Details of the 2016 Cobargo Folk Festival

Image Courtesy of Cobargo Folk Festival

By Peter Logue

As it is for many things in life, for folk festivals, timing is everything. With the festival calendar now stretching from September through to late April, it becomes difficult to keep festival artistic programs fresh and exciting.

I have attended hundreds of folk festivals, here and in Europe, over the past 45 years and – I know it’s a big call and I’ll be accused of bias because I’m on the organising committee – I’ve never seen such an outstanding small festival line-up as you’ll see late in February in Cobargo.

Cobargo, in the magnificent Bega Valley, this year boasts eight world-class international acts, most of whom will go on to headline at major festivals like Port Fairy, Blue Mountains and the National in Canberra.

This includes heavy Celtic influences from the likes of Ireland’s Rambling Boys – lead by Four Men and a Dog bodhran master Gino Lupari – Canada’s exciting East Pointers, Irish bouzouki whiz Beth Patterson from the US and Nicola Hayes and Hélène Brunet, now based in Brittany.

The English tradition is also strongly represented with the multi-talented Kirsty Bromley, troubadour Alistair Brown who’s becoming a Cobargo regular, and one of my personal favourites Vin Garbutt – still making people laugh and cry at the same time.

A late and welcome inclusion from the US is the punk/bluegrass/soul duo Truckstop Honeymoon. I’d need a whole article to describe what they do – but here’s a clip that might explain them better than any words.

When you add local talents like Trouble in the Kitchen, Fred Smith and Liz Frenchman, blues legends The Backsliders (in acoustic mode), Daniel Champagne, Danny Spooner, the outrageous Old Empire Band and many, many more – it’s quite festival for such a small, but perfectly formed, village.

We’re particularly pleased to receive a grant Arts NSW’s Country Arts Support Program for Neil Murray, formerly of the Warumpi band, to run workshops in the Dhurga language with the local Yuin Community.

Back to the issue of timing. Cobargo Festival does not have deep pockets or particularly wealthy sponsors.

Most international acts tour for a month to six weeks at the most and generally time their run to take in the major festivals in March and early April.

Cobargo does well because it has a great reputation for hospitality, great scenery not far from a hundred pristine beaches, and knowledgeable audiences – many of whom have been coming to the festival for the 21 years it has been going.

It gives acts time to settle in, shake off the jet lag and get their sets in order, plus they can cover expenses and seel a lot of CDs to the 3000 plus people who attended.

Run by volunteer from the community, Cobargo spends any profits it makes wisely. Since last year it has worked closely with co-venue partners the Showground Trust to improve facilities, adding a big new shower and toilet block and improving camping areas at the Showground.

We’re expecting a bumper crowd this year and are thankful for a grant from Destination NSW to help promote the festival outside our area. Of course, we don’t want to get too big and lose that wonderful intimate atmosphere of the small festival.

Dates are February 26th-28th: so get in early and look for tickets on

The National Announces Even More Artists for 2016

All Our Exes
Image Courtesy of All Our Exes Live in Texas

Last week The National Folk Festival announced a whole lot more artists for its 50th anniversary in 2016 and we’re getting super excited.

Included in this round of announcements are Vishten (Canada), Tony McManus & Beppe Gambetta (Scotland & Italy), Bluetongue Bush Ceilidh (UK), Brian Peters (UK), The Beez (Germany), All Our Exes Live in Texas, Castlecomer, Andy White (UK), The Davidson Brothers, Women in Docs, Matthew Dames, Eastwinds, Le Blanc Bros Cajun Band, Danny Spooner and Margret RoadKnight.

The National Folk Festival takes place in Canberra over the Easter long weekend, 24th to 28th March. Earlybird tickets are available now via the official site.

Full Lineup for the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival

Image Courtesy of Chaika

The Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival is just under two weeks away and if you haven’t seen the lineup yet you’re in for a treat.

Boasting a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites, the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival takes place from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th October in Australia’s most beautiful valley.

