2017 Blue Mountains Music Festival – The Wrap

Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen doing Funeral Songs

Words and Pictures by Elizabeth Walton

“Can’t wait for this to start – Paul Kelly is Australia’s answer to Bob Dylan.”  So the murmur of the audience flows while revelers wait in the light filled entrance to the Lurline Pavilion at the 2017 Blue Mountains Music Festival.

“Nah mate, Bob Dylan is America’s answer to Paul Kelly,” comes the well whittled retort, a fitting reflection on the loyalty of the Australian pilgrimage to the Blue Mountains Music Festival, where Australia’s tower of song – Paul Kelly – has appeared many times.

The punters flood the moment with favourite festival stories, washed down with a good pint of Guinness. Mustering the strength to move past the thousands to the front of stage where you can really get lost in the experience – that’s what they are pausing at the entrance to do, for this is the festival’s main event – and that’s all part of the show.

Katoomba may be the original decaf soy latte kinda town, but the Blue Mountains Music Festival is still a double ristretto kind of event. Headliners including Kelly and The Waifs may have returned countless times, but you’d wonder why you would want to change something that clearly ain’t broke.

As the rain pours down, the mud slides up. The cafes flow with conversations filled with passionate responses to Gregg Borschmann’s Heartland Conversations, the virtues of six dollar gumboots, and the best fashion statement you can make with a plastic yellow poncho without face planting in the mud.

Paul Kelly hit the stage with his latest project, Death’s Dateless Night, an album of funeral songs recorded with collaborator Charlie Owen on dobro and keys, tenderly harmonized by Kelly’s own clan of daughters, the beautiful Memphis ad Maddie. The audience loved it, but loved it even more when the band eventually visited the song man’s own material. Though Kelly invited the audience to lay him down a pallet on the floor, and to just let it be, the cheers definitely grew louder when “To her Door” finally opened on centre stage.

The festival opened with acts including Caiti Baker, whose vocal style leaves you feeling that she wants to blow the walls of the theatre down, get out into the open where she can feel the  wind moving in her hair. The space seems a little small for her raging sound, verging from lyrical blues to a good decent growl. She tells us on Saturday she’ll be down on the Lurline Pavilion, the main outdoor stage at the show, though she pronounces it less like the colloquial Lur-lign, and more like Lur-Leene, rhyming the venue with Dolly Parton’s Joe-line, and soon has the audience singing along with her to an impromptu bash at Dolly’s favourite tune.

On Saturday night the Big Tent looks like it might fill with water, instead it’s a flood of grey hair and beanies, people moshing around in the mud in their comfy hand-made  knits and sensible weather wear. But if that gives a distinctively silver streaked view of the pilgrims, that’s only because the young ones are moshing at the front of the Main Stage, grooving out to Urthboy with his dub overlays and ultra chill. If you’re lucky this weekend you’ll only have gone through three pairs of water-ready shoes a day, your children won’t have sunk chin-deep in the mud, and you will be very happy with the new era of sounds washed in by Urthboy – where it’s standing room only up near the doof as the crowd gets all up close and personal like, pressed in so close that they leave the rest of the pavilion entirely empty. Up close and personal is the real thing when techo fans assemble to watch a row of straight standing personnel in front of a giant DJ desk, laying down the riffs over a deep sonic tonic.  Meanwhile,  a raft of festival volunteers politely excuse themselves from duty so they can catch the last 15 minutes of boyfilled Urth. This has always been a festival that knew its demographic well, and takes no umbrance with serving up something for everyone. From Blue Grass to Trad Folk, the genres represented expand the very notion of what seems like a 360 degree perpetually evolving spectrum of musical styles.

In a world where festivals are born, reach their peak and quickly fade, this event is now hosting third generation folk who wouldn’t have this gig played out any other way. The audience is right at home with the cabaret style humour of The Loveys, who’ve flown all the way from Mullum, bringing along their jokes about yoga and farmers’ market twee. They clink their way through a set in German,  which slips past their too-red lips and over-stated eyewear, their gentrified hats, and putt great-grandma’s Royal Doulton to a new, unintended use as the china tinkers out a syncopated funk. Midway through the gig one of the ladies asks for LSD – but it turns out she isn’t craving the hallucinatory type, she’s just after a Latte Soy Dandelion. Nailing the piss-take on all things modern circa 2017, from transgender marital departures to personality disorders – even the pursuit of happiness isn’t spared from their material. But they’re not popular just for their good humour, they’re a festival highlight because they’re absolutely gorgeous and very bloody good – especially the well grounded Bass Uke of Madeleine Liddy, who churns out a phat sound reminiscent of McCartney’s Hoffman – a sound others in the same venue struggled to achieve.

