The Woodford Files 2014-15: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (for 347 days…)

Woodford

Woven Cloud. Image courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival.

“I always judge a festival by its program. If a festival can’t attract big name acts, it’s not much good and I’m not much interested.”

I listened to my host as they opined their assessment criteria of a festival deserving of their attention.

Without much in the way of my comment. Certainly no critique or counterpoint from my way came.

I’m like that if I’m living temporarily under someone else’s roof. I listen and nod a lot. Even if I have strong opinions to the contrary, it usually takes a team of wild horses to extract them.

Here’s a case in point: The 2014-15 Woodford Folk Festival.

The Lettering House at Woodford Folk Festival

The Lettering House at Woodford Folk Festival

I only decided to go less than a month before it started. A Christmas to mid-January commitment in inner West Sydney had been cancelled on me at very late notice, so I immediately started planning for a passage to Woodfordia.

I applied for a media pass, about a week too late, as it happened. But it’s always good to know people who know other people, and when we’re all doing musical and arty things in similar spaces, good things can happen.

A media and adult season camping pass materialised before my e-eyes (one day as I was shooting pool against a formidable opponent in a Liverpool pub), and it was soon wagons north then north-west.

Who’s on first?

But here’s the thing: I just don’t have a program focus.

As in a focus on programmed artists.

I skimmed a few headliners and others about three days before kick-off, and only really seriously started looking at the performer list on Christmas night, as I was kicking my heels back in Bankstown, waiting for a share ride to materialise from Melbourne via the Eurobodalla Nature Coast, and thence to Kariong, Mermaid Beach and Woodfordia.

Oh, look. The Violent Femmes are coming! And Cat Empire. And Big Erle!!!!

Less is more

And here’s the thing. The presence of Big Erle from Illawarra, champions of the Bulli Heritage Hotel, the much smaller Illawarra Folk Festival, and the Corrimal Blues Stomp — that made me deliriously more happy than half the big name acts appearing.

When I found out on 2nd January that Big Erle were playing the Volunteer Party, I was in raptures.

Over the six full days of the festival proper (I had the wrong colour wrist-band for Boxing Day and was stopped at the frontier), I might have seen three brackets/sets/gigs from go to whoa.

The rest of the time was devoted to media: interviews, pictures, video and LOTS of post-production.

I mention this only to warn you: if you’ve come looking for an in-depth analysis of the performers at Woodford, you’ve like, totally so got the wrong guy, y’know!

Alex and Dani from Canada, Fine Earth Foods

Alex and Dani from Canada, Fine Earth Foods

It’s not Woodford per se; it’s you

Festivals for me are all about people.

The festival aficionados that you might only ever get to see once a year at thatfestival, or a number of specific festivals.

It’s the like-minded strangers who you make a connection with because you overhear them talking about Billy Bragg, or see them wearing the same eight-festivals-ago t-shirt that you had on yesterday, or there’s some other linking thing, tangible or ephemeral.

It’s the stallholders that you bond with over a beautifully-prepared Argentinian sausage combo, or stunning gemstone, or unusual item of dress.

Mostly, ze sausage, für better or wurst.

And for me, it’s definitely the random people you meet by pure accident and instantly click with.

I met one couple in the wonderful ornament to Woodford eateries that is Fine Earth Foods. And we engaged on the basis of he having heard me swear in Dutch as I put my gear down and slopped some tea. And that led to an in-depth chat about swearing around the world, language and accents, countries and culture.

Half an hour later as I walked off stage at The Poets’ Breakfast in The Duck, adrenaline coursing through my veins after a rather emotional reading, he was there at the next table to raise a hand and wordlessly high-five me into the middle of next week.

That’s a real festival vibe for me.

Woodford is…

A fit young woman in workout gear and masses of dreadlocks, running laps around the volunteer and overnight camping at six am.

Woodford is generally not…

Emergency services sirens, so it was a surprise to hear some on the first day zooming along the road to Beerwah. It was a one-off.

Into every festival…

Let’s name, identify, then push this elephant out of the room: yeah, it rained.

Quite a lot, actually.

I took a short video from the volunteers’ camp on the morning after the Fire Event in which I talk specifically about this and how some media outlets chose to make that the main (or main-ish) game in their reportage, initially. Ultimately,  I deleted it by mistake. Meh.

I won’t use the phrase I have for these media organs (lol), but let’s just say it rhymes with ‘truck bits’.

You see, after the volunteers, and organisers, and performers, and contractors, and stallholders, and visiting dignitaries — they gots to sell some tickets to some paying punters, and focussing on inclement weather is enough to put off some of the less resilient in the muggle community. And the choir we usually preach to as well who were maybe only coming for a day.

