Review: Falls Festival Byron Bay, Part 1 – The Grove

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Falls Festival is an annual institution for many, with people waiting with baited breath to see if they land a coveted ticket. Most of what we see is all about the Main Stage acts and tight scheduling to see all your favourites, or to toss up who the best act to see at Midnight in the 31st will be (for the record, we had Flume and he was most excellent).

But one of the things we’ve always noticed and made mention of is the other performance areas, often known as The Village in Lorne and Marion Bay, and The Grove in Byron Bay. So what happens when you deviate away from the main stages and check out the other options? You discover a trove of delightful, folky acts!

Here’s a selection of some of the great local acts we caught at the other Falls stages in The Grove, at the Cafe de Rude, and Lola’s Bar.

Let’s start with the Singer/Songwriters.

First on our radar was singer/songwriter Reilly Fitzalan. An unassuming and modest chap who shares intimate thoughts with the small crowd. The venue, a small cafe in the Grove surrounded by a Peep Show, a Japanese Cocktail Bar, and Lola’s Bar (another stage), has to battle with the neighbouring music which is disappointing but to be expected.

Unperturbed, Fitzalan introduced himself and moved straight in to a ballad. Lovely affected vocals layered over the acoustic guitar, not dissimilar to a young Xavier Rudd. He introduces a new song, about his Dad (“a little bit”) which had a solid construction and lyrics over a subtle and subdued guitar. Fitzalan gave us short tracks without any pretentious attitude. His versatility was on show as he switched to a lower register vocal alongside sentimental plucky opening that sounds simultaneously familiar and new. A truly intimate and private moment, shared with a hushed crowd.

Next, we fortuitously heard about Damien Cooper. He was walking from his campsite to The Grove singing and our friends followed him like the Pied Piper of Hamlin to the Cafe stage, we joined them and weren’t disappointed! Cooper had a laid back air, perfect for the suffocating heat of Byron Falls. His songs were straight from life, like his track inspired by his brother, who he loves but also pisses him off, appropriately named “Love You Anyway”. Strummy and sentimental, with a stomp box for emphasis, we couldn’t help but smile at a quintessential lyric, “Sometimes I get what I deserve, sometimes you just get on my nerves”.

“Pale Blue Dot” was a curious song about how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, complete with a beach indie pop vibe and Cooper beatboxing in the instrumental! At 24yrs old, Cooper is more thoughtful than his years. His track “Patience”, about knowing the right time to act, had tones of a travel or journey song with strong, driven vocals, supported by stripped back acoustic to focus on the tale. A troubadour in the making.

We trekked to the cafe on the final day to catch Maisy Taylor and arrived in the middle of her beautiful rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” followed swiftly by her enchanting vocals on “Sink or Swim”, her flowing melody not at odds with the drenching rain outside.

Knowing how to please a crowd, Taylor gave a fun, folky cover of “Blame it on the Boogie” in all its Acoustic glory, which become a songalong in the intimate enclosure of the cafe. Taylor took a moment to thank her Dad for introducing her to the music of Tristan Pettyman before launching in to his “In Bloom”. To finish we were treated with a strummy upbeat performance of “Little Birdy” – the epitome of happiness on a grey day, with mischievous tones on lilting notes.

While there were solid singer/ songwriters at The Grove, we can’t ignore the bands and groups who also squeezed on to tiny stages over the three days.

Over at Lola’s Bar, we came across 3-piece cum 4-piece, Banksia. Amongst the splendour of couches set both on stage and off for musician and listener alike to recline on, funky percussion and electric guitar with delicious vocals trickling over the chords, along with beautiful vocals in an indie singer/songwriter style was a welcome change from the maelstrom of Falls Festival humidity and crowds. They introduced their newest band member on what seemed to be almost every kind of instrument from keys and synth, to vocals and sax! Their diverse tastes were on display, first with their track “Vulnerable”, a light, lilting tune with a Kate Miller Heidke like vocal quality, haunting yet sweet and comforting, then moving in to another tune, a lackadaisical ballad with a bop to it

 