This year’s festival is set to feature 19-Twenty, Andrew Clermont, Berry Silver Band, Black Joak Morris, The BordererS, Broads, Bush Music Club Inc, The Button Collective, Cantares, Carl Pannuzzo, Chaika (above), Chloë & Jason Roweth, Circus Wow, Colin Towns, Cool Mountain Duo, Daniel Lucas, Danny Spooner, Dorothy Schunmann, Ecopella, Edema Ruh, Elwood Myre, Fatchuwawa, FolkLines, Fresh Off the Boat, Glover & Sorrensen, Good Girl, Grace Barr, Grapevine Jane, Gregory North, Halfway to Forth, The Hollands, Horse & Wood, InspeKtor gadje, Jim & Ingrid Rehle-Williams, John Bennett & David Hyams, Kangaleles, Ken Gates, Kenny Bartley (Super Kenny), Kiki and Pascal, Mal Webb, Martin Fairweather, Martin Howells, Maypole with Molly, Men With Day Jobs, Miss Eileen & King Lear, Naomi Doherty, Nick Rheinberger, Nigel Wearne, No Such Thing, Old Married Couple, The Pacitti’s, Pamela Wilson, Pastrami on Ryebuck, Paul Carr, Penelope Swales, Pete Wild Trio, Rose & Shamrock Ceili Band, Ruido, Set In Their Ways, The Shining Wits, Sidetalk, Solidarity Choir, Sparrow Folk, the STRUMpets, Totally Gourdgeous, Trilogy, Wild Honey, The Winnetts, Women in Docs and more.

For more information on the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, including how to get your hands on tickets, check out the official site here.

Fleurieu Folk Festival Announces 2015 Lineup

Beccy Cole
Image Courtesy of Beccy Cole

The Fleurieu Folk Festival is one of Australia’s hidden folk gems and they’ve just announced a lineup that’s bound to get you excited. Held in Willunga, South Australia from the 23rd to 25th October, the Fleurieu Folk Festival has built a reputation as one of the states premiere events.

This year’s lineup will be headlined by country music star Beccy Cole (above) and will also feature the likes of Senor Cabrales, Appalachian Heaven String Band, The Timbers, The BordererS, Danny Spooner, Charm of Finches, Josh Rennie-Hynes, Kaurna Cronin, Tom West, Scott Balfour and a host of other local and interstate acts.

“The Fleurieu Folk Festival brings together a whole range of great acts across genres, from traditional folk to Celtic, country and blues,” festival organizer Peter Thornton explained. “We’re excited to have Beccy Cole at the festival this year. Beccy is an outstanding performer and songwriter. Given the strong list of performers we’ve included in this year’s program, festival goers will be spoilt for choice across the entire weekend”

For more information on the festival and lineup, including how to get your hands on tickets, make sure you check out the official Fleurieu Folk Festival site here.

Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival Announces First Round of Artists for 2014

Sal Kimber
Image Courtesy of Sal Kimber and the Rollin’ Wheel

The Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival isn’t until the weekend of the 17th October but that doesn’t mean it’s not time to start getting excited. This week the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival announced two very important details for 2014 – the release of their Super Earlybird Tickets (until 31 August) which will see you able to snap up a weekend pass for just $75 and the names of the first confirmed artists.

The artists announced for Kangaroo Valley so far include Fred Smith, Enda Kenny Band, Martin Pearson, Bajaly Suso from Gambia, The BordererS, Liz Frencham, Nick Rheinberger, Glenn Cardier & Christian Marsh, The Wheeze and Suck Band, Michael Waugh, Paul Greene and the Other Colours, Sparrow Folk, Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo, Salvation Jane, Sal Kimber and the Rollin’ Wheel (above), Danny Spooner, Crystal Barreca and many more to come.

For more info on the festival and to get your hands on Super Earlybird Tickets check out the official site here.

More Artists for the 2014 National Fold Festival

Damien Dempsey
Image Courtesy of Damien Dempsey

This news a little old but exciting none the less. The National Folk Festival last week revealed even more artists for its 2014 event and once again we’re impressed.

Headlining the announcement is Dublin based singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey (above) who joins an already impressive list of international and local guests. The rest of the lineup announcement is just as strong with the addition of The Fiddle Chicks, Takadimi, Danny Spooner, Glover & Sorrensen, Sarah Humphreys, The Lurkers, Rusty Spring Syncopators and many many more.

