AU ABROAD

Festival Review: Woodford Folk Festival, Day Five - Woodfordia, Queensland (31.12.13)

Stormchasers chase the afternoon clouds away from the audience's minds with their quick stepping soul and funk hybrid sound. It's an exuberant performance from the 7-piece band that gets the dancers moving and even convinces my weary body that it needs to get up to jig along.

TaikOz take the form of traditional Japanese drumming style of taiko and make it their own. Whether it's on an array of smaller drums or the big grandfather monsters, the group produces a sheer barrage of rhythm. The percussive music is incredibly intricate and this is matched by the form and movements of the ensemble. It's an elegant, unstoppable and intensely physical set that gives me more energy then the coffee hit I had had that morning.

On the way to the Amphitheare to kick off the New Year celebrations, there's still time to catch the tale-end of Vidwan's second set with the band's sound proving just as infectious. But it's onto the main party of the night. Dubmarine have been chosen to kick it off and it's immediately clear why, the band dominating the stage and huge crowd area in a way that some bigger international names hadn't managed. It's a crazy mix of electronica, reggae, drum and bass, more bass and a bit more bass for good measure. There's even trombones thrown in plus a hint of some aboriginal influences to round off the pumping sound.

Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, and this section saw Rachaell Sermanni, Breabach and the Peatbog Fairies all combine in a whirlwind of Scottish tunes. The set is interrupted though, with the Woodfordian custom of three minutes of silence at 11:30. It's a time of reflection and it's a tranquil moment unspoiled by any idiots among the hundreds of people. The bands then kick on, the highlight being when Breabach and the Peatbog Fairies come together as one ensemble to battle it out in a dashing duel of piping woodwind and bass.

It's after midnight when Wild Marmalade take over the stage, but there's certainly no time for rest. With pulsing didgeridoo and dual drummers, it's a literally non-stop stream of incredibly organic dance music. And I mean non-stop. The set evolves throughout it, the musicians reacting to one another and the audience's reaction. From here, it's time to crash back at camp for a little but there's one Woodford custom left to do. Most of the people at the festival gather together to watch the first sunrise of the morning atop Woodfordia hill with its giant sign. And that's why I'm trudging up a hill at 3am at the morning. It's pretty crowded and the clouds threaten to ruin it. But serendipity smiles on the tired mob and it all comes good. It's a magical moment to see the first rays of a new year, accompanied eerily yet joyously by Tibetan monks' throaty hymns with hundreds of others. It's a shared moment that I won't forget and neither will any of the bleary-eyed others that managed to make it till then.

With that, my Woodford was done. It's been an incredible 5 days and an experience I would recommend to everyone. And it's made possible by the people you meet, the fact that you can talk to anyone; whether they be a farmer taking some time off, West End hippy, volunteer manning a stall or a family of four here for the day. The atmosphere of the festival is so inclusive and welcoming. Simply put, the reason Woodford Folk Festival is so great is because of its folk, those that bring their smiles, their energy and dancing shoes for six days of escape to real life.