Beth Orton

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 -

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.


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

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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 -

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

Woodford Folk Festival - 2013 -

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.

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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


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


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.

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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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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


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 -






Videos from Beth Orton’s Ampitheatre show here…


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

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






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 -

Julian Marley - Woodford Folk Festival -

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 -

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 -

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


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-

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 -

Crusty Suitcase Band + Scotch & Soda -






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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

Wild Marmalade - Woodford Folk Festival -2013-

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

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


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.

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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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