The Button Collective must be one of the hardest working bands on any festival line up. At Falls Byron they played multiple times, sometimes twice in one day! They squeezed on to the tiny Cafe de Rude stage, and ran rampant on the Lola’s Bar stage. In a tight formation on the Cafe stage, their plucky bluegrass merriment oozed joy, clustered around one mic, reminiscent of scenes in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Whether on a stage large, or small, every player had their part, from the flautist trilling gayly, to the cheeky violinists, or the plucky banjo player and the boisterous lead guitarist. They brought everything, from sea shanties with an Aussie twang, to trad pieces and original larrikin works. As a tight group, they rolled with the punches, whether a broken guitar string and shake up to the set list to facilitate a restring, or pouring rain, suffocating humidity, or just plain fitting in to the rough and tumble of the Falls line up. Whether more subdued than usual and cramped on a tiny stage, or rollicking with more space on Lola’s stage, they’re a thoroughly entertaining act not to be missed!

And our pick of the Falls Festival Byron Bay programming at The Grove was Ben Wilson – performing as a 3 piece act that had us hooked from from the first strum of a string. Between them, the outfit sported double bass, violin, acoustic guitar and harmonica, plus their fabulous harmonised vocals, crowded round a very vintage microphone, managing to capture their tunes before the breeze could. Their sweet lilting sound competed with the boisterous Lola’s Bar next door, but the trio were unperturbed. Wilson’s folk felt like it had a dash of country and a splash of old time style to keep things moving. Pitched on the tiny Cafe de Rude stage, it was like watching a delicate dance for them to all manoeuvre around the one mic that delivered such a sweet and true voice. Their harmonies were terrific, and they hit their stride in spite of challenging neighbours. Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married” was a true testament to Wilson’s love of 50s & 60s pop writing and a burning desire for some hearty folk, rolling along with an almost honky tonk sensibility. Choosing in difficult conditions to switch to trad covers for a bit of fun, we were treated to an upbeat gritty rendition of “Hesitation Blues”, a plucky and cheeky “Old Black Dog” and a delightful rendition of “Strawberry Fields”. To finish an entrancing set, Wilson and co finished with an original, “Big River” complete with beautiful a Capella refrains to end. Bonus props to Ben Wilson et al for also featuring in The Button Collective, we’re not sure if they actually stopped playing at all over the 3 days!

Check out our Photo Gallery on Facebook for more photos, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Falls Festival Byron Bay Review, coming soon!

Darol Anger and the Republic of Strings’ Australian Tour Dates

Darol Anger
Image Courtesy of Darol Anger and the Republic of Strings

Legendary American fiddler Darol Anger and his collective The Republic of Strings have just hit the country and is about to head out on tour starting in Brisbane and then heading down through New South Wales.

Anger’s Republic of Strings for the tour will be made up of Tristan Clarridge, Emy Phelps and Monique Clare. Check out the full list of dates below:

Sunday 7th January – Magda Community Arts Hall, Brisbane, QLD
Monday 8th January – Barkersvale Little Big Top, Barkersvale, NSW
Wednesday 10th January – Dorrigo Theatre, Dorrigo, NSW
Thursday 11th January – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 12th January – Araluen Hall, Araluen, NSW

Breaking Trad Announce Australian Tour Dates

Breaking Trad
Image Courtesy of Breaking Trad

Irish trad three piece Breaking Trad – made up of Dónal Murphy (accordion), Niall Murphy (fiddle) and Mike Galvin (Guitar/Vocals) – will be teaming with renowned singer and bodhran player Gino Lupari for an Australian tour this January.

Breaking Trad will be touring off the back of an appearance at the Woodford Folk Festival with a bunch of dates up and down the East Coast, finishing up at next year’s Illawarra Folk Festival.

Check out the full list of dates below:

Friday 29th December to Monday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, Woodford, QLD
Tuesday 2nd January – The Rails, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 4th January – Mullumbimby Ex Services Club, Mullumbimby, NSW
Friday 5th January – Mick O’Malleys Irish Pub, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 6th January – Leadbelly,  Sydney, NSW
Sunday 7th January – The Black Malabar, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 11th January – Yuin Folk Club, Cobargo, NSW
Friday 12th January – Heyfield, VIC
Saturday 13th January – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 14th January – Hotel Nicholas, Beechworth, VIC
Monday 15th January – Tathra Hotel, Tathra,  NSW
Friday 19th to Sunday 21st January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli,  NSW

The East Pointers Announce Full Australian Tour Dates

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

Canadian trio The East Pointers have finally announced the full dates for their upcoming Australian tour.

