About 3 months ago I was asked to volunteer for the Blue Mountains Music Festival and told with my experience I would be put on staging and MC work. I didn’t need a second look as I was keen to learn how a major festival worked in light of the decision to go private with the Mudgee Music Festival and promote it myself.
Festival skies …misty mountain hop Fri night
Liz Stringer Blues Room Friday
The time came round and I was rostered on 3 shifts ..the first on the Friday night at the Blues Room in the Katoomba RSL and the second after a whole day off on the Saturday was a big spell in the Mainstage Pavilion from 11am till 7.30pm.
First up I got side of stage and witnessed Liz Stringer’s Blues/Soul intensity first hand. Passion is what seems to drive and make great music and here was a clear example. She is starting to make real headway and her intensity and passion is what seems to be winning it for her, indeed the theme over the weekend was not just musical excellence but driving passion that boils out of every great artist here. Next my good friends from Melbourne and Gulgong Folk Festival times , April Maze, were on and I loved doing their stage set up. They nailed the set in their usual charming fashion and it was a lot of fun having some friends around. Speaking of passion next up on that stage was the Popes, Shane McGowans [Pogues] backing band for a few years in the 90s. By now I had made my presence clear as a stage manager and Tim my cohort was leaving me to it a bit. The Popes were chockful of energy…a bit light on the songwriting side and a bit anthemic for me but there was no denying their infectious energy
Rich and Dave Allen form the Popes…broken fiddle!!
The set up for these guys was more intense and it was a full rock band set up and I was doing drums/guitars/bass and all the usual water /leads/string changing requirements. I take my job seriously and I watched the stage like a hawk making sure they were all comfortable…I had to do a lot of running back and forth to frony of house to get foldback changed as well. the drummer was a legend and Dave Allen on fiddle a nicer guy you couldnt meet…he reminded me of Dave Hill from Slade.
I had Saturday off and strolled round and checked out all that makes a larger festival work…lots of volunteer grunt on security and ushering and miles of cable/barricading/lights and festival stalls plus big sound and light rigs…so much to take in before I start my Mudgee Music Festival out at the Showgrounds in May 2014…Gulgong will be nothing on this.
Zoe Keating weaves her Phillip Glass style magic Guinness tent Sat
Spooky Mens Chorale Guinness tent Sat
I was impressed with Zoe Keating and her cello loops [very Phillip Glassish] was thrilled to catch Luka Bloom [he even played 'Diamond Mountain' first song] but was tempted to an early bed as Id just found out via SMS that I was going to be MC tomorrow on mainstage as well as stage manage Arlo Guthrie/ Kate Miller Heidke and Seth Lakeman. Pretty nervous and thought I should do some youtube research…I didnt even know who Seth Lakeman was…little did I know what a profound experience he would be tomorrow!!
Guitar chronicles Mainstage Sunday
Arlo Guthrie warming up
Early onstage and before anyone else was there Id cleaned up the stage from the night before and started setting up for first act which was Mike McClellands guitar circle including Fiona Boyes/Sean Taylor and Chris Smithers. Next up Red Molly were so so but then the action really picked up with Arlo Guthrie arriving backstage…by now Id taken over stage management and was to do the MC for him. I was so friggin nervous having to go out in front of 2000 or so people but it went OK. He was a lovely guy and very approachable and I gotta say a wonderful guitarist/story teller and his singing reminded me of Willie Nelson…the last song ‘Peace be with you’ brought me close to tears as I realised his wife of 30 years had died only last October and how sad he must still at his tender waning age of 66.
Kate Miller Heidke pic Elizabeth Walton
Kate Miller Heidke was imperious and swerved from Opera to idiosyncratic pop with utter ease. Id got her album ‘Little Eve’ back in 2007 but she has grown in stature so much in the last few years and 2 albums and I found her voice/songs and presence utterly rivetting. Sarah and Mama were particular standouts chilling!!
Seth Lakeman…Id met up with him and the drummer Simon earlier in the day when they came in to check their set up and hire instruments…lovely guys straight up and down and utterly Irish!! ..[note they were the only artists to do so at whole festival]
What a force of nature , what a show…Id caught one song of theirs at the big top on Saturday [Kitty Jay] but was spellbound and they were fantastic …I found myself running again and really having to take care of Simon on drums…the hire kit was falling apart round him a bit and at one stage I was holding down the hi hat whilst he played…a brilliant set and my pick of the festival.
Seth Lakeman pic Elizabeth Walton
All in all a fantastic experience and nice to know my staging credentials got me a guernsey on the mainstage…must admit I do love being in the zone with the artist and it only makes me hungrier for my own little pot of success!!