National Folk Festival – Wheeze and Suck Band – interview with Tony Pyrzakowski, 2013

Image courtesy of the Wheeze and Suck Band
Image courtesy of the Wheeze and Suck Band

This interview originally appeared on Timber and Steel in March 2013:

Wheeze and Suck Band have since wound up, and a cut-down version of the band perform as Traditional Graffiti. Tony Pyrzakowski performs with Butch Hooper as Hooper and O’Toole.

As I’ve said many a time on stage and in print, I don’t even try to have a veneer of objectivity when it comes to some bands.

They’re just my favourites, and I adore their music and I’ll hunt them down at every festival and sing along, and sometimes dance along, and that’s just the way it is and ever shall be, Wheezer World without end, amen.

So yeah, I quite like the Wheeze and Suck Band.

There, we’ve got that bit established.

If you think age shall weary them, just click on the video link below and suspend disbelief. It says so much with music and dance in this shaky clip I took at St Albans Folk Festival from a couple of years ago (usually held on an Anzac Day weekend — put it in your calendar now; thank me later) is the range of ages the Wheezers appeal to.

What child could resist jumping around to a bunch of men in funny hats and cloaks? And that’s for the young at heart and the young in the head.

And the young in age.

It’s enough to even make you groan with empathy (and maybe a little sympathy) to John ‘Red Tips’ Milce’s jokes, trotted out at irregular intervals in pure Lancashire-ish.

Fiddler-player Tony Pyzarkowski is one third of a regular trio along with Butch Hooper and Kevin ‘Bodhranworld dot com‘ Kelly who form “Kelly’s Heroes” and bash out three hours of stuff you probably know, stuff you may know and stuff you may not have heard of in PJ O’Brien’s pub in Sydney every Sunday night from 6-9pm. (No chance on Easter Sunday — that’s National Folk Festival central.)

After last Sunday’s session, Tony had a bit of a chat about what’s going on with the Wheezers and looked forward to the National Folk Festival starting this Thursday 28 March 2013 in Canberra.

Image courtesy of Wheeze and Suck Band

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Overheard at the 2012 National Folk Festival #2, Easter Saturday, 2pm

Bohemia Bar Office
Bohemia Bar Office

Overheard at the 2012 National Folk Festival

Blog the Second, Easter Saturday, 12pm

I suspect that ‘National Folk Festival’ may indeed be Old Norse for ‘’.

I started that sentence over two hours ago and got no further. Maybe it was the late-ish/actually not very late night the night before, or the fact the laptop battery was running down, or trying to construct barely intelligible English while half-listening to a bush poet’s doggerel, but the snappy gag I’d thought of early that morning would not leap back to mind.

Take II.

I suspect that ‘National Folk Festival’ may indeed be Old Norse for ‘permanent, insane grin’.

That’s not the original version, but it will do for now. Blogs, unlike magazine articles, are beautifully editable at a later, more inspired date.

Friday, Friday, Friday – what a wonderful day in the land of the National.

I did mean to mention the unseasonal weather. I’ve been at Nationals where the days have been baking, but as Queensland singer Lonnie Martin observed today, she’d be stood outside the Session Bar at 2am today, listening to a wonderful Irish session and having to remind herself, as she stood there in short sleeves that this was the National and yes, this was Canberra in mid-Autumn.

I never let adverse weather dampen my spirits (boom boom) at festivals, but fine, sunny weather does levitate the general mood and for the organisers, it does bring those half-inclined punters out of their warm Canberra homes at a time where they be more inclined to snuggle up to their Turbo 10s, and crack open the hot cross buns and truckloads of chocolate.

Screw that: kranskys and mulled wine all the way.

And bucket-loads of good music. Continue reading

Overheard at the 2012 National Folk Festival 01 — Good Friday, 7am

Festival entrance is that way, not this way
Festival entrance is that way, not this way

Overheard at the 2012 National Folk Festival #01

Good Friday, 7am

Being something of an early waker (if not always an early riser), I’m taking the opportunity to put these golden* hours to good use and get a head start on recording my observations of the 2012 National Folk Festival.

* Actually, at roughly 6.30am on Good Friday, golden is something of a misnomer. It’s brilliant pinks and reds as the sun bursts into life. My only regret is that the floor to ceiling glass panoramic view of the old Volunteer’s Kitchen is all looked up – this year it’s a workshop and singing space again, which is lovely for the work-shoppers and singers, but sad to not have it available at dawn. It felt to be a volunteer in the past couple of years when you could start your day like that.

Yesterday was yet another new experience on settling into a festival. The plan had been to set up on site on Wednesday night then contaminate the start of the festival with a day’s work for the country off-site, but plans changed and I ended up racing in at 7am on Holy Thursday, bussing into town and bussing back in the mid-afternoon.

The change to the site in just those seven or so hours was palpable. Un-built or half-built structures were up. Scant green spaces were now a mess of tents and campers. And of course, the social media feeds were a-buzz with more and more arrivals from far-flung places like Brisbane, Melbourne and West Belconnen. 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.

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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

A Punter’s Perspective 04 — National Folk Festival 2007

IMG00924-20100401-1644A Punter’s Perspective
Random observations on the weird world of folk from the side of the stage

#4 National Folk Festival 2007
First published in Trad and Now magazine, June 2007


By Bill Quinn

The 2007 National Folk Festival is by now but a handful of dim, fuzzy, yet pleasant memories on the rear horizon. Before the festivals themes of Western Australia, water and the Middle East fade completely away, here are a few observations on some of the talent and goings on in Canberra over April.

Lessons learnt from the Easter weekend at EPIC: the Canberra Contra Club did not receive arms (or any other body parts) from the US Government in the mid-1980s. The Lawnmowers are not available for freelance landscaping jobs. Madviolet did not take their name from an aggressive (and since discontinued) Dulux paint chart. But it is true: the Jinju Wishu Academy were approached for next year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival – until Academy members quietly explained they are in fact ‘lion dancers’.

The Western Australians were in town in greater numbers than usual, and hopefully those present took the time to meet, greet and hear from a bunch of singers, songwriters and musicians that might not ordinarily make it to the east.

Simon Fox (from WA via Vancouver) treated audiences to a stack of his original tunes, including one that nearly got him evicted from his apartment during the creative process. He’d practised the bluegrass licks so many times that his neighbour above was going quite spare.

Simon claimed it was revenge for his having to listen to his country and western neighbour incessantly banging his foot on his floor (Simon’s ceiling) in time to his own brand of music. The audience burst into applause at the end of Simon’s tune: ‘Yeah, you like it, but you didn’t have to listen to it for hours in a row!’ Continue reading