Falls Festival Review: Timber and Steel Highlights

The Valley Stage at Falls Festival Byron BayFestival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Feature Artists: Courtney Barnett, Little May, The Button Collective, Gary Clark Jr.
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

The line up was a great collection of many talented musicians from a vast array of genres. In terms of Timber and Steel acts, there were four main highlight acts to catch at Falls.

Courtney BarnettIt’s been a big year for Courtney Barnett, 2015 has seen her juggernaut debut grow in to dominance of the charts and the hearts of Australians of almost all musical persuasions. Clad in desert boots, jeans and a hat that only lasted a song and a half, Barnett didn’t hesitate to launch with full energy in to her huge set on the Valley Stage for the first day of the new year. The audience sprawled across the lawns, from the raptured fans at the front, to the chilled punters on the grassy slopes at the back, all completely fixated on the multi award winning yet demure figure. Highlights from her set include that rare quiet moment as the entire Valley hushed for the opening notes of Depreston only to then have every voice heard singing along in unison, and her huge hit Pedestrian at best close her set in full rock-goddess energy while the crowd reached the peak of their high spirited, dancing frenzy.

Little May on the Forest Stage at Falls Festival Byron Little May is an act I’ve seen popping up time and time again on my social media feeds and have been keen to catch. The trio took to the Forest Stage on the last day of the festival, with their backing band at the ready and strong audience numbers eagerly anticipating their set. And the ladies did not disappoint. With honey golden vocals trickling through the all encompassing tones of the full band’s live act festival sound, Little May treated the crowd to a full course of sweet temptations. With highlights including a beautiful rendition of the ballad, Seven Hours, to the new track Cease, the trio gave a consistent, high quality musical spectrum for the crowd to relax too, from the folk tinged to the indie pop and alternative sounds. Their repertoire allowed them range from their silky, harmonised ballads to bold, anthemic tones of Dust, through the tale telling of Hide and finishing off the performance with a stellar performance of their Great Southern Land Like a Version cover. I can only hope that Paul Kelly himself caught even a glimpse of this up tempo take on his classic track with  their clever use of vocal layering as it’s the last time they will be playing it for a while.

Button collectiveOver in Lola’s Bar, on New Years Eve, we stumbled upon a likely scene of rag-tag musicians and a tent full of eager punters. It was 2pm but the Button Collective soon had the dance floor packed with joyful revelry. Appearing as a 6-piece line up each day of the Byron stint, the sheer energy and cheer emanating from the stage was infectious. With everything from the traditional folk, to country-tinged tracks that invoke foot stomping, the Collective had a winning combination on their set list. With Barn-dance like hoedowns springing up on the dance floor, and multiple Irish tunes mashed-up to treat the crowd, Lola’s Bar was the scene of frivolity for their entire set. The Button Collective brought sea shanties, bluegrass, folk and an array of short, punchy, fast paced tracks and still bowed to the whim of the crowd, playing more dance tracks whenever the crowd demanded. So spirited was the audience, that a conga-line formed and snaked its way around the dance floor until every punter was a part of the line, and then spontaneously erupted in to a mass hoedown. To say The Button Collective put on a good show would be an understatement… I’m sure the word ‘rollicking’ should be used.

garyclarkjr_20160101-3Finally, on the last night of the festival, I had the pleasure of witnessing the sheer ‘cool’ of Gary Clark Jr. His live sound reminds me of Ash Grunwald sans distortion, they both clearly dig a similar edgy blues style. Clark Jr. weaves effortlessly between styles, from a Lenny Kravitz swagger, to an occasional Hendrix vibe and all while navigating through blues soaked solos. The crowd grew steadily as his wavering wails swept the Valley. Dipping now and then in to old school rock, and then rolling through the blues to keep the audience on edge, it was like watching a master at work. Clark Jr. saturated the audience with electric riffs and transcended into another world onstage, so steeped in the moment and the music. He seamlessly melds his music on stage, from cool blues to upbeat jump around funk blues. Gary Clark Jr. is worth every moment you can fit on your festival planner.

While these four were some of the main focuses of us Timber and Steelers, there was a wealth of talent throughout the Falls line up to whet the appetite.

Read our Overview of the entire Falls Festival Byron Bay event.

Unmissable Falls Acts

Falls Festival Finds

The Good Ship Announce New Album and Launch Tour

The Good Ship
Image Courtesy of The Good Ship

Brisbane eight piece The Good Ship have just announced the release of their second album O’ Exquisite Corpse. It’s been two years since the band burst onto the scene with Avast! Wretched Sea and they’ve managed to grow an impressive legion of fans off the back of their modern take on country, folk, rock and of course the sea shanty.

