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.

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

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 7th November


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– UK artist Nick Mulvey released his new Australian shot video “I Don’t Want To Go Home”. Details here

Bernard Fanning has announced a solo tour for this January. Details here

The Decemberists announced plans to release their new album What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World early next year. Details here

The Gulgong Folk Festival announced its 2014 lineup including The Bearded Gypsy Band, Daniel Champagne, Crooked Fiddle Band, Sweet Jelly Rolls, Freddie White (Ireland), Lexi Marie (Canada), Genevieve Chadwick, Honey (formerly Fig Jam), 19 Twenty, Squeeze Box Trio, The Fruit Trees, Southerly Change, String Theory, Allan Caswell, Out of Albingdon, Terry Serio, The Plough, Slightly Off and many more. Details here

Rufus Wainwright has announced Australian headline shows next year. Details here

– Swedish singer-songwriter José González has announced details of his new solo album. Details here

Kim Churchill released his new video “Single Spark” as well as announcing a headline tour in January. Details here

– Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan has returned with his new project and single “Vessel”. Details here

Pepa Knight released his third single “Coyote Choir”. Details here

David Gray has announced a couple of headline shows when he’s in the country for Bluesfest. Details here

– Tomorrow’s Fairlight Folk in Sydney will feature RAPT, Terry Serio and the Ministry of Truth and Brendan Reed Dennis. Details here

– We premiered the new video from Timothy James Bowen, “Learn to Love Again”. Details here

– Adelaide’s Timberwolf released his new single “It Burns” and announced a national tour. Details here

– More Bluesfest sideshows were announced, this time from Jake Shimabukuro. Details here

Emmy The Great gave us a glimpse of her music with the new single “Swimming Pool”. Details here

– The new EP from Radical Face, The Bastards Volume 3, is available as a free download. Details here

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo released their new video “Letters”. Details here

– The Blue Mountains Music Festival announced its first round of artists for 2015 including John Butler, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dan Sultan, Daniel Champagne, Castlecomer, The Bearded Gypsy Band, Wagons, The Company, Leah Flanagan, All Our Exes Live in Texas, We Two Thieves, Jordie Lane, Perch Creek and many more. Details here

– Irish due The Lost Brothers released the video for their new single “Spanish Reprise”. Details here

– UK duo Paper Aeroplanes released the new video for their track “Guessing Game”. Details here


“Nashville seems like a cool town. Just like one massive working museum. Everyone walks around in fancy shirts and expensive Stetson hats and they all love country music. I love country music so it was a thrill to hang out on Broadway and see all the places you’ve read about in these country music scrapbooks and biographies”Benjamin Folke Thomas chats to Aiden Quinn. Interview here

Releases This Week

Damien Rice
My Favourite Faded FantasyDamien Rice

NightWalkMatt Walters

The Bastards
The Bastards Volume 3Radical Face

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Les Thomas w/ Darren Cross, Lisa Caruso, Not Good with Horses

Les Thomas

Melbourne based singer-songwriter, blogger and activist Les Thomas makes his Sydney debut, launching his excelent debut album Survivor’s Tale.

Sunday 9th November – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Gigs Next Week

Australasian Worldwide Music Expo
Thursday 13th to Sunday 16th November – Melbourne, VIC

Bearded Gypsy Band
Friday 7th November – The Factory, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 8th November – Tell Tale and Vine, McLaren Vale, SA

Busby Marou
Friday 7th November – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 14th November – SSA Club, Albury, NSW

Cat Canteri
Friday 14th November – The Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA

C.W. Stoneking
Thursday 13th November – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 14th November – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Daniel Lee Kendall
Thursday 13th November – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 14th November – The Shebeen Bandroom, Melbourne, VIC

Davidson Brothers
Sunday 9th November – The B-East, Melbourne, VIC

Eddie Boyd and The Phatapillars
Friday 7th to Sunday 9th November – The Blues at Bridgetown Festival, Bridgetown, WA
Wednesday 12th November – Four5Nine, Perth, WA
Thursday 13th November – The Swan Basement, Fremantle, WA

