Saturday, April 7, 2012

Feeling folky

It's Easter and that means it's time for thousands of baby boomers, musos and alternative types to descend on Canberra for the National Folk Festival. Canberra has staged the festival since 1992, but this is the first year we've attended (our excuse is we're usually away at Easter!).

We picked a perfect day today for our first visit and quickly got into the vibe.......early morning poetry sessions, lots of mellow art and craft making (and very child friendly) in the ArtefACT area, plenty of healthy food on offer, a gentle crowd and at least 5 major music venues and a continuous cycle of great live international and local acts on offer from 10.00am - 2.00am.

There are great workshops on offer too. While Rob was learning a bit more about slide guitar from Jeff Lang I was trying my best at the beginner's ukulele workshop. It was a bit difficult because ukulele playing has suddenly become a very cool and groovy thing to do and the workshop was oversubscribed, overcrowded and very lacking in ukuleles to play. The main thing I learnt is that if I want to learn to play a ukulele I need to buy my own (and preferably one with coloured dots on the neck so I'll know where the notes are!!!!).

There were many familiar faces in the crowd but we most enjoyed meeting up with David and Lotte and their boys over lunch. David had brought his "The Con Artists" (The Wollongong Conservatorium's all ages community band) to perform at the festival. Their two big boys Miles and Marley play in the band. We were hugely entertained by their busking antics, joining 3 gorgeous girls and a stray saxophonist for a bit of free form world music, just outside the designated "busk stop".

Miles, on the left, is playing a gazuki (guitar-bouzouki) and Marley (on the right) is playing a melodica although he is somewhat better known for his trombone playing.

It was a feast of music - all day: Zulya singing Tartar songs, Daniel Ho singing Hawaiian bluegrass, the Alan Kelly Gang from Dublin, the incomparable Glenn Cardier (I knew him in Brisbane in 1969) and Rex Goh (ex Air Supply), Jeff Lang, The London Klezmer Quartet, the (babyfaced) Bearded Gypsy Band. The liveliest show we saw all day would have to be the performance of the Woohoo Review in the Drowsy Maggies venue late this afternoon.

The fiddle player was a demon. In her black tutu and leather biker boots she whirled around the stage and launched herself into the crowd (in the mosh pit) like a rabble raising dervish. They played electronic gypsy music - like they were on speed. She (the fiddle player) broke her bow over her knee at the end of the performance and threw it into the audience (very Jimi Hendrix).

Aside from the music we were charmed by the constant passing parade: buskers, street theatre, impromptu dancing, choirs singing, craft, vintage and hippy stalls, armies of Morris dancers and lots of alternative types in funny headgear and handmade sandals. It made us wish the world could be like this all the time.

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