O’ Exquisite Corpse will hit the stands this July and The Good Ship are planning a tour through Queensland, Victoria and New South Walers to celebrate. Check out the full list of dates below as well as an embed of the album’s first single “Seven Seas”:

Friday 29th June – Sol Bar, Maroochydore, QLD
Friday 6th July – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th July – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 3rd August – Great Northern, Newcastle NSW
Saturday 4th August – Good God Small Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 11th August – The Rails, Byron Bay, NSW
Sunday 12th August – Nimbin Hotel, Nimbin, NSW

Know Your Genre

Record Store

Defining musical genres is always a tricky subject. On the one hand artists hate to have their music pigeon-holed even if they clearly fit inside a particular category (Peter Garrett always maintained that Midnight Oil played dance music). On the other hand music journalists and aficionados are constantly coining new genres in order to help them discuss the artists they love (or loath). I know that I’ve had often vented my own frustration at the limitations iTunes puts on its genre field (what do you mean there’s no “Afro-Carribean-Post-Punk-Garage-Rock” genre?) to a point where I will leave the box blank in protest.

We here at Timber and Steel use the genre “folk” pretty liberally, probably to the distaste of many folk purests, but we do feel it’s appropriate to most of the music we cover. But in most cases it is possible to refine an artist’s work beyond the catch all category of folk. You may have noticed in our Artist Profiles that we usually try to classify a bands by genre under the heading “File Under”. This is not an attempt to pigeon-hole these artists, merely to give you, dear reader, a reference point for the music to work out whether it’s going to be something you like.

And I’m sure you’ve already come across genres on this site that you’ve never heard of or don’t understand. So in order to make your lives a little easier we thought we’d provide you with a reference list. This is by no means definitive and probably needs refining but it’s probably a good starting point for exploring the vast world of folk.

    Folk Music Genres

Nirvana UnpluggedAcoustic – not so much a genre in and of itself, acoustic usually refers to music created by artists from other genres (rock, pop, r&b, etc) who have stripped back their sound to only include acoustic instruments. Probably the best example of acoustic music is the MTV Unplugged series from artists such as Nirvana (pictured), Eric Clapton and Pearl Jam. The genre’s link to folk music lies mainly in the similarity of instruments used (acoustic guitars, upright bass, mandolin, etc) and not so much in the style of music played.

Rufus WainwrightAlt-Country – emerging at around the same time as the alternative rock movement of the 90s, Alt-Country refers to music that falls outside the popular notion of Country music but still maintains many of the same hallmarks of the genre. Alt-country often incorporates elements of other genres such as rock or roots but still maintains a country sensibility. Popular artists in the Alt-Country scene include Rufus Wainwright (pictured), Wilco and The Old 97s. The genre is almost exclusively American.

Ryan AdamsAmericana – a term coined buy the Americana Music Association in an attempt to combine all the various American musical forms (country, rock, blues, etc) into a type of traditional music. Americana is distinctly American in in sound and themes (even when the artists aren’t American) and is often used retrospectively to classify rock acts that stray into country such as The Band and The Eagles. Modern Americana acts include Ryan Adams (pictured), Calexico and Joan Osborne. Many Americana artists take their inspiration directly from the music of Bob Dylan.

Diane CluckAnti-Folk – a relatively new genre that takes the earnestness of politically charged 1960s folk music and attempts to subvert it. While it’s characteristics are often hard to pin down most artists in the Anti-folk category tend to mock the pretension and seriousness of modern music. Diane Cluck (pictured), Emmy the Great and Regina Spektor are all said to be proponents of the genre however their music has also been classified under nu-folk and the two genres are probably one and the same.

Soggy Bottom BoysBluegrass and Old Timey – a form of traditional American music that has grown from the music brought over with early Irish and Scottish settlers and mixed with the music of African-Americans such as jazz and blues. The music is typified by fast rhythms, religious overtones and the use of the banjo. Bluegrass and Old Timey saw a resurgence recently after the success of the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou” (pictured). Australians have also embraced the genre with bands such as The Lurkers, The Wilson Pickers and Dev’lish Mary putting their own spin on the music.

Willie NelsonCountry – another American genre that emerged out of the southern states of the USA, Country music draws on the same blues tradition as rock and pop but adds a distinctly traditional sound to its melodies. Country enjoys popularity in both Australia and the USA and in recent years has begun to cross over more and more into mainstream popular music. Older artists such as Willie Nelson (pictured), Dolly Parton and Slim Dusty have made way for a new generation of country singers such as Shania Twain, Lee Kernaghan and Taylor Swift.

