A Punter’s Perspective 31 — Watching the passing parade at Illawarra

Peter McLeod, Rick Saur, Arch Bishop, Rosie McDonald, Bill Arnett
Rosie McDonald and her "beautiful men". Illawarra Folk Festival 2012

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#31 Watching the passing parade at Illawarra
First published in Trad and Now magazine, January 2012

There’s an old saying that goes, ‘If you sit in one spot at a festival, eventually the whole festival will pass you by’.

This is especially handy for making unplanned musical discoveries and for finding lost friends if (heaven forbid) you can’t hunt them down by mobile phone.

(I’m still working on a device that turns everyone’s mobile phone off or to silent as soon as they’re within 100m of a festival. Patent pending.)

As I found at my sixth Illawarra Folk Festival (their 27th), sitting in one place is also a great source of inspiration when you want to get material for an article. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 30 — Overheard at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival 2011

Randall Sinnamon and friends, Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, 2011
Randall Sinnamon and friends, Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, 2011

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#30 Overheard at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival 2011
First published in Trad and Now magazine, November 2011

There’s something deeply satisfying about dragging yourself out of a festival precinct in the early hours of a Monday morning, feeling tired, happy, slightly unsteady on one’s legs, buzzing with a head full of pleasant memories, and with the CDs spilling out of the glove-box.

So it was in October as Kangaroo Valley put the lid back on a very fine vintage….. well, it’s not so much a matured taste, but more a cheeky, young and slightly adventurous drop.

At the risk of repeating this column from 12 months ago, KVFF just keeps getting better and better.

Wheeze and Suck Band. Tired and shagged out after a long squawk.
Wheeze and Suck Band. Tired and shagged out after a long squawk.

Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 29 — Turn, wave, repeat to fade

The Turning Wave Festival, Gundagai 2011
The Turning Wave Festival, Gundagai 2011

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#29 Turn, Wave, Repeat to fade
First published in Trad and Now magazine,  October 2011

Let’s get one thing clear first, to ensure plenty of web search hits hit and many related links link: The Turning Wave Festival 2011, the festival of Irish and Australian music, dance, song, spoken word and related arts.

Gundagai, New South Wales, Australia. Wednesday 14 to Sunday 18 September 2011.

There. That gets that sorted, and we’ll return to the central theme and subject shortly.

But first it’s time to re-visit a very familiar theme from this column, this pseudo-folkie, and this quill and ink.

That last one is not rhyming slang.

The first (unofficial) festival of the (unofficial) NSW folk season is a much-anticipated and eagerly-awaited thing of beauty and joy to behold. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 27 — Kids in Folk III: Nissa

Nissa
Nissa

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#27 Kids in Folk III – Nissa
First published in Trad and Now magazine,  August 2011

As previously mentioned, it cheers this little heart to see and hear the youff of today making music. And all the more so when it’s folk, or folk-related, or in the ballpark or within striking distance of the more popular folk postcodes.

I’ve had some interesting discussions with people who are getting towards the upper end of the age spectrum, and there seems to be a divergence in attitudes to how much and what sort of encouragement the young folk should be afforded.

That sounds a bit weird. Allow me to elaborate. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 26 — Overheard at the National Folk Festival 2011

National Folk Festival 2011
National Folk Festival 2011

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#26 Overheard at the National Folk Festival 2011
First published in Trad and Now magazine,  May 2011

From the get-go, I need to make a fairly major disclaimer: I have been deeply in love with the National Folk Festival for six years, and that devotion and affection shows no sign of letting up.

Admittedly, it’s a tricky romance and only six years in, I’m still a novice.

And to be fair, she doesn’t always love me back. Love’s not the only emotion (nor association) that beats you up.

And yet I’m always there since 2005.

I used to say that Exhibition Park in Canberra at Easter is the only time I can reliably say with any sort of certainty where I’ll be from year to year.

Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 25 — “Thanks! You’ve been a wonderful audience. Goodnight!”

"You've been a great audience. Goodnight!"
“You’ve been a great audience. Goodnight!”

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#25 “Thanks! You’ve been a wonderful audience. Goodnight!”
First published in Trad and Now magazine, April 2011

Late last year, I witnessed a reasonably unsavoury moment in crowd behaviour at a folk gig. Countrified folk. Folkified country.

No, the genre labelling wasn’t the unsavoury bit. It was the mix of ‘crowd there for music’ vs ‘crowd there for tipping several vats of beer and/or pre-mixed drinks down their throats before collapsing somewhere outside the venue’.

