Saturday, 3 April 2010


This one has got a bit long: sorry about that!

As a change from the last few years I have not volunteered for the Folk Festival this year.  The principal reason for this is that I found last year's efforts to be rather pointless. I was a driver for performer transport and the first few years I did this had great fun as you got to meet and chat to the artists.  More recently it has seemed that I spent a lot of time driving out to the airport to find that people had changed flights etc and not told the organisation.  To which the response tends to be "Oh, they're musicians, what do you expect?"

For a blast from the recent past see this and the two posts which follow it.

 We got to the venue (Exhibition  Park In Canberra  - EPIC) bright and early to hear an act starting at 10am.  We were about the only people in the venue when we arrived, although quite a few more had arrived by the time the band started up.  They were surprised not to be playing to an empty tent!  Before getting to reviews of the acts some general reactions to the event overall:
  • Car parking seemed to actually be quite sensible this year (for the first time since about 2004);
  • The entry process was good, primarily due to having the wristbands mailed out.  We did get shouted at by a security idiot -sorry about the tautology - for going in the obvious gate rather than the official one.
  • The number of commercial stalls has grown again: I suppose people must buy the crystals and humourous hats etc but I find it annoying.  That probably comes under the heading of 'problems; personal'.
  • They still let Morris Dancers attend. I must quotea Roy Bailey line "If faced with the choice between running over a banjo player and a Morris Dancer which do you choose?  The banjo player: business before pleasure."
  • Overall it seemed less crowded which is really good for us.

There were some humourous street theatre folk around:

The kangaroos seem to have springs in their stilts as they can jump quite high.  It is also noticeable that they are anatomically explicit under the tail!  Thus far I have not noticed Big Rory and Ochie, but they are apparently around.

To the acts.

Faerd:  Scandinavians playing Faeroese and Swedish songs. Very good musicians.  The only slight problem was the sound of Morris Dancers in the venue next door occasionally permeated.
Whitetop Mountaineers: A couple from Virginia playing country music.  I didn't particularly like their style, although they seemed quite competent musicians.  The approach seemed to emphasise vocal gymnastics which induced the red-neck element in the audience to respond as red-necks do everywhere (and me to respond as I always do).
Bob Malone: seemed to be a Los Angeles cabaret performer.  We listened to a bit of their sound check and decided it would be BAAAAD so left.  What was he doing here other than pandering to the bogans?
Charlie Walden Band; Another country outfit. I thought they were pretty good. We both particularly liked when the female keyboard player - and a female guest artist - sang.
Riley Lee and Jeff Peterson: For a change, Hawaiian music with a Japanese Flute!!  Very skilful but very quiet and too peaceful.  Here is a picture of Mr Lee.  We left about halfway through to go for a beer!
I viagattori:  Finally an Australian band.  As they come from Melbourne it is quite OK for them to be playing Italian music, especially as quite a bit of it was related to migrants to Australia.  Excellent musicians and Kavisha Mazella did her usual excellent job of talking!

We then split up for a session.

Frances started off listening to a duo who seemed to be playing the folk equivalent of beebop, which we call  hunt and squawk.  She didn't last long and came to join me listening to Dobe Newton and the Veterans.  This is basically the Bushwackers plus and minus a few folk.  Absoutely excellent as good bush dance music.  A bit loud but that goes with the territory. Much was made of the Pollockesque suit!

Our final act for the day was Appolonia Compania A band which started off in Melbourne - actually Fitzroy - who have now moved to Greece.  They played a mixture of rural Greek music and rebetika.  Rather good musician, but one needed to have a fair knowledge of the idioms to avoid it all sounding similar.

Before getting down to business I picked up a copy of this obituary at the Festival.  A great pity as Alastair Hulett was a great folkie (and one of the good guys politically).  At least the poor bugger didn't suffer for months as happened with a friend of ours recently.

The day started off a little later than the previous one as the first act we wanted to see was not until 11am.  This was the Volantisky Trio who mentioned the word Cymbalon in their write up.  This is the classic gypsy/klezmerim instrument of central Europe so I was expecting to hear some of the folk music I heard in Moldova in 2004.  Unfortunately the performers were classically trained so the tunes I heard were more reminiscent of Peter Sculthorpe playing around with the Harry Lime theme: very skilful but hardly folk music.  Frances reported they did some Rumanian folk tunes (as well as Mozart (!!!!!!)) after I left.

The next act were Genticorum.  Three guys from Quebec who we had heard a couple of years ago.  They were again fantastic.  Not only was the music great but their talking was very entertaining- especially the story about the cats intestines!  The audience was huge - obviously this band are going to be one of the hits of the Festival (again).  It was interesting that although the Pascal's foot percussion was very fast the audience clapped - when they unwisely felt the need - in 4/4 time.  The image shows the band and the interesting background!

