was hooked, caught up in every chord and chorus. The audience was so enraptured by their enigmatic performance, there were girls were dancing and skipping all across the valley. With the audience frenetic with the energy of the performance, their hit song “Helplessness Blues” chimed across the field and the place nearly exploded.

Fleet Foxes by Stu BEvery set of eyes was glued to the stage and we hung on their every word. Robin chimed in between songs with an intriguing introduction, saying “Just because I’m not wearing shoes, doesn’t mean I’m, like, carefree,” chattered with the audience a little more and broke in to “Sim Sala Bim”. The fiddle work just shone throughout the song creating eddies and flows to delight the mind. The popular “Your Protector” emerged next keeping the audience in the flow, followed by a much larger musical presence in the stunning “Winter White Hymnal”. All in all, for a first time experience of Fleet Foxes, their performance was nothing short of magical and I’ll be very keenly seeking out their recordings.

Take in the rest of our Falls Festival review Mid Stride, or have a look back over out first installment, In The Beginning.

Falls Festival Review: Mid stride

After a late night, we woke up to a warmer morning on the third day of the Falls Festival and made our way first to The Village The Dad Horse Experience by Stu Bwhere the intriguingly named Dad Horse Experience were playing. What I expected to be a one man show was a 3 piece complete with banjo and kazoo who played ‘stupid country song[s]’.  Dad‘s banter between songs was endearing and hilarious in it’s raw and honest delivery, the crowd was always chuckling. They whipped out a gospel song, but Dad commented that it’s weird that “gospel is usually about your dead mother and wanting to be in heaven with her”, so they sang an A.P. Carter gospel song, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” which, by switching from the Banjo to a very beat up mandolin this rendition felt like a fouled up Regurgitator song… But maybe that’s a hangover from the previous night (Regurgitator played Unit in full). For their next song, Dad, in his thick and amusing German accent went on to discuss at length his thoughts on heaven and that “if my mama were dead, if she were in heaven, I wonder what would happen, because if it’s like immigration, they won’t let me in because of ‘all za shit you did’. If it’s the same in heaven, then I won’t see my mama again, and zat is shit”. That thought had inspired the song “Gates of Heaven”, a hilarious hillbilly style gospel lament full of swearing and the catch phrase, “bless this muthaf*cker, but won’t you please let me in.” Turns out it’s never too early in the day for a sing-a-long.

No doubt the whole audience could relate to that experience when you regret what you did the night before and promise never to do it again, only to wake up another morning and realise “oh shit I did it again!”. To the collective laughter, this was the introduction to “Lord Must Fix My Soul”. Dad took the time to teach us the chorus, “Lord must fix my soul, turn the shit in to gold”. The crowd was engaged and keen to sing and clap along. With lyrics like “Mama taught me the bible, well I shot her with my rifle” and a break after each chorus to tell the story relating to each verse, this was the highlight of the set. We had to leave to make it to the next gig, but as we left we could hear the next song ramping up and punters singing along once again.

Lanie Lane by Stu BFriday was the first day that all stages were running, so we hiked it up the massive main arena hill to catch Lanie Lane at The Grand Theatre, a performance I had been hotly anticipating given Lanie‘s catapult to popularity and extensive list of festival performances for 2011. The crowd had assembled early and punters all claimed their seats on the grass eagerly anticipating her sultry tunes. I was amazed to see two kimono clad women distributing Japanese tea to the waiting audience and realised this festival truly has everything! Although Lanie was under the weather, her performance was strong and Stu commented just how well her music translates from recording to stage. There’s nothing more disappointing than loving an artist’s CD only to see them live and be disappointed. Lanie did not disappoint, in fact she wowed the huge crowd, had them all singing along and loving every second of her set. I left her set feeling so fulfilled and it was only the start of the day!

I can’t decide whether French 10 piece Babylon Circus is gypsy enough to include, or ska enough to omit. If you like upbeat jazzy tunes with huge brass sections a little like the Bamboos and the Cat Empire, then check them out, they certainly had the crowd swinging. Sitting watching The Valley Stage meant the sun was blazing down on us, so we quickly moved inside The Grand Theatre to see CANT, the side project of Grizzly Bear‘s Bass Player, Chris Taylor. Backed by a 3 piece band, he struggled through some sound issues and hit the crowd with an echoey pop ballad to open. Full of synth, ethereal meandering and some almost ‘Phill Collins at his best’ sounding moments, CANT provide a full sound experience, but certainly not a mini Grizzly Bear act.

