From The Vault: Music Hunter – Live and Local In The Blue Mountains, April 2018

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Image courtesy of Live and Local

In April 2018, I spoke with Meg Benson from Music Hunter event entertainment about the upcoming Live and Local festival in and around Katoomba, NSW.

For reasons best known to myself but lost in the mists of time, this went out on Soundcloud only at the time and never had an accompanying blog article to go with it.

Meg Benson is one of those arts and entertainment powerhouses without whom the fabric of the independent arts and music scene would collapse in on itself. Just a quick scroll through the photo sets on the Music Hunter Facebook page tells the story of years of diverse events she’s produced for the good folk of the beautiful New South Wales Blue Mountains.

I had met Meg very late one misty evening in the main street of Katoomba as my kitten and I were having a late dinner before heading back to Sydney. (Long story. ‘Boris’ was my temporary charge and I rehomed him a few months later in far north western Sydney. He has fond memories of the Blue Mountains.)

Meg was heavily involved in placing acts in Live and Local, and she spoke to me first about the event and then about Music Hunter.

*** Audio file will be removed by the end of March 2020 ***

*** Audio file will be removed by the end of March 2020 ***

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Image courtesy of Music Hunter

Text of the interview with Meg Benson:

Bill Quinn: For those unfamiliar with the Blue Mountains of New South Wales,, you might not know that this area is just a hot-bed of music, art, talent, and festivals. If you’ve been around Katoomba, you might have already been to the ukulele festival, you might know that the Blue Mountains Music Festival has just finished.

But there’s so much more coming up this year, and it starts probably tonight, but on Saturday there’s something very important happening. To tell us all about that, Meg Benson from Music Hunter is with us. G’day, Meg.

Meg Benson: Hello, Bill. Thank you for having me.

BQ: Tell us about what’s happening on Saturday.

MB: I’m very enthusiastic to share our festival information for Katoomba Live and Local that’s happening this Saturday.

Our program itself is accomplished, experienced, seasoned musicians and also emerging, fresh talent. And 25 percent of our performers are under 25 years. We also have quite a strong (about 12 percent) Aboriginal performers, we’ve got some multicultural performers, some South American music, Mongolian throat-singing, Turkish music, Celtic, jazz, blues, classical, hip hop, electronica – we have a lot of diversity here in the Blue Mountains.

And yes, it’s live and local.

So Live and Local is a strategic initiative that we can’t take the credit for, but it’s something we jumped at because for me, I was really happy to be a part of it because it’s part of my values to create opportunities for musicians that are dignified.

In one day, in Katoomba, 80 musicians are going to get paid $150 each for a 45 minute set – obviously some of them are in groups so they’re not all solo. On top of that, we have community groups, larger ensembles, and some schools appearing as well – we’ve got a bit of ‘rent a crowd’ there.

So basically we’ve got quite a good cross-section of our community performing this Saturday between 2 and 8pm in the CBD of Katoomba.

The Live and Local initiative is something that was funded by Create New South Wales, and administered through the Live Music Office of New South Wales. And this initiative in Katoomba is led by council, and then their task was to engage with local music industry movers and shakers, which is me – Music Hunter, the event organiser, curator, and co-publicist.

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Image courtesy of Music Hunter

BQ: 80 performers are getting paid to perform at a half to one-day festival; that’s quite remarkable.

MB: Exactly, that’s why it’s so exciting. I think that’s the reason why I started organising events ten years ago was to create dignified opportunities for musicians. Some of them would find it hard to get a platform to play; they’re not really going to be wanting to play in a really noisy pub. They do want an attentive audience.

However, this festival is kind of unique. What I would normally present is where you might hear a pin drop. OR I do those loud, full-bodied dancing and full sound events in some pubs, and that’s a different type of thing again.

What we’re doing here at this festival is we’re not just caring about the musicians, we’re also caring about the local businesses, and we’re not doing a festival with street closures and bringing in musicians from other areas. All of these musicians are local and at least 50% of the band is local; in most cases it’s between 75% and 100%, depending on the number of people in the band.

So that’s pretty cool, but what we’re doing with the venues is we’re also activating the economic impact of our town by having the concerts inside existing businesses. Some of them are non-traditional music venues such as galleries, cafes. We have three galleries. We really wanted them to be a part of it.

We do have the Baroque Room, which is a traditional performance venue. We do have the church hall called Junction 412 which has a capacity of about 150 people in there, it’s quite a nice one. And Big Beat is our 100% deadly venue which is right in the civic centre arcade, a central part of the festival.

We have Aunty Jack’s which, in the past, did have a bit of a history with a bit of groovy jazz and things like that. But it’s been a pancake place, it’s been a Korean place. These guys are new so it’s going to be a really nice way to welcome them into the town.