All of these artists join an already amazing lineup – check out the offcial site here for more information. The National Folk Festival takes place at Exhibition Park in Canberra from the 17th to 21st April. The full list of new artists are below:

Damien Dempsey Tom Lewis (Canada), Valanga Khoza and South African Jive, Rory Faithfield, The Fiddle Chicks, Candy Royalle & Sloppy Joe, Recycled String Band, Penny Davies & Roger Ilott, Damien Thornber and the Orphans, Iris, Justin Walsh & Rhyll Wilson, Bon Accord, Christopher Cady, Geoffrey W Graham, Takadimi, Amazing Drumming Monkeys, Irish Joe Lynch, Coolfinn Mac, Danny Spooner, Dylan Hekimian, Great Big Story Book, Gobsmacked!, The Ladybug Express, Glover & Sorrensen, James Griffin, Mike Martin & Lindsay Martin, Rhys Davies ‘The Trickster’, Riff Raff Radical Marching Band, Sarah Humphreys, Tángalo, 3 Sheets To The Wind, The Lurkers, Rusty Spring Syncopators, The Squeezebox Trio, Tingley Turner

The Fleurieu Folk Festival Announces Artist Lineup for 2013

Old Man Luedecke
Image Courtesy of Old Man Luedecke

The Fleurieu Folk Festival in Willunga, SA is rolling around again this October and once again they’ve managed to score one of the most impressive lineups on the folk calendar. Held from the 25th to 27th October the Fleurieu Folk Festival is just 50kms south of Adelaide making it both accessible and far enough away from the big city to truly make a weekend of it.

The 2013 lineup is made up of over 60 artists from around the country (and around the world) with more Timber and Steel favourites than you can throw a banjo at including Old Man Luedecke (above), Jordie Lane, The Seals, The BordererS, Siskin River, Danny Spooner, The Mae Trio, The Timbers, Kaurna Cronin, The Weeping Willows and many many more.

Tickets for the Fleurieu Folk Festival are available now. For more infomation check out the official site here.

The National Folk Festival Reveals First Round of Artists, Changes to Site Layout

Image Courtesy of Husky

Last week must have been a frantic one for the staff of the National Folk Festival as they not only officially announced the first round of artists for 2013, including a number of indie-folk artists that you normally wouldn’t see at the National, but they also significantly altered the layout of the festival site.

Let’s start with the artists. Announced as headliners next year are Scottish/American fiddle and cello duo Fraser & Haas, master UK multi-instrumentalist Seth Lakeman, US all-female Americana trio Red Molly, Danish roots and world five-piece Himmerland, Australian nu-folk quartet Husky (above) and folk troubadour Jordie Lane. Joining them in 2013 will be Bluegrass Parkway, Breige Murphy, Bygone Error, Chris Smither, Danny Spooner, Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens, Lime and Steel, Michael Kennedy, Pete Wild and the Only Ones, Mike Jackson, The Simpson Three, Son of Rut and The String Contingent. The full release of performers will be due at the end of November.

As for the site changes, financial pressures have forced the National Folk Festival to rethink how they layout the festival at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) in order to minimise overheards such as insurance and security. Organisers have downsized the festival so it now mainly takes place at the Flemington Road end of EPIC rather than along the Federal highway. New camping areas have been opened up and some of the outlying venues, such as the youth focused Majestic (yay!), have been incorporated into the main festival. You can check out the new site map here.

The blogs and forums have been rife with speculation that the site changes may reduce the festival’s ability to host as many performances with many people assuming that the performance program may suffer.

“It has been a difficult year, we’ve had to tighten up on our budget,” National Folk Festival managing director Sebastian Flynn told the ABC. “But hopefully, we’ve managed to keep our ticket prices the same. We’ve tried not to have too much of a hit on music or dance, and there’s been a little bit of downsizing there but basically people still get a very, very generous program.”

Early-bird tickets to the National Folk Festival, which will be held over the Easter long weekend in Canberra next year, are now on sale. For more information check out the official web site here.

Review: The 42nd Top Half Folk Festival, Mary River, NT

Scott Balfour
Scott Balfour

The following review was written by Dave Evans. Evans is a regular performer at The Top Half Folk Festival, is one of the organisers of the Alice Springs leg of the festival and is also our Editor in Chief’s father.

“Tell me Dad, what is a Top Half Folk Festival?”

“Well son, it’s like this: a group of like minded musicians and friends from all over the Territory get together with another group of musicians and friends from all over Australia and they play music, and they drink, and they talk, and they recite poetry, and they play music, and they drink, and they talk, and they recite poetry, and occasionally they eat and sleep.”

“And they have been doing this for 42 years?!?!?!”

“They have, and I suspect that, livers willing, they might be doing it for some time to come.”

“Now that I have found my very first lagerphone that you made me all those years ago, can I go to the next one?”