Perhaps that’s just down to luck, or it could be technique, but Liddy doesn’t think so. “It’s because it’s preloved,” she says. “And it’s well-worn in,” she adds with a cheeky wink, much like the general spirit of these grand duchies. “Oh, and it hasn’t got any varnish”.  Well that’s definitely it, wouldn’t you think? Some might think it’s just a great attitude shared amongst these ladies, including Janet Swain, who appears clad in a spectacular green velvet robe, reclaimed from some Victorian widow’s wardrobe.  She wears her threads comfortably as she honks and hauls her bassoon like a baritone sax.

A honkin and a yankin in some unintended direction is all par for the course, from the street buskers grooving overdubbed percussive raps on part-filled glass bottles, to Mic Conway’s Junk Band, giving himself an onstage vasectomy with a saw played so nostalgically that the audience asks “who is that woman singing with that distinctive voice”. It’s not a woman singing, it’s Conway’s vitals begging for mercy as he slashes out his aptly nervous and wobbly tune. His side kick is the amazing sousaphone player dubbed “Marjorie Snodgrass” for this line up, who sometimes cameos in the Cope Street Parade.  She spends an hour after the event lavishing praise upon Lewis the Sound Guy for “getting” that she is the bass – whether she’s pumping her sousa, or an impeccably rendered mouth-impro bass jug. They don’t call it a junk band for nothing. The mutual admiration continues until Lewis and most of the band discover they’re all neighbours in Sydney’s eclectic inner west.

Lewis covers the event every year, bringing his own mics to work his room, The Clarendon Theatre, whose plush trim is renowned for delivering a distinctively flat sound that Lewis successfully overcomes without the aid of the high end, crystal clear gear and production values of the main stages. It’s a challenge, but like all Blue Mountains Festival devotees, one which he could perhaps best be described as pathologically drawn to. The rigors of the job are largely performed by the unknown and the unthanked, but the dooers of these unseen tasks are usually destined to return.  Once the festival gets into the blood, it’s a well fixed hooked.

True to form the mountains throws its unaustralian weather – unaustralian because even folk from the Arctic Circle cry that it’s freezing cold. In the Arctic at least when it rains it falls as snow – a dry white dust that easily brushes off. The Blue Mountains offer a unique kind of soak that seeps right into your soul. Then come the complaints from the uninitiated, rain weary after three days trudging around in it. “I’d rather live in Canada than live in this!” Yes, you probably would, but that’s part of the attraction of the mountains, and it’s why all those silver streaks are standing there happily in their sensible outdoor gear. There’s a saying in the mountains – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. Get the good gear and you’re right to go.

Yet for the musos actually from the Arctic Circle such as The Jerry Cans, they’ve found their ‘other world’, a far departure from the Australian places they’ve previously played, melting  in the heat, discovering only then that the reason they developed a style of playing so fast was to stop themselves from freezing to death. From Adelaide to Darwin they preserved their organs from overheating on frenetic energy at a gazillion degrees. The weather doesn’t seem to have impeded their throat singing, electrified fiddle and squeeze box filled riot of a style. Here they discover they can finally crank it up and get back to their original pace. And the crowd rises to meet them, foot stomping in the newly created dance pit at the front of the Guinness tent – a welcome inclusion in an event that has always been considered a  ”concert” festival – one where you can expect to be able to sit comfortably in your bucket seats without your view being jiggled into obscurity – now there is room for both kinds of audience – the dancers and the dedicated listeners, and a wonderful world it is that can comfortably accommodate the two.

David Ross Macdonald presents a twangy six strings of metal  guitar that looks as if it could do with a bit of new brass, but it comes across sweet like a classical guitar, using a capo fretted style so soft and light that the end result is not unlike a uke. He invites the audience to join him as he croons upon how badly he craves to be held, and though his guitar looks like it might have seen better days, it’s perfect for such a setting on a night like this, offering a sound that’s subtle yet delivers a surprising level of depth.

