A Punter’s Perspective #43: Overheard at the 2013 National Folk Festival

The iconic National Folk Festival bunting
The iconic National Folk Festival bunting

A Punter’s Perspective

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

#43 Overheard at the 2013 National Folk Festival

First published in Trad and Now magazine, April 2013

I usually stop short of epithets like ‘the best’, ‘the greatest’ or such like. But in a relatively short experience of the National Folk Festival (my ninth of a possible 47), this year’s was definitely the most anticipated Nash I’ve personally known of.

A number of variables made the lead up to this one a little tantalising.

The organisers made no bones about the fact that it’s been testing times for the National. Some may shudder at words they’ve used like ‘consolidation’, ‘challenge’ and ‘sustainable’, but I’m actually a bit of a fan.

If there are threats to a festival’s viability, you can either fix a smile and adopt a ‘Move on, nothing to see here, all is well’ approach. Or squat on your heels, furrow brows, chew bits of bark and declare we’ll all be rooned.

Or you can call a spade a spade (not a manual earth-moving device) and accept there are indeed challenges and forge ahead.

Disclaimer: I’m observing all of this from some distance, and am NOT privy to any of the National’s internal machinations. Continue reading

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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SANS performing at the 2013 National Folk Festival (Australia) – interview

SANS at ethno ambient. Image courtesy of SANS.
SANS at ethno ambient. Image courtesy of SANS.

Interviewing Andrew Cronshaw is a bit like watching Waragamba Dam in flood.

There’s a mighty capacity, but the volume contained therein and the urge for it to surge out means there’s a fair old splashing and cascading over the spillway.

(This is a musical knowledge thing, not early-onset incontinence — just did want to clarify that one.)

Andrew Cronshaw (and the relatively more calm, still waters of Ian Blake) have been comrades in music of the world for many a year, and delighted audiences at the National Folk Festival in 2010.

A very salient memory is a packed performance in the Coorong on the Saturday evening when the MC (me) had been directed erroneously to the Budawang and ended up sprinting twixt venues, doing a slide into home base staying upright to collect a microphone and bounce on to stage to give a slightly breathy but knowledgeable intro courtesy of having seen them both at the National Library of Australia mid-week.

Andrew Cronshaw and Ian Blake were performing at a fantastic afternoon on Aspen Island, literally in the shadows of Canberra’s Carillon, on a balmy Monday afternoon in mid-March as Canberra celebrated a day before turning 100 years young. I grabbed a few minutes with Andrew and Ian as the zephyrs zephyred and the dragon boats came in and the sound guys eventually started to test the drums on stage.



Andrew and Ian will be performing with the new collective badged SANS:

Andrew Cronshaw – electric zither, fujara, marovantele, kantele, ba-wu etc.
Sanna Kurki-Suonio – voice 
Tigran Aleksanyan – Armenian duduk 
Ian Blake – bass clarinet, soprano sax etc.

Performance times at the National Folk Festival:

Friday 29th March – Trocadero, 9pm
Saturday 30th March – Budawang, 12.30pm
Sunday 31st March – Marquee, 4pm

Fun Machine: Tipping Folk On Its Glittery Head, 2013

Fun Machine at Canberra Centenary Celebrations. Photo courtesy of Martin Ollman.
Fun Machine at Canberra Centenary Celebrations. Photo courtesy of Martin Ollman.

You don’t have to go back too far ago to a time when Fun Machine were an energetic three-piece band making underground waves in Canberra’s lively, teeming independent music scene.

But in a couple of short years (as opposed to the long ones which sadly died out in the late 1800s), Fun Machine’s star has been rising, thanks in no small part to some solid support from the Canberra Musicians Club.

And the amazing advocacy provided by 666ABC (AM Radio) Canberra for all things Canberra indie, but specifically Fun Machine. I may be wrong, but I believe that breakfast announcer Ross Solly may want to adopt them all, which is no mean feat as over this time, the band has doubled in size.

At Canberra’s ‘One Very Big Day’ this week to celebrate the city’s centenary, Fun Machine played to a heaving, sweaty mess of young and old beautiful people, as the last of the fireworks fell away (some into the crowd, allegedly!) as they put a fairly massive stamp on their cross-genre and cross-market universal appeal.

See a full photo set by photographer Bron King (aka guitarist Sam’s mum) here on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151350025671378.1073741828.521931377&type=3

Gigging around Canberra in various formats and bands, the members will rejoin as Fun Machine at this year’s National Folk Festival at EPIC in Canberra over the Easter Long Weekend.

If I were you, I’d… wonder whether those red pumps go with that skirt.

No, if I were giving you a serving suggestion for your Nash experience, I’d be taking a very brightly-coloured Spandex highlighter and putting a golden ring around Fun Machine in your programs.

On Tuesday last, as Canberra celebrated 100 years young with a mass of parties at the shops, I caught up with Bec Taylor and Chris Endrey from the band. Bec starts us off and that would be Chris you can hear crunching his way through the first of Canberra’s autumn leaves as we stood in salubrious surroundings outside the gents at O’Connor Shops. Bec and Chris had just done a stripped-back, rootsy, acoustic set under their duo moniker ‘Yes/No’.

*** Audio file will be removed by end February 2020. ***

Image by Knight Photography

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2012: An Overheard Productions year in review

Overheard Productions

2012 in review

[Insert audible groan of indecision mixed with ‘Oh well, why the hell not’-ness.]

I realise that ‘Year in Review’ blogs and lists can seem as passé as flash mobs and….. other things that are passé.

Like saying that things are ‘passé’.

But as per the opening sentence, ‘Why not?’.

As with many things that I’ve written since age 14, this may provide a mixture of utility for others (especially if I’m reduxing your interview or news event) and utility for me. It’s a natural progression from the Year in Review emails and Farcebook notes I’ve written in years gone by.

This 2012 version was prompted by that nonsensical Farcebook function that purports to consolidate your 20 biggest moments of 2012, using an algorithm that was obviously created by a very finite number of monkeys on a finite number of very old typewriters.


My glittering pseudo-career on community radio took an extended break in May when I hung up my boots from Artsound FM.

I love presenting radio programs. I’ve discovered so much good music, so many talented performers and met so many good people through it. But it’s nice to have a little more breathing room and leisure time.

I tend to throw myself in to things like this, boots and all, somtimes at the cost of sensible balance with other things, so I have enjoyed putting my energies into other areas.

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Salvation Jane — Salvaged and Reunited

Salvation Jane at the Tantriic Turtle, 2012 National Folk Festival
Salvation Jane at the Tantriic Turtle, 2012 National Folk Festival

Salvation Jane

Salvaged and Reunited

At the National Folk Festival in 2012, I was gladdened of heart and soul for many reasons to see the wonderful Salvation Jane performing together in the Tantric Turtle.

Firstly, due to some rather dodgy priorities, I’d only come flying around the great hessian protuberance we named The Great Wall of China to be transported into the relaxing and mesmerising surrounds of the Tantric Turtle Cafe as they were into their first number, having plotted and planned to be in the middle of the oval well before kick-off time.

Secondly, it’s always a source of joy and uplifting-ness to see/be in a decent radius of the lovely Penny Larkins.

And thirdly, when I spied Penny and saw her unmistakable girth, rotundness and bump-ness, I did squeeze out a few little tears of vicarious, fecund joy.

That was April.

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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