Festival Review: Live Review: Woodford Folk Festival (Day 5 & 6) – 31st Dec 2011 & 1st Jan 2012

The irregular sleeps seemingly were getting a hold of me. Waking up with this kind of irregularity over the last five days wasn’t making me crazy, but I was certainly feeling it when I took that very cold shower. It was now day five of Woodford and I was starting to feel the effects of cramming a whole heap of music in my head. I got occasional headaches and my only pair of shoes were starting to fall apart. What to do, what to do. I could only trudge onto the marvellous music on offer, and this was New Years Eve after all. You really don’t have a choice in whether or not you should party when you’re in the Queensland countryside.

A quiet start to the day came along with another poet session which kind of merged itself with a beautiful set from Crooked Still. The outfit from Boston impressed with a good array of fiddle and banjo solos. In fact, Gregory from the band has to be one of the best banjo players I have ever seen live, it really was a treat to see someone take hold of their instrument. In the end, the set of both traditional and modern songs (the group tackled songs by Paul Simon and The Beatles) woke me up completely thanks to the dancing that I’d done.

Toning it down a bit in The Pineapple Lounge was the very fun and silly Bingo Rap City. A collective of dancers and dudes on the mic pulling out numbers and playing the ‘playa’ version of the RSL game was something I thought I’d never see in my life, but there you go. There was some serious dancing going on during the whole bingo game as well, which I think would get more homies into winning a frozen chicken at breakdance conventions everywhere.

From the ridiculous to the serene, Kelly Menhennett provided some blues-inspired chilled tunes, which had a nice little element of jazz in there. Her set was full of loud and quiet moments that made this audience member both nod and sway his head like an eccentric sitting chair artist who paints with his head. It was the start to a very exciting build up to the so-called “final countdown” which I heard an MC say on one occasion.

Matt Anderson made a very late entry for live guitar player of the year. I had heard he had been blowing people away with his previous sets with finger picking and guitar playing that was simply not believable. At first the head banging and multiple use of standard blues chord progressions were a bit so-so, but his big personality came through and his stronger songs came to the for later on in the set. I got converted when I was witness to a 10 minute guitar solo which I think would give John Butler a bit of competition in that department. Only that Anderson’s got grunt while Butler has a bit more soul.

The Once provided once again (ha, that word play wasn’t intended, I love me when I make funnies like that) that they could enchant an audience with both traditional music and light hearted songs. A slight bit of sibling rivalry provided for some lovely entertainment mixed within even more lessons learned about Newfoundland and its customs in the musical field. With the hours of 2011 quickly counting down, I decided to sit down and consume a bit of classical pop of My Friend The Chocolate Cake. Sitting down on NYE to hear them play was an interesting experience. Their music was a little like a metaphor for becoming more mature in the next year, and an example to take into me becoming a more mature music lover (even if that actually does sound like a bit of a wank).

The Woodford tradition of 3 minutes of silence was simply amazing. I haven’t experienced anything like it. The tradition is there to allow all festival goers to reflect on our year went past and remember those we love and those we may possibly have lost. It was simply stunning to hear nothing else except crickets in the distance as we all held candles and thought contemplatively together.

Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro snapped us out of that reflective state, and it became all about partying the night away. The Japanese outfit bounced wonderfully off each other, playing solos and melody lines that were full of funky soul and heart. The crowd were amped up for the countdown, and when it happened, the whole stage I was at exploded into a nutty frenzy of hugs and kisses from people I have never seen in my life. It’s something I should expect, but for some reason, I didn’t seem to and I stayed in this random person’s arms until Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro funked all that they could funk in the morning.

The morning after and we finally have made it to the last day. I actually wasn’t feeling too bad and for once the intense cold showers didn’t bother me. I think I got used to all these life changing things, however it was all due to end on Sunday, January 1st, 2012. I walked around in the sunlight for a little bit before getting involved in Mr. Percival’s Singing Conspiracy workshop once again. In many ways this was a new awakening in that we got to dance out in the open air, and felt as one with the amount of people walking past the Bazaar tent.

Being uplifted by that was nothing compared to the Asanti Dance Troupe from various parts of Africa. I had sweated out all my troubles with their routine of frenetic dancing. It was a sight to behold; with tight muscled bodies doing hugely physical things on stage that I thought weren’t possible. It was quite amazing when I saw many of my fellow festival participants twisting and turning their bodies. If a new resolution for 2012 was to be made, it was to get great abs by dancing like the Asanti boys.

Going on one of those now famous wanders around Woodfordia was regulation now, and I seemed to discover stuff once again. Genevieve Chadwick was a powerful blues girl who wrote songs with intent. It was like The Mess Hall with only an acoustic guitar is the beast way I can describe it. Franktastic was a circus sideshow that I went to not too long afterwards which was a bit underwhelming. It was more a kids show with unicycles, ukuleles, juggling etc; I felt out of place watching him, but it was a nice time filler as part of this wandering tour.

Ethno In Transit were entertaining with jokes all abound. The troupe from various places around Europe and South America pulled faces and got everyone to dance like many others on the stage before them. A meld of world styles was the theme of their set, and it worked really well; having a flamenco song mix within a Scottish folk song. It was interesting to hear. After another serene watching of My Friend The Chocolate Cake, I headed off to the Amphitheatre again where a majestic and stunning farewell ceremony took place. It was probably worthy of some stadium drama show. The immense smoke and light shone throughout the forest and it was simply spectacular to watch.

The end of the festival ended with a bit of comedy with the wonderful Jen Wynter, Steady Eddy, S. Sorrensen and Liz Skitch. Then onto some more seductive funk tunes to end the night just like New Years Eve with Kwerkshoppe. The whole festival was an endeavour of life in a way. People came to engage with the land and be as one with each other as well. The whole six days consisted of friendly faces and good conversation as well. Woodford is one of Australia’s much underrated festivals, and has been so for over twenty years. Once you go there, you get this feeling that you’ll be back again each and every year. I think it’s a fait acompli, to be totally honest. See you in 2013, Woodford.

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