“Only if you promise to play music, drink, talk, recite poetry, occasionally eat and sleep, and burn the lagerphone!!! Meanwhile let me tell you all about the 42nd Top Half Festival.”

The Top Half Folk Festival is held alternately in Central Australia (Glen Helen) and the Top End (Mary River) over The Queen’s Birthday weekend each June, and this year it was Darwin’s turn to be the host. The Mary River Park, roughly halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park, was the setting, and what a perfect place for a weekend of music and fun. I remember, with a touch of nostalgia, some of the earlier Top Half’s, which were held in local schools, with classrooms cleared so we could throw our swags down, and concerts held in vast concrete assembly halls. Good days, but there is no denying that the majestic ranges of Glen Helen in Central Australia and the likewise beautiful setting of the Mary River out of Darwin lend themselves more readily to one of Australia’s best small folk festivals.

This festival included as always some of the best musicians from the Territory, together with some musical mates from interstate, and guest artists, Danny Spooner and Dave Alleway with Di Gaylard. The weekend programme consisted of concerts, workshops, presentations, poetry, a folk quiz, impromptu sessions, and activities for the younger visitors. (“How to burn a lagerphone without starting a bushfire” was a suggested activity, but too many people turned up and the bushfires council wouldn’t allow it).

As is often the case with festivals, even the smaller ones, I wasn’t able to see everything, however, here are my thoughts on what I did get to, starting with some of the presentations.

Danny Spooner

Danny Spooner’s presentation on the life and music of Hamish Henderson, ably assisted by Dave Alleway and Di Gaylard, was an absolute ripper. Henderson, was a Scottish poet, a songwriter, a soldier, an intellectual, and a collector (along with American Alan Lomax) of folk songs. In many ways he was responsible for the folk revival in Scotland in the 50s and 60s and he also started a people’s festival in Edinburgh in the early 50s, where Scottish traditional music was played, a fore-runner I guess to the Edinburgh fringe festival of today. Danny sang a collection of great songs, with the standouts for me being “The D Day Dodgers” and “Banks Of Sicily” interspersed with insights into Henderson’s life. Great stuff.

A Tribute to Dave Meyers was presented by The Shiny Bum Singers and Friends. The Shiny Bums are well known in Canberra circles and have performed at the National Folk Festival down there. Dave Meyers performed with The Shiny Bums until his untimely death in 2010. A frequent visitor and performer at Top Half Festivals, this was a chance for his friends to pay tribute to his song writing skills and to remember a good man. Parodies galore about the public service, and his special song about the $5 sausage written after a memorable festival meal a few years ago. Good fun all round, a nice tribute to a nice person. Thank you to Pat and Arminel Ryan for making it happen. We’ll miss him.

Woody Guthrie: Ramblin’ Radical was presented on the Sunday by Paul Stewart and his usual cricket team of musicians. I must confess to being biased about this presentation as I was part of it, however, talking to people afterwards it was plain that it was not just me that thought this was one of Paul’s best yet. Months of research into the complicated man that was Woody Guthrie paid off, with Paul able to share insights into his life from all the research he had done, as well as using quotes, and the 20 plus songs, sung by the cricket team. Everything linked together beautifully, and although by all accounts he wasn’t a particularly nice man, his songs stand the test of time. Too many songs to mention them all, but “Do Re Me” “The Reuben James” and “Deportees” are worth following up on if you want to sample a bit of Woody Guthrie.

The folk quiz has become an integral part of Top Half’s in recent years, two panels of three face off against each other in a battle of wit(s) overseen by an irreverent MC (your’s truly) with the much sought after “winners are grinners” trophy being the ultimate prize. Musical knowhow is somehow lost amongst the mayhem that ensues, and the ultimate winners I guess are the audience, who seem to love the format, (a cross between Spicks & Specks and Rockwiz) and the humorous sparring between the panels and the MC. Judging from the comments afterwards many consider it a highlight of the weekend. Who am I to argue!!

I managed to see one of the afternoon concerts (Sat) sleep deprivation winning out on Sunday. I remember leaving at the end thinking how much I enjoyed it. There was a nice cross-section of music with The Randoms (Jabiru) Ian Kitney (Ex Katherine now Maryborough) Josh and Phil Gray (Perth) Karien, Ian and Jayne (Everywhere) and Last Minute (Darwin). There was something for everyone with both traditional and contemporary songs, tunes, and a cappella. Great to see young Josh (10 yrs. old?) upstage his Dad, together with some lovely harmonica playing. A nice version also by Last Minute (with Tony Suttor) of the Dave Oakes song “Uluru”.