Fairlight Folk feat. RAPT, Terry Serio and the Ministry of Truth, Brendan Reed Dennis
Saturday 8th November – Fairlight Folk, Sydney, NSW

Festival of Small Halls feat. Andy Brown, The Mae Trio
Friday 7th November – Cunnamulla, QLD
Saturday 8th November – Mitchell, QLD
Sunday 9th November – Charleville, QLD
Thursday 13th November – Chinchilla, QLD
Friday 14th November – St George, QLD

Fred Smith
Friday 7th November – Church of Trinity, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 8th November – Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA

Georgia Fair
Wednesday 12th November – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 14th November – Easy Tiger, Sydney, NSW

Hat Fitz and Cara
Friday 7th November – The J, Noosa Junction, QLD
Friday 14th November – Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW

Friday 7th November – Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, VIC
Saturday 8th November – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday 13th November – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Friday 14th November – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW

Jack Carty
Friday 7th November – Prince of Wales Hotel, Bunbury, WA
Sunday 9th November – Four 5 Nine, Perth, WA
Thursday 13th November – Lizotte’s, Dee Why, NSW
Friday 14th November – The Commons, Newcastle, NSW

Jep and Dep
Saturday 8th November – Yours & Owls, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 14th  November – Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle, NSW

Katie Noonan, Angie Hart, Melody Pool, Sam Buckingham
Friday 7th November – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 8th November – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 13th November – Joan Sutherland PAC, Penrith, NSW
Friday 14th November – The Basement, Sydney, NSW

Lachlan Bryan and Harmony James
Friday 14th November – Parkes Services Club, Parkes, NSW

Lanie Lane
Friday 7th November – The Bakery, Perth, WA
Saturday 8th November – Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA

Les Thomas w/ Darren Cross, Lisa Caruso, Not Good with Horses
Sunday 9th November – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Little May
Friday 7th November – Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth, WA (Supporting Rodriguez)
Sunday 9th November – Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth, WA (Supporting Rodriguez)

Liz Stringer
Friday 7th November – Darwin Railway Club, Parap, NT
Sunday 9th November – Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA
Friday 14th November – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Mark Wilkinson
Friday 7th November – The Sound Lounge, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 8th November – Arnhem Club, Gove, NT
Sunday 9th November – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 14th November – Jive, Adelaide, SA

One Up, Two Down and Dan Parsons
Friday 7th November – House Show, Mildura, VIC
Saturday 8th November – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 9th November – Barb Agar’s House, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 12th November – Melbourne Folk Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 13th November – Quiet Place, Castlemaine, VIC
Friday 14th to Sunday 16th November – MountainGrass Fest, Harrietville, VIC

Pepa Knight
Sunday 9th November – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 13th November – Shebeen, Melbourne, VIC

Sam Newton
Friday 7th November – Goulburn Club, Goulburn, NSW
Saturday 8th November – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT

Steve Smyth
Friday 7th November – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 8th November – Royal Hotel, Springwood, NSW
Sunday 9th November – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Friday 14th November – No.5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW

Tattletale Saints
Friday 7th November – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW

The Acfields
Saturday 8th November – New Tattersalls Hotel, Lismore, NSW
Friday 14th November – Acoustic Picnic (The Music Lounge), Sydney, NSW

The Pierce Brothers
Friday 7th November – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 8th November – Djerriwarrh Festival, Melton Recreation Reserve, VIC
Friday 14th November – Westernport Hotel, San Remo, VIC

The Stetson Family
Sunday 9th November – Yarra Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

The Tiger & Me
Friday 7th November – The Factory Floor, Sydney, NSW

The Wilson Pickers
Friday 14th November – Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, VIC

Friday 7th November – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 9th November – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Friday 7th November – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Bedlam Boys” – Heidi Talbot

I heard a version of this song by Green Diesel (titled “Mad Tom of Bedlam”) on FolkCast the other day which sent me down Youtube rabbit hole listening to other people doing it. I think Heidi Talbot’s is one of my favourite versions but The Tiger and Me also have a cracking take on it if you ever get a chance to hear it.

