A Punter’s Perspective 10 — It’s only words and that is all…. damn, what’s the next line?

Bill (7)A Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#10 It’s only words, and that is all… Damn, what’s the next line?
First published in Trad and Now magazine, May 2008

By Bill Quinn
At a recent singing session, a participant asked a very leading question in between songs.

“I love singing and I love songs, but I can never remember all the words. How do you singers remember not only the words to one song, but to so many songs?”

It’s a fair question. One with possibly as many answers as there were singers in attendance to provide answers.

How does one recall to mind lyrics they’ve written themselves, lyrics written by their peers, and lyrics written by others from one to 400 years previous?

(Arguably, the same question applies to instruments, notes and chords, however, since the author isn’t a musician – or at least, not for the last 27 years – we’ll confine the discussion to the realm of the vocal cords.)

In singing sessions, not everyone is expecting polished performances, and there’s a fair amount of group effort involved; if someone starts to falter, others will usually chime in with a word or phrase or some background accompaniment while the main singer gets back on track. If they know the song. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 09 — After the Party (NFF 2008)

National 2011469A Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#9 After the Party (National Folk Festival 2008)
First published in Trad and Now magazine, April 2008

By Bill Quinn

After the band has played ‘Waltzing Matilda’
They’ve torn down the streamers
And left you alone
And the carpark’s deserted
And the weeds they’re growing
I’m still here
I still love you
Come on; I’ll take you home.

From ‘After the Party’, from the album “Etched in Blue” (1987).

Reprinted with kind permission of John Schumann

I’ve always thought that some of the truest words are said in jest, or at least with little thought. Some of these utterances unexpectedly reveal the deepest meaning, and illuminate the most clichéd and the most banal of banal sayings.

On topic, and ‘front-brain’ for this punter ever since the 2008 National Folk Festival, is the often repeated claim that musos, organisers, volunteers and punters ‘grieve’ when a festival closes.

‘Are you OK?’
‘Yeah, just in mourning for the [insert name of latest festival].’

Sometimes they really do die a little inside as the tents come down and the sound gear packs up.

It sounds a touch melodramatic, but this proposition has been validated by some light investigation, and by comments solicited from a selection of festival-goers, not just at the National. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 08 — Braidwood Folk Club

Bob Fox plays at Braidwood Folk Club
Bob Fox plays at Braidwood Folk Club, February 2008

A Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#8 Braidwood Folk Club
First published in Trad and Now magazine, March 2008

By Bill Quinn


Many Canberrans beat a path from home to the south coast of New South Wales, so most know the main street of Braidwood like the backs of their hands. They’re typically racing through on a Friday evening (with a coastal destination in mind) or Sunday evening (en route back home to hoover the beach out of the back seat of the car).

Somewhat fewer make the trek on a Thursday evening, say, the third Thursday of the month. But if they do, they’d be well-advised to peel off at Wilson Street, past the park (site of several million traditional coast trip loo stops) and on down to the Anglican Hall, the current meeting place for the Braidwood Folk Club (BFC).

For a bit of geographical positioning, Braidwood lies about 90km slightly to the south east of Canberra, and just before the Clyde Mountain, the proving ground for many a learner driver of the region. If you really want to get the picture, track down a copy of the 1987 film ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ as it’s filmed on location.

Having passed through Braidwood roughly 27,000 times since the age of eight, I finally took a chance to stop in to the folk club last September to see Women in Docs, and then again in February to see Bob Fox, the latter currently on a two-month tour of Australia and New Zealand. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 07 — The folk that’s flipped sunny side up

Image from the Asia-Pacific  Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage
Image from the Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage

A Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#7 The Folk That’s Flipped Sunny-Side Up
First published in Trad and Now magazine, February 2008

By Bill Quinn


Firstly, my sincere thanks to everyone who’s granted me interviews for a series of articles I was planning on kids in folk. Apparently another writer for this fine publication has started doing something similar, so let’s not be crossing quills and spilling ink.

I’ll start using that material elsewhere in the near future.

At short notice, I came across some stuff written at length about nine-ten months ago when the pages of Trad and Now were awash with the great folk debate. While choosing to not throw my tuppence in at the time, I started a rambling, direct reply to the protagonist that took on a life of its own (nine pages), written during the month leading up to the National while tripping around the country-side for work.

It evolved in a series of hotel rooms, empty training rooms, planes, waiting lounges, and the occasional airport bar. (The protagonist of the piece latched on to this last point and said I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Hmm. Have you seen what they charge for a Guinness or Carlton Crown at any airport bar? A single Dad and volunteer can only get so ‘influenced’ at those prices.)

Without wanting to re-open old wounds, I do notice via some unsolicited junk mail that there’s a new festival starting over Easter at Grafton, so with that by background, here are some very edited, meandering bits from that 2007 missive.

Strap yourself in; this stuff bounces around more than a Dash 8 in heavy turbulence. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 06 — Sing! Sing! Sing!

Bill-singA Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#6 Sing! Sing! Sing!
First published in Trad and Now magazine, October 2007

By Bill Quinn

When you front up to any given festival, you’ve generally got a fair idea of who’s on the bill. And yet, one of those grand moments of the settling-in period, after you’ve been tagged and show-bagged, is to scan the program for your favourites. Pen in hand, there are those tantalising moments of deflowering virgin program pages with flowing strokes of biro circles around the tried, the trusted and the ‘man, you just gotta see’ acts.

Conversely, there may be other acts or genres that you zip over, or choose to ignore, or even scratch a dismissive mark through. (The author will refrain from venturing examples here as his insurance definitely doesn’t cover such off the cuff observations.)

For this punter, anything that had ‘choir’ in the title was always a category to avoid like the fugue. However, one of the true joys of many, many discoveries over the last few years has been to admire the wonders of the massed one-to-four part harmonies of many voices.

Choirs rock.

Community choirs, singing groups, singing sessions, and the big daddy of them all (or many of them): the festival choir. There’s a sweet science behind the process of putting several to several hundred voices into beauteous harmony, but to the punter, it’s just a chance to let one’s jaw drop to the canvas, their eyes roll back in sheer aural ecstasy, and to feel the very hairs up the back of their necks stand out in perpendicular, involuntary admiration.

Festival choirs have become a mainstay of many festivals, and they’re well worth seeking out. In smaller festivals, it helps when they’re seeded by established choirs, but after that, it’s open to all comers, because many of the festival support staff, volunteers and even paying punters are closet warblers.

As a friend said many years ago, and it’s stuck to the point of my adopting the phrase, ‘Do I sing? Sure. I give daily concerts in the shower and in the car!’ Continue reading