PFFF part 3 – day 2.

Doesn’t seem much point in filling up a lot of space with commentary, really.
Here’s who we saw on the Sunday of PFFF this year:

1st up, the Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir, with various guest artists, singing mostly from the Bob Dylan song sheet.  This is a great way to kick off a Sunday morning.  I should add that my brother Graeme used to sing in this gospel choir, so if you think these guys are good, just imagine how much better they would be with my brother swelling that ol’ gospel sound!


Next, Chris Hilman and Herb Perderson, two guys you may never have heard of, but whose songs are very well known.

The tent for Hilman and Pederson was chockers, perhaps partly because they played on the same stage that had just been vacated by the Gospel singers, but more likely because they were followed by Archie Roach.  Foolishly Jack and I left the tent in the break, only to find upon our return that the door was blocked by some security guy who refused to let us back in, despite our protestations that the rest of our family, and our seats, and our stuff was all inside.  So we had to listen to Archie from the outside.  The instrument makers’ tent was just next door, so we ducked in for a while to check out the steel stringed ukeleles and the five stringed acoustic violins.  Those of you scratching your heads trying to think of suitable Christmas presents later this year, take note!  Liz tells me that Archie is looking old, and seemed to be having some difficulty up on the stage.  From outside he still sounded as good as ever.

Next gig, same tent, was John Butler, who you could argue was the biggest ‘name’ at this year’s event.  Perhaps that’s why the tent was so chockers.  I can’t imagine where he’d be or what we’d all be listening to now if this guy channelled all his creative energy into 3 minute songs to suit the radio stations!  Thank goodness he chooses not to do that.  Amazing musician.

After such a long time in the same tent it was time for some fresh air, which is where we caught a bit of the Kwela Swingsters.  This is a Melbourne bunch of musos (including Gavan McCarthy from Jugularity on bass, as if there’s not enough incestuousness in this whole folk scene already) playing the kind of music that you would hear in Soweto or Kwazulu Natal.

From the bright daylight of the outdoors, from the chirpy happy music of the Township we plunged into the Sheebeen, one of the central, one of the largest, one of the most popular, and one of the most expensive tents in the whole festival.  Also the only one that sells Guinness, which probably accounts for all those ‘mosts’.

No classy act on stage this time, though.  I couldn’t even tell you the name of this band.  Maybe they don’t have a name.  A covers band, which doesn’t sound like what you’d expect at a folk festival.  But this is Sing-a-long Sunday night at Port Fairy, and it’s more fun than you can poke a stick at.  And I’ve poked a lot of sticks!  Imagine a thousand people standing shoulder to shoulder singing “Those were the days my friend”, Proclaimers songs, and the Time Warp, all at the top of their alcohol affected and not quite recording quality lungs.  Great stuff.

Next, Judy Collins, who’s been around since forever, and sung every song there is, with everybody who is anybody.  She was pretty big back in the 60s I think.  I bet she was a really great live act back in the day…

And actually that was about it.  There was still stuff going on late on Sunday night, but we”d more or less had it by then, so we wandered back to the tent and called it a night.  On Monday morning there were a few acts still performing, but we’d seen them at some stage over the weekend, and the road homewards was beckoning.

No doubt we’ll be back there next year for more.

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PFFF 2012 part two

Having walked out on the son of one of the greatest song writers of the 20th century, what does one proceed to do?  I may have bumped into a friend and had another beer, I think.  Or not, I’m really not sure.

I do know that soon enough I wandered in to check out local Melbourne group Jugularity.  There’s a personal connection here, since once upon a time in a land far far away (Melbourne circa 1981) I played in the same orchestra as Jugularity’s bass player.  In fact, his violin playing brother was a couple of years ahead of me at vet school, as well as also having played in that same orchestra (The Chamber Strings of Melbourne) way back then.

Luckily Gavan (aforementioned bass player) didn’t see me walk in, nor did he seem to notice 15 or 20 minutes later when all four of us walked out.  Maybe the experience with Adam Cohen had switched on the walk-out neurotransmitters, or maybe Jugularity were just having a bad night.  They didn’t seem very inspired.  They’ve been together for 21 years, so you could forgive them for having the odd stale moment.  Here’s a clip from back in 2008….

From the small and mostly family audience in the Jugularity tent we made our way to the huge and much more young-adult oriented crowd watching another Melbourne group called Tin Pan Orange.  This group is fronted up by the wife of Harry James Angus (see previous post), who also plays keyboards.  This is a pretty standard arrangement in the folk world, by the seems of things.  Everyone plays in their own band and in one or two others, and does guest appearances in a third, whilst simultaneously being married to the mandolin player in one band and being the ex-partner of the singer somewhere else.  It’s a pretty small pool, I suppose.  Emily Lubitz is the singer, and she was great, although her near constant whirling around the stage was a bit off putting.

