Mullum Music Festival 2014 – A Town Alive With The Sound of Music

Any place in the world where you find its streets and buildings are alive and buzzing with the sounds of music is a blessed thing, right?

Well blessed be any folks in Mullumbimby during four days once a year when this small and otherwise quiet town near coastal Byron Bay is filled with the sounds of music bought there by Mullum Music Festival. Those four days of musical blessings happened in Mullum last weekend.

Bombay Royale at Mullum Music Festival 2014

The Bombay Royale

The Sound of Music

…in Venues

Day or night at Mullum Music Festival you could’ve found your way to any number of the festival’s 12 town venues to hear as many of the live performances by 60+ Australian and international artists as you could.

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The Village Vanguard

My music tastes drew me most to the Village Vanguard, a ‘motley jazz club’ newly created at this year’s festival and curated by Harry Angus James.

The Melotonins live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

The Melotonins

Harry James Angus Band at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Harry James Angus

Mojo Juju live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Mojo Juju

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That’s Harry from The Cat Empire yes – whose artistic contributions to this year’s Mullum Music Festival as its Patron were invaluable.

We heard Harry James Angus on stage solo with a guitar singing and playing music of a very different kind to The Cat Empire.

We also got Harry leading the awesome nightly performances by the Harry James Angus Band and displaying the utmost humility and respect for all artists he shared the stage with. In their final festival show on Sunday night those guests included Nai Palm, Martin Martini, The Melotonins and Peter Hunt (Kooii).

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Finally for anyone like me with a magnetism to all sounds horns and a love of jazz, Harry James Angus was last weekend’s Patron Saint of Horns –  for bringing his and so many other horn players’ sounds and chops to the stages and streets of Mullumbimby.

Harry James Angus Band at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Harry James Angus Band at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Melbourne saxophonist Darcy McNulty was one of them – and every note he played during his many festival appearances was sublime.

Darcy McNulty at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Harry James Angus Band at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Bullhorn (Brisbane)

Bullhorn was also amongst the horns-heavy groups at the Village Vanguard, delivering a fusion of funk, soul, hip hop and reggae music that simply had to be danced to.

Bullhorn at Mullum Music Festival 2014Bullhorn at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Check out this mp3 (only) version of a track from Bullhorn’s 2012 self-titled album and imagine the goodness of hearing it live.

Bullhorn - BULLHORN (2012)

‘War’ – Bullhorn – BULLHORN (2012)

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Mojo Juju & T-Bone

The bluesy, soulful minimalistic music played skillfully by sibling duo Mojo Juju and T-Bone was another highlight act in the Village Vanguard.

Mojo Juju live at Mullum Music Festival 2014Mojo Juju live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

All Venues

In whichever of the Mullum Music Festival venues I heard music, I felt better for it.

The Bombay Royale (Melbourne)

Bombay Royale at Mullum Music Festival 2014Bombay Royale at Mullum Music Festival 2014

 Dustyesky Russian Choir (Mullumbimby)

Dustyesky Male Choir at Mullum Music Festival 2014Dustyesky Male Choir at Mullum Music Festival 2014

 Marlon Williams (Aotearoa/New Zealand)                        Bustamento (Melbourne)

Marlon Williams live at Mullum Music Festival 2014Bustamento at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Martin Martini (Melbourne)                                             Gabriel & Cecelia (Northern NSW)

Martin Martini live at Mullum Music Festival 2014Gabriel and Cecelia live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Bongeziwe Mabandla (South Africa)                                      C.R. Avery (Canada)

Bongeziwe Mabandla at Mullum Music Festival 2014CR Avery at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Wild Marmalade with Paul George (Mullumbimby)

Wild Marmalade at Mullum Music Festival 2014Wild Marmalade at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Wild Marmalade at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Nai Palm (Melbourne)

Having recently seen Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote) perform a solo show in Melbourne amongst a noisy crowd, it was an especially good thing to properly hear and appreciate her unique vocal and guitar styles amongst an attentive Mullumbimby crowd.

Nai Palm live at Mullum Music Festival 2014Nai Palm live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Check out these videos of Nai Palm performing ‘Malika’ from Hiatus Kaiyote’s debut album Tawk Tomahawk and ‘Molasses’ from the new EP By Fire out on 2nd December.