The Mission Songs Project brings new life to the voices of the stolen generation and indigenous Australians who were splintered from their cultures when they were made to sing in a foreign language. Today, traditional languages are so far removed from their vernacular that singing in English has become the mainstay, the local languages have become the foreign tongue. Yet everything has its resurgence if you can claim it before it achieves vanishing point. The stories are heartfelt and beautifully sung – perhaps not with the campfire instruments of their natural settings, but the end result is one that adapts well to the contemporary stage and travels to a diverse and broad audience – for The Mission Songs Project, this is mission accomplished, and accomplished incredibly well.

In a festival world where every  outfit seems to have developed the mandatory uke moment, comes the strident yards of  a bush ranging balladeer – uke man William Crighton – nine parts murderer and one part hipster, tantalising the drama enthralled-audience, half of whom are  scared out of their minds that he might wield his tiny stringed box like an axe and murder them on the spot as he thumps between the rows– the other half of whom are hoping to hell that he will! Yet William makes his way back to the stage and continues his conquest to drown you in his jaded and heartbroke view of the world without ever shedding even a drop of blood.

Meanwhile the ground becomes a cup more filled with water-making-mud than one half empty, and the deserted stalls and food courts in the school grounds stand forgotten as no-one can reach them without a plank.

The 2016 Youth Award Winners The Bean Project  pulled off a surprisingly sorrowful set of sadness for ones who’ve yet to spend their youth. The brass section of this mighty duo invokes the gentlest French horn, muted the old fashioned way, with a palm holding back the full force of the sound. It is reserved, civilized, and remains gentlemanly, until Bryce Turcato takes away his hand and builds to a punchy solo, fluid with delicately placed 9ths and unresolved 7ths, while his mate Ben Langdon stares at him earnestly through his horn rimmed glasses, and flicks back his long blonde bob as he deftly states to his departed love, “I’ve never been alone more than I am here in your bed”.  The rays of light reached down and kissed him when she left, he says, before telling us that they cut their teeth in noisy pubs where not even the walls were listening. It’s an unsettling surprise now, here, in this theatre, he tells us, to finally have our attention. After Bryce finishes ripping through his brass staccato, he falls back into a noble style, summoning images of a call to hunt, all regal caps and whips and beagles.

“This next song will be sung in Islamic,” says the singer from My Bubba. This is a duo of damsels, one of whom looks like she’s emerged from legal secretarial school, with her closed-toe cloth pumps and knee length linen black shift, a look finished with a single strand of plastic aqua coloured pearls. They sing with the restraint of those who might be found in the dusty chambers of the law academy, yet the result of all that restraint produces something akin to an angelic ascendance, with soft harmonies beautifully entwined around a heavenly, harp like instrumental style. They look as though they might butterfly kiss each other at any moment with a naked eyelash.  These are the kind of virginal maidens that can maintain their composure and remain incongruously well groomed amidst a sea of people with wet hair and faces flung with splats of rain. If you can imagine the restraint that may invoke in their vocalising, then you’ve grasped the concept.

By Sunday, Stage 6 is dubbed Big Top Lake, and the Tantric Turtle along with all the other venues on the green are pulled.  A quick rethink and the audience and most of the acts are all reshuffled. No-one who has already played misses out. A new program is issued, the details are publicised on social media, and everyone is right to go. According to the seasoned stage crew who have built this mini city countless times and painstakingly pack it all down at festival end, this decision was more to do with the indoor lake and wanting to make sure everyone had a great time than anything else. Though folklore may want it remembered differently, it was less to do with the depth of the mud, which as far as outdoor events go, wasn’t as bad as it might have been. You might say it was deep enough, but not as deep as the festival from somewhere up north, where once upon a time some chick went so far down in the mud that she completely disappeared and has never been seen since, or so the story goes. Perhaps she showed up sometime later in the Manning Bar at Sydney Uni. But this is the Blue Mountains, where you’d have to think she selected her moment of re-emergence to coincide with first beers at the ever popular Boho Bar, run by all the dedicated mums and dads and rank and file members of Katoomba’s P & Cs. The festival is the major fund raiser, and the flush of funds surging through the veins of the schools for the past 21 years has made for a formidable contribution to a cash strapped cultural enclave of a town that couldn’t have achieved this in any other way. It’s an undeniable contribution to the advancement of wellbeing for the local munchkins, but you’ve got to wonder how they get on when the playground is as trashed as this – yet Katoomba is a town with a can-do kind of pride, a place where people are going to make do with whatever they’re handed to make do with. At least there’s no cars bogged in at 3am with volunteers desperately trying to pull them out, in a push-me-pull-you kind of experience never to be forgotten. And never to be repeated, now that parking is banned from the grounds.