Our next stop was an alleged Cajun band from Victoria.   15 minutes after start-up time they hadn't begun to play (and were wearing Stetsons, which I suspect is illegal in Louisiana) so I wandered off to hear the Ballpoint Penguins.  They were singing Cole Porter songs for Deity's sake!  Frances caught their act a little later and they had  started putting amusing lyrics to the tunes so thay escape with a light blue rather than a red blast.

I went for a wander and came across the Men with Suits:  about 30 of them, walking through the crowd muttering "walk ... walk'.  I recognised a couple as Spooky Men so went along to see what was going to happen.  
At one point the leader marched up to me and asked if I had a permit to take photographs to which I answered - because I couldn't immediately think of a better response -  "Yes".    They formed a semicircle and sung a couple of bits of weirdness and then marched back through the crowd (most of whom followed them) singing "Out of my way.  I am important "  excellent stuff.

Somewhere in this we saw a bit of Paddy Keenan an excellent Uillean pipes player.  The music was a tad complex but it was clearly folk music and he was clearly an expert.

The final act I saw was Rafa Goodoy a Colombian guy who sang several interesting songs by his grandfather before getting into some standard boring stuff.

General notes for the day were that it was much busier than yesterday.   Some reports say the most visitors ever, others say it was close to the record (of 13,500). Venues were filling up and the teenage fascist security dweets were in evidence bossing people around, about where they could or couldn't go.  My expectation is that sooner or later someone is going to king-hit one of these morons.

It was also interesting that there seemed to be a much higher than in the past proportion of folk in wheelchairs; zimmer frames; and generally in need of a carer than has been the case in the past.  No idea why.

Talking of those who need serious help ...
Easter Sunday
Daylight saving ended overnight so there could be all sorts of chaos.  But we will never know as we didn't attend today.

Frances was feeling a little under the weather and neither of us felt like a 100km round trip for things that didn't seem desperately interesting.  So we stayed home where:
  • Frances put some serious effort into books 2 and 3 of Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy;
  • Martin went for a run and watched the AFL (Swans thumping Crows) and some NASCAR stuff (given the number of folk from Virginia performing at the NFF I should have DVD'd it and sold the discs to them-all on Monday) which was very exciting; and
  • Tammy sat on whichever of us was available all day!

Easter Monday
After a day of lethargy for both we were back into it today.  We left home about 11:15 and got to EPIC somewhat before our first target act was slated to perform.  This meant we got to hear a fair bit of
Kamerunga: they were gushed about in the program but were actually a very good bush band along the lines of the Bushwackers but with more complex music.   Frances commented that they were musically good enough to keep her from going to listent o Genticorum again!  They were, like the Bushies, a tad unquiet but I rated them as excellent.  The first image is of their bass player -nothing at all like bass player of the famous Dar es Salaam dance band, the Chalinze Stompers.  The second image shows the only lagerphone I spotted at this year's Festival.
Next up was Kavisha Mazella. We'd heard her before as the leader of I Viagiatorri (and in previous years).   From my view it was unfortunate that she was playing music she written herself, and she should stick to Italian folk music.
The following act was James Keelaghan, who has been accused of being Canadian.  He proved it with a song about canoeing.  He also got a tad embarrassed when telling a story about people wearing badges saying "Kiss me I'm Irish" on March 17th and asking what Australians would replace 'Kiss' with.  He seemed to have some difficulty with the suggestion from the audience of 'Bugger'..  Whatever, he and his accompanyist (whose name doesn't appear in the program) were really really good.  If we had relied on the turgid purple prose in the program we would have passed, so thank you Michael and Julie for the alert.
Next came Chris Smithers.  Again much turgidity in the program but a very good act.  Excellent blues guitarist and very funny to boot.
Then it was time for the Final of the Infinite Motown competition.  Basically people are supposed to do their impression of a piece of music along the designated theme.   This is usually a parody but this year a number of the finalists chose to do something more or less straight which was pretty boring.  The three winners were:
  • 3rd  Mal Webb who did some very clever electrinc business plus a few good moves;
  • 2nd Men in Suits who said they wouldn't parody the words of their chosen opus since no parody could do a better job of parodying than the original!
  • 1st String Theory who play Appalchian music and began with that style of the words and (approximate) tune of a Motown song before bringing on a bunch of dancing boys!  A well deserved winner.
We then heard a bit more of Faerd before heading for home.

Overall a very good Festival - in my view the best we have been to for many years.  I still reckon the one in Burra (SA) in about 1979, based around the oval, the pub and the High School, was the best I have been to, but that was then - and had a roll-up of about 500 rather than 40k+ so this was good.

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