Having already been announced for the Mullum Music Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival and the Woodford Folk Festival, The East Pointers have confirmed national tour dates throughout November, December and January.

The East Pointers have become firm favourites in Australia with a bunch of visits to our shores in recent years, and this time they’ll be bringing songs and tunes from their amazing new album What We Leave Behind.

Check out the full list of dates below:

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th November – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby, NSW
Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th November – Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, VIC
Thursday 30th November – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Sunday 3rd December – Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 6th December – Sepulchre, Hobart, TAS
Thursday 7th December – Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre, Canberra, ACT
Friday 8th December – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Saturday 9th December – Metropole, Katoomba, NSW
Thursday 14th December – Jive, Adelaide, SA
Friday 15th December – Darwin Railway Club, Darwin, NT
Saturday 16th December – Albany Entertainment Centre, Albany, WA
Sunday 17th Dec – Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA
Wednesday 27th December to Monday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, Woodford, QLD
Thursday 4th January – Sol Bar, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Friday 5th January – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 6th January – The Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 7th January – Lizotte’s, Newcastle, NSW

Watch the New Willie Watson Video “Gallows Pole”

Willie Watson
Image Courtesy of Willie Watson

If you’re anything like me you’ve been listening to the new Willie Watson album Folksinger Vol. 2 on high rotation since it was released earlier in September.

So you’re also probably super excited that Watson has released the track “Gallows Pole” as a single with a brand new video.

“Francis Child called “Gallows Pole” “The Maid Freed From the Gallows”,” Willie Watson writes in the Folksinger Vol. 2 liner notes. “Lead Belly called it “Gallis Pole”, and I’ve also heard a version called “Lord Joshuay” from Bascom Lamar Lunsford. These are only a few of the countless versions of this popular ballad. Sometimes it’s a beautiful girl, sometimes a guilty son, and sometimes it’s the maiden’s father. In every case, Mom, Dad, sister and brother didn’t bring any money to buy the freedom of their condemned kin. They either think that death is deserved or they’re just too poor to afford it. Hanging on for dear life. Pleading for one last chance at buying redemption, and at last, true love proves itself. These things really happened long ago. Maybe you stole a silver cup, or maybe you slept with the wrong person. Times ain’t like they used to be.”

Check out the video for “Gallows Pole” below:

Details of the 2018 Stringmania Camp Finale

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
Image Courtesy of Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas

This October the Victorian town of Warburton will play host to the annual Stringmania traditional music camp.

Co-directed by Scottish fiddle legend Alasdair Fraser and local favourite Chris Stone (The String Contingent), Stringmania takes place from the 1st to the 8th October and features a who’s who of local and international tutors including Adam Sutherland, Shane Lestideau, Paddy Montgomery, George Vardakis, Natalie Haas, Monique Bartkowiak, Michael Bryan, Holly Downes, Davydd McDonald, Greg Sheehan, Kavisha Mazzella, Cheryl Davison and more.

If you’re a string player and you want to attend the rumour is there’s a still a few places left at the camp – check out the official site here.

At the end of the camp, on Saturday 7th October, Stringmania will be celebrating with a grand finale concert. Taking place at the Warburton East Public Hall, the finale concert will feature performances from all of the camp participants as well as all of the tutors. Proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Warburton and Reefton CFA.

For more information on the finale concert, including how to get your hands on tickets, check out the official Stringmania site here.

Listen to the New Double A Side from The East Pointers, “82 Fires / Tanglewood”

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

Canadian folk music trio The East Pointers have just released their brand new double A side single “82 Fires / Tanglewood”.