The Gulgong Folk Festival Reveals Its Full 2014 Lineup

Bearded Gypsy Band
Image Courtesy of The Bearded Gypsy Band

If you’re like me and you’re busy working out which festivals to attend this summer it’s time to add another one to the list – The Gulgong Folk Festival. Located in the historical gold rush town of Gulgong outside of Mudgee in rural NSW, The Gulgong Folk Festival is one of my favourite events of the year and is neatly wedged in between Christmas and New year from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th December. And best of all it’s absolutely free!

The lineup for the 2014 Gulgong has just been revealed and it’s peppered with a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites including The Bearded Gypsy Band (above), Daniel Champagne, Crooked Fiddle Band, Sweet Jelly Rolls, Freddie White (Ireland), Lexi Marie (Canada), Genevieve Chadwick, Honey (formerly Fig Jam), 19 Twenty, Squeeze Box Trio, The Fruit Trees, Southerly Change, String Theory, Allan Caswell, Out of Albingdon, Terry Serio, The Plough, Slightly Off and many more.

For more information on The Gulgong Folk Festival including the full program check out the official site here.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 22nd November


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Sydney indie-folk night Little Features has announced the lineup to its final show of 2013 this Saturday including Bears With Guns, Charlie Gradon, Arbori, Tom Stephens, Lyon Apprentice and Timberwolf. Details here

Jep and Dep have released a haunting alt-country version of Kylie Minogue’s “Confide in Me”. Details here

– US based six piece Okkervil River are returning to our shores next February. Details here

Bluesfest revealed their fourth lineup announcement for 2014. Details here

– Western Australian bluegrass six-piece The Seals have released their debut video “Drink It Down”. Details here

Mama Kin has released her new video “Red Wood River”. Details here

– Next February we’ll be treated to a brand new album from William Fitzsimmons, Lions. Details here

– The Gulgong Folk Festival have revealed their 2014 program including Big Erle, Caitlin Harnett, Daniel Champagne, Fig Jam, James Thomson, Melanie Horsnell and Richard Lawson. Details here

Johnny Flynn has released a stunning new lyric video for his track “Gypsy Hymn”. Details here

– You can stream a couple of tracks from the album Foreverly from Billie Joe and Norah online. Details here

Sarah Blasko has released her new video “Fool” and announced Heavenly Sounds tour dates. Details here

– Melbourne psych folk band Immigrant Union have a new video for their single “I Can’t Return”. Details here

Georgia Fair are performing three headline shows next week to support their new album Trapped Flame. Details here

– The John Butler Trio revealed their brand new single “Only One”. Details here


“Songwriting’s really important to me – Boy Outside began as just me and an acoustic guitar. When you take such a pared-back approach into a live setting, every song has to be solid” – Aidan Cooney from Boy Outside chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“Yeah we’ve been trying to refine our sound a little bit. 18 months ago, our sound was so different – there was a mix between folk and tremolo surf songs. It was a bit crazy, and seemingly a bit old and weathered. Since then we’ve written a bunch of new songs. We’re playing cut down versions of our full production songs like “Slow Your Mind”, “Blue Afternoon”, and of course our single to be released next year “2001″” – Matt Gollan from The British Blues chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“At the moment we’re gearing up for our EP launches in Sydney and Melbourne! Then we’re planning to do a month of songwriting, maybe a little band camp holiday if we’re lucky, before recording an album early next year then touring to America in the middle of the year. Lots to look forward to!” – Georgia Mooney from All Our Exes Live In Texas chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here



“JamGrass is in many ways a unique event. An urban, indoor festival focused on a genre of music that is hardly cool (despite hipsters having a fondness for a banjo), JamGrass is almost the exact opposite of any other bluegrass festival in the country. But it works. And it keeps drawing me back”Gareth Hugh Evans reviews the JamGrass Music Festival 2013. Review here