The full gamut of natural disasters may have threatened to unleash the doors of doom upon the festival many of times– yet they never have. From deep mud to the high winds that huffed and puffed til they blew Lurline Pav down before opening a few years back, to this year’s  demise of the main indoor venue – Katoomba RSL – which burnt to the ground just a couple of weeks ago, this festival, like Katoomba itself,  is a foot soldier of survival. You can blow her big top down, you can burn her to the ground, but the show will go on, and the founding Festival Co-Directors Bob Charter and Al Ward are well seasoned masters of the quick switch.

Though this year sees the departure of co-founder Al Ward after 21 successful years in production, Bob still managed to pull off the switch and brought the shy wallflower that is the Palais Royale into play while the cinders at the RSL were still hot. Even the most established K-Town aficionados were not yet acquainted with this grand old dame of art deco Katoomba, who willingly submitted her services to the impromptu role of third venue for the festival.  The plush comfort and stately grandeur of the Palais Royale was well admired by all – a venue whose grandiose chandeliers set  the mood for dulcet tones that could woo even the most jaded festival goer.

Reaching out to this venue is a master stroke for the festival, and you can be sure bands and revelers alike will definitely want her back. It’s too good a venue to refuse for a festival that stands proud amongst a battlefield of fallen events. And as the much loved Blue Mountains Music Festival heads towards her quarter century of service, long may she reign.  All hail The Festival, and all she represents.

– Elizabeth Walton is a freelance writer, photographer and musician

The National Folk Festival Announces Over 40 More Acts for 2017

Jessie Lloyd
Image Courtesy of Jessie Lloyd

As the first hot cross buns hit our supermarkets you know that Easter is not that far away – and that means neither is The National Folk Festival.

And now it’s time to get even more excited because The National has just added 30 more artists to its lineup.

First up we have the First Peoples’ program celebrating Aboriginal artists. This lineup includes Genise and Nicholas Williams, The Mission Songs Project (curated by Jessie Lloyd, above), Tilly Thomas, David Spry, Dr Jared Thomas, Kutcha Edwards, Dubmarine, Wiradjuri Echoes and The Djaadjawan Dancers.

As well as the First Peoples’ program The National has added a bunch more artists from around the country including Mic Conway’s National Junk Band, The Mae Trio, Heath Cullen, The String Contingent, The Barleyshakes, Kate Burke, Luke Plumb & Ruth Hazleton, The Morrisons and many more.

The National Folk Festival is held from the 13th to the 17th April in 2017 – for more information and tickets check out the official site here.

A Folky Guide to the 2016 Sydney Festival Program

Joanna Newsom
Image Courtesy of Joanna Newsom

The highly anticipated program for the 2016 Sydney Festival dropped today and as always it’s full to the brim of folky goodness. If you’ve been to any Sydney Festival shows before you’ll know that they sell out pretty quickly so it’s time to start planning now – tickets go on sale next Monday 26th October.

Our picks from the program this year include:

  • Joanna Newsom – The queen of the anti-folk movement, Newsom will be touring her brand new album Divers

Thursday 21st January – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

  • Dirty Three – Legendary underground experimental trio in a rare performance

Friday 15th January – State Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Sunday 10th January – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW

Sunday 17th January – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW

Sunday 24th January – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW

  • Matthew E White – The country-soul singer returns to Sydney with his band

Friday 15th January – Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 16th January – Lennox Theatre, Parramatta, NSW

Saturday 23rd January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 24th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Monday 25th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

  • Kev Carmody – The legendary poet, radical and national treasure will perform songs he’s collected over the past 40 years

Sunday 17th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Friday 22nd January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 23rd January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

  • The Weather Station – Canadian singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman brings her project to Sydney

Wednesday 6th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 7th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