Dropkick MurphysFolk Metal – a sub genre of Heavy Metal, Folk-Metal bands generally take traditional folk songs or melodies, as well as traditional folk instruments such as the fiddle or bagpipe, and layer them with distorted guitars and heavy drumming. Traditional Irish music in particular lends itself very well to the Folk-Metal genre with it’s rollicking melodies and easily shouted lyrics. Probably the best know Folk-Metal band in the world today is Dropkick Murphys (pictured).

Folk-Rock – spinning out of the 60s after Dylan first “plugged in” folk-rock has evolved a lot overtime. Originally referring to folk music that had been amplified and had a rock drum beat added to it (think Fairport Convention) modern folk-rock music now tends much more to the latter than the former. Bands such as The Counting Crows (pictured) and the Dave Matthews Band have infused their brand of rootsy rock with elements of folk and the result is a brand of rock music that only really touches on its origins.

Joanna NewsomFreak-Folk – describes artists that take traditional folk instruments, melodies and sensibilities and infuse them with the avant-garde and psychedelic often resulting in a sound that is far removed from the folk genre. Although Freak-Folk originated in the 60s and 70s it has really been defined by modern artists such as harpist Joanna Newsom (pictured) and Devendra Banhart. Definitely an acquired taste, Freak-Folk features uncommon vocal sounds and instrumentation.

The ShinsIndie – not a strict genre as such, Indie is a term used to classify independent, alternative artists. Modern folk artists are often lumped into the Indie genre as they usually have very similar sensibilities. Add to this that many Indie bands will incorporate instruments that are traditionally associated with folk and it’s easy to see why the crossover occurs. REM are often credited as the first Indie band and current alternative darlings like The Shins (pictured) are reffered to the “kings of Indie music”.

Mumford and SonsNu-Folk (American and British) – two distinct folk music styles have emerged on either side of the atlantic and both are being referred to as Nu-Folk. On the US side of the fence sits artists like Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and Midlake who draw on the medieval and harmonic influences of bands such as Fairport Convention, and Simon and Garfunkel. These bands are distinctive by their harmonies, layered instrumentation and almost etherial lyrics. On the other side of the pond artists such as Mumford and Sons (pictured), Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit are producing a more stripped back, grassroots form of Nu-Folk music. The harmonies are still there but the melodies tend to pull from the long tradition of singer songwriters like Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson. History will probably see the “Nu” dropped from this genre and these bands just considered straight Folk in all its glory.

Rogues GalleryPirate and Sea Shanty – describes folk and traditional music that is particular to the sea-fairing way of life. Normally incorporating the melodies of traditional Scottish and Irish music Sea Shanties arose out of shipboard working songs in the 19th century. They have been popularised by the Rogues Gallery compilation (pictured) put together by actor Johnny Depp as part of his research for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films

AlestormPirate-Metal – a sub-genre of Heavy Metal music, Pirate-Metal is distinguished by its incorporation of Sea Shanties into heavy rock music. Quite often the singers in Pirate-Metal bands will sing these songs in a “pirate accent” and due to their rollicking speed will often include elements of Punk. Probably the most recent example of Pirate-Metal is the band Alestorm (pictured).

Ben HarperRoots – drawing as much from traditional blues as it does from Folk, roots is a form of laid back acoustic music that has long been associated with the surf culture. Roots musicians will generally prefer the guitar or lapsteel as their instrument of choice and will normally use eclectic forms of percussion (such as a stomp box) and funk bass lines. Popular roots artists in Australia and around the world include Ben Harper (pictured), Xavier Rudd, Jack Johnson and The Beautiful Girls.

Trouble in the KitchenTrad and Celtic – traditional (Trad) music is often what is most commonly thought of when the words “folk music” are uttered. Drawing on the songs and tunes of the UK and Ireland, Trad is music that is either traditional in the literal sense of the word or written in the traditional style. More often than not Trad songs are stories that quite often teach a moral lesson or tell a funny tale. Probably the best Trad band in the country at the moment is Trouble in the Kitchen (pictured) however the genre is widespread and well loved by people from all walks of life.

So there you go. There’s probably a sub-genre of folk that we’ve missed (and if there is, feel free to comment below) but that hopefully captures much of the music we cover here on Timber and Steel. And if you’re still after more can we suggest a little game: pick a genre not covered above (say “rap”), append “folk” to the end of it (“rap-folk”) and look it up on your favourite search engine. We can guarantee you’ll find something you’ve never heard before. Enjoy!

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