Grouplove by Stu BNext Grouplove took to The Valley Stage with a huge, excited crowd just ready to burst at the seams. Their opening number sounded almost like an Irish pub rock ballad with the ukulele strumming and sheer enthusiasm from the 5 piece. Followed by “Lovely Cup” had the crowd keeping time. Grouplove are synonymous with their clapping introduction to the huge hit “Itchin’ On A Photograph” that just two beats in, the crowd recognised and were clapping in time while, over the top of the crowds clapping, Hannah explained that the band had painted the back drop for the day an hoped the audience loved it as much as they did. It was pretty cool and the audience sure let them know it. Next up they played “Love Will Save Your Soul” with the trilling intro chords revving the audience up. After the applause had died down, Christian confided that Australia  was the bands favorite place to play and they were so excited to be back. Grouplove are a fantastic festival act, I can only imagine what their sideshows with The Head and the Heart would have been like!

The Jezabels by Stu BAfter a bit of a non-folk interlude, The Jezabels brought a new vibe to The Valley Stage. With the main arena covered top to bottom in revelers, the crowd erupted as they came onstage. Their thumping bass, drums and synth keys took precedence as their hit “Endless Summer” rolled out across the valley, much to the audience’s delight. The drum heavy opening to the slower ballad “Easy To Love” caressed the crowd as Hayley’s voice transcended the octaves and floated up the valley. Their set was solid from start to end, treating the ecstatic crowd to a cross section of their folk-rock back catalogue including “A Little Piece” and “Deep Wide Ocean”. With the audience moving as one and the blistering sun shining down on bare arms, backs and faces, it was clear The Jezabels were both a hit and having a great time on stage. Hayley went on to thank the crowd and tell them how great the looked. She said “Last year we played in The Grand Theatre, this is way better!” to which the crowd erupted and the set continued.

Fleet Foxes by Stu BAfter another brief folky lull in the line up, the crowd reformed for the much anticipated Fleet Foxes on The Valley Stage. Having not seen Fleet Foxes, and hardly having a chance to digest their back catalogue, even the sound check had me excited for what was to come. They took to the stage and in a humble tone, lead singer Robin said “Thanks so much for coming to watch us, we’re very happy to be back” and they were as equally happily received by the crowd. With a gentle demeanor and humility in their performance, their chords struck out across the crowd and wrapt each listener up within their stories. Their music is honest and subtle, even live on stage. And without lifting much of a finger, their calm and often still stature on stage still managed to deliver far more emotion and energy than anticipated to a very happy crowd.

Tim Finn by Stu BAs another chilly night set in, Tim Finn took over The Valley Stage like an esteemed gentleman with a point to make and a story to tell. A mellow start to the set with the Split Endz classic “Poor Boy” but an upbeat bridge gave him opportunity to take in the entire stage like a young lead singer or any other band of the day. Clearly those at the front were core fans, singing along with full gusto. Tim‘s voice isn’t what it used to be, but like a wise man with a glimmer in his eye, a cheeky tale and more spirit than any young upstart with attitude, he sang comfortably through “Made My Day”. Animatedly he announced he would pull one from  Woodface and the crowd pleaser “Only Natural” echoed out from his enigmatic smile. On a roll, Finn wooed the crowds further with “Persuasion” followed by a hugely popular and rousing performance that had the entire valley singing along, word for word, to “Weather With You”. You’d think that would be the end of such a set, but Finn continued the crowd high with “Six Months In A Leaky Boat”. We were flagging but the crowd wasn’t. As we headed off, the valley continued to sing along and Finn mastered the stage like a King watching over his court. Truly an inspired performance.

Read our feature reviews of Lanie Lane and Fleet Foxes from the day. Otherwise read the rest of our three part review, with opening piece In The Beginning and look out for our final installment The Countdown.

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