Full Lineup for the Healesville Music Festival Announced

Davidson Brothers
Image Courtesy of Davidson Brothers

Started back in 2010 the Healesville Music Festival has quickly become a quiet achiever on the folk music scene. The festival is organised by the local community of Healesville in Victoria’s Yarra Valley and attracts some of the countries best folk, country, bluegrass and roots artists for a weekend of amazing music.

This year’s lineup boasts a bunch of recognisable names including Chris Henry & Hardcore Grass, Davidson Brothers, Pete Denahy, The Stray Hens, The Yearlings, Orpheus Supertones, Nine Mile Creek, Michael Waugh, Jenny Biddle, Ben Mitchell & The Stylists, Nick Charles, The Dukes of Despair, Soulsville, Telecom Joe, The King Kats, The Hannafords, AJ Leonard and Jenny Rowlands, Blackberry Jam Bush Band, Healesville String Band, Aaron Burton, Richie Langford, Pans on Fire, Rudy the One Man Band, Michael the Balloonologist and more.

The Healesville Music Festival takes place from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th November. For more information check out the official site here.

Review: 24 Hours at the Blue Mountains Music Festival 2015

BMMF
All Photos by Sarah Turier

I bumped into a friend of mine right at the beginning of this year’s Blue Mountains Music Festival and was surprised to see him. While my friend has a passing interest in folk music I was surprised to see him in Katoomba, especially as he’d driven over 6 hours to be there.

When pressed on why he’d made the journey he looked at me with his own surprise.

“What do you mean why did I come?” He said. “The blues lineup is amazing!”

And that is what the Blue Mountains Music Festival is all about. For me it’s a folk festival. For my friend it’s a blues festival. For someone else it might be a rock or roots or something else festival. The Blue Mountains Music Festival is exactly what you make it.

This year I only managed 24 hours at the Blue Mountains Music Festival due to an unscheduled bout of food poisoning (unlikely from the festival itself) sent me back down the mountains to the safety of my own bathroom, but while I was there I saw some amazing music.

The festival kicked off on a cold and misty Friday night. The crowds were thin as many of the punters were waiting for the weekend proper before heading up the mountain from Sydney. This meant we were eased into the Blue Mounatins Music Festival flitting between venues, getting up close and personal with some amazing artists and loving the fact we could finally crack out our winter woolies.

Castlecomer

The night saw some amazingly diverse musicians take to the stage. From the blues guitar mastery of Nick Charles to the bluegrass mastery of The Company to the epic indie-folk of Castlecomer, the opening night threw up some of the festival’s most exciting acts and I was so lucky to be a part of it.

As always The Company were a highlight, effortlessly huddled around a single microphone creating some of the countries most beautiful music. I’ve seen The Company live so many times but they never fail to amaze me – both their expert musical craft and their charismatic stage presence make their their performances must-see at any event.

The Company

Saturday morning presented a much drier, more bustling festival with locals, Sydney-siders and more making their way through the gates. There was a palpable buzz in the air all around Katoomba as the cafes and bakery filled to overflowing with punters fortifying themselves for the day of music ahead.

Rowena Wise

And what a day of music it was. Before my food poisoning got the better of me I managed to catch sets from Leah Flanagan in fine full band form, the incomparable old timey charms of The Whitetop Mountaineers (with special guest fiddle from The Company’s George Jackson), stunning singer-songwriter Rowena Wise and the blues mastery of Phil Wiggins and Dom Turner.

The Whitetop Mountaineers, favourites of the Australian folk festival circuit, were by far the highlights. Their simple, home town approach to bluegrass and old timey sucks the audience in and keeps them mesmerised throughout their set. And watching Martha Spencer clog dance is just a treat.

Whitetop Mountaineers

The Blue Mountains Music Festival seems to have found the perfect balance. Wedging itself between the Port Fairy and National Folk Festival/Bluesfest guarantees a high calibre of artists not normally seen at a small town event. And its proximity to Sydney makes it easy for day trippers or weekend getaways from the big city. But it still feels like an intimate, community focused event, probably because it’s mostly set on the grounds of a school and the local volunteers are front and centre.

If you’ve never been been to the Blue Mountains Music Festival then I suggest next March you make the trek up the mountains just to see what all the fuss is about.

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

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