The Saturday evening concert started in fine style with The Darwin Ceili Band. They are old hands at this, having been around for a long time, and they didn’t disappoint, a very polished performance.

Phil Gray from Perth minus his mates from Loaded Dog is a fine singer and song writer and it was good to see a solo performance from him. Chris Pemberton is a favourite of mine, his choice of songs, his guitar playing, and with a voice that is easy to listen to, he always comes up trumps.. Add in Tony Suttor on voice and squeezebox and you have a wonderful sound. Love it. Barry Skipsey from Alice Springs has been singing and writing great songs for many years now. It’s always a delight to see him perform and his newest song “The Green Box” about the plight facing many Aboriginal people in and around Alice Springs is both powerful and emotive. The Three Beans from Margaret River (Karien, Jenny, and George.) also played a great set, nice musical accompaniment with Jenny’s voice a stand out. What can one say about Danny Spooner that hasn’t already been said? A long time favourite of mine, a true professional on stage, a great selection of songs, “Harry was a Champion” and “The Lasses Who Dance” two standouts. A wonderful singer and musician, he is indeed a living treasure.

Ted and Caroline Burns
Ted and Caroline Burns and Dave

The Sunday concert was another great show, with some more of my favourite artists. Don Bruce from Tanunda, great voice, a beautiful guitar picking style: quality. Phil Beck from Perth, likewise a great guitar player, with a voice to match, an ability to choose good songs, and a nice easy stage presence. Ted and Caroline Burns were joined on stage by their friend Dave and his guitar playing added another level to this popular duos set. The best I have heard them sing. Top Stuff. My old mate Scotty Balfour never disappoints. I believe he is singing better now than ever, he’s comfortable on stage, his choice of songs compliments his voice, and it’s about bloody time he put out a cd. A harp and Scottish small pipes are perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea but give them to Dave Alleway and Diane Gaylord and the result can only be a selection of wonderful Celtic and English songs and tunes. “The Pearl/Jamie Raeburn” and “Drummer Question/Beeswing” were great examples of this.

So there you have it, another wonderful weekend of quality music and spoken word with friends and new acquaintances. As I said I didn’t get to everything, but talking to Jim Smith who ran the poets breakfasts whilst I slept, these were as popular as ever and a wide range of material was covered. I am contemplating writing a workshop titled “workshops I have missed” there’s plenty of material to be had. As you can imagine there were some terrific sessions, on the Friday night, and after the evening concerts on Sat. and Sun., out on the balcony of the main building, as well as another session going on each night around the campfire with Kevin McCarthy.

As a final note, I would like to congratulate the Mary River Park hosts, Rogan and Bronwyn, who provided terrific food and ensured that enough beverages were available to keep everyone happy. They even organised a special delivery of Guinness when stocks got dangerously low. My kind of people. My thanks also to the dedicated band of Top End folkies who organised the weekend’s festivities. The meaning of life is 42 and this was the 42nd Top Half Folk Festival. It couldn’t fail really could it!!?

I’m off to give my liver a rest, until the next one that is.

Dave Alloway
Dave Alleway

This Year’s Top Half Folk Festival Program

Danny Spooner
Image Courtesy of Danny Spooner

We’ve been to a lot of different folk, blues, roots, bluegrass, world, indie and country festivals over the years and while each and every one is special in its own way it’s the small regional events we love the most. And the festival which steals our heart every year is the Top Half Folk Festival.

ALternately held near Alice Springs (Glen Helen) and Darwin (Mary River) – it’s Darwin’s turn this year – the Top Half is everything you want in a small folk festival: a single stage, intimate performances, community atmosphere and a real sense of family.

The Top Half Folk Festival this year takes place over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend – the 8th to the 11th June – in Mary River, 150km east of Darwin and is the perfect excuse to escape the Southern winter. The lineup is a mixture of locals (and by locals we mean Territorians), regulars and legends including Danny Spooner, David Alleway and Diane Gaylard, Paul Stewart (presenting his 100th anniversary to Woodie Guthrie), Kevin McCarthy, Dave Evans and Scotty Balfour, Jim Smith, Ian Kitney, a couple of Shiny Bum Singers and many many more.

Tickets are a mere $85 for the entire weekend and there is a children’s program as well. For more information contact the Top End Folk Club.

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