We’ve even got one in the food court, we’ve got one in a tiny little cafe called Elephant Beans which has got one solo act there.

So there’s really a chance to have a wander around Katoomba Street and check out our little business area.

BQ: You mention Create New South Wales, you mention the council. I’ve really been cheered in the last few years by seeing so many councils in travels through Queensland and New South Wales and ACT where they’re wanting to engage with independent musicians, they’re wanting to put a focus on business, and they’re wanting to get past that fly-in, fly-out that some festivals have.

It looks like you’ve got all of that in spades.

MB: Yeah, and so once again, this year the Live and Local model that was presented to us – and in fact the Live Music Office only administers this to councils – and this strategy was specifically made for councils in the western Sydney area and regional areas of New South Wales. So Mudgee, Orange, Hawkesbury, Camden, Parramatta. And if you have a little look on Youtube, you might find a Parramatta Live and Local Youtube clip. You’ll definitely be able to find one after ours.

We’re pretty proud of the number of musicians we’ve got. We’ve attracted a fair bit of attention from the funders and ministers, so they’ll be rolling up in packs to our official opening and being official guests there, because I think everyone’s quite excited about…

Let’s just say we don’t do anything in halves up here!

We only do music really well up here. We already have quite a few people that give a lot to keeping it going. There’s three of us that are doing it pretty hardcore, and there’s probably another three movers and shakers that do it occasionally.

And something unique is happening up here and between us we’re creating an impact that is more important than whether we feel competitive in a small market place. And the need for creating more opportunities for the large amount of professional, talented musicians, there is a need for it.

Personally myself, I can’t meet all of that need even though I’ll be seen as someone who I felt like I was filling a gap when I started it. I got limitless requests and I realised it was a really big area, so when other people came out to play and started adopting a similar model to what I was doing, which was putting the right act in the right place and being an independent host not attached to one single venue.

That’s quite a unique thing up here, and so there’s a couple of other promoters up here that do that really well. And you know what? Since they’ve come on the scene, I haven’t actually had less people come to my events, so what I like is that together we’re taking that burden on. We weren’t deluded that we were going to get rich quick, but we decided to do it anyway, so we’re doing it.

So, it’s actually nice. Some of those promoters have been on the festival committee and there’s various other brilliant people: braddiedrich.com who’s helped with some data and graphic design. I’ve really enjoyed the collaboration and the sense of not being alone, and being part of such a brilliant initiative. When doing something that has so many good feelings and right ethics from the start, it’s really easy to get cooperation from people around you.

I don’t put my hand up to help at things when I don’t pay musicians. I might not get paid a lot in doing that, but it’s certainly not my hobby to organise things where people don’t get paid. So, for me to be involved in this and to experience how far that good will travels, that people are so excited that this many musicians are getting paid.

We’ve got a band like the Penny Dreadful. They’ve got a 14 year old drummer and an 18 year old and it’s really cool. They’re doing a 45 minute set, they’re being paid $600 and it’s encouraging for them.

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Image courtesy of Music Hunter

BQ: Where can people find out about Live and Local online?

MB: We created a website and it’s KatoombaLiveAndLocal.com.au [expired site?] From that website, you’ve got options to connect up with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facbook page is probably the most active one.

The festival is on one day between 2 and 8pm, so don’t think it’s at night time otherwise you’ll miss it. Having said that, if you do miss it, you can come to one of my other events that I’m running after that. Yes, I am crazy, but I already had that commitment before I said yes to this festival. So I’ve got an amazing gypsy jazz performer down at the Clarendon.

But anyway, we’re not here to talk about that!

BQ: Yeah, you can!

MB: [Meg goes on to talk about the utility of the website, however, it seems to have since disappeared off the face of the earth, and the Facebook page appears to have been stripped of all content.]

BQ: And I’m going to guess there’s a radio station that’s also behind you as well.

MB: Yes, we’ve had ads on the radio for the last month, and I just recorded three new ones yesterday morning and they’ve already been on air, just for the last piece of excitement, so people don’t hear the same old ads they’ve heard for the previous three months.

BQ: And that radio station is?

MB: Radio Blue Mountains 89.1FM! And that’s brilliant, and we’ve also given them a gold-plated invitation to have a fund-raising barbecue at Junction 142 – 142 is conveniently the number they are in the street (Katoomba Street) so you won’t lose them.

And they’ll be doing the barbecue there so you can meet some of the characters who volunteer. That’s very convenient, because that venue doesn’t have a cafe; musos and volunteers get hungry, and that’s very handy.