/off soapbox.

Though it did occur to me that Woofordians may have as many words for rain as Eskimos have for snow.

Home away from home

Home away from home

Have you got a dollar?

For me, the tone was set for my whole Woodford on the first full day of the program when I was stood at the counter of Fine Earth Foods, ruminating on what a pot of tea might cost.

Not seeing any signs and wondering if I needed to go back to my table to get extra, I turned to ask the woman stood next to me. She wasn’t sure, despite counting her own change having just bought a cup herself.

As I stood looking at my $3.15 and surmising I might need extra, there was suddenly a loud clink as an extra dollar dropped into my open palm of change.

Thank you, Anna of Bodypeace Bamboo Clothing. That simple exchange put me in a ridiculously good mood and set the tone for the next days, which I invariably started with a pot of tea at Phil and Michelle’s wonderful venue.

I sat there most days powerless, having run down my phones overnight. On the second last day, I saw the charging bay.

On the last day, I found out they ran 24hrs.

Overheard in the café

“Did you go to bed at all last night?”

“Over six days, typically not!”

Forging meaningful relationships

Woodford is a locality with a lot of love in the room. And most are in a laid back mood.

On the first day I ran into one of my Bankstown to Woodfordia travel companions in the company of a gorgeous young blonde.

Me: “Hi, I’m Bill.”

Her: “Hi Bill. I’m Dionysiaque.”

Him: “Thanks for that. Now I know her name!”

[He cops a whack for his comment.]

Him [winking]: “On no, it’s Diane!”

Which it was, I may never know.

What time is it?

Having differentiated myself from 96.36% of musos for 9.36 years as a watch-wearer, it’s a lifelong habit that’s left the building.

Time is a take it or leave it concept at Woodford. Important if you need to be at a venue (to perform or punt). Important if you’re a worker or volunteer and have shifts to get too.

Pretty arbitrary for others.

“Is that the time?”
“No, time is an abstract concept. That’s a wrist-watch.”
(Douglas Adams.)

Or as I was asked on one of those powerless morning tea times (of the soul):

“Do you have the time?”
“No, it’s one thing I don’t have.”

Garbage

One morning, I had a lovely chat with Stuart and Sue, volunteer garbologists from Hervey Bay.

They’d been meaning to come for years, wanted to volunteer, and ‘wanted to do something useful but didn’t want to have to boss younger people around’.

Their son suggested a great idea: street cleaners. Two hours of dedicated cleaning in the morning with a roving commission to clear any rubbish they saw at other times.

And how clean are the crowds?

“Woodford people are generally pretty good. Plus when they see us keeping the place clean, they tend to follow suit.”

Stuart was easily distinguishable by his attractive neck tie of a display of what items go into which bin.

Tokyo Bar

Tokyo Bar

Serious about Woodford

Overheard in the bar.

“I’m taking it serious this year. I even brought glasses and a highlighter this year.”

Overheard in a Morrocan tent on Day One

“Gee, there are a lot of people here!”

Strap yourself in for New Year’s Eve, then.

Not all baristas are town criers

The new chai tent is Melbourne-based Holy Cow. Some pined for the old chai tent, now the Pineapple Lounge.

I quite like the new one.

But the barista didn’t quite have the pipes to cut through the crowd noise for coffee pick-ups.

“Amanda. Amanda. Amanda.”

“Mate, you need a bass-baritone,” observed one scruffy wag waiting for his coffee. Probably me.

“Yeah, I guess we do.”

Right.

“AMANDA!!!!!!!!”

Pigeons flew off the guy ropes, tent poles rattled, and coffee cups danced on their racks.

“Wow, thanks mate. You’re hired!”

Still no Amanda.

An elder woman passed, touched my elbow and winked as she said, “You realise she’s probably too embarrassed and has left now!”

Family Outings

Family Outings

Giving the wandering minstrels some love

I forget which band it was, but a travelling group playing in Bill’s Bar told of how they realised on the plane they’d not brought linen, a requirement of their accommodation.

They mentioned this to the cabin attendant who became very excited to hear of musos headed to Woodford.

They were told to go to the Hungarian Bakery where a family member would see them right, were provided with some airline linen, and two bottles of Shiraz for good measure.

Nice.

Ad nauseum

This article does go on, and so do I.

With pages in my notebook to go, and with the Sunshine Coast mozzies and other insects taking chunks from my flesh, Ill rule a thick line under Woodford Folk Festival 2014-15, unquestionably my favourite festival of any genre of of all time, and leave you with some greatest hits.

Favourite gig: Trouble in the Kitchen, Concert, New Year’s Day.

