Red Koi Reviews

See what I've seen, hear what I've heard

National Folk Festival

Posted by redkoireviews on 22/04/2006

Folk Festival Street SceneThis was my third visit to the National Folk Festival held in Canberra. The festival runs over Easter, from Thursday night through to Monday night. The Festival is much more than four days of fiddle playing (Thank god). Aside from a wide range of music there is also dancing, food, stalls, poetry, art and a long series of workshops aimed at getting the punters a bit more involved.

Involvement and participation is one of the hallmarks of the folk festival. The session bar is full of people who turn up with some kind of instrument and join in with a bunch of others on some jig or tune. Every day there are singing workshops, most of which are not aimed at experienced musicians. I attended a singing workshop on African songs, and participated in a “pigeon ancient Croatian viking massed song thingy” in the words of the ‘spooky men’s coral’ who organised it. Great fun. There are also an array of instrument workshops for the more musically inclined, as well as dance workshops covering anything from traditional Irish set dances to Zydeco / Cajun. There is a whole tent dedicated to ‘blackboard’ performances, where anyone can put there name down to perform a few tunes.

We often go to the Byron Bay Blues Festival, but I have to say that I enjoyed the Folk Festival more. It’s not so packed, a more mello crowd, more participation, has a dose of politics and is not so bloody far away.

The full program is available here, but here’s what I saw and what I thought of them:

Shiny Bum Singers are a bunch of Canberra public servants (shiny bums) that have colluded to sing about the madness of politics and the workplace. My Rating: 2.5

Linsey Pollak is a strange guy. Performing solo, he makes his instruments out of things like carrots, dental floss and garden hose. And it sounds great. Has to be seen to be believed. My Rating: 3.5

Women in DocsWomen in Docs where a great, friendly four piece. Reminded me of the Waifs, with their laid back tales of daily life and loves. My Rating: 4

Bruce Watson is a solo songwriter / singer whose songs range from kid comedy to serious politics and satire. Fun, warm and best seen in a smaller venue. My Rating: 3

Jurithm are a pair of women with a pair of guitars. Some nice tune that tug on the emotions, but not a huge range. Worth watching out for. My Rating: 3

Poets Round Robin is a session where poets recite two of their poems at a time. A bit too much bush poetry for my liking, but some excellent readers. My Rating: 3

Quagmire is a young bunch creating some nice tracks, at the more modern end of a broadly defined folk. Should get even better with time. My Rating: 3

Babylon Bicycle just didn’t it for me. There use of sitar, lute and drums where impressive, but the music too meditative for a festival. My Rating: 2

Akasa rocked. These four women create beautiful, moving, political and above all fun acapella tunes. They meld western acapella with south African and south american styles. I bought their album and love it already. My Rating: 5

The Hottentots are a lovely duo from Byron Bay. Her vocals where like honey, his less so, but together they craft some very moving songs. My Rating: 3.5

Difficult Women was an interesting act in poor form. The set covers the lives of several ‘difficult women’ who broke out from the restraints society placed on women of their time. Unfortunately the singer had a bad cough. My Rating: 2

The Chess set by Pat Drummond is much more than a set of songs. It’s a commentary on the contradictions and traumas of modern politics and the role of music and art in politics. Not for the faint hearted, but well worth it. My Rating: 4

The Wailin Jennys are a lovely three piece from Winnipeg, Canada. Wondlerfully crafted songs sung with passion and scenerity. Modern styles with traditional roots. My Rating: 4

Kate FaganKate Fagan wrote and sung a few songs that are still stuck in my head. Folk in the guitar / story telling vein, with a powerful voice to match. What I’d call modern Australian folk. My Rating: 3.5

Nabarlek are a group from Arnhem land. More rock than folk, these guys where one of the few acts that got people up and dancing. Their Garage band feel was a nice change from all the other soft smooth music. My Rating 3.5

Seaman Dan is lovely elder from the Torres Straight. He has that calm dignity that seems common in indigenous elders and rare in whitefellas. His blues / hula / folky combo makes you smile and sway. My Rating: 4

Spooky Mens Chorale are a festival favourite. The manage to be very professional, but appear very laconic and comic. I found it a funny performance by a very tightly conducted choir, but not quite up to the hype. My Rating: 4

Blindmans holiday is a female four member accapella group. They where comfortable with all their songs, and had some nice numbers, but some in Italian where not really my style. Not much politics to speak of, nothing like Akasa. My Rating: 3

Overall, I enjoyed th Festival more than the last time I went and more than Byron Bay Blues Festival last year.

My Rating for the Festival: 4


2 Responses to “National Folk Festival”

  1. […] National Folk Festival Red Koi Reviews Red Koi Reviews. See what I ve seen, hear what I ve heard … a solo songwriter / singer whose songs range from kid comedy to serious politics and satire. … […]

  2. I was exactly looking for something like that. Are you trying to play with my confusing trial Good joke 🙂 Why does a turtle live in a shell? Because it can’t afford an apartment.

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