BQ: So that’s all happening on Saturday 7 April at Katoomba. It’s Live and Local. And look for Music Hunter – that’s not in the Hunter Valley where I am at the moment, it’s up in the Blue Mountains. It all happens on Saturday between 2-8pm, and do stick around for the ticketed events afterwards.

Meg, thank you so much for talking with us tonight on Overheard Productions, and have a fantastic festival.

MB: Thank you very much, and maybe we’ll see you, but if we don’t, we’ll see you next time!

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Image courtesy of Music Hunter

Folk On The Road – 2019 Cobargo Folk Festival

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All images in this article by Bill Quinn

Folk On The Road

A highly irregular series reflecting on the wide, weird world of folk from the side of the stage

Back to Cobargo

Cobargo Folk Festival (CFF) in early March 2019 was a breath of fresh air for many who made their way to the beautiful green valleys and rolling hills just north of Bega, New South Wales. Not too far south of Narooma, and within a five iron of a heaven.

For this peripatetic scribe, it was a homecoming of sorts to the world of Australian folk festivals. A temporary one, as it transpired.

CFF came towards the end of a week or so in the Eurobodalla/Sapphire Coast region, just after the last member of my immediate family had left their home of almost twenty years in Bodalla, on an estate overlooking the quite stunning ranges of the Deua National Park.

But it was also a proper return to folk festivals after roughly five and a half years of continually wandering up and down the Australian east coast, from the deep south of New South Wales to the middling far north of Queensland.

(A handful of hours at Slacky Flat, Bulli in 2016 and 2019 doesn’t really count, does it?)

In those intervening years, the closest I’d come to our festival culture was random assorted gigs, and attendances, media, and volunteering/MC-ing at regional Queensland festivals in Cleveland, Stones Corner, and Boyne Island.

Though all events had minor folk elements, it was wonderful to be back among the campers, revellers, singers, musos, and so, so many familiar faces in a dedicated folk festival.

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Harry Manx – 2016 Australian Tour

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Image courtesy of Harry Manx

To tell the story of Harry Manx would take several lifetimes, and hopefully a progression of life-form hierarchies over those lives to tell the story, because the story is so mesmerising and complex that we would not be very present and in the moment of most of those lives, and that could put the telling of the tale at risk as we would not be making gradual and continuous improvement as…

Moving on…

Harry Manx performs at the 2012 National Folk Festival
Harry Manx performs at the 2012 National Folk Festival

Harry Manx has already begun his 2016 Australian tour which will take him from Sydney down to Victoria (where he is on stage tonight, Friday 23 September in Frankston) then around to Queensland, South Australia, Perth and up to Broome and Darwin, ending in the beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, I-may-be-a-little-hereditarily-biased New South Wales locales of Katoomba.

Ah, Katoomba. If there’s a more intimate, special venue than Clarendon Guest House, I want it stuffed, mounted, and hung above my fireplace – or I at least want an invite to your venue if it can go close to kicking the Clarendon into a cocked hat. Or any poultry millinery for that matter.

And finally wrapping it all up at Club Saffire in Merimbula.

So it’s a very eclectic path Harry treads, and look, I’d draw you a picture if I had a free hand, but imagine a much-twisted paper clip that’s been sitting on your desk all day on a slow Friday when you’ve been watching the clock since 9:36am – now you’re in the ballpark.

OR picture a moose that somehow wandered into your yard, found your sippin’ liquor in the shed, and is now making a bedraggled, loquacious, and somewhat winding stagger back to the forest by a circuitous route, two-thirds of it sideways.

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[Video] Wattle Grove Shopping Village: Michel’s Patisserie Gets A Drive Through, November 2015

“Welcome to Wattle Grove. May I take your order?”

On Thursday 12 November 2015 at 2.30am, the Wattle Grove branch of Michel’s Patisserie had the quickest reno it’s ever likely to get.

And probably without the requisite planning approvals from Liverpool Council.

You can read all about it elsewhere, and probably watch some news footage too, including the young Channel Nine reporter and her cameraman who looked like a hipster who’d escaped from Rozelle, and was wielding for network television news transmittal (I ship you not) a Go Pro.

Huzzah for technology.

Here are a few pictures of the devastation, plus some video courtesy of Overheard Productions WTAF and Overheard FM. Reporting for all channels, here’s Phillip Mahkawfee-Khup.

Your reporter, Phillip Mahkawfee-Khup, has more.

Pictures are being added but this is for the 11pm news, so cut it, print it.

23:16 AEDT Thor’s Day 12 November 2015 Continue reading

Check the water and oil! Lime and Steel on the road, October 2015

Image courtesy of Lime And Steel
Image courtesy of Lime And Steel

A shorter version of this article appeared on Timber and Steel on 14 September 2015.
This article appeared in full in the September edition of Trad and Now magazine.