“Sibylla and Beth are obviously very comfortable in their new duo-with-a-backing-band setup and seemed to really be enjoying bringing their new material to the audience. The girls’ trademark harmonies (and relaxed banter) were in full force and despite some sound issues as a result of a lot of microphone swapping they were sounding absolutely beautiful in Camelot’s intimate space”Gareth Hugh Evans reviews The Little Stevies in Sydney. Details here

Releases This Week

Andrew Bird
I Want to See Pulaski at NightAndrew Bird

ForeverlyBillie Joe and Norah

Jacinta Price Dry River
Dry RiverJacinta Price

Laura and Susie
MerembaLaura & Susie

Lost Ragas
Phantom RideLost Ragas


Gigs Next Week

Boy & Bear
riday 22nd November – Metropolis, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 23rd November – The Astor Theatre, Perth, WA

Busby Marou
Friday 22nd November – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 23rd November – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 29th November – Fowlers, Adelaide, SA

Communion Melbourne feat. Thomas Calder (The Trouble With Templeton), Castlecomer, Martha Marlow, Dominic Youdan
Sunday 24th November – The Toff In Town, Melbourne, VIC

Davidson Brothers
Sunday 24th November – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Dustin Tebbutt
Sunday 24th November – The Aviary Rooftop Sessions, Perth, WA
Friday 6th December – 5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW

Dyson Stringer Cloher
Friday 22nd November – Balnarring Community Hall, Balnarring, VIC
Saturday 23rd November – Butter Factory, Mornington, VIC
Wednesday 27th November – Red Hot, Devonport, TAS
Thursday 28th November – Grand Poobah, Hobart, TAS
Friday 29th November – Barossa Regional Gallery, Tanunda, SA

Emma Davis and Brian Campeau
Thursday 28th November – Grace Darling, Melbourne, VIC

Festival of Small Halls w/ Jordie Lane and Rose Cousins
Saturday 23rd November – St Martins Parish Hall, Mullum Music Festival, NSW
Wednesday 27th November – Forest Hill School of Arts, Forest Hill, QLD
Friday 29th November – Sandgate Town Hall, Sandgate, QLD

Georgia Fair
Friday 29th November – Howler, Melbourne, VIC

Gossling with Whitaker
Saturday 23rd November – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Immigrant Union
Friday 22nd November – Howlers, Melbourne, VIC

John Butler Trio
Sunday 24th November – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 22nd November – Gorgeous Festival, McLaren Vale, SA
Saturday 23rd November – Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, VIC
Monday 25th November – The Seymour Centre, Sydney, NSW

Kate Martin
Saturday 23rd November – Grace Darling, Melbourne, VIC

Kaurna Cronin
Sunday 24th November – Sofar Sounds, Sydney, NSW
Friday 29th November – The Aztec, Forster, NSW

Lachlan Bryan
Saturday 23rd November – Mona Museum & Gallery, Hobart, TAS
Sunday 24th November – Brookefield Winery, Margate, TAS
Tuesday 26th November – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW

Lime and Steel
Friday 22nd November – Baroque Room, Katoomba, NSW
Thursday 28th November – Union Hotel, Newtown, NSW

Little Features feat. Bears With Guns, Charlie Gradon, Arbori, Tom Stephens, Lyon Apprentice, Timberwolf
Saturday 23rd November – Hibernian House, Sydney, NSW

Mullumbimby Music Festival
Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th November – Mullumbimby, NSW

Patrick James
Friday 22nd November – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 23rd November – Gorgeous Festival, McLaren Vale, SA
Sunday 24th November – Queenscliff Music Festival, VIC
Wednesday 27th November – Black Bear Lodge

Perch Creek Family Jugband
Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th November – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby, NSW
Friday 22nd November – The Soundlounge, Currumbin, QLD
Thursday 28th November – Hotel Steyne, Manly, NSW
Friday 29th November – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW

Robert Ellis and Corey Chisel
Friday 22nd November – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW

Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel
Friday 22th to Sunday 24th November – Mullum Music Festival, NSW
Friday 29th November – The Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

The Crooked Fiddle Band
Friday 22nd November – Baroque Room, Katoomba, NSW
Saturday 23rd November – The Standard, Sydney, NSW

The Little Stevies
Friday 22nd November – The Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 23rd to Sunday 24th November – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby NSW

The Twoks
Friday 22nd November – The Espy, Melbourne, VIC

Friday 29th November – Revolver, Melbourne, VIC

Thursday 28th November – Alhambra, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 29th November – Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Friday Folk Flashback

“Riddles Wisely Expounded” – Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer

The theme of the impossible riddle is often repeated in traditional music, most famously in this Child Ballad, “Riddles Wisely Expounded”. This song has been recorded by many artists over the years and we’ve chosen a very recent version for this week’s FFF because, well, we think it’s really really good.

The Gulgong Folk Festival Reveals 2013 Program

Daniel Champagne
Image Courtesy of Daniel Champagne

The Gulgong Folk Festival has made a number of changes for its 2013 event. Firstly it’s slightly earlier, taking place from the 28th to 29th December. Secondly the entire festival is free. That’s right – absolutely free! And best of all the festival has just revealed it’s program with some pretty exciting acts playing over the two days.

The festival boasts a bunch of local and national talent as part of lineup including (but not limited to) Big Erle, Caitlin Harnett, Daniel Champagne (above), Fig Jam, James Thomson, Melanie Horsnell, Richard Lawson and many many more.

This festival was a highlight of the season for us last year and we can’t recommend the event enough. For more information including the full program check out the official site here. The full lineup of artists are below:

Allan Caswell, Andi Paine, Big Erle, Brothers 3, Caitlin Harnett, Cal Makin, Cletis Carr, Daniel Champagne, Des Kelly, Euripi, Fig Jam, Fleur Wiber, Glenn Skarratt, Hobo Grace, James Thomson, Jess Holland, Jimmy Westwood, Jo Ransom, Matt Southon, Melanie Horsnell, Mick Fetch, Nick Wall, Pink Fraud, Ray Hall, Richard Lawson, Richie Gudgeon, Rob Binks, Ross Kurtz, Sam Smith, Southerly Change, Steve Gilmore, Sweet Jelly Rolls, The Pegs, Violet Nights

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!

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 12th July


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The Gulgong Folk Festival has had the majority of its funding pulled for this year’s event so is appealing to folk fans via a crowd funding campaign. Details here

– Tonight marks the second of three Peace in the Pacific shows Fred Smith is putting on in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Details here

– Also tonight is the July edition of MoFo in Sydney featuring Little Bighorn and Mimi Gilbert. Details here

– We announced that Timber and Steel will be presenting the upcoming Sea Elephant School single launch tour from Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers. Details here

Mumford and Sons revealed the new video to their track “Babel” ahead of their Splendour in the Grass show this month. Details here

Gosti also released her new video “Boy” which she’s officially launching in Melbourne next month. Details here

– Sydney alt-country quartet The Mountains gave us the exclusive first listen to their brand new track “Sun”. Details here

Ashleigh Mannix has revealed details of her new EP From The Mountains plus tour dates through August and September. Details here

Matt Corby revealed the track “Evangelist” from his Resolution EP which is released today. Details here

– Melbourne alt-country super-group Immigrant Union released their new single “Alison”. Details here

– Melbourne twin-brother duo The Pierce Brothers released their brand new video “Blind Boys Run”. Details here

– Sydney monthly alt-country night Country Roads has announced its July lineup including The Green Mohair Suits, Luke Escombe and the Corporation and The British Blues. Details here

Aoife O’Donovan has finally released the official video for her single “Red & White & Blue & Gold”. Details here

– English folk singer Lucy Ward released her new video “Icarus”. Details here


“It was going to be Lawrence Greenwood for quite a while really until the eleventh hour. It was just like “ahh f**k, it just sounds like a Whitely album. I wouldn’t want to put it out as anything else”.” – Lawrence Greenwood from Whitley chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

