Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.
And you’d have to argue very convincingly to beat this: regional finals in (take a deep breath): Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Nimbin, Newcastle, Sydney, Illawarra, Melbourne and Adelaide.
And budding musos are all vying for the chance to participate in the final at Airlie Beach in November.
As well as the performance opportunity in 2019, the overall winner gets to return to play the main stage the following year, receiving four nights’ accommodation, VIP main tent passes, a $1000 performance fee, and a spot on Music View TV (Cairns).
If you’re a regional muso aiming to get your music to a wider audience, it’s well worth a shot.
Mensch Monique!: Interview at Cobargo Folk Festival
Mensch, Monique! were in Australia earlier this year, playing gigs, house concerts and festivals. I caught up with Jule and Georg at Cobargo Folk Festival to find out how musical and family life had been treating them since the days of The Beez.
We spoke under a blazing sun, with welcome shade from the café marquee, perched
precariously on milk crates, sipping on ginger and lemongrass over cubed
ice (just brilliant on a baking hot day).
Bill Quinn: How long has Mensch, Monique! been going? What are you doing? How is it going?
Jule Schroder: Well, actually, Georg and me, we have been playing since 2007.
BQ: And how about music?
JS: Exactly! Playing music! (And we’ve been playing together longer than that!) But I was in a band called ‘The Beez’; for such a long time.
BQ: The Beez? Can you spell that? I’m not familiar with this band.
JS: Tee Hahr Eeh Bee Double Eeh Zsedh. We were one Australian, one American, and two Germans.
BQ: And one of the Deutshes is now Australierin!
JS: That’s right. Deta got married to Rob a long time ago and now she’s got her spouse visa.
So, anyway, I was playing with The Beez, being busy. And there was just no point [after the birth of first child]. We couldn’t play gigs. Or we could, but it was just too hard.
So when I left The Beez in 2014, we said, “Let’s write some songs together”. And why not in German? And that’s what we did!
And it just takes a long time. You know, we’ve got two kids now. But we do it in our own tempo. Our own speed, you know? And we love it!
BQ: That’s very interesting that you do your songs in German, with English being the lingua franca for the world, the language that the majority of the planet understands. Tell me about when you perform in Germany. Is it 100% in German? Or do you mix it up a bit?
JS: We mix it up, but it’s really interesting because I talk to a lot of musician friends from Germany, and we came to the… schluss? … conclusion that we just HAVE to write songs in German because it’s our language.
It just doesn’t make sense that we only write songs in English, because that’s not our language.
And it’s a bit hard to sing in German, I must say. And what is really interesting for me is, because I write most of the melodies, I don’t think in German when I write the melodies. I can’t do that. It’s really interesting.
Arriving in the Blue Mountains for a few days at short notice, I consulted the font of all knowledge on what was going on in most regions (Facebook Events), and it turned up an exhibition in Katoomba called ‘Witch’ by local artist Nina Lipscombe.
The paranormal, mythological, and mystical aren’t things that normally pique my interest, but increasingly, I’ll have a look at subject matter outside my normal interests. I’m glad I did.
‘Witch’ is an intriguing exploration of themes that may not exactly leap off the promo flyer or internet page. Speaking of our friend social media, a comment on the event page led to an exchange with the artist Nina Lipscombe, and a few days later, we were sitting in the leather-padded comfort of the guest lounge at the Carrington Hotel.
Bill Quinn: Just for my background, can you tell me a bit about how you came to be involved in art.
Nina Lipscombe: It’s an interesting story, because I didn’t do it very much in high school. I was doing theatre and television, but right after high school, I decided to dabble in it.
So I bought a kit from Hobby Lobby! It was Bill Alexander; he was the original happy painter. He’s the one that actually taught Bob Ross, with the happy clouds and the trees and everything else.
I bought this oil painting video, went to my garage, started painting, and I fell in love with it.
