Tuesday, 2 April 2013

National Folk Festival 2013

We rode into Canberra on our motorcycles and checked in at the festival camp site on Wednesday afternoon, the day before the opening concert. We cruised around the camp site for a while, trying to establish what was available in the fowls, the quiet, camping area. We were off to a good start as a new found festival friend invited us to share his powered site. The great aspect about camping onsite is you can wander back to your own patch for a little RNR and then immerse yourself in the festival again.

Red Molly.
On Thursday we poured over the program with a highlighter pen. Without my guitar in tow I didn’t pay enough attention to the incredible experiences on offer. If I had, I would certainly have joined in the Festival Choir, led by Spooky Men’s Chorale choir master, Stephen Taberner. The Festival Choir performance, at the Farewell Concert, was testament to Stephen’s ability to create something quite magical under challenging circumstances.

We just hung out at the festival over the four day Easter weekend and enjoyed many performances including fiddler, Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Hass. I was thoroughly entertained by the synergy between these two musicians and they were a pleasure to watch. Spooky Men are a festival favourite. Apparently they “are not a mens group;” they said so in one of their songs. I also spotted a Spooky Men poster which read “Spooky Men in acronynimus dispute with FCUK.”

Finbar Furey.
Red Molly were a must for anyone who enjoys country pop and Chris Smither if your poison is blues. Finbar Fury delighted the audience with his Irish charm and humour; I could quite happily listen to Finbar spinning a yarn all day long. During Himmerland’s performance I was drawn to the character and deft touch of their percussionist, Ayi Soloman, for the entire fifty minute set. If you ever need a session drummer he’s your man.

At times we wandered through the Session Bar. The number of people participating in jam sessions was amazing. Then we would check out the dancers in the Coorong, I wanted to have a go but Steve said “I don’t dance no more.”

Judge Judy.
Judy Small surprised us all with her decision to retire from performing in the pursuit of her new role as a Judge. I first heard Judy’s song “Mothers, Daughters, Wives” on my car radio way back in 1995. Judy’s farewell concert, to a full house in the 3,000 seat Budawang venue, earned her a standing ovation. It felt surreal that we may never see Judy perform live again.

The catering was great and we chose to dine on Thai, Mexican and Turkish Gozleme. With Pizzas, Indian delicacies and Moroccan fair amongst the large choice of culinary delights, every ones taste was catered for.

We were lucky to buy souvenir festival mugs before they were sold out. In the mornings we filled these mugs with coffee and in the afternoons we filled them with beer. When I washed them and put them away I could feel the slight touch of the potters hand and they are a wonderful souvenir of our first National Folk Festival.

There were so many wonderful musicians in residence that I couldn’t help compiling my “2013 National Folk Festival Super Group,” the line up is as follows:

¯  Fiddle - Alasdair Fraser
¯  Cello - Natalie Hass
¯  Acoustic Guitar - Graham Mcleod (The String Contingent)
¯  Bass Guitar - David Woodhead
¯  Percussion - Ayi Soloman (Himmerland)
¯  Duduk - Tigran Aleksanyan (SANS)
¯  Vocals – Kavisha Mazzella (I Viaggiatori)

A group setup while we were having lunch.
They played some Swedish folk tunes.
This festival is the friendliest event I have ever attended. I never saw a sad face all weekend and the level of participation is unprecedented. The musical groups didn’t just congregate in the black board venues and the Session Bar, they also formed out in the festival streets, under trees, and around picnic tables; each group playing quietly in their own space without becoming a nuisance to anyone else.

On Easter Monday I knew the carnival was nearly over when I started brushing my teeth to the tune of a little jig playing inside my head. Thanks to the organising committee and the hundreds of volunteers who make this event happen, long may it be so.

In the tent on a cold Canberra morning.
Updating my blog and drinking coffee from my festival mug.

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