  • Maru Tarang – Acclaimed Australian roots musician Jeff Lang joins forces with traditional Rajasthani players

Sunday 10th January – Lennox Theatre, Parramatta, NSW

For more information on the Sydney Festival including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

The 35 hour Woodford Experience

I have wanted to go to Woodford for a few years now and finally this past year I managed it, if only for 35 hours. After a brief festive season holiday in Far North NSW, Tuesday afternoon saw me driving to Woodfordia. Arriving in the dark some time after 7.30pm QLD time, I was greeted at the gate by some thoroughly excited volunteers and their big red sniffer dog… the kind you’d win on a carnival game. After warnings to avoid the grassy bits for fear being sucked in to a swamp like mess, I carefully navigated the incredibly wet and muddy streets and managed to find a relatively non-boggy looking spot. With gumboots at the ready, I was set.

Now, I’ve been to a few festivals in the last couple of years and had heard much about Woodford and how much I would like it. I went in search of Timber and Steel’s Milady Red and as I entered the festival site, I was struck with the enormity of it all, looked at the map and wondered how on earth I would find her. I wandered the night time streets of the festival, lit up by all manner of stalls, features, displays and Marquees full of performers and delighted crowds. In spite of the drizzle – this was magical.

I traipsed past the Sedge Pond, filled with illuminated ships, to The Grande  where Milady Red was soon located with a seat saved for me in the thick of things. Much to my delight, I’d managed to arrive in time to see Felix and the Phoenix, an act I’ve been dying to see for some time but their December Sydney shows had been cancelled. We surmised that a number of people would be there in the hopes of a mini Cat Empire show, but we had figured Felix’s solo project would be more laid back and we weren’t disappointed. Felix seemed incredibly comfortable behind the bongos (they probably have another name) as we have come to see in the Cat Empire live shows, but the music of Felix and the Phoenix has a different feel to it. Certainly the style you would put on and wash away your day’s worries while your foot taps and your fingers click all on their own. There was a special guest appearance by Cat Empire band mate Harry to play trumpet on one song, but it was still a different sound and vibe. I’m certainly looking forward to Into the Rain being released in February and the tour that will no doubt follow. While we wanted to stay up and see a number of other acts, the drive had caught up with me and bed called.

Wednesday was a bright, if not drizzley day. Although the rain continued, I had missed the worst of the week’s weather. We started the day with Mr Percival’s Vocalous Ensembleous, Spontaneous – A pavillion full of people making music together, exploring rhythm, harmonies and positive mantras for the day. Sounds hippy, I know, but it’s a blast of looping, beats and fun. After singing a bit of Stand By Me, Milady Red and I ventured forward into the Woodford landscape for some much needed breakfast! Milady Red also works at the Dive Bar, next to the Duck. So while I left her to her shift, I set to work deciding what acts I was going to try and cram in to my only day at Woodford. To say my schedule was ambitious would be an understatement – it was downright huge!

12pm @ Trailer Trash – The Good Ship
The Good Ship had been recommended to me by a good friend in Canberra, and happily they were first on my whirlwind Woodford experience. I do like a stage full of characters and these guys do not dissappoint! With a piratical theme and vigour abound, this 8 piece had the place pumping. Hugely upbeat with plenty of fiddle, it was a high energy, crowd pumping set. All kinds of instruments graced the stage, from acordians to canastas and even a ships’ bell by the looks of it. With nautical songs like “Sea Monster” and “Ghost Ship”, there was no shortage of toe-tapping, mud splashing good times. I particularly liked their way of weaving popular songs, like R.E.M’s “End of the World”, into their own renditions. It was quite obvious they were having a good time on stage, I’ll certainly track them down again.

1pm @ The Grande – The Gadflys
My interest in the Gadflys stemmed purely from their exposure years ago on the TV Show Good News Week where Paul McDermott regularly sang with them. I caught only a portion of their set, their sound was as I remembered but sans Paul. While they were jazzy and full with sound, I didn’t find their performance hugely engaging, which was a shame. I’m not 100% sure they’re a band for a big stage, they always had more impact with a more intimate setting, if you can call national television to millions of viewers intimate, but I found on stage they were either lost or perhaps only focussed with what was happening on stage.

