A Punter’s Perspective #42: 2013 Cobargo Folk Festival

2013 Cobargo Folk Festival
2013 Cobargo Folk Festival — it were a wee bit wet!

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. Continue reading

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A Punter’s Perspective #41: Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own II

Belting out drivel on a smartphone at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.
Belting out drivel on a smartphone at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#41 Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own II

First published in Trad and Now magazine, February 2013

This is where the text goes. Normally.

This article was written in the bar of the Carrington Hotel one Tuesday morning as I stretched the monthly friendship with Trad and Now’s very personable editor to get something vaguely printable in by the sometimes usually rubbery marker some people refer to as a deadline.

I had several challenges that day, not the least of which was a dead laptop.

So over the course of about two and a half hours, I wrote and submitted my article in text on a Samsung Galaxy I.

It was a bit silly. Nay, it was a lot silly.

I didn’t think I still had it, but it’s there in my sent emails on Gmail. I’ll probably save a copy into Dropbox for posterity’s sake.

But I don’t see any need to regurgitate it here now. It’s more for continuity than anything else.

I had a timely and amusing reminder of my publisher’s good humour and brevity of phrase when I told him some weeks later that normal service would be resumed in the March edition. His response was simply:

“Good.”

The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.
The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.

A Punter’s Perspective #40: Don’t Mention The Wall! (Interview)

Don't Mention The Wall! Rob and Deta Rayner. Image courtesy of Rob and Deta.
Don’t Mention The Wall! Rob and Deta Rayner (Germany). Image courtesy of Rob and Deta Rayner.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#40 Don’t Mention The Wall!

First published on the Timber and Steel blog on 2 January 2013
Second published in Trad and Now magazine, January 2013

Berlin folk pop band The Beez have been frequent visitors to Australia in recent years with their latest tour taking place at the start of 2012. The band is now taking a short break at the start of 2013, however, band members Rob and Deta Rayner will be coming to Australia very shortly with a new show: Don’t Mention The Wall! – songs and stories  from the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond.

On a variously muggy mid-summer’s Australian morning or frosty Berlin midnight hour, depending on your hemispherical perspective, I spoke with Rob Rayner on the line from Berlin about the show.

Bill Quinn: The Beez left our shores back in April, was it?

Rob Rayner: It was May. It was the epic tour of four months. We never thought we’d get through four months but we did. AND the amazing thing is that we’re still talking to each other! Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #39: Warren “Arch” Bishop: Bush folklore for the kids

Arch Bishop (centre) at 2012 Illawarra Folk Festival with Peter 'Pearl' McLeod, Rick Saur, Rosie McDonald and Billy Arnett
Arch Bishop (centre) at 2012 Illawarra Folk Festival with Peter ‘Pearl’ McLeod, Rick Saur, Rosie McDonald and Billy Arnett. Photo by Bill Quinn.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#39 Warren “Arch” Bishop: Bush folklore for the kids

First published in Trad and Now magazine, December 2012

When I was introduced to “Arch Bishop” at Cobargo Folk Festival in 2007, it took a while to confirm there wasn’t some sort of wind-up going on. (After I’d genuflected, crossed myself, mumbled ‘Your Excellency’, and kissed his ring – just in case).

Warren Bishop (universally known as Arch or Archie) is a master of the straight-face. He even got me hook, line and sinker when I rang for this interview, though I can’t repeat the story here until ‘Trad and Now’ magazine develops a sealed section.

“Arch” is a larger than life part of the New South Wales folk festival scene as a poet, story-teller and raconteur. He’s a man who loves to laugh – especially if he’s sharing the joke with others.

And stories. He’s got more stories than….. a very tall building that has lots of floors. Lately he’s been finding new horizons for this mastery of the spoken word, and it was these developments and potential new pursuits I was keen to talk with him about. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #38: The Good Intentions — Americana from the UK

Peter Davies and Gabi Monk. Image courtesy of The Good Intentions.
Peter Davies and Gabi Monk. Image courtesy of The Good Intentions.

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#38 The Good Intentions: Americana from the UK

First published on the Timber and Steel blog on 5 November 2012
Second published in Trad and Now magazine, November 2012

For 20 to 30 years, I’ve been aware of the UK TV series ‘7 Up’ and its sequels without ever having watched them. I’ve wanted to, but as they’ve come along in seven-yearly updates, I’ve had this chronologically pedantic need to see them in order.

I mean, you wouldn’t start watching Star Wars at Episode IV now, would you?

Oh wait…

(I should mention at this point that the ‘7 Up’ mentioned here is not a carbonated beverage, and the ’56 Up’ that will soon be mentioned is not the middle-aged version with added cranberry juice, added fibre and iron supplements for the senior on the go. Click on the above link for a catch-up on this TV series that chronicles the changing lives of a group of Britons at seven-yearly intervals, starting at age seven.)

Fearing I might not live long enough to see them in order, my initiation to the series was the redux of ‘42 Up’ at the end of October on SBS TV in Australia, and then two days later, the debut of the latest offering: ’56 Up’.

