Falls Festival Review: Falls Festival Finds

Goodnight from Falls general_20160101-19Festival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Featured Artists: The Imprints, Merry Jeann, The Scrimshaw Four, Vardos, Soak and Oh Wonder.
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

At festivals like Falls, there’s always big name acts, there’s always Timber and Steel style acts we’re anticipating, and then there’s always a raft of acts we’ve not come across or had an opportunity to see before. It’s one of our utter pleasures to go out of our way to check out the quirky and unknown acts on festival line ups and see what’s new to discover. As I mentioned in my Overview, Lola’s Bar in the Festival Village was a gold mine for the kinds of acts we love here at Timber and Steel.

imprints_20160101-1The Imprints, a two-piece hailing from Melbourne, played Lola’s Bar on New Year’s Day with their quirky strings and drums combo to a quiet crowd recovering from their midnight revelry. Their clever use of looping pedals made for intricate fiddle tracks that melded together in beautiful harmonies. Their set featured opportunities for them to build up multi tracks of fiddle plucking, playing, strumming and harmonizing, along with a retinue of drum beats, and then strip the sound right back to a simple beat and chord. Watching them, it was clear they had a strong link, feeding off each other throughout their live performances, no doubt developed from their time playing pure improvisation. Part way through the set, Violinist Willow asked for people to come forward, even just to lay down on the dance floor and chill, because it was always weird to play to people sitting so far away. Without dropping a beat, there was a mass movement of people, and their chairs, forward. The Imprints had made a good impression.

merrynjean_20160101-2Merryn Jeann played a 10am set in Lola’s Bar on the last day of the festival, the perfect start to a day clouded in sleepiness and people just coming terms with the day. Merryn was the epitome of a folk musician, clad in an embroidered blouse, long skirt, bare feet and jaunty flat cap. Freshly arrived home from performing at the Woodford Folk Festival, Merryn started the last day of Falls with a cover of Bombay Bicycle Club’s Dust on the Ground. Her lulling, husky voice wrapped the gathering crowd in the comfort of lyrics and time, at times haunting, at times humming around you like a bumble bee. Her set included tracks like Death at Lincoln Park, usually sung with her folk band, but with a different blues style lament when performed as a solo. Having recently returned from a 6-month stint living in Berlin, Merryn took advantage of the opportunity to perform in her home town by bringing along a friend or two to join her on stage. Maeve and her violin joined the set with haunting violin chords that supplied liquid undertones to Merryn’s finger plucking.

Merryn has an unassuming, raw and honest style, playing direct from the heart. She had people transfixed, woke them to the day, and lulled them through the morning, and drew people in to sit and chill, taking in her tunes.

scrimshawfour_20160101-2The Scrimshaw Four had the lunchtime shift at Lola’s Bar on the last day of the festival. We turned up to count 5 performers on stage and figured it was a happy bonus. Or maybe they can’t count. With a line up of guitar, fiddle, bass drum, double bass, banjo and Hawaiian Lei, we knew it was going to be a vibrant show from the Melbourne lads. They kicked off the set with the country-esque fiddle and boppy vocal harmonies of Stealin’. Once the audience was properly warmed up, it was time to get down to the real business of party tunes! When a song is introduced as being about a ‘romantic day’ on the beach and starts off with the line “I don’t want to give you a diamond ring”, you know it’s going to be a fun story-telling style set. I Just Wanna Give You My Heart turned out to be just that, with a bluegrass jam, upbeat tempo and a Mic Conway like frivolity. To follow that up with an hilarious cover of The Little Mermaid’s Under the Sea but at a fast, almost manic pace, was exactly the right formula for a happy crowd.

The Scrim deftly swung through country, folk, gypsy jazz, and everthing else on the old and gutsy jazz spectrum, to ragtime beats and high energy dance tracks. They reminded me of The WooHoo Revue but with their own brand of quirk. They have stellar stories that create their songs and make for great anticipation-laced intros, like the one about the girl who misheard his invitation to show him her moves, instead as show him her boobs! The Scrimshaw Four are a solid festival band sure to get you dancing, whether it’s to a polka, some Roma gypsy jazz, some hillbilly and bluegrass, or just some country and folk, you won’t be able to stop your toes from tapping.

vardos_20160101-6We came across the witty, character filled trio Vardos at Lola’s bar early in the afternoon of New Years Day. All kinds of gypsy music, from Transylvanian Romanian to “Modern” flowed from the lively crew with fiddle, accordion and double bass ablaze. From the outset it was clear they genuinely have fun on stage, moving and dancing round each other with some fun choreographed moments of teasing and taunting. All three took turns singing songs and the fake accents that tended to slip in and out were all a fun part of the ruse. They sing about love, beauty, life, ups and downs, all the while maintaining a vibrant and direct connection with audience, picking out people to play to in each song. The three are playful on stage and fun to watch, like witnessing a battle of wills between the violin and bass and an accordion playing the referee.

But, finding something new wasn’t just restricted to the small stages of the festival, both the Forest and Valley Stages also offered a little something to discover.

soak_20160101-5Irish songstress Bridie Monds-Watson, aka Soak, had the unenviable task of opening the main stage for the final day of Falls. But once the Valley was open to punters for the day, a steady stream of eager listeners made their way to a grassy spot to soak up her sounds. “Soak” comes from a phonetic mash-up of ‘Soul’ and ‘Folk’ but her style is still more genre defying than such a straight forward combination. Her set traversed her musical explorations, through floaty chill-out moments, ethereal soundscapes, indie infused sounds and haunting vocal melodies. Sea Creatures and Blud, her most signature tunes to date, washed over the crowds and set the tone of the day.

As Soak, Bridie has a strong sense of her vocal diversity, engaging a delightful head voice when it fits, and smashing out those power driven notes when the point needs to be hammered home. She reminded me of both Lisa Mitchell and Emma Louise (in her Jungle days) in ways, her vocal stylings in particular. I think ultimately the physical enormity of the Valley Stage meant she could not engage authentically with the audience, she could have benefitted from a more intimate setting, like the Forest Stage, to really allow the audience in to her realm. She does have potential to grow and emerge as a staple festival act, so keep your eyes on Soak!

ohwonder_20160101-1I think my favourite find for the whole of Festival has to be Oh Wonder, a London-based duo who were performing in Australia for the first time thanks to the Falls Festival. You’ve got to love a band who brings their own stage backdrop, a 2-metre-tall set of light up initials for their band name… which read ‘OW’, It’s probably an appropriate sentiment for the level of hangovers, hair of the dog’s and sunburns that were evident post NYE celebrations.