My one exception to musical happiness was The Church. Sound problems and four out of five musicians on stage playing guitars just wasn’t my thing.

The Church live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

The Church live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

I retreated to the Village Vanguard to hear the honey-sweet vocal harmonies of Brisbane’s three Melotonins (in between their extended banter).

The Melotonins live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

The Melotonins live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

The Melotonins live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

The Melotonins live at Mullum Music Festival 2014

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…in the Streets

It wasn’t just inside Mullum Music Festival venues where you heard the sounds of music.

If you walked between those venues you heard live music in the streets played by local buskers. No doubt everyone supported them (with $) in making their important contribution to the world of ensuring music is heard in public spaces as we go about our days.

Mullum Music Festival 2014

Mullum Music Festival 2014

Maybe you were lucky enough to time your walk so you got to dance it to the beats of the 80’s with local dance theatre troupes The Cassettes and Mixed Tape Crew.

The Cassettes and Mixed Tapes at Mullum Music Festival 2014The Cassettes and Mixed Tapes at Mullum Music Festival 2014

If you opted to travel between venues on the most fun and sought-after of festival transport routes, you would’ve had the pleasure of getting your wig on and dancing in your Magic Bus or Disco Expresso seat to music of the super-funky kind.

Mullum Music Festival 2014

Mullum Music Festival 2014Magic Bus at Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

The Magic Bus at Mullum Music Festival 2014

And even if you took a break from the festival music to refuel in a Mullumbimby cafe, you probably heard the sounds of music spun by DJs.

Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

Wherever you were in Mullumbimby central you heard the sounds of music, music and more music. During four festival days the town and people in it were alive, high and buzzing for it.

Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014Harry James Angus Band at Mullum Music Festival 2014

More Than Music

Of course it takes more than music to make any festival the best experience it can be. Mullum Music Festival 2014 had all those things going on too.

The music was heard, danced to and appreciated by an incredibly friendly and chilled-out (mostly local) festival crowd, happy and grateful to have the sounds of music in their own ‘hood.

Mullum Music Festival 2014Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

If you didn’t already know those local folk or feel a part of their community, it wasn’t long before you did.

Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

The Magic Bus - Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

Like every year at Mullum Music Festival the 2014 program included the talents and colours of roaming theatrecomedy and circus performers plus more.

Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

Joel Salom and Greg Sheehan (Mullumbimby)

Joel Salom at Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

Greg Sheehan at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Joel Salom and Greg Sheehan show at Mullum Music Festival 2014Joel Salom and Greg Sheehan show at Mullumbimby Music Festival 2014

Mario Queen of the Circus 

Mario Queen of the Circus at Mullum Music Festival 2014Mario Queen of the Circus at Mullum Music Festival 2014

Musical Nourishment

Four days of being in Mullumbimby with it’s streets and buildings alive and buzzing from the sounds and colours of Mullum Music Festival, left me feeling high and nourished. I know I’m not the only one.

And of course we know that musical nourishment/happiness breeds more happiness. That’s a mighty good thing for the overall wellbeing of the world isn’t it. Music is indeed The Healer and Mullumbimby folks are indeed blessed that Mullum Music Festival saturates their town with it once a year.

The Cassettes and Mixed Tapes at Mullum Music Festival 2014

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Wild Marmalade Consistencies

Musicians in the world have certainly taken on as their own, the live and improvised didjeridu-dance sound of its Australian originators Wild Marmalade. But after experiencing Wild Marmalade’s Sunday show at Brunswick Heads, I’m convinced that none of them could really sound like, or sound as good as these highly skilled, Australian artists do when doing what they do.

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

Wild Marmalade’s core and founding members and drivers of its high-energy musical force, are Si Mullumby (Dream Drone) on yidaki (didjeridu) and Matt Goodwin on drum kit.

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

Si Mullumby (left) & Matt Goodwin (right)

These days, 14 years after Wild Marmalade began, you’re likely to find more than those 2 artists on stage.