My interest was slightly piqued in ’42 Up’ when the show’s host mentioned that a couple of participants had pulled out along the way. I idly wondered whether they would rejoin at a later point.

Sure enough, one of the first vignettes in ’56 Up’ included one R. Peter Davies, and when he quite clearly stated his reason for rejoining the program, I literally clapped and applauded:

Peter wanted to get some publicity for his independent band.

There may be more worthy causes but they’re not springing to mind right now.

Before the segment was over, I was looking up ‘The Good Intentions’ on social media, and through the wonders of technology, mutually agreeable diaries, and time zone differences, just under four days later, I had phone and recording device perched precariously on the compost bin under the carport, and was having a chat with Peter Davies and Gabi Monk, two-thirds of the band that also includes Francesco Roskell. Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #37 – Billy Bragg interview

Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#37 Billy Bragg interview

First published on the Timber and Steel blog on 12 September 2012
Second published in Trad and Now magazine, September 2012

Recorded in the studios of Community Broadcasting Association of Australia member station 2XX-FM, Canberra on Friday 7 September 2012

Getting this interview was in some ways a 25 year odyssey, in other ways a two-year process, and in yet another, a 17 day exchange of emails.

More of that elsewhere because as I expected, Billy Bragg was his charming, effusive, generous, articulate and engaging self for 21 minutes. We’d still be chatting had we not gotten the wind-up.

But on a clear, crisp early Spring Friday night in Canberra, and god knows where Billy was – I never did find out – two Bills had a chat about music, assumptions (grr!), death, life, the moon, first words, and giving the punters what they want.

Now if reading great swathes of text is not your thang, do here undereth clicketh:

Bill Quinn: He’s coming to Australia in a couple of months’ time but we have him here telephonically; it’s hello and welcome, Billy Bragg.

Billy Bragg: ‘ey, Bill. ‘ow are you?

[I’ll eschew the phonetics from here on, but even just these five words made me smile.]

BQ: Billy, I’m going to start and finish with a slightly clichéd question, and in between, we’ll see where we go.

Your signature song is “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards” which is a bit like a snowflake, never the same thing twice, always evolving and grabbing the zeitgeist. In 2012, are you just a little bit spoilt for choice with subject matter for that song?

BB: Heh! Unfortunately I am, yeah.

That’s the problem with being a topical songwriter; sometimes things just keep popping up, y’know? I’ve got a week or so in New Zealand before I get to Australia. I hope I’ll be able to zone in a little on what’s happening in Australia. And see if I can shape some of the lyrics of “Great Leap Forwards”.

I mean, some of the verses are universal, but one or two of them are specifically about the UK. Maybe I might just be able to Australianise them if possible.

I’ll see what I can do!

Billy Bragg, Hamer Hall, Melbourne. 19 October 2012.
Billy Bragg, Melbourne Recital Hall, Melbourne. 20 October 2012.

Continue reading

A Punter’s Perspective #36 — The Paperback Sessions

Paperback Sessions at Smiths Alternative Bookshop, Canberra City
Paperback Sessions at Smiths Alternative Bookshop, Canberra City

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#36 The Paperback Sessions
First published in Trad and Now magazine, August 2012

Regular readers of this column, apart from probably needing a little light therapy, can probably discern a few recurring themes.

Not the least of these is the little bubbles of childish joy the author gets when a new venue or opportunity for live, original music makes its way onto the scene.

I’ve spent most of my adult life railing against two eminently and easily explodable myths: 1. Canberra’s boring, and 2. There’s nothing to do in Canberra.

Both are, of course, big steaming piles of dynamic lifter.

Friday nights particularly are troublesome with the multiplicities of options if you haven’t been able to replicate yourself into about six or seven independent entities.

Without having to refer to a gig guide, I can tell you that you need to divide yourself between the Phoenix bar, Bucky’s Lone Wolf gigs at the Harmonie German Club, the always wonderful Front Café, the newly-launched Canberra Musicians Club gigs at the Polish White Eagle Club, folk gigs at the Merry Muse, the Transit Bar conveniently located under the youth hostel, the odd very fine line-ups at Alliance Francaise and the occasional gig at old stagers, Tilley Devine’s.

Not bad for a metropolis of only about 360 000. And that’s just the gigs riffed off the top of the head. I’m sure there are many others. (See www.culturazi.com for any missing bits and pieces.)

Still, it’s a thing of joy and beauty to welcome a new player onto the scene. Because if you want to get away from three-chord covers bashers, replete with drum machines, in the clubs, Canberra really does offer a feast of the good stuff. And we’re big and ugly enough to offer a smorgasbord and share the audiences and audients about.

Which is not to say the occasional gig doesn’t kick off with the sound rattling around in poorly-attended venues. That will happen. Some days are diamonds, some days are when you struggle to clear the venue costs and pay the sound guy.

So. One such venue made its way into Canberra’s mix recently with just the right amount of fanfare, immediate support and a growing profile.

Continue reading