Monday 31 October 2011

Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival 2011

In the last couple of years Scott has embraced Bluegrass music as his genre of choice. I think part of the reason behind this is it's relaxed nature and community spirit; when jamming and playing everyone is usually pretty laid back and everyone gets a chance to shine, I think they call it "taking a break".

In Sydney town he used to frequent the Annandale Bluegrass society monthly get togethers and really, really loved it, he felt welcomed and inspired, it was very cool to watch. Since that time he has purchased a banjo, fiddle and mandolin and can kind of get away with playing all of them (as is his way, damn him and his multi-instrumental talents), but continues to shine with a guitar by his side.For those out there who know not of Bluegrass and I am sure there are plenty of you out there. As far as I can gather, in Bluegrass there are banjos, guitars, fiddles, mandolins, double bass, dobros, harmonicas but NO DRUMS. Some musical examples include a lot of the "O brother where art thou" soundtrack, Alison Krauss and Union Station , Bill Monroe and then at a stretch Old Crow Medicine Show, well, they are really Americana but they are totally awesome so are definitely worth a look in.
Anywhoo, as mentioned Scott is totally into Bluegrass and usually just listens to the great stuff but sometimes.... the hoe-downs become just a bit too much and I have to hide the clogs and tell him to calm down.  He frequents Bluegrass festivals and workshops but never so close to home as The Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival, which is conveniently located just a 30 minute drive up the winding and a little treacherous road to Dorrigo (think Peruvian mountainside) and this time the whole family had a chance to get their Bluegrass on. 

pre gig rehearsal
Yet again we had a house full as Nick and Lyn from Dear Orphans and their two medium sized kids; Zoe and Libby up from Sydney and mandolin player and friend Phil Upton also from Sydney on the pilgrimage to the festival. So with that much enthusiasm in the house it was pretty exciting as we woke Saturday morning, gathered the troops and made the trip up the mountain. When we arrived it was a little chillier than expected, being in the mountains and all and the size of the festival was a lot smaller than I anticipated. Basically it was a strip of grass and a couple of old weatherboard halls, hmmm.

But luckily before long the sun broke through the low lying clouds, people started to arrive and I was amazed at the transformation of this lowly "strip". There were a couple of big old trees providing some great shade, where everyone parked their picnic rugs and from this vantage point you could basically see where the kids were at any given moment, as well as all sorts of folk jamming about the place, flags flying against the blue sky and people strolling by. Wonderfully, the festival is alcohol free, probably one of the only ones in Australia. It was really cruisey and highly entertaining, even me, someone who doesn't really rate Bluegrass as the music I would listen to above everything else, totally enjoyed it all. There were some really cool acts.

Speaking of cool acts, back to Scott. Scott's band is called The Mid-North and I use 'band' as a very loose term, it is a kind of hobbled together group and the extremely talented musicians who played with him at the festival had never played together before (the first full rehearsal of the band was an hour before the show). There is a somewhat dearth of Bluegrass musicians in this area so the band is mainly Scott and a couple of people he borrows from other bands both in Bellingen and Sydney. The Mid-North were the first act on the Saturday morning and they were great (without any bias this is based purely on public feedback). The lunch pavilion (where they played) was totally packed and people were applauding with great gusto, laughing appropriately and singing along. What a festival debut! can check it out for yourselves.

Footage courtesy of Rachel Woolhouse

Now to the other cool acts:
Dear Orphans
Mithra from The Lurkers

We made a special trip up to see The Lurkers on the Sunday, they were as they always are, super entertaining and totally inspiring. Poe and Ilo were particularly thrilled to see them, as the last time they danced to them was nearly a year ago at the Peats Ridge Festival. Unfortunately their favourite song "Padlock and Chain" wasn't sung but their second favourite song, "North Shore Pirates" was performed so all was forgiven.

Martin from The Lurkers

Mithra and Griffin (for those Lurker friends in Sydney and Bega)
Another band that was pretty great, but I didn't photograph was The Perch Creek Family Jugband, a band with six members, a number of whom are related. Totally quirky cool with retro stylings and a huge variety of bluegrassy instruments; you don't see enough jugs being played nowadays. Take that as you will. 

The jamming that was happening everywhere (and anywhere) was particularly lovely, perched under the shade of a big tree, eating picnic treats, watching Poe and Ilo hang out with friends, whilst listening to my lovely one sing and have so much fun, was all pretty wonderful. So anyone planning their Bellingen 2012 visit, keep in mind that a whole world of Bluegrass can be pretty great and worth a look in. 

1 comment :

  1. Oh it sounds so wonderful! I hope we can experience it one day... probably around 2015. Much love xxx


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