Oh Wonder created instant atmosphere with a smoke machine and tension filled hanging notes as they entered the stage to launch their set. The assembled crowd  gave huge cheers for each of the duo as they took to the stage. Described as electric folk, their style encapsulated the nuances achievable with looping tones and beats, while layering piano and electric guitar over the top. Their vocal unison was compelling, more so when they slipped seamlessly in to close harmonies and back out to unison again. Their voices compliment each other tonally, Josephine is the lead vocalist but Anthony’s smooth, silky voice wraps her delicate breathy beauty and grounds it in the electro beats they employ. Both are multi skilled, multi instrumentalists that lend their talents to each others musical moments, creating thick, rich tones to lose yourself in. Highlights of their set were the heavy bass and rolling piano melodies of Livewire, and the at times reggae-like bass and sparkling impact of Dazzle. The one descriptor that keeps coming to mind for Oh Wonder, is “gorgeous”. Check them out and cross your fingers for another visit down under from them soon.

So, that wraps up our 2015 Falls Festival Byron Bay experience. A wealth of acts to see and one of the best festival experiences we’ve ever had. Byron Bay is a definite contender for anyone looking for a great way to spend New Years Eve, no matter the line up.

Read our other Falls Music & Arts Festival reviews:

Overview of Falls Festival Byron Bay 2015

Timber and Steel Highlights

Unmissable Acts

Review: The Falls Festival, Marion Bay, Tasmania

Ponchos are the latest fashionPhotos by Stu B.

So now to the fun bit, the music!

Day 2, Monday 30th December, rolled around and as we planned our day, we were a bit excited about some unknowns and some stalwart festival acts, it was going to be a great day.

First up, on the Field Stage, at a very reasonable lunch hour was local Foster a Band competition winner Lulu an The Paige Turners. Knowing little but what I gleaned from the Falls Festival App description, I was hopeful for something interesting, lo and behold, the Paige-Turners turned out to be a bigger than expected group of young men, resplendent in white dress shirts, black suspenders and bowties complete with drums, cello, banjo, acoustic guitar, keyboard and who knows what else! Lulu herself stepped on to stage looking like she stepped out of an old timey movie in a frilled lavender dress that would either float beautifully or become her own personal parachute in the windy conditions. Obviously a lot of friends were in the crowd, or at least local and loyal fans, as many shouts of encouragement met them before they even played a note.

Lulu and The Paige Turners Opening with ‘Begin-agains’ from their EP Bookends and Begin-again delivered a strong, strummy guitar intro, quivering vocals, subtle backing harmonies and touches of a soul pitch to her vocals. It’s a very indie pop style but very easy to lose yourself in. To follow up their opening, the slower track, ‘The Mean Reds’ also from the EP mellowed out the audience, becoming solemn at times. With a strong banjo melody and sweet, hushed tones of the harmonies, it was more like the lullaby style we’ve seen from a number of singer/songwriters but with a surprise build with drum and electric bass almost reminiscent of a Mumford and Sons hoedown.

The rest of her set was equally diverse with bluesy bass lines, cool vibes, raspy, rolling, gravely gutsy verses, sentiments stripped down to a Capella accompanied by clicks and whistling, and of course, many a banjo solo from probably the happiest Banjo player I’ve seen of late.

It’s a wonderful mix on stage, of piano intros, rhythm on a snare drum played by Lulu, tales of a broken heart, dischordant harmonies to really set the tone, not to be out done by angsty, angry, passionate vocals. Lulu is a multi-instrumentalist playing percussion, guitar and violin, but also delivering vocals reminiscent of Kate Miller Heidke or Tori Amos. All of this she achieves while also performing with a cold that would likely render her voiceless after her set.

Well in with the audience, they brought out a brand new song, ‘Bright Eyes’, a song she was not sure what it was actually about but “sometimes the universe gives you a song for a reason”. Beautiful lightly treated, stripped back sound with just the simplest of accompaniment graced the enraptured field. Their musicianship was all about the lyric weaving it’s way across the melody, and the 3 piece harmonies by the Paige-Turners with room for an instrumental break and some epic violin by Lulu, like she and it had a private dance to complete. ‘A Little Secret’ changed the mood, with a very country feel to the full instrumental sound and beat yet cleverly walked the fine line mixing between full sound and stripped back line “little secret”. Amusingly, keyboard and the banjo had almost a russian dance off mid song.

Their final song was full of thanks and appreciation for the crowds support, and delivered their first single release, a definite favourite, ‘The Music Box’. A stuccato piano intro, great harmony based vocals  and full band sound behind string and catchy melody had us all nodding to the beat. There was even an instrumental break showcasing the cello and of course a huge violin presence Lulu in breaks. I found it really catchy and could easily hum it all day with it’s killer vocals, Lulu’s passionate stage presence, it all makes for a warning: keep an eye out, Lulu and the Paige-Turners should take stages by storm.

Big Scary at Falls Festival Marion BayWe popped over to the Valley stage to check out Big Scary with their big piano and drum sound and 2 part harmonies. They’re certainly genre-defying and on the Falls stage, combining their slow piano stylings with heavy base and drums, created an ethereal quality to their set and sound. A really pleasant poppy, chill out band for the setting and time.

Paper Kites at the Falls Festival Marion BayWe headed back to the Field stage to catch The Paper Kites and watching their band tune a banjo, it struck me that I wanted to renaming this stage the Banjo Stage! It’s always promising when a banjo is sound checked, almost guaranteed a good hoedown. The five piece, opened with a strong drum beat/line and mellow guitar over the top and calm vocals wafting on the breeze. The crowd grew quickly, attracted to their ethereal indie quality. Their set saw great cohesion of vocal and instruments, working as one, blending when needed, separating when wanted.

They played “Young”, a more synth based track with finger plucking strings over the top. There was a steady crowd dancing up the front, from within, someone releases glitter across the top of the crowd and it floated over them much like the lyrics and vocals. A very mellow set with a solid under current of instrumental indie cool.

At times their set is airy, with floaty piano intros and breathy yet strong vocals. Other times, like when playing “Bloom”, an older song that the crowd can sing along too, a more plucky vibe sets the the crowd screaming and intensifies the atmosphere while still delivering beautiful harmonies that even a crowd can carry. Then they effortlessly add drums and banjo to truly catchy effect. I love the whistling break, crowd tried to whistle along and ended up sounding like drunk birds.

Their new song, “Cold Kind Hand”, is a more indie rock vibe with the femanine vocals playing beautifully off the big earthy drums beats. Staying true to their sound, their new stuff is as equally welcome as their old stuff. Take that Regurgitator.

James Vincent McMorrow at Falls Festival Marion BayI’m a complete novice when it comes to  James Vincent McMorrow, so when we headed to the Valley stage to catch his set, I was delighted to see a crowd had already formed, eagerly anticipating his set. Walking on stage to a rousing welcome from the audience, McMorrow opened with his breathtaking falsetto, reminiscent of early Matt Corby ethereal vocals, over simple piano chords, building to a faster speed with clapping, percussion and backing vocals. I saw in an instant the appeal and why so many are clamouring for his music. The crowd continued to stream in to the field as overall sound, now filled with bass to round out the effect, rolled up the ampitheatre. His voice delivers tones of Bon Iver but devled deeper within himself, ultimately creating an earthy, grounded effect.