‘Woodford Folk Festival Wild Marmalade’

I last caught a Wild Marmalade show at Woodford Folk Festival 2013/2014.  There they were joined by Tijuana Cartel’s vocalist and flamenco-inspired guitarist Paul George.  His guitar in the mix put Wild Marmalade’s sound much more up my musical alley than the straight didj/drum combo.  But hey, that’s just me and my personal music needs.

Wild Marmalade with Paul George live @ Woodford Folk Festival 2013/2014

Woodford Folk Festival 2013/2014

‘European Wild Marmalade’

Since then Wild Marmalade have been playing gigs and festivals throughout Europe with a different line-up of Australian musicians: Si Mullumby + Paul George with reggae/dancehall/hip-hop producer and musician Jake Savona (aka Mista Savona) on keys…

Jake Savona

Jake Savona

and one of Australia’s top percussionists, the music machine who is Ben Walsh (Orkestra of the Underground – Scotch & Soda – The Bird – Crusty Suitcase Band – Circle of Rhythm)…

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

Ben Walsh

Since my musical needs are generally melodic ones, I’m especially sorry to have missed the European Wild Marmalade experience with Jake Savona’s melodies in its mix.

‘Brunswick Heads Wild Marmalade’

At the Brunswick Heads show on Sunday, Matt Goodwin and Si Mullumby were playing on their Australian home shores again. This time the duo was joined by Ben Walsh and another Australian multi-instrumentalist, solo artist and musical collaborater with many, Matt Ostila on jaw harp.

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

Ben Walsh

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

Matt Ostila

Wild Marmalade Always

No matter which particular artists you find on a Wild Marmalade stage, no matter the venue and no matter the crowd, two things seems to consistently be the same at every show:

1. the impressive level of musicianship and musicality of the artists, and how special that is to see and to hear live.

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

At the Brunswick Heads gig I especially appreciated the chemistry between Ben Walsh and Matt Goodwin.

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2. the musicians seem to successfully sense the individual nature and vibe of each crowd they’re playing to, and create a fluid journey of improvised sound (sometimes chilled, other times frenzied) which makes that crowd move, and feel happier for the experience.

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

Get a glimpse of the Brunswick Heads Wild Marmalade’ experience on these video snippets from Sunday’s show...

 

Check out Woodford Wild Marmalade’ with Paul George on video here.

Hear the sounds of Paul George in the Wild Marmalade mix with this dirty mp3 version of a track from their 2014 live album Flux.

Wild Marmalade with Paul George - Flux (2014)

Flux (2014)

‘Tyagarah Mosquito’ – Flux (2014)

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Finally for your own Wild Marmalade experience, for a taste of some uniquely-Australian music – find them playing live in the world where you next can.

Wherever that show is, you’re sure to find a 3rd consistent thing  – Si Mullumby playing didjeridu. He’s the only member (core or guest) who’s played every show except one in their 14 year history.

Wild Marmalade with Ben Walsh & Matt Ostila live @ Brunswick Heads

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A Magical Woodford Folk Festival World Away

Being at Woodford Folk Festival is to live in a beautiful, magical, far-away world of its own.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

A World Away

You move into a temporary village of lantern-lit streets and paths, nestled amongst the hills. Those paths are lined with restaurants, bars, venues & stages, artisan market stalls, art works and more.  Surrounding them are the many different camping grounds.

All of that is spread across a huge 500-acre festival site.

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Your new home is in the beautiful South-East Queensland countryside…Jinibara Country.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

You are instantly part of a community of 100,000+ people who come to Woodford Folk Festival between 27 Dec and 1 Jan. They are super friendly, diverse, arts-loving people from all over Australia and overseas.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Like you, they become happier and more relaxed with each passing festival day.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

After landing in the festival village, the rest of the world and its bad news stories feel far away. Selfishly, I don’t want to know about that other world during my festival days and nights. I just want to immerse myself completely in the small utopian world of Woodford Folk Festival, while I can.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Endurance & its Rewards

To live in the magical world of Woodford Folk Festival requires endurance. My friend says it’s like being a contestant on the reality television show Survivor.

The festival is (if you choose) 6 days & nights of camping in the extreme Queensland Summer heat and dust, some times heavy rains.

It’s also 6 days and nights trying to squeeze in as much as possible of the goodies on offer in the festival program.