Favourite perfomer: See above.

Memorable moment: Seeing David Francey sing “The Lock-Keeper” live.

Song for Woodford 2014-15: “Little Bag” by Lucy Wise Trio.

Place I’d choose to be other than Woodford: yeah, right. No.

See you on: 27 December 2015.

The Woodford Files 2014-15: Save The Last Dance Or Beer For Me

The Volunteer Party is like a baffling market selling ice cream and fruit dessert in tall glasses: a trifle Bazaar

The Volunteer Party is like a wondrous market selling ice cream and fruit dessert in tall glasses: a trifle Bazaar

As the sun set slowly over Kilcoy, we bade farewell to the last performance at Woodford Folk Festival as Fantuzzi reggaed the crowd into a fervour.

Actually, the sun was long gone by the time Fantuzzi closed out proceedings. And as they finished their last number, the vollys were just getting going and took responsibility for their own entertainment.

I was professionally torn. My obligations were long since dispensed with. I wanted to capture some vision of the band, but……

The Woodford Files 2014-15: Volunteer Party

Woodford
Image Courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

2014-15 is only my fourth trip to Woodfordia, so there are others who are 25 visits ahead of me.

The first three festivals I attended as a volunteer, and like my introduction into the world wide weird of folk merely two years previously, I could not have made a better choice than to join the ranks of vollys, as they/we are affectionately known.

Woodford Volly Camping

Woodford Volly Camping

 

I have very little if anything to compare with the frissons of excitement I had as a wide-eyed young 41 year old, reduced by an event to a gibbering little schoolboy.

(Except when on stage; always a professional behind the microphone, of course!)

I was in a trippy paradise of heaven. Everything was new, everything was bigger and more colourful, more musical, more stunning, than anything else I’d encountered in music and art to that date.

Sorry, Bayern State Opera, but Woodford takes the strudel!

(It even proved to be a sorting hat for me, because my partner at the time came with me (to her first Woodford). In stark contrast, she whinged and whined and moaned and griped and complained. It was too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too expensive, too cheap, too too too much. I put her at an arm’s distance, revelled in my then very patchy mobile phone reception, and on 31 December when she texted me to say she’d gone home to mother near Chermside, I punched the air, danced a jig, yodelled from the Hilltop, and dived right back into the festival. A week later we were over for good and she ended up marrying the sound guy. Good luck to them both!)

I left home several days before the festival started and made a savage hook turn trip from Canberra down to Bodalla then later from Moruya to north Brisbane in one Christmas Day non-stop haul. Google maps informs me that’s about 1450kms on the black-top. Another 74kms to the front gate of Woodfordia, in near carpark conditions on the Bruce Highway. Travel north from Brisbane to the festival on Boxing Day at your own peril.

The taste of service station sausage rolls still lingers to this day. Nothing on the highway of any higher gastronomic fare was on offer in 2007, apart from days old sandwiches in those hideous plastic containers that look like they’d been washed and glazed for display.

But as I left my then Canberra base, with one foot out the door, the phone rang and it was then MC Convenor, now Queensland Folk Federation president Rose Broe, telling me who I had on my rota to MC for.

Tripod, Sarah Blasko, Ernie Dingo, Eric Bogle (twice). And John Schumann (twice). I was going to walk out on stage and introduce my absolute god of music of 25 years plus standing.

Gulp.

“Rose?”

“Yes, Bill?”

“I’m a little bit excited now.”

“Yeah, thought you might be!”

Coopers Bar

 

It was wonderful. Pure magic. I was even asked to mentor the wonderfully talented, but new to MC-ing, Ange Takats. After watching one MC performance (Spooky Men’s Chorale), I told her simply this: “I have nothing to teach you. You’re a natural.”

And she is. Because (as I’ve written extensively elsewhere), she went on stage and was herself. Natural. No artifice.

Woodford

Woodford volunteering is usually In tents

 

Mixing with the vollys, gathering in the then (and still) just on the adequate side of adequate Volly Centre, where you got to recreate scenes from The Good Earth by traipsing through mud to get there!

Did we care? Not a jot. It was fun, it was wet, it was wild.

I came back the next two years running, and lapped up every second. Volunteering is THE best intro to a festival, especially for the slightly or very out-of-pocket, and definitely for the sole traveller.

At my second Woodford, I met the guys from the Tokyo Bar and made friends and compadres for life. After a five year break, it was a sheer delight to be co-located with them again, even though I went there on a media pass this year.