To tell the full tale of this article would be to sing you a mournful ballad of disappearing Facebook event shares and a 12 minute interview, ambitiously recorded on a Nokia dumb-phone so old it needs hand-cranking.

Suffice to say that the audio of that chat between the artist (in Katoomba, NSW) and the interviewer (in Nelson Bay, NSW) is available now on eBay on a listing called ‘Marcel Marceau’s Greatest Hits’.

Technology is a fickle mistress, sharing pain and pleasure in equal measure, and my thanks to Paddy Connor from Lime and Steel for his assistance and good humour.

Blue Mountains-based folk band Lime and Steel have hit the road, making sacrificial offerings to the gods of automobile reliability and ‘keepgoingability’ from Melbourne’s CBD up the east coast to Brisbane (with a stop-off in the nation’s capital).

Lime and Steel began as a rootsy folk duo of Paddy Connor and Ben Scott, but over the years their composition has changed, and indeed, their compositions have changed. Continue reading

Surely Goodness and Kindness: Talking With Brian on Manly Wharf

Manly Wharf, New South Wales, Australia
Manly Wharf, New South Wales, Australia

I overheard a man on Manly Wharf beach one afternoon and his story became one of the most compelling interviews.

Let’s get there, unlike the Manly Ferry which darts out of Circular Quay and pretty much makes a beeline for Cabbage Tree Bay.

Let’s take a slightly circuitous root.

I grew up in the mid sixties and seventies with something of a hefty disdain for Manly.

It was a disdain maintained from a distance of about 366kms away in Canberra, and it was all based on the eternal battle between the mauve of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (‘Silvertails’) and the Black and White of my beloved Western Suburbs Magpies (‘Fibros’). Rugby League, for the uninitiated.

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Traditional geographic and tribal rivals

My family hailed from the west: Parramatta, Harris Park, Guildford and Baulkham Hills. My anti-Manly bias was born of those silly tribal rivalries that sound so pointless in smaller towns like Canberra where I have never been able to take the north vs south thing seriously.

“We’re not that [farnarkeling] big!”

Cliff Notes: I’d never spent much time there, and while visiting friends in Fairlight and on other trips, I was looking for reasons to like the area.

Yes, we’ve fast-forwarded to 2013, and for some reason one day, I’d gone across the briney foam from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf and drifted up and down the Corso and around the back lanes and alleys.

And fell completely and totally and hopelessly in love with the place.

When you get just a little bit out of the centre of Manly, things get a little beige, bland and neo-conservative. But right in the middle of town, it’s like a little melting pot, albeit a flashier more glamorous pot than some other localities that host meetings of many cultures within the scope of what is loosely termed ‘Greater Sydney’.

Me, I love them all.

Walk from Punchbowl train station to the Boys High School (which I did when I first moved to Sydney in March 2013, to interview the assistant principal) and you see pretty much no white faces, hear no Australian spoken, and smell smells that don’t feature in, say, the main street of Miranda.

Take a walk along Forest Road in Hurstville CBD and to have a conversation or transact some business, a working knowledge of Mandarin, Cantonese or Korean would serve you well.

Hang out around various parts of Liverpool and a little Italian will get you a long way.

I know a little Italian. His name’s Marco and he’s a retired jockey.

(Dips the hat towards the film ‘Top Secret’ for that gag. I’m here all week, tip your wait staff, try the risotto.)

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Steve Tyson On Tour With New ‘Green Side Up’ Record, 2014

Image courtesy of Steve Tyson
Image courtesy of Steve Tyson

Steve Tyson is doing what good indy musicians do: hitting the road to tour a new album.

‘Green Side Up’ is the new record, and from Byron Bay to Port Phillip Bay returning via Wagga Wagga, Canberra and Wongawilli Wongawilli Wongawilli (because he’s been everywhere, man) and Marrickville.

A lot of miles and a lot of different beds! And lots of new faces, new fans and the CD stocks starting to deplete as Steve Tyson and the band wend their back up past Taree, Forster, Tuncurry, and a thousand blanky roadworks.

The album has already had great reviews and you can see what all the fuss is about at Steve’s upcoming gigs.

On Remembrance Day 2014, a very tired Bill Quinn rang from the Kingsgrove RSL to speak with a slightly more chipper Steve Tyson, who was lounging around the Curly Flat Winery at Lancefield.

The sound quality is a little rough and red-dy. Which is appropriate, really.

*** Audio file will be deleted at the end of February 2020 ***

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Image courtesy of Steve Tyson

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