“While in Penguin, Tasmania we spoke with an older gentleman, a lifelong resident, who said that there were 82 wildfires currently on the loose in Tasmania, the most in over half a century. It hit home the severity of what we were all experiencing,” banjoist Koady Chaisson explained. “It was a restless few days for us. Small human decisions about where to live or whether or not the show would go on didn’t matter, Mother Nature would always have the final say. Being in the middle of that brings an immediacy about it, you can feel powerless.”

The tracks are taken from The East Pointers’ highly anticipated second album What We Leave Behind which is due on the 29th September. Take a listen to them both below:

The East Pointers are heading back to Australia for the Mullum Music Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival and the Woodford Folk Festival with headline dates still to be announced. The festivals dates are here:

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th November – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby, NSW
Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th November – Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, VIC
Wednesday 27th December to Monday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, Woodford, QLD

Trouble in the Kitchen and Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton Announce Rare Double Bill

Trouble in the Kitchen
Image Courtesy of Trouble in the Kitchen

It’s impossible to overstate the impact Trouble in the Kitchen and Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton have had on traditional music scene in Australia.

Trouble in the Kitchen, made up of Ado Barker (fiddle), Ben Stephenson (flute, whistle, bodhran), Kate Burke (guitar) and Joe Ferguson (bouzouki), brought a fresh, exciting take to Irish trad tunes when they first emerged in the lat 90s. The four piece has since become the gold standard by which all other Australian Irish-trad groups have been compared.

At the same time as Trouble in the Kitchen was making waves at folk festivals around the country guitarist Kate Burke joined with Ruth Hazleton on their duo project, exploring and reinterpreting traditional songs from the British Isles and the United States (and the occasional contemporary or self penned song).

To celebrate both bands’ second decade in the folk scene they’re playing their first ever double bill on the 9th September at Open Studio. If anyone has been to Open Studio before you’ll know it’s a super intimate space so we recommend getting to this gig early to avoid disappointment. For more details check out the official Facebook event here.

Willie Watson Announces Details of Folksinger Vol. 2

Willie Watson
Image Courtesy of Willie Watson

Since Willie Watson kicked off his solo career he’s been lauded as one of the most exciting American trad folk and country artists in the world. Watson’s 2014 solo album Folksinger Vol. 1 is considered by many to be a masterpiece and the good news is there’s a Volume Two on the way featuring a bunch of folk favourites.

Produced by David Rawlings and featuring collaborations with The Fairfield Four, Gillian Welch, Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) and Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), Folksinger Vol. 2 is due for release on the 15th September.

“I’m not trying to prove any point here and I’m not trying to be a purist” Willie Watson explained. “There’s so much beauty in this old music, and it affects me on a deep level. It moves me and inspires me. I heard Leadbelly singing with the Golden Gate Quartet and it sounded fantastic, and I thought, “I want to do that.” I heard the Grateful Dead doing their version of “On the Road Again”, and it sounded like a dance party in 1926, and I wanted to do that, too. That’s the whole reason I ever played music in the first place—because it looked and sounded like it was going to be a lot of fun.”

Check out the full track listing for Folksinger Vol. 2 below:

1. Samson And Delilah (feat. The Fairfield Four)
2. Gallows Pole
3. When My Baby Left Me
4. Dry Bones
5. Walking Boss
6. On The Road Again (feat. The Fairfield Four)
7. The Cuckoo Bird
8. Always Lift Him Up And Never Knock Him Down
9. John Henry
10. Leavin’ Blues
11. Take This Hammer (feat. The Fairfield Four)

Paul Brady Announces New Album Unfinished Business

Paul Brady
Image Courtesy of Paul Brady

Legendary Irish folk singer Paul Brady has announced plans to release his new album Unfinished Business on the 8th September.

Unfinished Business is Brady’s 15th solo album and his first since 2010’s Hooba Dooba. The album will feature nine new songs from Paul Brady along with two traditionals, “Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender” and “The Cocks Are Crowing”.

Check out the track listing for Unfinished Business below:

1. Unfinished Business
2. I Love You But You Love Him
3. Something To Change
4. Say You Don’t Mean
5. Oceans Of Time
6. Harvest Time
7. The Cocks Are Crowing
8. I Like How You Think
9. Maybe Tomorrow
10. Once In A Life Time
11. Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender

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