His set celivered variety, with synth beat under harmonised vocals, the simplicity and stripped back nature of which was mezmerising. He is skilled at gently bringing new instruments in to the tracks, I didn’t even notice the piano build in to one song, and yet it ended solely on a tight vocal/piano harmony. He claimed nervousness as it had been a year and a half since his last big performance. He merely hoped his nerves were endearing, but to everyone present, not a nervous moment had been witnessed. Launching back in to his moody and soft, almost tentative vocals and delicious piano, echoing drum beats herald crowd favourites and everyone is lost in the performance.

London Grammar at Falls Festival Marion BayI’m one of those people who has heard of London Grammar, and has probably even heard their hits, but having been a bit of a musical hermit of late, I was keen to catch them in full swing on the Valley stage. The haunting intro and her voice flowing off the stage accompanied by keyboard and little else told me I was in for a wonderful show. “Hey Now” had a hypnotic effect on every member of the audience, ending in the kind of silence where you can hear a pin drop. And then there was the rapturous applause.

I can see why Hannah has been compared to Florence Welsh and Kate Bush, her voice dominates over the bass, electric guitar and djembe. But, not just a beautiful voice, she can take on the keys, build a melody that emerges alone only to wend through her soulful, lilting lyrics. She is a statuesque leading lady, yet manages stillness, poise, focus and delivers pitch perfect, stunning vocals that had the audience entranced. Whether they need to engage the audience with more in the way of stage presence is debatable, what they don’t have in presence, they make up for with atmosphere and sheer soundscape.

Hannah was experiencing the worst hayfever she has ever had because there is a unique type of grass in Tasmania and nowhere else in the world. With that revelation, it was amazing her vocals weren’t affected. Their wildly popular cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” was to be expected, a popular choice with the crowd with it’s keys opening making way for the whining, stripped back electric guitar, reminiscent of The xx’s sparse production style.

With the crowd thoroughly in the mood, a staffer comes on stage with a giant birthday cake to celebrate Hannah’s birthday, for which the crowd sang happy birthday and she was incredibly excited as the cake was gluten free meaning she could actually enjoy eating it after their set. Fittingly, they celebrated the moment with a song the crowd could all sing along to, “Caught in the Middle”. To wrap up, they delighted the audience with “Metal and Dust” with it’s midway upbeat synth beats and keys which created a wall of sound crawling up the hill from the valley stage.

Violent Femmes at Falls Festival Marion BayI am of the age to have just been alive when their first, and arguably most famous, album was released, but I sure as hell knew about them and have danced in to many a late night with Blister In The Sun blaring. So needless to say, I was at the Valley stage for the Violent Femmes set. Just walking on stage they received a huge welcome from the crowd. And with out any ado at all, they cracked straight in to it with “Blister in the Sun”. They played like their album release was last year, like they do it all the time, and most of the crowd was up and dancing without a second thought. Naturally, with their time in the industry and their experience, they could play each track with a kind of laid back delivery, but full of cheer and that cool swagger attitude. Effortless in fact. They dubbed themselves the Grandfathers of folk-punk and to be blunt, they’re dead right on that call. And of course, they are one of those acts that can play their album from start to finish and hold every person in the palm of their hands for every single track, in spite of us all knowing what would come next. “Kiss Off” went off, the big slappy bass tones of “Please Do Not Go” had the crowd going crazy,  “Add It Up” had everyone singing every word at the top of their voice, and I was having a bit of a Reality Bites flashback. It was a glorious set, they sounded almost exactly like they did the day it was released and they were such a joy to watch, clearly having a great time on stage.

The Cat Empire at Falls Festival Marion BayOur final folky act of the night was our name sake and one of our favourite acts, The Cat Empire. I wanted to make notes and recall all they played, highlight the nuances of their set, but in true Cat Empire style, they just nailed it. They have this ability to cheer a crowd as soon as they walk on stage, talk to us all like we’re personal friends just jamming at their place, and have us all singing, dancing, grooving and jumping along to every track. They played a great selection of their back catalogue interspersed with tracks from Steal The Light and they generally got the party really pumping. We, as a crowd moved and grooved as one, loving every second. They, as always, nailed it. I read a Faster Louder review of the Marion Bay Falls  that put the Cat Empire down to a “pale imitation of The Roots” due to their scheduling, but clearly the reviewer was at an alternate universe version of the same gig, because we saw nothing of that. In fact, The Roots were a disappointment to us, nothing like we expected, so much so, that we left half way through their set and headed to bed. We must have missed the good bit.

Finally the penultimate day rolled around. Day 3, Tuesday 31st December – New Years Eve and the reason we were all there.

Gossling at Falls Festival Marion BayAfter a lazy lie-in, we headed to the Field stage to see one of our favourites, Gossling who we enjoyed seeing back in 2011. What a difference 2 years makes, from opening spot on the main stage at Lorne to a modest crowd, to a mid afternoon Marion Bay Field Stage spot absolutely packed with punters. Having not yet caught the latest offering from Gossling, I wasn’t quite that sure what to expect but bouyed by her unassuming start and complete skipping of any kind of chattering intro, Helen and band kicked straight in to the set with glee and abandon. Her set was heartfelt yet forthright, pulling tracks predominantly from the new album Harvest of Gold. The intimate setting allowed Helen to tell the stories behind the songs; the  love song about a couple who had been together a long time, whose spark was there in the beginning but is no longer there and the resulting mutual break up; her early experiences with social media as an artist and that anyone can say anything they want online and she just has to stop being a little pussy; and the day to day observations and experiences of life. Particular highlights included “Songs of Summer” (co-written with Steve Parkin) and that lamentable opening line “On a  Friday night, a thousand weeks ago” replete with male vocals (by Alexander Burnett of Sparkadia on the record) as well as the sheer frustration meets pop sensibilities of “Challenge” and it’s social media mayhem. All in all, another delightful afternoon spent with Gossling.

The John Steel Singers at Falls Festival Marion BayHustling from one stage to the next meant we could get a glimpse of The John Steel Singers on the Valley stage and their dedicated fans clamouring to tyhe front of the stage. Their set was upbeat and at times delivered a psychedelic vibe to the over all indie sound. I’ve heard a bit about the group, especially because TnS contributor Haz is a bit of a fan boy, but I was truly delighted by their tight harmonies and elegant guitar work. An oldie but a goodie, “Strawberry Wine” was a particular favourite with the crowd and as we made our way to our next stop, the set was in full swing, crowd singing and dancing along and glimpses of harmonised spleandour taunted us.

Later in the day we found ourselves back at the Field stage to catch complete unknowns, Bombino. Within an instant, our reaction was “They’re so cool!” Rocking traditional garb albeit of shiny material, and sporting electric guitars, this was an outfit set to impress. Opening rocky riffs drew an instant crowd to dance along. Singing in their native language, inspite of having no clue what was being said, their music translated with a sense of storytelling that spoke directly to the soul each member of the audience.

Bombino at Falls Festival Marion BayThe easiest way to describe their sound is a kind of a meeting of world music and indie stylings. Band members hail from West Africa, Niger, so it’s desert music that they play with touches of a Reggae feel to their beat. Bombino delivered a consistent energy and tempo throughout their set, holding the crowd in their groove through to the end, with a huge cheer from the audience to thank them for the performance. This is the kind of group I think Ash Grunwald would love to jam with!

Emma Louise at Falls Festival Marion BayRecovering from Bombino, we were set put to catch Emma Louise at the Field stage. Having missed a lot locally for the last 18months, I was curious to see just how far from folk Emma Louise had moved. With a heady mix of synth keyboard, acoustic guitar and stripped back drum kit, it was hard to predict just what would arrive. She walked out on stage looking super slick, breathy backing vocals began and she strapped on her acoustic guitar, much to the appreciation of the volminous audience. Stunning, breathy harmonised vocals wafted over the crowd creating a haunting and still opening. She has really matured and grasped the ethereal indie sound that Matt Corby toyed with a few years ago but delivers it with strength, confidence and delicate handling of the style.

“Toys”  gave a clever meld of synth, guitar and those evocative vocals, smooth as butter and just as addictive. Her stage presence has come leaps and bounds since I last saw her at Falls in Lorne, a true professional graces the stage now and captures the audience, holding them with every lick of a lyric.

The crowd, as one, responded to each synth-laden ethereal moment creating a sense of anticipation. “Tessalate” erupted from a mournful synth opening, trilling guitar and tantalising snare that broke in to a solid bass drum rhythm. Emma Louise’s Florence-esque vocals wound their way through the soundscape, met with harmonised backing, building to a beautiful crescendo before a delicate ending.

The set was peppered with new and old tracks including the strong keyboard, drum rhythms and intertwined angelic vocals of “Atlasize” and the rolling intimacy of “Keep Me Warm” allowed her great vocal range to tip in to and out of melancholic, interlocking harmonies to create an incredible, dreamlike atmosphere. And naturally, she ended with that favourite and original hit, “Jungle” which had the already large crowd heaving with enthusiasm and joy.

Crystal Fighters at Falls Festival Marion BayWhen we headed to the Valley stage for the Crystal Fighters, we had no real idea what to expect except that their bio included the word folktronica, so of course, I was there. The crowd were very excited for them and as they entered the stage they made an amazing visual impact as they were all dressed for the occassion. It seems this is what happens when a strange mix of percussion, glittery costumes and acoustic meets electric cohesion. No matter their cross-genre mix, the crowd were instantly dancing.

It all got a bit folkalicious when their txalaparta came into it’s fore (for those playing along, it’s like a giant xylophone played by two people at once), it was almost tribal in nature, matched with a thumping drum rhythm in an altogether stripped backing style to the vocals before the synth and full ensemble sound built in to a massive presence with crowd jumping and dancing feverishly. Did I mention they manage to include a ukelele in their dance music ensemble?

Love is all I’ve got for this act. Infectiously fun and impossible not to enjoy! I mean, you’ve got to love a bit of electric, hyper ukelele. They managed the crowd beautifully, taking us musically down to the beach (the real beach we could see from our vantage point), down through a
mellow, strummy intro in to the calyspo feel backing and harmonised vocals of “Plage”, where the synth builds before a big electric guitar line joins the party. I also adored the epic cow bell that features in “I Love London”. I think this is one of my favourite, highlight acts from the whole festival, a must see and a must to track down some of their back catalogue!

Grizzly Bear at Falls Festival Marion BayComing down from such a high energy set, we stayed at the Valley stage to catch Grizzly Bear
It was their second New Year’s Eve in Tassie and they seemed quite happy with their lot. Their opening number, “Speak in Rounds” brought with it the haunting quality of their vocals and the woozy atmospherics their sets are renowned for. They moved from one set to the next with such grace and ease that at times you’d forgotten that one song ended and another begun. The inextricably mellow and chilled resonance segued effortlessly in to echoey lament only to give way occasionally to a bluesy rock beat or to a revel in synthesizer gait.

Their performance is one of those truly enrapturing experiences, where their dreamy set can transport you to another reality, parrallel to the often frenetic energy of Marion Bay on a special occasion.

Neil Finn at Falls Festival Marion BayThe final folkishly influenced act on the Valley stage that night was the irrepressible, Neil Finn. We saw Finn take the stage back in Lorne and while that was a fun set, there was something more this time around. Whether the vibe of the Marion Bay festival or the hubbub of New Year’s Eve, either way, in that inimitable personality and presence, the audience was putty in Finn’s hands.

He crafted together a set filled with nostalgia, of hits and favourites as well as braw new works from recent album Dizzy Heights. Of the old songs, there was once voice as the crowd sang in unison, word for word, proving just how timeless Crowded House and Split Enz are. Of the new works, my favourite was the transidental temporary insantiy of “Pony Ride”, or that could just have been Finn’s explanation for the song and somehow we were all suddenly riding rainbows on unicorns with him, likely in hysterics. Title track “Dizzy Heights” and “Flying in the Face of Love” also were received well, but it was moments like Kirin J Callinan jumping in for a guitar solo on the Crowded House track “Locked Out” that made the set memorable. The spine tingling closer, one man on his knees and one guitar with no amped sound while crew changed over behind him for the next set, the thousands strong crowd with just the utterance of it’s opening  had us off singing “Better Be Home Soon” and claimed the defining moment of the night.

I don’t recall much of the actual New Year, with MGMT running over time, a quick countdown before kissing and hugging your nearest and dearest, or the random crowd members beside you, and then finally The Wombats hitting us with an onslaught of hits and subsequent dancing frenzy, it all just blurs together to be an energy filled night of frivolity with a matching hangover the next morning.

But, if you’re going to wake up with a hangover anywhere in the world, Falls Festival Marion Bay just moved up my list of acceptable places to do so.

The New Year Conundrum

Every year as the calendar days roll by, friends and family start asking the inevitable questions about what you are doing for Christmas and New Year. In the past, there has been a good range of folk friendly festivals stretching up and down the East Coast of Australia for eager punters to choose from, but with the demise of both Pyramid Rock Festival and Peats Ridge Festival, it shrinks the obvious choices down to Woodford Folk Festival and The Falls Festival (which has conveniently added a new venue/ location for the 2013/14 event).

But, what if you’re not after a big and busy festival for your New Year’s celebrations? Well, let’s take a look at what’s on offer, both the big guns and the ones you might not have come across yet.

Woodford Folk Festival – Woodford, QLD

Woodford Cart

Undeniably one of the largest festivals in Australia, it has been repeatedly nominated for all kinds of awards in the events and tourism industries and remains one of my favourite festivals of all time, even if only for a 35 hour experience, I’d love to go back (but sadly, not this year). Based on their own site (Woodfordia, about one hour north of Brisbane), The Queensland Folk Federation have delivered outstanding line ups year after year and offer a range of musical acts and arts activities for all ages making this festival easy for the whole family to attend. While this year’s line up hasn’t yet been announced, we would put money on it being another outstanding list of great musicians from around the world, a quick glance through the 2012/13 programme book will attest to that.

Tickets and camping are still available at pre-festival web prices up until Christmas Eve, or if you’re feeling the pinch, they are always looking for willing volunteers who gain free entry in return for their help before, during or after the festival. Highlights of Woodford, apart from the amazing line up (in which we would name almost ever artist we’ve covered on  Timber and Steel if we were to list past festival performers), includes the huge range of workshops, crafts and activities for all ages to participate in, the exciting range of food and stalls available on site, the breathtaking lantern parade and the penultimate fire event bringing in the New Year. Completely safe for the whole family with plenty for the young and young at heart, if you haven’t been to Woodford, it is probably the festival I would tell everyone to go to no matter what their musical leaning. Don’t believe me? Check out their latest promo video:

The Falls Festival – Lorne Vic, Marion Bay Tas and Byron Bay NSW

Falls Festival, Lorne, 2008, Music Festival

Now, before I get you all excited, tickets for two of the three sites have sold out, tickets are now only available for Marion Bay in Tasmania. So, for those of you already with tickets to Lorne or Byron Bay, I’m only going to be reaffirming your excellent choice in festival for the New Year period. I went along for the 2011/12 festival in Lorne Vic and discovered an experience I had not anticipated, it was so big it required multiple small reviews, no single post could encapsulate it all. 2013 is the first year they’ve expanded to Byron Bay (which has successfully hosted Splendor in the Grass and nearby is the home of Bluesfest) so there is no hesitation that a New Year’s festival will have any trouble in such esteemed company.

Just like Woodford, The Falls Festival is not just a music festival, it has a vast array of arts workshops and experiences to keep every punter engaged no matter their hangover or musical interests, from themed days and fiesta’s through to art attacks. For those thinking still and wondering about Marion Bay, we can confirm it is a kid friendly event meaning, like Woodford, the whole family can come along and enjoy the line up.

Speaking of line ups, since The Falls Festival is not exclusively a folk festival, it means the artists cover a range of styles but still features some of our favourites including Emma Louise, Gossling, Grizzly Bear, Neil Finn, The Cat Empire, The Paper Kites, The Preachers and a whole lot more that we’d love to check out live. For the full line up, visit the listing on their website.

If you’re heading to the Byron Bay site and haven’t decided whether to camp, glamp or swag it, all the accomodation options are available on the Falls Festival travel page including the incredibly groovy Tepee Life village (Tepee Life also available in Marion Bay).

And if the idea of heading to Tasmania isn’t immediately appealing, just pause for a moment to consider the great adventure you could embark on. Not only do you get to head to one of the most pristine and beautiful forest areas within Australia and see some of the best acts around (including voting by Oct 31 in the Foster A Band competition to choose a local band to grace the stage), you can also take advantage of the 29 December start date to have an adventure around Hobart and broader Tasmania before bringing in the New Year!

If you’re struggling to decide, or wish you’d got a ticket to Lorne or Byron Bay, don’t despair, there are a few more options including applying for an Art Camp at any of the three sites to create the artistic heart and soul of the festival, and includes a coveted ticket to the festival. If you’re not so artistically inclined, but don’t mind a bit of work, volunteer applications are still open for Marion Bay.

Now, I move out of my comfort zone to two festival’s I’ve never been to!

Gulgong Folk Festival – Gulgong NSW

Dancing Gulgong Folk Festival by Flickr member farmgrovePhoto courtesy of Flickr member farmgrove

Technically not actually a New Year’s festival, the Gulgong Festival (which Gareth enjoyed earlier this year) takes place over the weekend immediately prior, 28 and 29 December 2013, making it a good option for those who have to work those pesky week days between the public holidays – if you’re in NSW and can manage a drive out to Gulgong that is. However, it’s also a great option for people that want a folky fix AND their big city New Year’s party as you could manage both pretty easily. If a nice jaunt out to Mudgee isn’t tempting enough, what if I told you tickets were free? I kid you not.

There’s no obvious camping options unless you seek out a camping ground but their website does list a number of motels and accommodation options, and really who doesn’t like a trip out in to the countryside and a good B&B to see you through?

Again, their line up is not announced yet, but with past acts like Jack Carty, The Falls, Mustered Courage, April Maze, we’re pretty confident it will be an impressive selection. A little birdy has shared some inside information that Daniel Champagne, Melanie Horsnell, Alan Caswell, Big Erle and Matt Southon may well make appearances *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Nariel-Creek Folk Festival – Nariel Creek Vic

Vendulka performing at the Nariel-Creek Folk FestivalVendulka on stage. Photo courtesy of Nariel-Creek Folk Festival

A beaut little festival in regional Victoria (North East for those playing at home) which looks to be the kind of scale of The Gum Ball or Corinbank and equally delightful feel for all the family. They went simple in their online presence – a facebook page only, having pulled down their website earlier in the year. Tickets are cheap at $20 a head and available at the door, camping is an incredibly low $5/ night and you can turn up early and stay late if you really want. No idea who is on their bill, but in honesty, it just looks like an amazing and relaxed way to spend a New Year’s, especially if you want to avoid the crowds! Plus there is ample opportunity to dress up for the fun of it with plenty of great shots of their past New Year’s Even cocktail parties on their facebook page.

Gum Ball Crowd

An honourable mention goes to The Gum Ball, who last month put the call out online to see who might be inclined to turn up at their Dashville property for a New Year’s Gum Ball-esque event. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough interest to make anything happen this year, but if you’re keen to see a New Year festival in the Hunter Valley for future years, we think heading to the 2014 Gum Ball and making noises at the organisers might help them decide to go ahead in 2014.

So, where are you spending New Year’s? We’re still considering the conundrum ourselves!

Interview: Patrick James, All About To Change

Patrick James
Image Courtesy of Patrick James

Just as Sydney singer-songwriter Patrick James wrapped up a sold out string of shows launching his brand new EP All About To Change and right before he hit the road supporting Emma Louise on her massive national tour we managed to pin him down for a quick chat. James took so time to chat about the new EP, diving into a couple of the tracks, talked about his love of busking and explained why All About To Change took slightly longer to be released than originally intended.

Gareth Hugh Evans: The new EP is out! When I chatted to you in August you were hoping that it would be out by the end of last year, which obviously got pushed back. Are you happy to happy to have it out in the world now?

Patrick James: Yeah, definitely. We initially planned to have it out by the end of last year but a bit more touring and getting the fan base up and running was really important to me. That’s why we sort of held it back a bit. But now we can’t be happier that it’s out, it’s something that we’re really proud of.

GHE: Because of the delay, and the subsequent touring, was there a part of you that wanted to go back in and tweak anything?

PJ: I think I’m still pretty happy [with the EP]. I think both Scotty [Steven] and I, because we recorded it together, we were really happy with how the process felt. Especially with the touring, that was just something that we discussed as being really important in making the EP as successful as possible when it did come out. We were really hoping to build on our foundations a bit more. And we didn’t want to averagely. It was sort of a cautious think I guess – wanted to build the hype a bit.

GHE: Which I think you’ve done successfully. The shows you’ve been playing recently have been selling out and I’ve been so many good things about them.

PJ: The two Vanguard shows that we had was probably one of the best weekends of music we’ve had. We had Yetis support as well which was great – they’re one of my favourite artists in Sydney – and Achoo! Bless You as well. Those shows were so fun. It was really refreshing to play at a venue like The Vanguard. We’ve never played a gig there before. It felt like it was “mission accomplished”.

GHE: Strike that off the list!

PJ: I’ve always wanted to play there so it was great to do it.

GHE: I’ve had All About to Change on constant repeat since I got it. I’ve been hanging out for it since the first single was released last year so when I saw it had a release date I got very excited. Congratulations on it – I’m really impressed.

PJ: Thank you man.

GHE: I know you’ve done a Track By Track for Timber and Steel but I wanted to dive a little further into some of the songs if that’s cool?

PJ: Yeah, definitely.

GHE: “Brighter Lights” starts with you playing the piano which is pretty different from the guitarist-singer-busking Patrick James we all know. What was the reason behind the using the piano and why is it the opening song on the EP?

PJ: I think because it was so different to everything that I’ve previous done before and so different to the busking as well. That’s why I was so attracted to putting that song first on the EP. The other thing is we just started playing with a different scope of recording and it really became an experiment of how many layers we could chuck in there and how big the song could actually get. I remember writing it originally as an acoustic song and it was something that I could do when I was busking but it became a project in its own, really experimenting with how we can build the song as much as possible. Because it was so different I think that was why we had so much fun with it as well. Especially live – when we’re playing live with that song people who’ve seen us busking say “I didn’t expect that”. Some people say it’s a really refreshing change. The shock factor attracts me definitely.

GHE: What strikes me about the song is the two main piano parts – the rhythmic piano that starts the song and then as the song progresses there’s that, kind of arpeggio’s in the top end of the piano. The tinkling at the top end of the piano.

PJ: The syncopation-y bit.

GHE: Yeah. And it feels to me like, if it’s just you and Scotty playing a gig without a piano, you can cover the rhythmic part with your guitar and he can cover the tinkling part with the banjo. It’s like you’ve written the track with options. Am I on the right track there?

PJ: Yeah definitely. I totally agree. It’s almost to the point with that song that there’s so many options we can sort of experiment – we were even playing around with it the other day as a slow country ballad between the guitar and a banjo. Recording a song one way and then playing it with a band is one thing but sometimes I really like to experiment with how you can change up a song.

GHE: The other song that’s got slightly different instrumentation is “Stay” which has the electric guitar. That’s not something I usually associate with you – is that you again trying to play around with the instrumentation and experiment with the song?

PJ: The electric guitar was something we were really questioning. I think on the recorded version [the electric guitar] went really well with the vibe riff at the start. With that song we were trying to go with an eerie, melancholy feel and I think the electric guitar captured that more than the acoustic. Then again, the harp on about the “Brighter Lights” idea of changing songs up we play that with an acoustic guitar live and Scotty’s now doing it with a glockenspiel instead of the vibe effect on piano. I guess we’ve recorded it in away that sometimes we can pull off these things live and other times we have to mix and match which is also really fun to do. It’s almost like someone’s given you a certain amount of instruments and you have to play around with how many sounds you can make out of them.

GHE: I guess it’s important to have that flexibility as well – if you’re playing your own headline shows it’s fine to have 100 instruments on stage and a whole bunch of different players but if you’re doing a support slot, like with the Emma Louise Tour, you’re probably going to be fairly limited in your resources.

PJ: It’s almost like we’re getting used to playing in the duo form again. It’s almost as though we have to simplify everything. We’re so used to playing with a band now because we’ve been doing so for the last six months – and it’s been so fun playing with those guys – at the same time it’s really cool to challenge ourselves as a duo. We’re really looking forward to getting out on the road in duo mode and playing the new songs off the EP.

GHE: The press release for this EP talks about the influences on the tracks. I’m going to go out on a limb here and add one more. For me the beginning of “Golden Sun”, that sparse part of it, sounds almost Packwood-esque.

PJ: That’s something that I haven’t thought of for a long time. I remember writing that song and the banjo riff came in for the first time and I was like “that kind of sounds like Packwood“. Then I forgot about it because the song evolved and there’s lots of other bits in there. Now that you’ve mentioned that, definitely. I think I talked to you once about being inspired by other Sydney folk artists and jamming with other musos in Sydney and maybe some of that kind of came through. That song sounds like that at the start but then definitely Elton John …

GHE: Well that was going to be the second touchstone for me. Not just Elton John, with the similarities to “Tiny Dancer”, but also that seventies, west coast American music like The Eagles or America or Crosby, Stills and Nash.

PJ: That was the main thing with writing and recording that song. I wanted to capture the old school, retro vibe. Especially with the really acoustic sounding piano in there as well. You totally read my mind with the whole Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young thing – I think we’re going to do a film clip that ties that whole era in which will be pretty fun.

GHE: You’re about to hit the road with Emma Louise for a huge amount of dates – like 21 or something?

PJ: Yeah it’s 21 dates now. She’s added another Melbourne show. She’s selling out those shows pretty quickly. It’s very exciting, they’re going to be fun to play.

GHE: That’s going to expose you to an even bigger audience. You regularly sell out shows but Emma Louise’s blowing up at the moment so that exposure is going to be massive for you.

PJ: I can’t wait to head out on the road with Emma and Thelma Plum as well. It’s just so cool to get these kinds of opportunities. I remember about a year ago I just discovered Emma Louise and she’s become one of my favourite artists. I think most of the artists I’ve played with over the last six months I’ve been huge fans of which I’m incredibly grateful for.

GHE: Are you going to be able to squeeze any busking in? Or any solo shows? Or will it literally be play, sleep, travel, play, sleep, travel?

PJ: It’s pretty much play, sleep, travel. I’m going to be doing some busking in Sydney when I get back. Maybe in Melbourne I might try and do some busking too. But I think we’ll do this support tour, try and get a few more supports and then at the end of the year we’ll do another headline run. I’m really stoked to be just touring at the moment because it’s my favourite thing about music – meeting all those people and getting out on the road.

GHE: I think it’s great that people still discover you through your busking.

PJ: For me I find it to be the most honest way of exposing my music to people at the moment. It’s a really personal way of reaching out to your fans and you can really get a grasp of how quickly it’s moving and that sort of thing as well. I love doing it and I think I’m going to do it as much as I can over the next sort of stretch of time.

GHE: Well I might leave you there mate. I love the EP – I’m so glad it’s out. Good luck with the Emma Louise tour.

PJ: For sure – thanks so much!

All About To Change is available on iTunes here – read the Track By Track here. Patrick James is supporting Emma Louise (along with Thelma Plum) on her national tour – remaining dates are below:

Thursday 16th May – Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 17th May – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 18th May – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra ACT
Sunday 19th May – Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW
Thursday 23rd May – Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Friday 24th May – Hi-Fi, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 25th May – Paradise Room, The Arts Centre, Gold Coast, QLD
Sunday 26th May – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 31st May – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns QLD
Saturday 1st June – Flinders Social, Townsville, QLD
Tuesday 4th June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 7th June – Darwin Railway Club, Darwin, NT
Thursday 13th June – Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Friday 14th June – Fly By Night, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 15th June – Amplifier, Perth, WA

Track By Track: All About To Change, Patrick James

All About To Change
Image Courtesy of Patrick James

The long-awaited EP from Patrick James, All About To Change, was finally released a couple of weeks ago and the reaction so far from the Timber and Steel bullpen has been ecstatic to say the least. The EP may only be 5 tracks long but it’s 5 tracks that perfectly capture an artist that has come into his own as a songwriter. We asked Patrick James to take us through each of the tracks and he helpfully sent over some lyric videos as well. Check out the All About To Change Track by Track below:

“Brighter Lights” – This is the first track off the EP. I originally wrote this song on guitar and tried to incorporate only a little piano/keyboard line. After recording that version we decided it didn’t work for us in that form and we chose to experiment with how we could change the song up and build on the layers throughout. We had a lot of fun adding the 2 main piano lines and vocal swells and we really wanted to make the recording represent the “wall of sound” that we were going for. This song wasn’t heavily focused on lyrics but rather the production and instrumentation.

“All About To Change” – This song is the title track on the EP. I wrote this about the idea that everyone at some stage is lost or struggling with something in their lives but find a way to turn that around and move on. People can make what they want of the lyrics though. It was a very fun song to record with the country drums and many underlining instruments throughout. We even had some sneaky blues guitar solos going on!

“Golden Sun” – A few years ago I was very inspired by a movie call Morning of The Earth. Its basically a film about surfing in the 70’s and the lifestyle that goes with it. Not to mention the soundtrack is incredible. With a surfing background I really related to this so I wrote this song with that idea in mind, to try and create a vibe that reflected a retro feel but also the times now. Also, the chorus harmonies and instrumentation were influenced by a lot of Elton John and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs that I love.

“Burn Away” – When I listen to the EP, it feels like this song is almost the turning point in the mood. It’s a very simple song but again we wanted to create a build up in sound and production, this time in a more gentle way. The song it self is written as a sort of meditation which just flows along and grows at its on pace. The recording features a choral vocal part which was a lot of fun. We went to our old school and got a bunch of kids to sing a line towards the end of the song which is essentially the climax. We got to test out our conduction skills!

“Stay” – I wrote this a little different to other songs on the EP. I had these lyrics floating around but no music, it was just a simple poem. Normally, I tend to write songs through melody first and then lyrics but I was interested by the simplicity of the words so I came up with the chord progression to match after that. It features a vibe motif and electric guitar to create the darker mood. As the last track of the EP, I think it sits nicely and rounds the project off.

All About To Change is available on iTunes here. Patrick James is supporting Emma Louise (along with Thelma Plum) on her national tour – remaining dates are below:

Thursday 9th May – The Yarra Hotel, Geelong VIC
Friday 10th May – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC (SOLD OUT)
Saturday 11th May – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday 16th May – Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 17th May – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 18th May – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra ACT
Sunday 19th May – Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW
Thursday 23rd May – Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Friday 24th May – Hi-Fi, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 25th May – Paradise Room, The Arts Centre, Gold Coast, QLD
Sunday 26th May – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 31st May – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns QLD
Saturday 1st June – Flinders Social, Townsville, QLD
Tuesday 4th June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 7th June – Darwin Railway Club, Darwin, NT
Thursday 13th June – Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Friday 14th June – Fly By Night, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 15th June – Amplifier, Perth, WA

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 3rd August


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Roland K Smith & The Sinners are launching their debut album Breaking Hearts and Saving Souls with a month long Wednesday night residency at The Sandringham Hotel in Sydney. Special guests throughout the month include Billygoat & The Mongrels, Handsome Young Strangers, CJ Shaw & The Blow Ins, The Green Mohair Suits, Emma Swift and many many more. Details here.

– The first single from Leroy Lee’s upcoming Arcadia EP, the Nick Drake-esque “Window Sill” was released and we really dig it. Leroy Lee will be launching his EP on the 9th August at FBi Social in Sydney. Details here.

– Following a successful performance at Splendour over the weekend Missy Higgins has announced another national tour this summer with Gurrumul and Emma Louise in support. Details here.

– We fell in love with Sydney musician Mammals who released his gorgeous single “Carried” earlier this month. Details here.

– Sydney six-piece Little Bastard have announced a Thursday night residency at the Oxford Art Factory’s Gallery Bar throughout August and they’re bringing a bunch of friends with them. Details here.

– Folk music legend Billy Bragg will be visiting our shores in October and November for a series of two part shows – the first half celebrating Woody Guthrie, the second half covering Bragg’s own material. Details here.

– Adelaide folky Vorn Doolette gave Timber and Steel an exclusive stream of his brand new album The Further Adventures of Vorn Doolette. Details here.

– The newly christened Fanny Lumsden & the Thrillseekers released a wonderfully country video for their new single “Firing Line”, shot in Lumsden’s home town of Tallimba. Details here.

Nick Cave latest foray into film, Lawless, will feature a bluegrass and country soundtrack featuring Cave and Warren Ellis as The Bootleggers along with music from Emmylou Harris, Mark Lanegan, Liela Moss (The Duke Spirit) and Ralph Stanley. Details here.

– Sydney duo Jep&Dep released their official debut single “The Fall of the Leaves Never Cease” with a moody black and white video. Details here.

Ben and the Sea released their latest single “Snow” which we managed to get a stream of. Details here.

Chugg Entertainment have revealed a shortlist of 20 Australian towns where Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road event might take place as well as a competition to guess the correct one. Details here.

Rob Young, the author of the outstanding book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music which chronicles the rise of Brittish folk music from the 19th century to today, has put together a companion soundtrack double album featuring the likes of Bert Jansch, Fairport Convention, Tim Hart & Maddy Prior, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Steeleye Span, David Bowie, Nick Drake and many many more. Details here.

Grizzly Bear revealed the latest track from their upcoming album Shields, titled “Yet Again”. The band will be in Australia this November for Harvest. Details here.

– Australian/Swedish duo Nick and Liesl have announced a series of East Coast dates including their first shows in Sydney and Canberra for over a year. Details here.

Cordial Factory are everywhere at the moment and with good reason – they produce some gorgeous folk music. Their new track “What Did You Ask For” has just had its video released and we love it. Details here.

Releases This Week

Breaking Hearts and Saving Souls
Breaking Hearts and Saving SoulsRoland K Smith & The Sinners

HollywoodThe Falls

Further Adventures
The Further Adventures of Vorn DooletteVorn Doolette
Official Site

Timber and Steel Presents

Whitaker (with Roscoe James Irwin and Blue Sun)
Sunday 4th August – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys and The Green Mohair Suits
Sunday 5th August – The Annandale Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Cordial Factory with The Former Love and Secondhand Heart
Wednesday 8th August – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, QLD

Dan and Hannah Acfield
Saturday 4th August – Empress Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Darwin Festival
9th to 26th August – Darwin, NT

Jinja Safari
Wednesday 8th August – Astor Theatre, Perth, WA
Thursday 9th August – Uni Bar, Adelaide, SA
Friday 10th August – The Hi-fi, Melbourne, VIC

Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp
Saturday 4th August – Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville, QLD

Lanie Lane
Friday 10th August – Stones of the Yarra Valley, Coldstream, VIC

Leroy Lee (with Sui Zhen and Eli Wolfe)
Thursday 9th August – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW

Little Bastard (with Papa Pilko & the Bin Rats and Jack Dawson)
Thursday 9th August – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

MoFo feat. The Leichhardt International Ukestra and Stephen O’Hern
Friday 10th August – The Gaelic Club (Upstairs), Sydney, NSW

Nick and Liesl
Friday 10th August – Catharsis at The J Theatre – Noosa, QLD

Punch Brothers
Monday 6th August – Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 8th August – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 10th August – Adelaide International Guitar Festival, Adelaide, SA

Roland K Smith & The Sinners with Billygoat & The Mongrels and The Ramalamas
Wednesday 8th August – Sandringham Hotel, Sydney, NSW

The AU Review 4th Birthday Party (Fanny Lumsden, Winter People)
Saturday 3rd August – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

The Beautiful Girls
Friday 3rd August – Magnums Hotel, Airlie Beach, QLD
Saturday 4th August – Dalrymple Hotel, Townsville, QLD
Sunday 5th August – Brothers Leagues, Cairns, QLD
Friday 10th August – Coolum Civic Centre, Coolum, QLD

The Falls
Saturday 4th August – The Empress Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 5th August – Pure Pop Records, Melbourne, VIC

The Good Ship
Friday 3rd August – Great Northern, Newcastle NSW
Saturday 4th August – Good God Small Club, Sydney, NSW

The Rescue Ships
Friday 3rd August – The Front Bar, Canberra, ACT

Friday Folk Flashback

“Rye Whiskey” – Punch Brothers

With three Australia shows in the coming week (Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide) we’re officially dubbing this Punch Brothers Week. This was the song that first turned us onto the band and we’ve never looked back since. If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to one of the Punch Brothers gigs we’ll see you there!

Missy Higgins Announces Summer Tour

Missy Higgins
Image Courtesy of Missy Higgins

After successfully releasing her new album The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle and completing a national tour that culminated in a performance at Splendour in the Grass over the weekend you’d think Missy Higgins would take a moment or two to breathe. But instead she’s getting right back into the thick of things with the announcement of a tour over summer.

The Razzle Dazzle Summer Tour will wind its way through the country this November and December and feature support slots from Gurrumul (except Perth) and Emma Louise (except Canberra and Perth). Presale tickets will be available to people on Missy Higgins’ mailing list on the 7th August with general release on the 9th August.

The full list of dates are below:

Saturday 17th November – Soundscape Festival, Hobart, TAS
Tuesday 20th November – State Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Friday 23rd November – Royal Theatre, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 24th November – Gorgeous Music Festival, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 25th November – Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, VIC
Tuesday 27th November – WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 30th November – Jupiter’s Theatre, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 1st December – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday 4th December – Palais Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 8th December – Fremantle Arts Centre (South Lawn), Perth, WA

Australia Day Gets Folky at The Rocks, Sydney

Sam Buckingham
Image Courtesy of Sam Buckingham

If you’re a fan of live music and find yourself at a loose end in Sydney this Australia Day, the 26th January, you should really head down to The Rocks for the The Australia Day Festival of The Voice. A bunch of music stages, markets and historic pubs – what more could you want? How about a lineup of artists that include a who’s who of Timber and Steel favourites including Sam Buckingham (above), Boy Outside, Harry James Angus, Busby Marou, Archie Roach, Ngaiire, Mikelangelo and The Tin Star, Rescue Ships, Blue King Brown and Caitlin Park.

The event is absolutely free and we have the full set times below. Check out the official web site for more information.

Harbour Song – Campbells Cove
11.30am – 12pm Sam Buckingham
12.15pm – 12.45pm Boy Outside
1.15pm – 2pm Hey Big Aki
2.30pm – 3.15pm The Harry James Angus Band
3.45pm – 4.30 Emma Louise
5pm – 6pm Busby Marou
6.30pm – 7pm Archie Roach

Street Song – George Street
12pm – 12.45pm Steve Smyth
1pm – 1.45pm Ngaiire
2.15pm – 3pm Ernest Ellis & The Panamas
3.30pm – 4.15pm Mikelangelo and The Tin Star with Saint Clare
4.45pm – 5.30pm Rescue Ships
6pm – 7pm Mojo Juju
7.30pm – 8.30pm Blue King Brown

Play Song – The Rocks Square
11.45am – 12.15pm Circular Rhythm
12.30pm – 1pm Circular Rhythm
1.15pm – 2pm Electric Lunchbox
2.30pm – 3.15pm Dodadums
3.45pm – 4.30pm Mark Wilkinson
5pm – 5.45pm Ali Hughes & Daryl
6.15pm – 7pm Caitlin Park

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.

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