Releases This Week

Lone SurvivorCastlecomer

Dan Parsons
Dan ParsonsDan Parsons

Emily Barker
Deep RiverEmily Barker & The Red Clay Halo
Official Store

Gregory Alan Isakov
The WeathermanGregory Alan Isakov

Matt Corby
ResolutionMatt Corby

Timber and Steel Presents

Buffalo Tales
Buffalo Tales
Friday 12th July – Mudgee Brewing Company, Mudgee, NSW
Sunday 14th July – Lizottes, Kincumber, NSW
Friday 19th July – The Elsternwick Hotel, Elwood, VIC

Official Site

Traveller and Fortune
Traveller & Fortune with Oliver’s Army, Colourwheel
Sunday 14th July – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets on the Door

Gigs Next Week

Country Roads feat. The Green Mohair Suits, Luke Escombe and the Corporation, The British Blues
Thursday 18th July – The Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Folk Club feat. Little Bighorn, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Rainee Lyleson
Wednesday 17th July – The Soda Factory, Sydney, NSW

Fraser A Gorman w/ Mike Skinner (Mallee Songs)
Wenesday 17th July – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Fred Smith
Friday 12th July – Cat & Fiddle, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 13th July – The Playhouse, Canberra, ACT

Isaac Graham
Friday 19th July – Yours And Owls, Wollongong, NSW

MoFo feat. Little Bighorn, Mimi Gilbert
Friday 12h July – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Sam Brittain
Sunday 14th July – Trinity Sessions, Adelaide, SA

Sweet Jean
Friday 12th July – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Saturday 13th July – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday, 18th July – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Friday 19th July – Singing Gallery, McLaren, SA

The Jed Rowe Band
Friday 12th July – The Gollan Hotel, Lismore, NSW
Sunday 14th July – The Channon Markets, The Channon, NSW

Thelma Plum
Saturday 13th July – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD

Friday 12th July – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 13th July – Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 18th July – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Friday 19th July – The Hi Fi, Melbourne, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“The Chemical Worker’s Song” – Great Big Sea

The struggle-of-the-worker genre of folk song is no where near as prevalent as it once was in our world of OH&S, high paid mining gigs and award wages. But there’s some great tracks out their still being recorded by contemporary artists like this version of “The Chemical Worker’s Song” by Ron Angel (also known at “Process Man”) performed here by Canadian folk-rockers Great Big Sea

Gulgong Folk Festival Starts Crowd Funding Campaign

The Falls
Image of The Falls Courtesy of The Gulgong Folk Festival

We kicked off our year in the best way possible in 2013 by attending the Gulgong Folk Festival in New South Wales’ central west region. The lineup was amazing, the town of Gulgong was friendly and welcoming and the festival organisers put on a fantastic couple of days (you can read our review here).

For the next Gulgong Folk Festival the organisers have planned to move it to December (marking two festivals in a calendar year!) but unfortunately have had the majority of their funding pulled. To make up the shortfall the organisers are appealing to the generosity of folk fans by launching a crowd funding campaign. Festival director Richard Lawson explains:

“For the last 27 years this festival has been at the forefront of the Australian folk scene, breaking new artists and fostering new and independent music in Australia.

Now we need your help. We’ve had the majority of our funding pulled and we really need funds to keep the festival alive. We are trying to achieve a target of $9,000 which will go directly to paying production and artist costs for the next festival in December 2013.

This is a small not for profit festival which has been totally run by volunteers for the last quarter of a century and with its independence also goes a great responsibility to foster new and upcoming talent, who would normally not get a chance in the festival atmosphere of Australia. It is a great stepping stone and has already been instrumental over the last 2 years in breaking 10 artists who played there … including The April Maze, Daniel Champagne, The Falls (above) and Mustered Courage.