Next on the list was a country outfit called The Pigs, who really looked like they should have been singing at someone’s huge 21st party in a woolshed, or on the stage at a B&S turn somewhere.  They were pretty funny.

And we finished the night with the adults-only version of Tripod, which was also pretty funny.

Port Fairy Folk Festival 2012

Lest you think that everything is about bikes, here is a brief summary of our long weekend, now a couple of weeks ago:

Liz and Harry and Jack and I attended the Port Fairy Folk Festival.  That’s a brief summary for you.

Here’s the slightly longer version:

The Port Fairy Folk Festival has been running for, ooohh, ages.  Decades.  Well, according to their website, 36 years.   This was our second year, so we’re relative newcomers.  Unfortunately Zoe couldn’t make it this year, since she’s otherwise occupied, being in New York, or Philadelphia, or Boston or somewhere like that, at the start of her own odyssey.  However, something like 15,000 people did attend this event, which swells the normally sleepy seaside town of Port Fairy considerably.  (None of them made up for Zoe’s absence, by the way…)

OK, so I just looked it up.  When the festival isn’t in town, the population is 2500.  So “swells” is a pretty mild word to describe what happens to the place.  There isn’t a bed or a manger to be had in the place, and finding a spot to stick your tent in the camping ground isn’t necessarily all that easy.  You should book early and arrive early!

There are tents and cars and vans and people as far as the eye can see.

There are tents and cars and vans and people as far as the eye can see.

Once you’re there you get to choose between a bunch of big venues inside the fenced-off area of the Festival proper, or from a bunch of smaller 0ff-site venues scattered about the town of PF and its environs.  The main venues within the festival area are temporary structures called “tents”, although not the kind that you’d pick up for cheap at the local Disposals store.  These are some big-arse tents.

Like any other festival, fete, carnival or event with a large number of essentially trapped punters with nowhere else to go there are also smaller tents selling over-priced food, over-priced bottles of water, and fantastically over-priced alcohol.  At $7.50 for a half pint glass of Guinness the grog is definitely over-priced, but that doesn’t seem to slow anybody down!

Here is a bunch of Youtube links to the acts that we saw over the course of a couple of days:

The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band.  These guys were meant to be the bees knees of Bluegrass, but they left me a bit cold.  It *was* early on Saturday morning, though, so maybe they just needed a bit longer to warm up:

The Junes.  This is a local group, singing “glam country”, swing and gospel music.  They were fabulous, darling.  Great musicians, didn’t take themselves too seriously.  Lots of fun.  One of the women turned up again on Sunday morning singing gospel songs, but more on that later.

The Davidson Brothers.  The two boys from Gippsland are the current national bluegrass fiddle champion and national bluegrass mandolin champion between them.  They grew up playing in the Scottish Highland Fiddle Club, and when they played to their Celtic roots they were superb.  But a lot of their stuff was more Lee Kernaghan than Trad. Celtic, and whilst it was good, it just isn’t my cup of tea.  But I don’t wanna sound too picky here.  Like I said, the more traditional stuff they played was fantastic, and it’s easy to see how they won their respective titles.  Apparently their banter between songs is usually a bit blue, but perhaps because they saw lil’ ol’ prim and proper me in the audience they toned it down a bit.

Harry James Angus is perhaps better known to some as the guy that plays the trumpet in The Cat Empire.  But he also plays a few other instruments, and he sings, and he writes his own stuff, and stuff for other people, and all that kind of multi-talented kind of stuff.  Not bad.  If you like that kind of thing.

The Sharon Shannon Big Band was headed by this crazy-happy Irish lass whose name you can probably guess.  She gave the impression of having downed 3 or 4 strong coffees, a couple of Ectasy tablets and maybe smoked a small joint before jumping joyfully and lovingly onto the stage.  They were good.  And then they let their fiddle player loose for just one tune – and he was absolutely sensational.  Can’t find video of him I’m afraid.  I guess you just had to be there.

Adam Cohen.  Son of the famous and rightly legendary Leonard Cohen.  Normally it is true that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in Adam’s case it seems that the fruit had some difficulty finding the ground, and when it did it must have got kicked around a bit, and maybe chewed on by a passing horse.  The guy has a lovely, rich, sonorous and deep voice, a bit like his dad’s, only maybe a bit better.  But that’s where the comparisons end.  He was vacuous, self-centred, embarrassingly and transparently libidinous and also not very good.  We walked out on him after 15 minutes.

That takes me nearly to the end of our first day.  I’ll post more soon….