A Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage
#42 2013 Cobargo Folk Festival
First published in Trad and Now magazine, March 2013
Like many festivals I include in my yearly routine, I’m not even going to approximate any sort of objectivity here.
I love the Cobargo Folk Festival.
It’s been an irregular destination for six years, but what a place to end up at?
Whether you’re coming from the north or the south, the approaches through gently rolling green hills and valleys are captivating. Despite having familial ties in the Eurobodalla Shire slightly to the north, it was only on way to my first Cobargo that I drove past Lake Corunna, and nearly ran off the road as I sucked all the oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere.
It’s a stunning part of the world.
And the festival site looks like it was placed there by an inspired land surveyor/geo-spatial technician/landscape art historian. I will never tire of simply drifting around the site from top to bottom, over the ridge and back again, finding some new perspective, some new aspect, some new way the light has hit the trees or crept through a cloud outside the venue, at just the right time and just the right angle.
And all that before the music’s even started.
I’ll spare you my standard disclaimer on how everyone’s festival is totally different and totally subjective. But this festival for me was a very slow build to a wonderful crescendo on Sunday night.
It’s a shame that the rigours and demands of life are such that we often have to go haring off out the gates of any festival on a Sunday afternoon.
If there’s a heaven after this mortal Lake Coila, then for me it’s a Sunday night at a small to medium folk festival.
Any self-imposed pressure to see that life-changing act, or neighbour Martha’s little boy Chauncy blowing his trumpet in the youth tent, or to see that international act that won’t be back for three years – that’s all ebbed away.
On Sunday night at Cobargo, a few fitting words were said, the committee were roundly and soundly lauded and applauded. And the remaining punters, musos and vollies were invited to have a refreshing cordial or three with the organisers.
And then something magical developed in front of us.
It started with Graham Wilson launching into an almost spontaneous Breton version of ‘Allouette’ before Bob McGuinness did his rather risqué version of same. Campbell the Swaggie brought the house down with that wonderful ode to tipsifiction: ‘Lunch’, and by then, something was definitely in the air.
We ranted and roared and regaled and rang (that’s actually ‘sang’, but I’m slightly alliterate) into the evening.
So now that we’ve come in at the end, let’s rewind.
Cr Tony Allen gave me one of the sentences of the weekend in his opening address on Saturday morning: “Let’s hope the weather stays with us”.
A bit grim if it didn’t.
I interviewed Cr Allen at some length immediately after, and what a pleasure to speak with someone who evokes such a pride in tradition, a continuity of family connection with the land, and a desire to do something tangible for the community into the future. He spoke of pressures on the farmers as well as development programs for the youth.
The audio of that interview is available on my web-site (see link below).
Weather. I have a theory that if we all immediately stopped talking about the weather, our everyday conversations, and the sum total of human dialogue, would be halved.
That said, when it’s slightly up in your face, it’s hard to ignore it. One cocky apparently scored 100mls of rain in his gauge over the weekend, and when the stuff came teeming down on the Gulaga venue on Saturday afternoon, some of us believed it was trying to get a late spot on the program. It was certainly playing all over the top of Senor Cabrales.
Actually, there’s an idea for a cover version, boys: “I’ve Seen The Rains Down In Asturias”.
I’d already suggested “This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Asturias” before their workshop and got one of the best looks from Roger ever. It was a look that said, “I’m bemused and amused and c-mused and also wondering if you’re on your medication!”
I am. Typically a double shot long black with chilli.
Speaking of the Gulaga, isn’t it wonderful to walk into a familiar venue and find that the set production crew have improved it infinitely?
Despite a few reverb-y problems on Friday night, the addition of some colourful sound dampers early on Saturday morning made the venue a total highlight. The ‘portrait’ style seating arrangement just seemed to work better than the ‘landscape’ arrangement of last year for mine, and it was a hot topic of conversation with the punters. “Have you seen the Gulaga? Have you heard the Gulaga?”
Hats off to those responsible.
Meanwhile, down on the flat (and yes, I’m going to be precipitate again) the poor old Magpie copped a caning on Saturday night, and on Sunday there was the Magpie Swamp lapping gently around the sound desk. It didn’t stop our enjoyment of bands like the sublime Folklore from Sydney who have become one of my favourite Celtic bands in recent times, filling that yawning gap that Mothers of Intention left when they disbanded.
Plus, to get to our seats, we got to wade through the rice paddies and pretend for a minute we were in South East Asia on our way to the Celts.
Again, throwing objectivity so far out the window it’s landed in another postcode, I have to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed watching dear friends Craig and Simone Dawson play with the Honey Badgers (Peter Logue, Xena Armstrong and Rita Gibson). I was there the day Craig and Simone said, “What if we stand up for this next gig?” and they’ve never looked back.
Well, they could look back if they wanted to now since they’re not stuck in chairs.
It just adds a colour, movement and shimmy of the hips to what they do, and let’s face it: you want a bit of disco dancing when you’re pumping out double-murder-suicide ballads, am I right?
On topic, can I offer you a little observation about PR. I don’t personally do billable PR (contrary to popular belief). But little exchanges like this go a long way.
Him: Are Folklore still on?
Me: Just finished.
Him (turning to walk away): Ah, shame.
Me: The next mob are good. Two singer-songwriters, cello, bodhran, tin whistle, even (gasp) piano accordion.
Him: Sounds good. I’ll go get my cup of tea and my friends.
Voila. Didn’t cost me a cent, gave x number of people a great hour they might have missed, and may have led to some extra CD sales. And musos love CD sales, for tonight we eat and put petrol in the band van. And pay some of the production costs.
So many great memories of a wonderful weekend collected on so many coasters and backs of programs and dog-eared diary and journal pages, squirrelled away on MP3 recordings.
After a month and a half of some of the most egregious technical, personal and professional challenges I’ve let the universe throw at me in my short 46.8yo life, I’m starting to untangle it all slowly. Just like my late father would patiently do with a mess of tangled fishing line, sat in front of the 7 O’Clock News and This Day Tonight, slowly finding the ends and un-threading back until it was all neatly sorted and looped in a more orderly fashion.
I do the modern day equivalent with USB cables and ear buds.
As I retrieve mind, body, soul, sanity and recordings, they (the audio files) will progressively lob onto the www.overheardproductions.com page, and I inwite you to join me there for a listen.
I’ll post details on the Ausfolk list server – an extremely valuable daily source of what’s going on in the folking world (http://www.folkalliance.org.au/mailman/listinfo/ausfolk_folkalliance.org.au)
See you at the National. I’ll be the one running around with a microphone and a tablet (probably a Bex) and then on Easter Sunday, I’ll be shaving every follicle on my ugly bonce for the Leukemia Foundation.
Til then, may the road rise up to meet you.