3.20pm @ The Grande – Kim Churchill
Kim Churchill was recommended to me for a festival line up nearly 2 years ago but the stars didn’t align and I’ve been waiting ever since to actually see him live. To watch him on stage, you would never imagine he’s only 19. With bags of talent and a real presence to him on stage, he’s quite the captivating performance to see. Playing acoustic guitar and harmonica with a kick drum at his disposal, he manages to create some really rich pieces of music. For his second ever Woodford, Kim expressed great humility and gratefulness for both the crowds and the many people involved in producing the festival. As a treat for the crowd, Kim invited good friend Tom Richardson on stage to join him for a song. Tom’s guitar and sliding added a wholle new depth to the sound and there really was a party going on onstage in front of our very eyes. Kim presents rich, mature vocals and sounds like a seasoned performer – not surprising given how much travelling and gigging he’s done over the last couple of years. He manages to weave together moments of pause and stillness, together with wild harmonica howls and high energy breaks to have the entire crowd on edge. I’ll certainly make the effort to see Kim again some time soon.

4.10pm @ The Grande – Jeff Lang
Having not seen or heard much of Jeff Lang except for Milady Red’s enthusiastic endorsement, I quite enjoyed being up close to watch him perform. Being a Woodford veteran, he commented that he felt bad for not playing every day of this year’s festival in order to make it to another festival. He was so at home on the Woodford stage, it was clear to see why he is a favourite. His selection of guitars is impressive and makes every song different and a joy to watch him deliver. His interaction with both the crowd and this band made the performance feel very intimate.

5.15pm @ The Grande – Passenger
Another act I have been meaning to see for some time, and having had Steve Parkin of the Basement Birds tell me Passenger is not to be missed, I made sure I was there. Mike Rosenberg (aka Passenger) has a very comfortable presence on stage and really takes the entire audience along for the ride. I loved his sense of humour, given the inclement weather, he played “Rain”, a fun filled song lamenting the rain and had us all laughing. With the new album Flight of the Crow released last September, there was much anticipation to hear the new tracks, however, he pointed out it’s much harder to do those tracks on the road given the number of collaborating artists on the album. He performed a stripped back, solo version of “Golden Thread”, the track originally recorded with Matt Corby, which was a soft and beautiful rendition. He commented that he was impressed with an audicen that listens, it’s a rarity. To round out the set, he chose to play “Rivers”, and to perform it properly, he invited Lior to the stage (to much applause) to perform it as it was recorded. The two of them created magical and beautiful harmonies that had the audience transfixed.

6.20pm @ The Grande – Basement Birds
I had been waiting for this for some time and was eagerly anticipating their second last performance together. A crowd of all ages had gathered, the front of the stage was swamped with keen fans and as the foursome took to the stage, the masses cheered with delight. An energetic and jovial performance took the boys through all the favourites including “Waiting for You” and “Cinnamon and Smoke”. Mid set, Kav commented that normally the next song would not be played at your usual rock festival, but upon discussion with the Birds, they had decided that it might work for Woodford, and broke out into a heartfelt rendition of “Ghosts” which had the whole crowd swaying and singing along. On stage they boys were clearly having a fantastic time, joking with each other, switching happily between instruments and songs all the while keeping up the witty banter. Poor Josh Pyke had a moment mid song as a huge moth dive bombed him and took up residence on his guitar, it turns out he’s not so great with bugs and very cautiously blew it off before continuing with the song. As has become tradition, Julia Stone was not available to help out with their hit “Bus Stop” so two lucky girls were plucked from the audience to sing her part, which they both did very well, in fact I do believe at least one of them had done it before at a previous gig. To round out what what a hugely popular and enjoyable set, they finished on their Like a Version cover of “My People” which can also be viewed on their home page! It was sad to see their set end, but also incredibly satisfying to see them one last time before they head back to their own bands. An all round fantastic set and a wonderful farewell.