Which got me to thinking about the whole performer/crowd interaction cocktail (no pun intended), and how that affects a performer’s mojo on stage.

Myriad questions sprang to mind, and I planned to pose them to those best-equipped to answer them.

Months later, and with deadline looming, I threw a vague question to the four winds (ok, Facebook) one Sunday night and got a whole heap of responses. So I’ll can the investigative essay for now and just give you some responses, because they’re many, varied and some quite entertaining. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 24 — Q&A (John Schumann fields questions from the floor)

John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#24 Q&A (John Schumann fields questions from the floor)

First published in Trad and Now magazine,  March 2011

How an artist builds a rapport (or not) with their audience on stage has always fascinated me. Especially if it’s an artist whose work has become very familiar, I find the gaze wandering from the stage to the crowd. Gauging others’ reactions becomes the main game.

Not everyone makes the audience the main game. I’ve never seen Van Morrison perform live, but his self-confessed lack of focus on, or regard for, those watching is legendary. Just plug ‘”van morrison” audience disdain’ into a web search and read for yourself.

On topic, I often recall a rock gig several years ago where two headline acts could only manage one complete, barely-coherent sentence between them that was roughly aimed in the direction of the paying punters. I left early and, passing one of the band cars, left a one-line critique in the dust on the rear windshield. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 23 — Sometimes You Can’t Make It (On Your Own)

Sometimes, you can't make it on your own
Sometimes, you can’t make it on your own

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#23 Sometimes You Can’t Make It (On Your Own)
First published in Trad and Now magazine, November 2010

In the last edition, I was bemoaning my decision to lay off the festivals for the rest of the year.

Next thing I knew, I was packing bags (or rather, a bag) for Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival (KVFF) – see elsewhere in this edition of Trad and Now for the match report on the festival itself.

It was at KVFF that I was reminded, time and time again, of a very recurrent theme in folk, as indeed in countless other art forms: payment.

We might be in this game for the love, the passion, the good times, the friends, and the memories.

But some of us (not all) are actually in it for the money. To make a viable living.

There’s nothing mercenary about that. I personally am rather fond of my eating habit, and intend to continue with it.

Various suppliers, vendors and ex-wives of mine (well, just the one of that last of those) do applaud when my cheques and money transfers come rolling in.

But I currently have a day job. I get paid quite well.

Meanwhile, there are many other people in the scene who rely on getting paid for their art to keep them standing upright.

Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 22 — Festival Withdrawal Syndrome

Festival withdrawal syndrome
Festival withdrawal syndrome

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#22 Festival Withdrawal Syndrome
First published in Trad and Now magazine, October 2010

Q. What do air and folk have in common?

A. You never notice either that much – unless you’re not getting any.

OK, that’s a twist on an old joke, but this is a family publication.

I still contend that if you’re not getting any of either (or the other), the gasping and longing soon kicks in.

For various reasons, I’ve withdrawn from many folk-related activities for the latter half of this calendar year. And like quitting smoking or taking a month off the grog, I’m gagging for a puff or a dram of my favourite art form.

(Kids, don’t smoke.)

I know it’s around, it’s happening, and people are getting their fair share, but it’s on the back-burner for this little black duck until Illawarra in January 2011.

Abstinence does makes the heart grow fonder, and the pulse beat quicker, though.

I think the hardest part of keeping away is being hooked into social networking sites online with several hundred folkies. Watching your friends and acquaintances counting down to, travelling to, enjoying, and then reminiscing about this or that festival is a tough ask.

Especially when there are so many online albums full of photos that evoke familiar sights and sounds, recall favourite haunts, or illuminate new venues, performers and crowds. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective 21 — Overheard at the National Folk Festival 2010

Overheard at the National Folk Festival 2010
Overheard at the National Folk Festival 2010

A Punter’s Perspective

Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#21 Overheard at the National Folk Festival 2010
First published in Trad and Now magazine, May 2010

Over the years, I’ve ambitiously set out to encapsulate a festival in 1400 words, but lately the first paragraph will usually include a disclaimer which states that to even attempt such a feat is ambitious at best.

So I’ll leave others to give their impressions of the performances and the event in general.

But as a keen observer and collector of minutiae, off-the-cuff comments and anecdotes, I’ve thrown together an assortment of quirky bits and pieces from the Easter long weekend in Canberra.

***** Continue reading