On offer is non-stop live music, dance, theatre, film, comedy, circus, parades, talks, debates, ceremonies, events, and other arts, health & educational activities

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…all happening in over 35 official (+ more unofficial) venues across the Woodford Folk Festival site.

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Woodford Folk Festival is an epic adventure to end the year with, and you’re unlikely to go home from it feeling physically rested. But the rewards of endurance are one week in the countryside with friendly festival people and music – and that means leaving the festival feeling recharged and inspired in every other way.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

2013/2014 Woodford Folk Festival Music

For me and my personal musical tastes, I can’t say Woodford Folk Festival is my absolute favourite Australian festival.  That has to be WOMADelaide – because of its focus on music from all over the world crossing so many diverse genres.

The Woodford Folk Festival program is like its name says – folk music focused – with lots of other genres on the fringe.

Woodford Folk Festival 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

But with so many different musical (& other) options on offer throughout the festival week (2000+ performers), everyone can find something to love.

Musically what I love most about Woodford Folk Festival, is that just about all day and all night you can hear some type of music played around you wherever you are on the festival site.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.comWoodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Constantly hearing music makes me feel happier (even if it’s music I’m not into). I think it makes other festival-goers happier too – even if my camping comrades mightn’t say so about the music played by our banjo-practising neighbour.

Here’s some good artists I heard at Woodford Folk Festival in my last days of 2013 (keeping in mind that I, like every other festival goer, can only possibly see a small % of the whole program)….

International Artists

Babylon Circus

Babylon Circus hail from France.  They play a fusion of gypsy, punk, reggae, ska, afro-beat and chanson.

Babylon Circus - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.comBabylon Circus - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Babylon circus have an awesome horns section. Overall the music didn’t move me enough to take the CD home – but both the musicianship and stage presence of all 9 band members made it a worthy and fun live experience.

Babylon Circus - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.comBabylon-Circus-Woodford-Folk-Festival-23-www.beaveronthebeats.com

Videos from a Babylon Circus festival show here (impressively played in 40+ degrees heat)

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Beth Orton

I have listened to Beth Orton’s recorded music for a long time. To experience her and her 2 band members play live at the Ampitheatre was special, and felt ever so intimate.

To watch Beth Orton perform on stage in her shorts and her rain jacket, and hear her anecdotes about Australia and Woodford Folk Festival, was lovely too.

Beth Orton - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.com

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Videos from Beth Orton’s Ampitheatre show here…

Jaaleekaay

Jaaleekaay was the ‘one that got away’ from me at Mullum Music Festival. This trio is Australian-based Steve Berry on guitar and Gambian vocalist and kora player Yusepha Ngum and Amadou Suso musically united.  They were joined on the Woodford stage by innovative Australian percussionist Greg Sheehan.

I made sure I heard Jaaleekaay at Woodford Folk Festival – and my friend was right about them. Amadou Suso’s playing was amazing. His long lineage of kora players can be heard in every single sound he plays.

Jaaleekaay - Woodford Folk Festival -www.beaveronthebeats.com

Jaaleekaay & Greg Sheehan - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.comJaaleekaay - Woodford Folk Festival -www.beaveronthebeats.com

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Video from 1 of Jaaleekaay’s festival shows here….

Julian Marley

What I’ll say about Julian Marley’s Woodford Folk Festival show is that the musicianship was faultless.  I could have stayed on that Ampitheatre hill all night to listen to those musicians play whatever they wanted to play.

Julian Marley - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Julian Marley - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.com

This show bought back good, good memories of Reggae Sumfest where I was blessed to hear that incredible Jamaican musicianship over three long festival nights.

Beres Hammond - Reggae Sumfest - www.beaveronthebeats.com

The only other thing I’ll say is that Julian Marley’s most interesting music were the songs that weren’t covers of Bob Marley songs – and had dub or groove beats in the reggae mix.

Check out these Julian Marley videos yourself.  Marley fans, what say you?

The Sojourners

Three Canadian gospel singers and their band, on a festival stage.

Sojourners - Woodford Folk Festival - www.beaveronthebeats.com

The Sojourners are talented. I guess the experience I really wanted though, was to hear them in a parish environment, arms and voices raised high amongst the rest of the congregation. I think I need to leave Australia to find that 🙂 .