There are a raft of funding options with some great rewards including your name on the front page of the web site and promo some great autographed festival paraphernalia (including the 2012 huge festival banner) and signed tshirts and posters plus some fantastic CD packs and house parties by selected artists. Even if you cant help financially you can help us by promoting and networking this campaign with your friends and ensure the survival of this great festival”

If you want to see this unique Australian survive and thrive make sure you head over to their indiegogo page here and pledge some cash in exchange for some fantastic incentives.

Review: Gulgong Folk Festival, Gulgong, NSW

The Falls
Image of The Falls Courtesy of The Gulgong Folk Festival

As a country-wide heat wave began to take hold you’d be forgiven for thinking only a crazy man would leave the beach lined coastline of Sydney for a weekend in New South Wales’ central west. And you’re probably right except I was driving over the mountains to take part in the Gulgong Folk Festival, an event I had heard so many good reports on in 2012 and which boasted a 2013 lineup that seemed lifted straight from the pages of Timber and Steel – how could I not attend?

Gulgong, situated about 30kms north of Mudgee and about 4 hours drive from Sydney, seems like a town frozen in time, like the set of some period drama or a recreation of the 19th century, but it’s a very real place and the streets were already abuzz with visitors when we arrived early on Thursday afternoon. Checking into our motel, conveniently located behind the festival’s default main venue The Price of Wales Hotel (with direct access into the pub via a gate in the beer garden) I quickly set about on a pub crawl reconnaissance of the four pubs and one opera house that would be playing host to a myriad of musicians over the next three days.

And it wasn’t long till I was introduced to larger-than-life festival organiser Richard Lawson (with a hug no less) and I started bumping into many of the bands I knew who were on the program – The Falls, Jack Carty, Fanny Lumsden and the Thrillseekers, Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys and Mustered Courage among others – all doing the same thing I was, checking out the town and finding their feet.

I gave myself three goals at the Gulgong Folk Festival – support all the bands on the lineup that have been featured on Timber and Steel recently, discover new artists and try to catch as many impromteu sessions as possible – and over the course of the three days I was in Gulgong I think I achieved each of those goals.

I definitely wasn’t hard up for choice when it came to seeing some of Timber and Steel’s favourite bands (I know Richard Lawson is a fan of the site and I have a feeling we may have had some input into the programming of the festival). I managed to catch Fanny Lumsden and The Thrillseekers in the town’s Opera House (apparently one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Australia) for a set that, while plagued with sound issues, was as energetic and joyful as always and had me tapping my toes along with every song. The April Maze, a band I’ve been listening to for ages but had never caught live, managed to avoid the Opera House’s sound issues by doing away with microphones and plugged in instruments and making the most of the room’s natural acoustics for a stunning set. Sivan from The April Maze is such a charming and charismatic performer and together with Todd Mayhew put on one of the best performances of the festival – if you haven’t picked up their new album Two yet you should go and buy it right now.

Jack Carty was his usual charming self workshopping a number of brand new songs at the Gulgong Folk Festival after a year touring Break Your Own Heart. After seeing Jack Carty more times than I can count in 2012 it was refreshing listing to new material filling the Opera House. At one point he invited Melinda Kirwin from The Falls up on stage for a duo on “Too Many Things in Too Many Places” (Carty returned the favour the next day appearing during a Falls set) which was absolutley stunning. The Falls themselves sounded beautiful in the Opera House setting with Melinda gushing later that she only wants to play country halls from now on.

The Gulgong Folk Festival was the first time I had caught Wes Carr’s Buffalo Tales project since he stepped on stage at Sydney’s Folk Club last year. Since then Carr has fleshed out the Buffalo Tales persona complete with on stage dream catcher and western clothing, but of course it’s his voice that stands steals the show. Sorting out microphone issues right at the beginning of his Opera House set on Friday, removing any hint of reverb or effects, Wes Carr howled and growled his way through his folk set, preforming songs written throughout his career including the amazing “Blood and Bones”. Mesmerizing.