From then on, I started to make acrylics, water colours – mostly oils still – and it just kind of evolved from there.
I didn’t really get too involved with the arts scene in Tennessee at the time. But later in 2011, I moved to Argentina, and it kind of thrived from there.
I had exhibitions, I did workshops, I had private classes with really amazing teachers there, and I took off.
BQ: When I think about art around the world, Argentina definitely is on that list. I’m gonna say that the Tennessee art scene is not one that immediately springs to mind. What was that like?
NL: Yeah, you’re right about that! I’m not 100% sure; I never got highly involved with it. They do have some good art galleries, and really good art has come from Memphis. But the art scene there compared to Argentina and compared to here in the Blue Mountains is not quite as big.
A highly irregular series reflecting on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage
Back to Cobargo
Cobargo Folk Festival (CFF) in early March 2019 was a breath of fresh air for many who made their way to the beautiful green valleys and rolling hills just north of Bega, New South Wales. Not too far south of Narooma, and within a five iron of a heaven.
For this peripatetic scribe, it was a homecoming of sorts to the world of Australian folk festivals. A temporary one, as it transpired.
CFF came towards the end of a week or so in the Eurobodalla/Sapphire Coast region, just after the last member of my immediate family had left their home of almost twenty years in Bodalla, on an estate overlooking the quite stunning ranges of the Deua National Park.
But it was also a proper return to folk festivals after roughly five and a half years of continually wandering up and down the Australian east coast, from the deep south of New South Wales to the middling far north of Queensland.
(A handful of hours at Slacky Flat, Bulli in 2016 and 2019 doesn’t really count, does it?)
In those intervening years, the closest I’d come to our festival culture was random assorted gigs, and attendances, media, and volunteering/MC-ing at regional Queensland festivals in Cleveland, Stones Corner, and Boyne Island.
Though all events had minor folk elements, it was wonderful to be back among the campers, revellers, singers, musos, and so, so many familiar faces in a dedicated folk festival.
On Saturday morning, 16 February 2019 AEDT, I rang in to the ABC Weekend Mornings show on ABC Sydney radio.
To say I had some communication challenges is to grossly understate the case. Three devices, radio on the TV, a landline – but I couldn’t find my hands-free to use my main mobile phone whose receiver speaker thingumy doover is a bit stuffed.
So, Simon Marnie finally threw to Bill from Fassifern, and what he got in return was a bloke with a fascinating tail, I mean tale of a cat who used one paw to mask the sound of his jingling balls, I mean, bells as he stalked prey in the backyard.
(I know some people who pray in the backyard. Takes all sorts.)
But that tail, I mean, tale was delivered with all the sonic clarity and crispness of MHz that you’d expect were I speaking down the line from Mawson’s Hut, Antarctica. The story got through, but barely.
Back in early February 2018, I interviewed Jenny Thomas from Melbourne-based folk band Bush Gothic, at a time when both of us were looking forward to attending the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter.
One of us got there! It wasn’t me. 😥
It was to have been my first National since 2013, a year when I barely felt like I was there. Some nights I was tucked up in the tent by 10.30pm. It happens some time. But of course, your worst day at a festival beats your best day doing many other things, so…
Events transpired that instead of running around with various recording devices, filing copy for a small coterie of publications, I was roughly 400kms north on Lake Macquarie, providing various gardening and handyman services for a friend.
If you want to give your or any god a good laugh, make some plans!
Back to the subject at hand.
It’s been an absolute delight and pleasure to not only see Jenny Thomas and Jenny M. Thomas and Jenny Thomas and the System and the current incarnation: Bush Gothic perform, but also to interview Jenny several times, both here on the blog and also on community radio.
It’ll be great to see Bush Gothic perform again, down one of many dusty roads, but for now, here’s the interview we did in February. You’ll just have to put your headspace into some sort of cerebral TARDIS and pretend we are looking forward to another five or six days of magic at an upcoming National Folk Festival.