On the night of 2 January, when the punters have gone home, the musos have moved on to their sideshows and petrol money gigs, and the stalls are coming down, the last bar standing (this year, the Bazaar) pumps out slightly cheaper drinks, a couple of bands are roped in to get a little bit nutty and let everyone let their hair right down, and there’s something of a feeling of ‘get down and maybe not get up again’ in the air.

And there are speeches. Or really, just the one speech this time, with a miniscule intro.

You can hear my surprise on the tape, as I did not know that my former boss (of sorts) and mentor is Ms Prez now. You would only expect an MC wrangler to speak with credibility, authority and clarity.

Rose Broe knocked it out of the park. Even with a large furry animal half way down her ‘festival throat’.

If like me before Easter 2005, you’ve been sat back sucking the air in through your clenched teeth at festival ticket prices due to your current financial circumstances, have a good hard look at volunteering. We need our paying punters, but festivals would be nowhere without an army of volunteers, and they don’t come much better than at Woodfordia.

The Woodford Files: Fire Event Climaxes in Fire (hence the name!)

Fire Event
Fire Event image courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

Before I’d heard much of anything about Woodford Folk Festival, back in the unenlightened days of roughly 2006, I’d sure heard about the Fire Event. Attending between 2007-2010, I joined the Fire Choir each year and loved it to bits.

BUT being able to sit in the audience with a smashing view, able to take in the full spectacle and stunning sound and light production, I was like an excited 10yo boy.

Heightening the experience just behind me was an almost two year old who was in paroxysm and frissons of delight and was joining in, improve-style, during the choral bits.

Wonderful. An absolutely stunning achievement.

My favourite part, and a moment for me that seemed to encapsulate Woodford, was when the cast on the ground just got stuck in hoe-down style while the tragic-comedy drama face burned.

The Woodford Files 2014-15: New Year’s Eve at The Duck with Black Market Tune

Black Market Tune
Image courtesy of Black Market Tune

You’re spoilt for choice as to where to spend those last moments of the year at Woodford Folk Festival.

I had probably my most memorable NYE a few years ago in the then Duck and Shovel, at a Beatles Singalong of all things, but this year, it was a case of same venue, completely different music on offer.

Enjoy these guys’ new year vicariously again!

The Woodford Files: Three Minutes’ Silence

Woodford
Image Courtesy of the Woodford Folk Festival

The three minutes of silence is a tradition that started back in 1999 at Woodford Folk Festival.

A bell sounds several times at 11.30pm on New Year’s Eve, and across the site, tens of thousands of punters, stall-holders, musos, volunteers — everyone, really — fall silent.

For three minutes.

Hence the name.

This year, rather than immersing his feet in the creek running past The Duck, or MC-ing in The Chai Tent/Pineapple Lounge, Bill Quinn was perched just in front of the bell and caught some vision for posterity:

The Woodford Files: John Smith (UK)

John Smith
Image Courtesy of John Smith

John Smith is performing at Woodford Folk Festival, and at the time of writing has just finished his last show at The Duck.

While that’s bad news for anyone on site who missed his gigs, or for anyone who got along and just wants to see more, the good news for John is that he can now find a shady tree and try to keep cool for the rest of the festival.

“This weather is too hot for my blood!” he observed to the lunchtime crowd of Duck Eggs, as he referred to them, in a friendly way.

While pumping up the nachos at The Chef’s Table and their other gastronomical delights.

Bill Quinn was phonetically challenged….

I’m sorry, I’ll read that again.

Bill Quinn was challenged in terms of phone access which left John with some extra time to enjoy the shade of the Coopers Bar, but they eventually caught up for a chat:

Gig dates for John Smith’s Australian tour:

Saturday 3rd January – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 7th January -The Melbourne Folk Club @ Bella Union, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 8th January – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS

The Woodford Files: Trouble In The Kitchen (“Sarah Island”)

Trouble
Image Courtesy of Bill Quinn

Youtube has a simple facility where at the push of a button, your shaky video is stabilised and appears much more professionally recorded than when you were actually adding some extra jigginess via mundane bodily functions such as breathing or sneezing.

Or weeping uncontrollably.

Let’s go back a few years.

At probably my first Woodford Folk Festival, I got a treasured copy of the then very new The Next Turn album by Trouble in the Kitchen. As I set off down the D’Aguilar Highway on 3 January, processing eight days’ worth of festy wonderfullness, I was in an emotional, impressionable state, making listening to the 14 tracks all the more powerful.

(Some of my most treasured and loved folk albums have seared straight into the deepest levels of my cerebrum by dint of being absorbed in post-festival drives.)

However, my attention must have wandered on Track Five as I didn’t pick up all the lyrics nor their significance. I acquired and adopted a handful of mondegreens, and ran with those for many months until one day I sat with a stack of 20-25 Woodford-collected/purchased CDs and…

I read the liner notes.