On the Bluegrass side of the equation I managed to catch Mustered Courage at the Opera House followed by Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys at the Prince of Wales Hotel. The former put on an amazing show (as always) despite being physically and mentally exhausted after weeks of touring and festivals and battling the sound at the Opera House (which seemed to get worse the more players on stage). Mustered Courage are seriously one of the tightest groups in Australia and even in the face of adversity are able to put on one of the most professional shows of the entire festival. Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys blew the head off the Prince of Wales Hotel, closing out the Friday night with some amazing jams, some of my faourite covers of theirs (in particular “Sydney From a 747” and “Hard To Love”) and even inviting local banjo maestro Jesse Grover (Gulgong Confessional Singers) up on stage to solo with them. Easily two of my favourite acts of the festival.

And then of course there were the artists I hadn’t seen before that definitely left a lasting impression. The FruiTTrees from the Hunter Valley delighted with their easy listening folk vibes. Marcus Holden (Fiddlers Feast) proved why he is one of the best fiddle players in the country wowing the crowd at the Gulgong RSL with tunes, songs and even some Elvis on a locally procured saw (contributing the to local economy via the hardware store). The bluesy roots of Two Girls Will delayed me at the Prince of Wales (I was passing through to another show at the time) and I’m sure glad they did as they were just amazing live. Singer-songwriters were also out in force at the festival and I caught wonderful sets from Suzy Connolly, Genevieve Chadwick and the absolutely stunning Melody Pool whose music so captured me I had to spotlight on Timber and Steel almost as soon as I returned home.

As for impromptu sessions I only managed to catch one – but what a session! In the beer garden of the Prince of Wales over lunch on Friday members of Mustered Courage, Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys, Fanny Lumsden and the Thrillseekers along with Marcus Holden, Jack Carty and more had set up a bluegrass session that was attracting a bigger audience than the official program inside the pub. The session was frantic, loose and fueled by beers and is exactly why I like to come to folk festivals. I could have sat their for hours.

Along with the aforementioned persistent sound issues at the Opera House the Gulgong Folk Festival did face some other niggling issues – too many venues leading to smaller audiences at each show, inconsistent ticket checks, early closing hours at the pubs and general festival fatigue from the New Year season – but truth be told none of that mattered because the event itself was absolutely charming from the historic town (and venues) to the super friendly volunteers and locals and of course the sheer calibre of the bands that played there. Richard Lawson took on the organisation of the Gulgong Folk Festival only two years ago and it’s quickly become something very special. I sure am glad I was part of it.

Waking up bleary eyed on Saturday morning after a late night drinking session with many of the festival’s artists (the account of which will have to be left for another time – let’s just say for now that you had to be there) I grabbed some breakfast at The Butcher’s Shop Cafe and then jumped in the car to head back over the mountains. There was still a day’s worth of festival, including the famous street party, to go but I was needed back in Sydney and regrettably had to leave. But for two days and two nights I had become enchanted by this central western town and its festival and I know one thing for sure – I’ll be back! Thank you Gulgong Folk Festival.

Jack Carty Announces December Residencies and Tour Dates

Jack Carty
Image Courtesy of Jack Carty

Sydney singer-songwriter Jack Carty is capping off an amazing year with a bunch of dates this December bookended by two very exciting festival appearances, at Corinbank in Canberra this weekend and the Gulgong Folk Festival in the new year.

As well as the festivals Carty has a Sunday residency at the Retreat Hotel in Melbourne throughout the month, a couple of shows in Melbourne and Sydney supporting Katie Noonan and a very special appearance at the final Folk Club of the year.

If you want to catch Jack Carty one more time before the year is out check out the full list of dates below:

Saturday 1st December – Corinbank Festival, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 2nd December – The Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 5th December – Folk Club @ Arcadia Liquors, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 9th December – The Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC (6pm)
Sunday 9th December – The Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC (8pm w/ Katie Noonan)
Friday 14th December – Camelot, Sydney, NSW (w/ Katie Noonan)
Sunday 16th December – The Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 23rd December – The Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 3rd January – Gulgong Folk Festival, Gulgong, NSW

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