Video of the festival experience of The Sojourners here...

Australian Artists

Kingfisha

Brisbane’s Kingfisha have developed their own unique sound that sets them apart from other Australian bands creating music in the reggae/dub genres.

Most songs Kingfisha played in their Woodford Folk Festival shows were new ones from their forthcoming album. Each is musically great – an interesting song journey in itself with lots of changes throughout and cool electronic sounds from 3 synths.  That music combined with Anthony Forrest’s gorgeous vocals makes for unique, great sounding tunes.

Kingfisha - Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.comKingfisha - Woodford Folk Festival -2013- www.beaveronthebeats.com

Videos from 2 of Kingfisha’s festival shows here…

The Crusty Suitcase Band with Company 2

Scotch & Soda is an entertaining circus and music show by the Crusty Suitcase Band and Company 2.

Crusty Suitcase Band + Scotch & Soda - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Crusty Suitcase Band + Scotch & Soda - www.beaveronthebeats.com

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The most special part of this show for me was the music by the Crusty Suitcase Band – another brilliant musical project of Australian percussionist Ben Walsh.

Crusty Suitcase Band + Scotch & Soda - www.beaveronthebeats.com

At Woodford The Crusty Suitcase Band had a bass player – but it’s only usually Ben Walsh on drums with a group of some of Australia’s top horn players. They create funky ‘gyp hop’ instrumental music influenced by sounds from some of the world’s best musical sources (Cuba, Africa, Jamaica eg.).

The Crusty Suitcase Band’s music is heavenly for horns-lovers like me. Even with only drums and horns the music sounds full, is missing nothing, and is played with stellar musicianship.

Crusty Suitcase Band + Scotch & Soda - www.beaveronthebeats.comCrusty Suitcase Band + Scotch & Soda - www.beaveronthebeats.com

To my ears this is some of Australia’s finest contemporary music on offer.

Check out this video of The Crusty Suitcase Band in Scotch & Soda at Woodford…

Catch Scotch & Soda at the Sydney Festival this month if you can.

Wild Marmalade

Wild Marmalade’s music has always sounded unique in this world: live, organic, improvised dance music usually created by only a didgeridoo (Si Mullumby) and a drum kit (Matt Goodwin).

Wild Marmalade - Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Their live shows are mesmerizing – and the visibly strong connection they and their music make with the audience is a special thing.

The recent addition of Tijuana Cartel’s flamenco-inspired guitarist Paul George to the Wild Marmalade mix, makes their music sound more diverse, interesting and unique than ever before.

Wild Marmalade - Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

Wild Marmalade - Woodford Folk Festival -2013- www.beaveronthebeats.com

Videos from 2 of Wild Marmalade’s Woodford gigs here…

In this one Si Mullumby puts down his didg to play flamenco guitar

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The Ones That Got Away

Like at every festival, especially one with such a huge program over such a large site, I missed a lot of music I’d wanted to hear.

Hearsay I know, but I’m told the Hi-Tops Brass Band (Sydney hip hop with lots of live horns); Yirrmal & The Yolgnu Boys (Indigenous Australian); The Basics (Melbourne based, and including Gotye), were ones I should have caught.

I know from experience The Crusty Suitcase Band playing their own gig on New Years Eve was probably the biggest musical catch of Woodford Folk Festival 2013- one I sadly had to miss.

Back To The Real World

It’s a lovely thing to sit on a hilltop at dawn and watch the first sun of 2014 rise – surrounded by a community of good people you’ve shared Woodford Folk Festival life with.

To sit in the Ampitheatre with those people and thousands more later that night to watch the spectacular closing Fire Event, is another special experience.

The experience of leaving the magical world of Woodford Folk Festival to return to the world of reality, can be a hard one.  It was for me this time.

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

My completely sunny outlook above, comes after an almost rainless 2013/2014 festival by the way.  I also have stories of being there for a rainy, wet, muddy time 🙂 . A beautiful thing is that after 28 festival years, there must be countless Woodford Folk Festival stories that exist in this world.

Share any good Woodford stories you have here…especially if it’s to tell me about some amazing music I missed at the festival last week.

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