When I got to “Sarah Island” I was an instant, dribbling mess.

The song is so beautifully, evocatively emotive, encompassing the content of the awful reality of the original penal colony, but also the referent extrapolations to related themes of being trapped, separated, and contemplating sweet release over persevering with pain and suffering.

The final verse rarely leaves me with a dry eye.

I listened to the song a hundred times, learnt the lyrics, sang it a capella in dozens of singing sessions, and it crept in and around and surrounded my subconsciousness.

One day, I parked my car under the Hyperdome in Canberra and went in to retrieve my copy of The Next Turn which I’d loaned to Frog from Songland Records for a listen. I was on my way to Numeralla Folk Festival and once more, the synapses were off in different directions.

Around about Michelago I remembered that at some point I’d been in the carpark next to the car, doing my usual trick of holding 36 things at once, wishing mum had mated with an octopus not dad, and that at some point I’d rested the album on my car’s roof.

Greenway to Michelago is a long way, and I’d like to think that someone in the Hyperdome carpark, or maybe around Bonython or Theodore is to this day enjoying their complimentary copy of ‘The Next Turn’, complete with Joe, Benno, Ado and Kate-o’s signatures.

I re-purchased my personal copy that September at The Turning Wave.

But at some point since, my life has become even more transient and itinerant than it was then and storage of most of my goods, chattels and personal effects has become a thing of necessity.

My vinyl collection is all gone, my CDs have been pared down to the absolutely definitely must keeps, and The Next Turn is in that large plastic vault, currently holed up in my one-metre-cubed existence in Kingsgrove, NSW while I have found the truth in my card from the federal government that says ‘No Fixed Address’.

For now, I’m a Queenslander, but who knows which way the winds will blow in early June?

And so we come to this festival which the Google gods did not rightly treat me well with. Or was it Google or some other force?

The search term ‘Woodford Folk Festival Trouble In The Kitchen’ is now turning up the right results, so maybe the problem with the search engine was between the chair and the keyboard.

Either way, at about 10.55am today (New Year’s Eve, Queenslandia time), I was scooting down the path towards the Concert Stage, pausing only briefly to talk with Nick from Library Media to take a cheesy photo and get all mutually appreciative and excited about caring, sharing business practices involving contra and barter instead of tax invoices, and I slid sideways into the front row just as Trouble In The Kitchen were introduced on stage.

One or two tune sets into their gig, this happened.

And I was battling to keep the camera on an even keel.

Trouble In The Kitchen will be performing at Port Fairy Folk Festival, and you can keep up to date with their other appearances at their website.

We all need a little flushing out on a regular or semi-regular basis. You get that.

I did.

Like I said, Youtube comes with a stabilising feature.

The Woodford Files: The Lettering House

Lettering House

Bill Quinn was sitting having his ritual cup of peppermint tea in Fine Earth Foods at Woodford Folk Festival when a postie came into the venue and started attempting to deliver letters.

To people.

With certain characteristics like a writer from Sydney (“Hello!”) with blue eyes (“Strike one!”)

And then someone with odd socks.

What could possibly be happening? What was this specifically non-specific form of delivering items of mail?

After an intrepid search through the back-blocks behind the Holy Cow chai tent, we managed to find Roger the Postie who explained all.

And as mentioned in the rambling intro, and to Roger off air, the whole shebang gave a strong resonance of Jacques Tati in Jour de Fete.

UPDATE 1: Wednesday 31 December 2014


Todd and Julie in The Lettering Office, Woodford Folk Festival

On New Year’s Eve in the Woodford Folk Festival media centre, a young couple walked in with a story to tell and wanted someone to tell it to. Megan and Jake had come to the right place to tell the story of Megan’s mum, Julie and the letter she’s received from Todd.

Listen in for the full romantic story:

UPDATE 2: Wednesday 31 December 2014

After posting this article, someone picked it up because the number of reads keeps rolling around like a poker machine dial, and this morning, it was getting a lot of interest in USA.

Then on Twitter, a lovely man named Geoff Richards piped up and told me about a song of his called ‘Write A Letter Home’. An’ it goes a little somethin’ like this:

The Woodford Files: Underwater Basket Weaving with Aly de Groot

Aly De Groot
Image Courtesy of Aly de Groot

Woodford Folk Festival has an amazing array of hands-on arts workshops clustered into an alley called Artisania.

Bill Quinn stopped on his amble along the individually decorated paving bricks to chat with Aly de Groot about her workshops.

Book for Aly’s workshops at the Artisania office opposite the Coopers Bar.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 362 other followers

%d bloggers like this: