Festival Review: Woodford Folk Festival (Day 3 & 4) – 29th & 30th December 2011

Waking up later each and every day seems to be a regular thing for me these days. It happened at Meredith, and it’s happening at Woodford. The third day is upon us and I was up at the sunny dawn of 8am. The previous two days saw me awake at the fairly reasonable hours (if you’re an idiot) of 5am and 6:30am. I’ll get some regular sleeping patterns eventually. One thing I’m also not getting used to are the available showers. For some inexplicable reason, the showers at Woodford do not have a “HOT” handle. This has resulted in small groans and deep breathed tones while I had freezing cold streams of water touch my tired skin.

It invigorated me regardless, which I suppose was a good thing. I couldn’t go out into the Woodford day without any form of recognisable sleep deprivation on my face. An insightful forum about the politics of denial which featured some great minds (Professor Ian Lowe, Clementine Ford, Clive Hamilton and Mike Williams – look them up, they all have wonderful minds and ideas in the written form that this lowly writer can only dream about) was great brain food for the morning. Tripod were the first ‘musical’ act of the day, which proved that a good laugh invigorates the morning even more. Despite repeating some of their earlier material from Tuesday, they proved to be really entertaining with more PG material for the kiddies, and that provided a good sense of variety.

Next I caught half a set from another act I’ve seen once before – Hanggai (I would eventually get to see a full set tomorrow). The familiarity was not getting stale as per their normal stellar evening performances in the glaring Thursday morning sun. After a nice little frozen ice cream, I headed off to my haunt of the festival, the Pineapple Lounge where the two self deprecating men of Glover & Sorensen told bad jokes and gave leering looks at audience members who were chatting away in their own little world. It was tragically nutty and sadistically amusing in a strange way. Amanda Solar provided some intermission entertainment within their set which was charming. I love her bouncy attitude to performing and I can’t wait to see her in a longer set.

The Old Spice Boys had been plagued by slight sound problems (and the Parlour itself has sound bleed issues with the Bazaar loud bass booming through) but enjoyed Azo Bell’s ukulele playfulness while rockabilly couples danced around the floor. The sweetness of Jesca Hoop was a nice counterpoint to that playfulness. Her stories between songs were amazingly intimate and insightful. After resting this sore head of mine for 10 minutes on some wet grass, the soothing chilled country tones of Tinpan Orange made for a nice sentiment in my brain. Their washed out cover version of the Round The Twist theme was particularly liberating for this child of the nineties.

Realising that I did want to wake up at around 8am tomorrow, I decided to just see one more act for the night, and while the dude in Graveyard Train using gaffa tape as suspenders seemed a little enticing, I decided to finish the night the way I started, with some hilarity from the Berlin duo Die Roten Punkte. Much more awkward than The White Stripes, Astrid and Otto Rot from the band fumbled, argued and told silly stories through their set – and it was freaking comical in the most entertaining way. I don’t know what it was – the German accents, the costumes, the sexual innuendo – but when you get wonderfully absurdist songs about robots becoming lions, you don’t care. Die Roten Punkte create a fantasy world, which is like Willy Wonka’s factory, producing music instead of chocolate.

Onto Friday, which after yet another 6am wake up call from the birds and a cold shower, started off with another bit of singing with Mr Percival (or throwing my voice, depending on how you look at it) in his Singing Conspiracy workshop. Today we sung a sea shanty as well as doing the general warm up exercises that made our mouths feel really good. The mouth theme continued in a more spoken word idea at the Poets Breakfast. This was a nice little poignant part of the festival. Some wonderful bush and slam poets provided words of awesome wisdom with my eggs and beans. One guy in particular who I could only identify as ‘Muzza’ performed an amazingly affecting piece about suicide amongst farmers. This little softie nearly cried at the great timing, phrasing, emotion, real feeling and rhyme that this poem inflicted, and I couldn’t help but be inspired by Muzza and many other poets to get a pen and notebook and start my own poetry again.

For a second I couldn’t figure out if the next act I saw today were actually Canadian. The sister duo of Ennis had some greatly Irish inspired tunes, which had a very deep influence on their Newfoundland home. I actually felt wonderfully transported to that area due to them interspersing their songs with tales of sibling jokery about home plus traditional stories of their homeland.

I heard snippets of Bob Hawke apparently speak about sport, but from what I can gather many audience members seemed more interested in chatting about politics which was fair game. Bob seemed happy to answer such questions and was eloquent as he ever was (if you wanted to call his rough, straight up political style eloquent). The connecting themes of the day continues as I sat on the Village Green arena to witness a historic Battle Of The (H)ashes care of some great theatre performers wearing cricket gear. I haven’t laughed at a cricket ever since, well, that cameraman fell over at the Boxing Day Test.

I grabbed my third taste of Hanggai at the festival, and finally I got to see a full set from them. For a band that don’t speak English, they connected with the crowd like it was their home town. The lead singer would say something as banter between songs which would result in the crowd screaming “YARRGGHH” after each sentence. I’m not sure if I missed something here, but it sure was fun. Their songs about their homeland were head boppingly fun as well. I would go so far to say the hour on the Grande stage consisted of some amazing use of traditional instruments to produce a very modern sound which could line up against some brilliant folk music masters.

More brain food was the order of the day then at the greenhouse taking in a engrossing discussion with Clementine Ford, Benjamin Law and Andrew Bartlett about being heard in the media, which was very informative, insightful and very beneficial for this little struggling writer. The second offering of Jesca Hoop at the Amphitheatre once again was touchingly beautiful. Her soft voice was brilliant with very soft droplets of rain slowly falling onto the grassed surrounds. To hear her sparkly songs on a bigger stage was truly something special, more so than the first time that I saw her at The Bazaar. A very homely set by a lass who uses music sparingly but to great special effect with the cooling air surrounding the festival and setting sun giving a glow into the skyline.

Another one of those ‘wandering tours’ that I seemed to go on a bit on day one of the festival happened. I just walked around hoping to discover some wonderful things, and I certainly did discover those things, which included; the complex and immensely rapid playing of traditional klemer sounds via the large ; the amazing but also quirky innuendo of the discussions on Love TV; and the frenetic beatbox skills (as well as knowledge of cheesy nineties songs) of Nathan Kaye. The last act proceeded to encourage everyone in the audience to hug each other during one of his amazing solo-didgeridoo jams, in which I got hugged by three dancers around me. It was a very hippy-esque moment, but also a very exceptional example of what this whole six day experience was all about.

I rested my head amongst a few uniquely shaped rocks while listening to the Band Of Frequencies. It was unique to lie down motionless considering the amazing polyrhythmic rhythms coming from this late night funk revue, but I was generally pooped from experiencing so much of the day. Besides, I had wake up at a more normal time than what I had been doing the last few days – and in addition to that – I needed to conserve as much energy as I could for what laid ahead. To think there are still two more days of this exhilaration to go.

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