Review: Majors Creek Festival 2019

Mary Maypole-5.jpg

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography
View our entire photo gallery on Facebook in our Majors Creek Festival Album.

If you’ve never been to a folk music festival, you might be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed with choices. Across Australia there is everything from mega-festivals of international renown, down to the salt of the earth community run festivals. Last month we had the pleasure of visiting the Majors Creek Festival for the first time, to sample the local folky flavor.

Celebrating more than a quarter of a century, the Majors Creek Festival is an absolute gem, tucked away in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, an hour from Canberra, and 3 hours from Sydney.

The festival venue takes advantage of the local amenities, including the local church, and the showground hall, as well as creating a cosy, welcoming village green peppered with markets, delicious food outlets, circus entertainments and multiple easy to access music stages.

The site was thoughtfully decorated with beautiful styling and simple execution giving a cohesive connectedness across the the venues. With activities and entertainments for the kids at the centre of the field in a big top tent, the adults were treated to a weekend of musical delights across 7 different stages.

Mandy Connell-11Mandy Connell brought her storytelling charm to the St Pete stage along with her tales of home and sentimental reminiscences. With a spring in her step and a flair for performance, her audience were swept away with her lyrical fancies.

Liz Frencham’s cool blues delivered both punchy beats and troubadour solemnity, twining together tales and talk of “community that makes political bullshit fade away”. With the audience singing along and lapping up every tune, the set was a popular choice.

The Perfs were one of the acts on the unofficial stage at St Mary’s, also known as ‘the other church’ a delightful relaxed patio setting framing the delectable harmonies of the duo. Their laid back and enchanting style melded modern and old style in a hypnotic hymn.

Fiona Ross delivered a Capella joy over in the ‘Official’ site Church with a traditional Scottish set, mostly in Gaelic, and predominantly from the East and South. Such beautiful acoustics and with no accompaniment other than the audience themselves, Ross delivered a thorough and rousing collection of toe tapping tunes.

Floyd Thursby also loaned his style to the acoustic setting of the Church, and brought his dulcet mix of French and English to an eager audience. His blend of both allegorical and literal storytelling tunes tells tales of love and woe, humour and humitlity, and takes the audience in a delightful journey.Andy Nelson-5Andy Nelson would be the festival highlight for the team, with a moody, sultry opening to his set, the soft masculine voice of Nelson created an alluring and enchanting scene. His emphatic style along with talented musicians on bass and violin to accompany his guitar, welcomed a hypnotic spellbinging combined sound. By swapping in mandolin, and harmonica to accompany his suite of songs, Nelson delivered a blistering set to the enthusiastic audience.

Great Aunt showcased the their guitar and double bass styling with a moody and strong set, balancing the feminine and sullen atmos. Their style mixed well bringing clever lyrics and knowing wink to the stage.

The New Graces’s gloriously complimentary voices gave lilting, lovely lyrical harmonies. They took turns leading with a great collaborative approach that showcased each individual talent within a cohesive whole.

Holly Arrowsmith excelled in her autobiographical storytelling with an enchanting tonality and crisp quality of both vocals and musicality. Choosing a mix of political folk tunes and her own inviting and enrapturing songs made for a compelling set.

Equus always draws a crowd and never fails to entertain. Their set was uplifting in the chill of dusk, with their fabulous and fascinating throat singing interwoven with traditional singing to spice up the sonic experience. Electric energy filled the air as their music ebbed forward delivering a mix of modern and traditional tracks, catch the audience up, clapping along spiritedly.

 

Shane Nicholson-5Shane Nicholson was one of the big names and drew quite the crowd. The audience were immediately engaged as the familiar refrains of “when The River Runs Dry” peeled across the tent. Accompanied by producer extraordinaire Matt Fell, the dynamic of the duo won everyone over, with Nicholson’s soothing, smooth vocals and subtle, soft harmonies tapping into and creating a warm, welcoming space through song.

The Water Runners kicked off our Sunday, delivering upbeat bluegrass vibes, harmonies, and fun frivolity. Their topical set covered everything from climate change through to lovesick stories, and cautionary tales.

Kelsey Berrington delivered a light and listenable set that captured the audiences spirit. Reminiscent of Kim Churchill and Jack Carty, a refreshing set ensued.

Big Fiddle Little Fiddle does what it says on the box, if you let a Cello be a big fiddle that is. Their fusion of styles started with an almost syncopated vibe, building in to an interesting contrasting set of sounds reminiscent of baroque and country Celtic fiddles in a lighthearted manner.

Parkville-9Parkville oozed youth and vitality with their pop folk fusion winning over hearts and minds of the audience with their lovely blend of up tempo musicality and harmonies. The fiddle is the true hero of the four piece, tying their melodies back in to the folk space while straddling the indie pop genre. Their engagement of the audience, creating a thundery opening to one of their tracks, really made their set shine.

This Way North rounded out the festival, clearly the heros of the festival, and favourites of the audience. Their set roamed from clam and harmonious, through hearty drums and feeling. The duo are highly engaging with great chemistry, entreating the audience to clap and sing along, while accentuating the layered vocals and riveting beat.

All in all, the festival is incredibly family friendly, while maintaining a high quality folk feel. Spread over the weekend, from Friday night to Sunday eve, with their after party occurring just down the road at the Majors Creek Pub, the festival is truly a whole community event.

If you’ve never been to a folk music festival, whether it’s because of kids, or that you want a less cluttered or crowded experience, Majors Creek Festival is an accessible and thoroughly enjoyable experience with a eye for sustainability and great quality music. A great first weekend festival experience.

General Festival-2

The Joy of Small Folk Festivals

Top Half
Photo of The Top Half Folk Festival by Barry Skipsey

By Guest Contributor Peter Logue*, repurposed political journalist, festival tragic and accordion pest

It’s probably safe to assume that almost all readers of Timber and Steel have been to a music festival: most will have been to a large folk festival e.g. Woodford, Port Fairy, Blue Mountains or The National in Canberra.

Here’s a question, though: how many have been to a small regional folk festival? By small, I’m talking about the likes of Fleurieu in South Australia, Cygnet in Tasmania, Maldon in Victoria, Gulgong in NSW, The Top Half in NT (above), or the one I’m now involved in after eight years on the Board of the National – Cobargo, in the glorious Bega Valley on the NSW Far South Coast.

(There are many, many more small festivals, most of which are listed here)

I ask this because I believe it is important for the folk movement that people younger than me – which is lot of people – get involved in the smaller festivals, either through volunteering, applying to perform, just turning up and doing a blackboard, or paying the usually small amount to attend.

Why? Well, firstly they are just great fun, full of surprises and creators of those special memories that stay with you until you’re dribbling.

Take as an example the Cobargo Festival, in its 20th year this year.

For the pittance you pay, the program is just outstanding, musically diverse, challenging at times, international in flavour and inclusive.

That last word “inclusive” is the key to the success of the smaller festivals. Unlike some of the larger events (I exclude The National because of (a) the session bar and (b) its focus on learning and participation), smaller festivals are family, along with crazy uncles who play the banjo, daft grannies who play the one row button box, and the multi-talented kids who seem to be, and are, much better musicians than were around when I was their age.

Artists are approachable, usually do more than they’re asked to do, the sessions are diverse and sometimes really hot, and most people retire late at night to playing around a campfire, or sometimes a LED lamp.

At Cobargo this year you can meet the cream of Irish musicians, like Arty McGlynn and his wife Nollaig Casey, part of the Heart Strings Quartet. Arty started off playing covers in Showbands and spent many years as Van Morrison’s lead guitarist. (He must be a very patient man).

He wrote the book on guitar accompaniment for Irish music, though Paul Brady reckons – half jokingly – he taught has old friend Arty everything he knows.

Nollaig is an outstanding fiddler, her sister Maire NiChathasaigh is a world class harpist, and if you haven’t seen Chris Newman flat pick a guitar, you’re missing one of life’s big treats.
Cobargo will be their first festival in Eastern Australia, but you will never get as close to them as you will at this festival.

This excellent clip recorded by ABC Radio National on their short visit last year gives you a taste:

That’s the thing about small festivals; international and top level local performers love them, not because they pay well (they don’t) but because it gives them a chance to warm up before the big gigs, to perfect new material, and to see parts of the country they wouldn’t normally see.

Small festivals are also places for new or relatively inexperienced soloists or bands to get noticed. There is a formal and an informal network on the folk scene of promoters, staff and organisers from the big and small festivals and “wise heads” who spread reputations by word of mouth.

That’s how bands like The Waifs, Riogh and The Lurkers and countless others got noticed and built a name.

All of the many small festivals I go to each year have workshops, sessions, spoken word, blackboards and dancing as well as concerts.

Most have good food on site and a bar for relaxing in or singing or playing tunes.

All of them have major local involvement. In the case of Cobargo – which I’ve attended for 14 years – the community engagement is extensive.

Small festivals also build the folk community. Those locals who volunteer without any real knowledge of the folk scene, get the bug. They like that a few thousand people can get together for two or three days, have a rip roaring time, get maggotted, laugh sing and dance, and not a bad word is spoken or a punch thrown.

And they suddenly hear the quality of the music that they would never hear on their local commercial radio station or even on the ABC.

Small festivals are the modern day meeting places for our diverse folk tribes. They are also places of great learning. Ask anyone involved in the running and programming of any of our large folk festivals where they learned their skills and you’ll find a vast majority started with the small festivals.

If you haven’t been, try Cobargo from February 27th to March 1st. www.cobargofolkfestival.com

As well as the Heart Strings Quartet, you can see class acts like Archie Roach, Shellie Morris, Steeleye Span’s Ken Nichol, Chaika, Daniel Champagne, Ami Williamson, Nick Charles, Fiona Boyes and dozens more, all in a geographical setting that will take your breath away. And you can join or meet a very special family.

*Peter Logue is a member of the Cobargo Folk Festival organising committee

Glover and Sorensen: the (not so) Serious Side of Folk Festivals

Glover and Sorensen
Image Courtesy of Glover and Sorensen

WARNING: The following interview contains multiple gratuitous references to Morris Dancers.

Folk festivals are a serious business. Well, they can be.

Or not, if Alan Glover and S Sorensen are on the program. The comic duo turn up like bad pennies at festivals around the country, and they’re back this weekend at one of their regular haunts, the Illawarra Folk Festival.

Bill Quinn spoke with Alan and S last year about the blend of comedy and folk, after a momentarily passing fascination with the interviewer’s MP3 recorder.

S Sorensen: You’re pointing what looks like… it looks like an electric shaver, doesn’t it? And I’m a bit stubbly, being at the festival for a few days without shaving.

And I believe alcohol makes your beard grow faster.

Bill Quinn: Indeed. Now, we’re at a folk festival. How does it go with comedy at a folk festival?

Alan Glover: It goes pretty well, as long as there are things happening at the festival that are going to make us funny. Now we’ve had a lot of trouble with Morris Dancers this festival. First up, we wondered why they were called ‘daaaaahhncers’. We called them ‘dancers’ and they said, “No, we’re daaaaahhhncers”.

It turns out they’re waaaaahhhnkers.

And they’ve been dancing – or daaaaaahhncing – their way up and down the street. And I think they should be banned and I think something should be sprayed to get rid of them.

SS: Well, they really annoy me. We had a few jokes at their expense, and then we walked out of the show on Friday night and we came down here, and there was a whole bunch of Morris Dancers waiting for us, and they attacked us with their sticks and their hankies.

I got a really bad hanky burn on my neck.

AG: That’s really bad.

SS: I’ve had to rub stuff on it because of this hanky burn from those nasty, aggressive, unattractive jingle-janglers.

BQ: To borrow a phrase from musician John Thompson, is it artistic expression or a cry for help?

AG: I don’t think it’s either. I think these people are deluded. I think they’re pre-Alzheimer’s; I think that’s what’s going on. Someone’s dressed them up and said it will be fun. They don’t know what fun is. They’re just easily pushed-along people.

It’s just typical of the voters in this county. And I don’t want to make a tenuous segue from Morris Dancing to the [then] forthcoming federal election, but I’ve gotta say, if a Morris Daaaaahhncer stood for prime minister of this country, they’d probably get in – that’s how stupid things are at the moment!

SS: That’s right, and the thing about the Morris Dancers is that I, like any sensible person, don’t believe in evolution. I believe that God created the world on six working days and had Sunday off. And I believe that when he was creating stuff, he didn’t create the Morris Dancers. Somehow they were created by accident when he was having Sunday off, going to church. Because on Friday I think it was he created churches as well as planets and all living things.

But then somehow he created Morris Dancers, and they’re a deviant life-form that doesn’t even belong on the planet. So we just avoid them.

BQ: I feel like I’ve learnt so much in two minutes and fifty-six seconds. Getting back to you. I’ve only seen you at festivals from Woodford and south. What’s the life of S and Alan like when you’re not on the circuit?

AG: We basically go into stasis, don’t we?

SS: Yes, we rest a lot and read dictionaries, learn words that we can use to confuse our audience.

AG: And basically do everything we can to undermine ourselves, to white ant ourselves.

SS: Yeah, and when he’s in stasis, I’m usually in the next room reading the books, and I tell him later because he doesn’t like to read. I’m telling him later what Mickey did and what Donald did.

And after a couple of weeks it’s time to do another festival. Stasis isn’t allowed round because she’s a bit ugly.

But that’s generally what we do, and we don’t have any other life. We love coming to festivals because here people are real. They’re turning off the telly, they’re turning off the internet, and that’s what we want. We want people to realise that there’s a real life. There’s a reality. And it needs their help.

AG: It’s not real bad. You know I’ve come to the conclusion that the only people you can really trust to tell you the truth are comedians.

SS: That’s right. People reckon they talk the truth, like politicians, but it’s all bullshit. We talk bullshit but it’s all honest and it’s the truth.

BQ: So while you’re in stasis (or Stasis) and the rest of the world is turning, where can people go to find out more about Glover and Sorensen?

AG: Well, they can Google ‘Glover and Sorensen’ and they’ll get a Youtube clip of us pretending to be at a festival. Well, we are. It looks like we’re in someone’s back room but we’re not; we’re actually at a live festival, aren’t we?

SS: Yes, and you can go to our website which we went to once — it’s lovely — if you ever want to hire us for anything, like you’ve got a big empty space in your life and you want someone to really connect. Because we are against everything, except the stuff we’re not.

AG: And we’re easy to find on the internet. Just type in this: ‘shemuckaruckmuckbeugh dot glergflerk dot comgfhgjkjerr dot au’.

Or www.gloverandsorensen.com.au

BQ: Gentlemen, the last five minutes and twenty eight seconds has been…..something. I thank you.

SS: ‘Have’ been. Because it’s plural. ‘The last five minutes and twenty eight seconds HAVE been…’ But I don’t want to correct your bad English.

But it’s been rather pleasant for us too.

AG: Hey, I told you not to talk to him like that. Now you’re boiling your ‘Billy’! Now leave it alone!

BQ: I’ve just been ‘Quinned’! Thank you, gentlemen.

SS: Thanks, Billy!

Glover and Sorensen’s gigs at the Illawarra Folk Festival:

 Friday 17th January – Miners Camp, 8pm\
Saturday 18th January – La Petite Grande, 9.30pm
Sunday 19th January – Show Pavilion, 10.30am (Funny Concert)
Sunday 19th January – Grandstand Restaurant
Sunday 19th January – Slacky Flat Bar (Finale Concert)

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!

Guide to Summer Festivals Part 1: Preparation

The Gum Ball 2011 Story and photos by KT Bell

Everyone’s excited about Christmas, but here at Timber and Steel we’re gearing up for a huge Summer Festival season, especially for the New Years period. There have been 4 main festivals lining up loads of Timber and Steel friendly acts to get excited about, namely Woodford Folk Festival in QLD (you may remember my 35 Hour Woodford experience from last year), Peats Ridge Festival in NSW and two VIC festivals on either side of Port Phillip Bay, Pyramid Rock Festival and The Falls Festival (also on in Marion Bay, TAS). We’ve managed to rustle up a couple of reviewers to give you the wrap up of some of these festivals in the New Year. But in preparation, let’s take a look at how to make the most of the New Years festival experience.

Our four festivals are all multi-day festivals set in lush settings away from the hustle and bustle of the city, leaving festival goers two accommodation options. 1. pay for a hotel away from the site and drive to and from the event every day (access to some festivals are limited on 31 Dec) and limit your experience ,which is no fun, or, 2. camp. Having camped through a number of different scenarios, here’s a short list of tips which will make your camping festival experience that much better. Peats Ridge offers some sustainable camping tips to check out before the festival too.

Bluesfest Saturday
Tent Options
Woodford offers Tent City which is a great option for those who need to travel light – a tent, bed, light and basics are supplied for an additional fee, you just need to buy tickets with camping and bring your own bedding (pillow, blankets etc).  Peats Ridge has begun offering Tepee camping in recycled Tepees with both 2 person and up to 4-6 person camping options and you even get to take your Teepee sleeping bags home with you.  Both are a stress free, easy way to experience a camping festival, with none of the effort of camping.

For all the other camping events, either take a tent you can stand up right in, or be prepared to spend very little time in your tent, most of which will be in a half sitting/ laying position.

Dealing with Mud and Rain
Proof I was there, in my gumboots. Given the very unseasonal start to Summer, it would be wise to steel yourself for the likelihood of rain and eventual mud. Lots of mud. Best things to do are to take gumboots, extra socks (thick socks deal with chaffing better) and why not think about a gel or wool inner sole for your gumboots while you’re at it – I can say from days dancing in boots at Peats Ridge 2009, your feet will be worn out before the end of the festival.

Take a poncho or rain coat – not umbrellas. Alternately take a couple of heavier hoodies, they’re also quite good at keeping the rain off, but they do soak through. If you’re at Woodford, I did pick up a beautiful waterproof parasol from a vendor who I believe goes regularly and it’s gotten me through a number of both sunny and rainy days since.

Take extra changes of clothes and some gear that you don’t care if it’s ruined by mud. If you are going to go sliding in the mud, whether in clothes or not (yes, another fun Peats Ridge image yet to be removed from my memory), make plans to get through the shower or dip in a creek before your favourite act hits the stage, otherwise you’ll be sweaty, tired and still muddy.

Best tip: Take a bucket, an old towel and/ or a bathmat – leave them outside your tent and use them as a door mat and to rinse off your feet before climbing in to your tent to avoid the mud spread through all your belongings. And make sure to take your gumboots off outside before entering, leave them outside or just inside the door.

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Hygiene
There are a couple of elements to the whole multi-day camping festival and keeping yourself clean. Showers are often hugely sought after at the usual peak times, mornings and early evenings. Mind you at both Peats Ridge and Woodford, I walked past the shower blocks very late at night (as late as 2am) and they were well in use. Plan your showering/ bathing times ahead, have a look at the timetable and see if you can pop back from a quick shower before the next act.

Alternately, if you’re tough, you could forgo the showers altogether – in some locations there’s rivers to have a nice dip in and keep yourself fresher, but you will need to wear something in, be decent people. Even if you take to bathing, take along some baby wipes or wet ones and give yourself a good wipe down all over at least once a day and apply deodorant liberally. You might be able to cope with no showering, but the people around you might not cope with your odour.

Toilets at most of these festivals have moved towards the sustainable compostable toilets. No flush toilets can be challenging, especially after a few days in to a festival. Firstly, learn how the toilets work – usually there’s a tub or pile of sawdust available. If you’re heading for number 1s, just go without sawdust, and you can pop some toilet paper in after you if you need. If you’re going number 2s, take a cup/ handful of sawdust to throw in after you’ve finished. If it’s a big number 2, well, take some back up sawdust. ALWAYS close the lid no matter what number you’ve been to so that insects are not attracted to the contents – no one wants to use a fly infested loo. If everyone uses them properly, these toilets can work very well. And boys, you’re always welcome to take to the bushes if that’s easier.

Supplies
Bluesfest Saturday Most festivals are no BYO and all would be No Glass – there’s nothing worse than some broken glass to ruin your day by slicing your foot, or worse, your butt, open. Some festivals have fire bans – check the FAQs for your festival and check what you can and can’t take in. If you can afford it, budget to buy your meals, it supports the vendors which in turn supports the festival and allows it to go ahead every year. The same goes with alcohol and festival bars, bringing your own alcohol might seem like a sneaky and clever idea but it jeopardises the festivals liquor licence and can have a detrimental effect on the bar provider which may lead them to choosing not to be involved in the future. Everyone likes to save a buck, but bars and food vendors are the life blood of funding for festivals and events, so spend with them to help your favourite festival continue year to year.

Check out your festival’s website for information about the dos and don’t’s at your festival and travel information. Also don’t forget to take some important items that are often forgotten including sunscreen, a hat, jumper/ warm clothes, a water bottle, toothbrush and paste. It’s a good idea to invest in some ear plugs, they cancel out much of the noise and volume but none of the music, you can even hear the lyrics plus they save your hearing. Having now attended a few festivals with ear plugs, they’re a staple in my stash.

Woodford has both an Eating at Woodford and a What to Bring section available from their home page.
Falls Festival has a What to Bring section which reminds punters to bring tickets. Believe it or not, I’ve seen it happen.

If all of that planning and packing seems like too much trouble, you could check out a new venture called Festival Kits which is an online service able to deliver a package to your at home before you depart which contains all the essentials, and they’re catering to all of our festivals and more.

Get In To It!
The Gum Ball 2011
Plan your festival, work out who you want to see, and read the bios of acts you’ve never heard of and check them out, you might find a brand new favourite you would have otherwise missed. Make a note of what non musical things you want to see like arts, workshops, talks and displays so you don’t forget to catch them. A number of the festivals have lantern and New Year parades complete with fancy dress or masquerade themes which you can get right in to the thick of helping create and perform. If you don’t want to be involved, at least make sure you have your camera handy for some amazing photo opportunities.

Bluesfest Saturday If you’re taking technological devices like phones and iPhones, why not download relevant information to your phone, or if you’re lucky, there will be an app for that. However, think twice about how you’re going to power and recharge your device – it’s a good idea to take a car charger with you and plan some time recharging. Also keep an eye out for recharge bars seen at many festivals which allow you to plug in to solar power and recharge your devices. However, you’ll need to stick around and wait for your device to charge as the people running it sure aren’t going to babysit your phone for you.

If you’ve got some time free, or you’re not really feeling the festival experience, try volunteering. All of these festivals rely on volunteers to make the magic happen and being involved in helping the festival run can be really rewarding. All of the volunteering programs have closed except for Woodford, however no matter which festival you’re at, if you’re bored, find the volunteer tent/ center and ask about volunteering. If you do enough hours, you might even get your ticket price refunded – but you will definitely have a unique experience of the festival.

Tickets are still available to all of these festivals, except the Lorne edition of The Falls Festival, however if you feel like crossing the ditch to Tassie, you can still get tickets to The Falls Festival at Marion Bay. Why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present and grab yourself a ticket if you haven’t already!

Plan and prepare now, and stay tuned for our next installment of our Guide to Summer Festivals.

The Lurkers’ new bundle of joy

Newest addition to the Lurkers attended the Climate Change RallyPhoto courtesy of the Lurkers’s Lurkerlust Blog

A couple of weeks ago, over at our Facebook Page, we congratulated The Lurkers on the birth their baby boy (well to two of the three Lurkers are the parents anyway), and while it’s exciting to tell you all that littlest Lurker Griffin is already out an about attending climate change rallies and rehearsing with the band, it’s even more exciting news that The Lurkers are hitting the road AND relelasing a new album!

As reported on their Lurkerlust Blog, the trio +1 will be performing at the Winter Magic Festival in Katoomba next weekend and in Albury, Canberra and Sydney in July as a part of the Eat the Rich Tour with Ducks in the Mud and A Commoners Revolt.

Tour dates - The Lurkers

With their new album well in the works and launch date of 17 September at Marrickville’s Red Rattler, and with gigs confirmed for the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival and the Gulgong Folk Festival, we’re quietly predicting a huge summer for The Lurkers. I bet it’s all due to new Lurker Griffin, he must be a party animal keeping them up all night 😉

SMoM Interview: April Maze

April Maze will play at the Snowy Mountains of Music festivalImage courtesy of the April Maze

This Friday the Snowy Mountains of Music Festival will blast the Perisher slopes with come of the coolest acts around. Timber and Steel are packing the winter woolies to go and check out this unique festival and to get in the mood, we’ve been checking out some of the lesser known acts. We were delighted to discover the mellow tunes of The April Maze. We were so excited by them that, instead of just Spotlighting them, we decided we should grab a few minutes of their time and grill them! Sivan is the gorgeous vocalist and cellist and she took some time out to chat with us about their musical influences and their time on the folk festival circuit.

KT Bell: Hi there, thanks for taking the time to talk to Timber and Steel.
Sivan: Hi Timber and Steel, Thanks for picking us!

KT:The April Maze is a name I came across only a few weeks ago and ever since then your name has been everywhere! But you’ve been touring non-stop since April 2010, what has the last year of touring and recording been like for the two of you?
S: Oohh that is a huge question! Every day on the road is so so different. It has been a wondrous whirlwind, and if you were to put it on a graph it would be a huge learning curve…

We’ve been ripped off, under – paid, we’ve camped out on the side of the road in stormy weather, we’ve been flooded in, and smoked out, and we’ve worked like dogs. But we have also played to amazing audiences in the middle of nowhere, played at some of our absolute  favourite Australian folk festivals,  had all night jam sessions with amazing musicians,  slept in amazing apartments overlooking perfect seas and blue skies, eaten like kings and have truly seen a lot of this amazing country.
 
KT: You have quite a retro look and even theme, especially when it comes to your current single “The Protest Song”, yet a relaxed, mellow sound. Where do you draw your musical influences from?
S: Artists that have made a statement, have stood up for what they believe in, all the while managing to capture the essence of a moment through a song are the artists that have influenced and inspired us the most. There are so many of these artists – but those that we have listened to the most are  The Beatles, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Toots, Gillian Welsch, India Arie, and Pearl Jam. We LOVE folk music. To us, this means music that is simple but sparks imagination and tells a good story.

KT: The local music scenes in Australia have been screaming about music venues with pubs closing down and a general shift in the scene. You’ve been doing house gigs and hosting open mic nights, how have they been, and do you think that is the way of the future for emerging bands?
S: We gave up our day jobs to commit ourselves 100% to music, and we are in no way ready to turn back…so when venues close down, or when liquor licensing laws only allow one person on stage at a time (which by the way is the dumbest law ever instated), or whatever, we have had to find other ways of finding audiences. Busking is a great way of gathering supporters, open mics a great way to get involved with younger upcoming artists, and house concerts are a fabulous way of putting on unique and intimate shows where you can also make a decent income – we particularly love these as they break down barriers between the performer and audience that other gigs have in place.  House concerts can be a way into the future for emerging bands… but house concerts aren’t for everyone … I think that it is important for music makers, venues and audiences to work together to keep the live music scene in Australia alive.

KT: You’ve appeared at a couple of festivals lately including the Port Fairy Folk Festival and the National, how have you found the audiences at those festivals compared to your venue gigs?
S: Ahhh the folk festivals are our dream audiences, everyone really listens…at the National Folk Festival we mentioned on stage that we had been cold camping out as we didn’t have enough blankets, and also that we hadn’t received any easter eggs as we had forgotten that it was Easter…after the show people where offering us spare doona’s left right and centre, and throughout the rest of the festival people were running up to us with Easter eggs…and I love chocoate – so I was as happy as Larry!

And you know what…we love playing venues as well…it’s the spice of life. Sure people wearing silver pants may thrust up against our mic stands (true story), or get in our ear after the show about how we should audition for the X-factor,but it makes things interesting–  But really, there are so many great venues around – we really do love it. The best is when it is the second or third time you have played the venue, and people know all the words.

KT: What are you most looking forward to about playing at the Snowy Mountains of Music Festival?
S: The Snow. Snowball fights, making snowmen/women. Gathering by an open fire for warmth and sing alongs, seeing loads of great music…drinking hot chocolate and mulled wine! Playing music…getting on the ski lift and eating a snow cone!
 
KT: What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the Festival?
S: All of them! It’s an awesome line-up this year – we will try and soak in as much music as is physically possible whilst we are at the festival… these are the days, and as far as I know, you only live once, so we are going to enjoy!
 
KT: Thanks for your time, it’s been lovely talking to you and we look forward to seeing you at the Snowy Mountains of Music Festival!
S: Thank you!

Country of Origin: Australia (Melbourne)
File Under: Alt-Folk
Sounds Like: A bit like a Carol King and She & Him collaboration
Myspace: myspace.com/theaprilmaze
Official website: theaprilmaze.com

Tickets for the Snowy Mountains of Music are still available, even if you want to pop in for a day or evening. Today they have also announced a special; book your tickets online by 5pm Wednesday and get a FREE Festival Compilation CD with 21 Artists with each Online Store order.

Finding New Folk Music – A Guide

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So you’ve been reading Timber and Steel over the past couple of months. You’ve realised that folk music isn’t as daggy as you once thought. You’ve even been introduced to a couple of exciting new bands that you’ve purchased on from your local record store or downloaded from your favourite provider. And now you’re ready to branch out on your own, find some folk music yourself, discover something new.

But where do you start? Finding quality new music in the sea of upcoming bands is hard enough, let alone narrowing it down to just one (loose) genre. But luckily we here at Timber and Steel are here to help. Sure, we’d like to think that we’re your one stop shop for all things folk related but even we can’t cover and discover everything. As long as you keep coming back we’re happy to help you embark on a folk music discovery odyssey of your own.

So here are the top Timber and Steel suggestions of places to begin your quest for new, quality folk music from around the world.

Folk Radio UK
Folk Radio UK Folk Radio UK is a not-for-profit, independent online radio station broadcast out of the United Kingdom. Its aim is bringing the best in folk music (be that nu-folk or trad) to the world, particularly focusing on artist who may not get exposure on mainstream radio. There are two channels you can stream online – Frukie which focuses on indie, nu-folk and alternative and Roots which is more trad, celtic and, well, roots. The quality of music on both channels is very high and very diverse (you’ll get everything from Maddy Prior to Mumford and Sons to Vampire Weekend). Whenever I listen I keep a notepad nearby and jot down the names of any artists/songs I like so I can look them up later. The music from Folk Radio UK is (obviously) UK and US centric but you will hear the occasional Angus and Julia Stone or Holly Throsby track. Being an independent radio station they do rely on donations to keep running so if you’re going to listen regularly I’d recommend chucking them a few bucks every now and then.

triple j Unearthed
triple j Unearthed triple j Unearthed is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand it’s a fantastic resource – a site dedicated to unsigned Australian artists where you can listen to and download free MP3s. On the other hand it’s daunting – the sheer depth of artists is overwhelming and while they try to make it easy to search the genre’s are really not wide enough (and inconsistent). But I’ve worked out a system or two to help you navigate the depths of the Unearthed vaults. Firstly, while there is no “folk” genre on the site a good starting point is finding artists that class themselves as both roots and indie (they can choose two genres). Click on the Featured Artists link to see what I mean.
Alternatively a great way to find new music on the site is use an artist you already know as a jumping off point. Many artists that we’ve featured here like The Middle East and Boy & Bear got their start on triple j Unearthed and most of them still have a profile page. If you visit that profile page they (usually) have a list of “Unearthed Artists We Like”. Pick one at random, go and have a listen and if you like them, repeat. You’d be amazed how successful it can be.

Folk Festivals
null One of the best things about going to a rock music festival is catching your favourite overseas and Australian artists. A rock festival lineup is no good unless you are a fan of at least three of the acts. Folk festivals, on the other hand, are best when you don’t know a single act. There’s no expectations, no massive crowds and hours and hours of fantastic entertainment. You can literally float from tent to tent at these events soaking up the music and falling in love with artists you’d probably see nowhere else. The great thing as well is that folk festivals are cheap (unless you’re headed to one of the bigger ones like Woodford, Port Fairy or The National), they’re local and they’re everywhere. Folk Alliance Australia has a pretty extensive national calendar of festivals online here

Support Acts
null Look, I know the sound is usually terrible, the crowd talks over the top of them and they get in the way of why you’re at a concert to begin with but I really think people should give support acts more opportunity. I’m always dismayed when I’m at a gig and the crowd is only half full because no one wants to see the support. Some of my favourite acts I’ve discovered because they were supporting someone – this blog wouldn’t even exist if we hadn’t seen Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons) supporting Laura Marling all those years ago. And if you don’t have the cash to go to every gig you want to you can still find out who the supports of your favourite artists are and then look them up online. You may just uncover a gem in the process.

Folk Clubs and Open Mic Nights
null I’ve been to some terrible, terrible open mic nights. But I still maintain that the bad nights are offset by the nights when you truly find an amazing artist who’s just trying to make it big. The best thing about these nights is that you can usually chat to the artists after their set and if you’re lucky nab a CD. Folk Alliance Australia again has a great directory of folk clubs online. Open mic nights are a little harder to find but your local street press or newspaper should be able to help you out.

Blogs
null Not that we’re trying to send you to our “competitors”, but there’s a wealth of music blogs out there that can introduce you to new music. The folk ones don’t feature much Australian stuff and the Australian ones don’t feature much folk but between them you should be able to uncover a few new favourite bands. We here at Timber and Steel can recommend For Folk’s Sake (UK), Who The Bloody Hell Are They (which is a wealth of free MP3’s from unsigned bands), Polaroids of Androids and of course the ubiquitous FasterLoader.com.au. triple j also do some great stuff with their Home and Hosed and Roots ‘n’ All programs online.

So I hope we’ve been able to help you out a little on your quest to find new folk and indie music from around the world. If it all sounds too hard it’s ok – Timber and Steel will still be here to bring you the best and brightest on the Australian and international folk scene.

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