8.45pm @ Blues n Roots – Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band came together, reached the height of their success and disbanded all before I was born. However, I have seen and enjoyed both Mic Conway‘s National Junk Band and Jim Conway‘s Big Wheel over the last few years and enjoyed them immensely, so it is fair to say that the Whoopee Band would likely impress me too. The Blues n Roots Pavilion was full, people were on the dance floor and the stage was full of crazily dressed band members having a great old time. Mic Conway took centre stage complete with his bag of tricks and rack of silly noise-makers. Jim Conway directly to his right and read to treat us with his brilliant harmonica stylings. With a cast of both familiar and new faces, the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band was off to a great start. The music was upbeat and happy, on stage gags from the good old days were still present with witty thought and speech bubbles being held over band member’s heads and the infamous megaphone making an appearance. The performance was full of energy and delight while the crowds danced, sung, and clapped along to each song. Mic’s magic tricks featured along with solos from each band member. For a band that hasn’t performed together for some decades, the cohesion and frivolity from the band was brilliant, the reception was fantastic and the applause well worth it. Hopefully this is not the only reunion of the band. True it’s not in it’s original form, however, it is certainly an excellent meld of old faces and new talent to create some terrific nostalgia and a rollicking good time.

The rain and mud was just a part of the experience, everyone seemed to cope well with a mixture of gumboots, crocs, thongs and once recognisable shoes making the rounds along with umbrellas, parasols, raincoats and ponchos. Happily on Wednesday night the rain had eased for long enough and the ground firmed up to allow the roving performers take to the streets of the festival. With a huge cart being pulled through the site and stilt walking, storytelling delights entertaining the wandering crowds, the night time became a magical place of discovery. Milady Red and I sat in a cosy cafe for a short while taking in all that is the hustle and bustle of Woodford.Sadly, the long day and time had caught up with me, and I took my exhausted, muddy, damp, gum-booted self to bed. I stopped at the Festival Store and bought a huge stack of CDs of performers I had seen and will slowly get through them all. In my time at Woodford, it became clear that a person could turn up to festival with nothing but the clothes on their back and perhaps a sleeping bag and be set for the entire week – everything you need could be found on site and there was no end of delicious food to indulge in, you could eat from a different nation at almost every meal. Staying in Tent Hotel was absolutely brilliant, took all the hassle out of camping. They supply the tent already assembled, a bed, a chair and in spite of the sogginess underfoot, the stay was quite dry and pleasant. Bright and early Thursday morning the sun appeared from behind the clouds assuring all of Woodford they would have their first sunny day, and I hit the road bound for Sydney in time for New Years Eve celebrations. Perhaps my next Woodford experience will allow me more time and include the great Fire Event of New Year’s Eve.

But one thing is for sure – Woodford is one of the most intense and amazing festivals in Australia and every music lover should make an effort to experience it in their life time.

2011 Port Fairy First Artist Announcement

Luka Bloom

The Port Fairy Folk Festival, one of Australia’s favourite folk festivals, has just announced it’s first round artist lineup for 2011 and it’s an absolute rip roarer. Headlining next year’s festival is the incomparable Mary Black, coming all the way from Ireland to entertain the crowd. Other international guests include Luka Bloom (above), Breabach, Andy Irvine & Rens Van der Zalm and Tony McManus among others. On the local front the lineup is just as strong featuring the likes of David Bridie, The Gin Club, Dan Kelly’s Dream Band, The Little Stevies, Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier, Bob Evans, Shane Nicholson, Vika & Linda, The Bushwackers and Mic Conway’s National Junk Band.

Tickets for The Port Fairy Folk Festival are on sale now. The festival is held from the 11th – 14th March in Port Fairy, Victoria. The full first lineup announcement is below:

Mary Black, Luka Bloom, Breabach, The Cottars, Crooked Still, Dark Horses, Rosie Flores, Andy Irvine & Rens Van der Zalm, Les Chauffeurs á Pieds, Martin Simpson, Tony McManus, The Nano Stern Band, Tim O’Brien Two Oceans Trio, Andy White, David Bridie, Rosie Burgess Band, The Gin Club, Dan Kelly’s Dream, Band, Racz ‘N Waters, The Little Stevies, Frank Yamma, Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier, Bob Evans, Shane Howard, Jordie Lane, Blue Shaddy, Joe Chindamo Band, Liz Stringer, Vika & Linda, The Barleyshakes, The Bostocks, The Bushwackers, The Go Set, The George Jackson Band, Wheelers And Dealers, Jane Germain & The Yahoos, Ali Mills, Shane Nicholson, Tribute To Johnny Cash, Akasa, Bombay Royale, Valanga And Andrea Khoza, Madre Monte, Oka, The Barons Of Tang, Mic Conway’s National Junk Band, Christa Hughes and Mr Percival

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