Tony Hillier

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Issue #23 August 2013: FESTIVAL FARE



The bells and whistles of previous years might be missing in the programs for this year’s cash-strapped Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) and Cairns Festival, but in return for any lack of razzmatazz comes more opportunity than before for local performers to strut their stuff, which is what this website and its founding body, PALM, has long advocated.

With the majority of the events costing nothing, there’s every incentive for the public to get out and sample what the cream of far north Queensland musicianship has to offer.

Dan SultanDan Sultan

The festivities commence this weekend with the free CIAF concert Big Talk One Fire at Fogarty Park on FRIDAY (AUGUST 16TH) showcasing the best in local Aboriginal talent. Hopevale-raised country singer Ivana Gibson is first up (4pm), followed by vibrant Wujal Wujal quintet the Cold Water Band (5pm). Kuranda reggae-rock warriors the Zennith Boyz (7pm) and Yarrabah band Djun Djun Jarra (8pm) are the lead-up acts to star attraction (and honorary local) Dan Sultan (8:40pm), who is flying back from Nashville, where he’s recording an eagerly awaited new album, to headline the UMI Arts-sponsored concert. “Dan the Man” has come a long way since his days as lead singer in Cairns thrash band Valaceed at the long defunct (and much missed) Graft ‘n’ Arts.


• The Coldwater Band perform during NAIDOC week:


Those who missed the launch of Seaman Dan’s autobiography Steady, Steady at the Tanks Arts Centre last month — an immensely enjoyable and entertaining event — should make a point of attending the encore at KickArts in Abbott St on SATURDAY (3 – 4PM, AUGUST 17TH,).The octogenarian Torres Strait Islands’ champion will be performing songs from his latest album, Still On Deck, which accompanies the book, with backing from the Cairns Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir. There’s no cover charge.

• Seaman Dan talks about his life and music career:


Dan SultanKamerungaAll roads will lead to the Esplanade on SATURDAY, AUGUST24TH for the launch of this year’s shortened Cairns Festival, culminating in that perennial family crowd pleaser the Grand Parade. Local acts will hold sway on the Progig Stage situated in the centre of the Festival hub just north of the Lagoon. Reggae Bliss (4pm-6pm) and Tribal Connections (7-9pm) are proven crowd pleasers. Ska.B.Q (1-6pm) will hold court on the same stage on SUNDAY, AUGUST 25TH, followed by singer-songwriters Will Kepa, Ray-Lee and Chris Wighton (6.30-8.30pm). On the same afternoon at nearby Fogarty Park, Dixie Jazz (noon-1pm), Snake Gully (1:30-2:30pm), The Range (3pm-4pm) and Mustered Courage (4:30-6pm) will perform an array of genres.

The Progig Stage will feature a range of acts over the week, including the Montgomery Brothers (4:30-6:30pm) and singer-songwriters Steve Williams, Louarde and Jeremiah Johnson (6:30-8.30pm) on MONDAY, AUG 26TH; Koahlition Reggae Band (4.30-6.30pm) TUESDAY, AUG 27TH; Humidity (4:30-6:30pm); WEDNESDAY, AUG 28TH; Sounds of AustraNesia (5pm-6.15pm) THURSDAY AUG 29TH, Barrelhouse Three (4.30-6.30pm) FRIDAY AUG 30th, and Eddie Skiba (1-3pm) and Rockabilly Express (4-6pm) on SUNDAY SEPT 1ST.

The live music will come thick and fast on the main stage at Carnival on Collins on SUNDAY SEPT 1ST, culminating with performances from the Jeremiah Johnson Band (1-1:40pm) and those national festival faves Kamerunga (2-3pm).

• Kamerunga in action at the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo:


Dan SultanSandi ThomTanks Unplugged which showcases some of the finest original artists and bands of the region will feature prominent funk-rock artist Amy Chase with an EP launch plus bluesman GG Davies with his Daintree Delta Blues line up at the Tanks on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 TH.

Jazz fans can look forward to Jazz Up North at the Tanks Arts Centre on FRIDAY, AUGUST 30TH, featuring Joe Chindamo (7.30pm) and Jazz Under The Stars (6-10pm) at the Botanic Gardens on SATURDAY, AUGUST 31st, headlined by the Barrier Reef Jazz Band and Junior See Poy’s Take 5. Also on Saturday the 31st, Americana band The Hillbilly Goats will be yee-ing and haa-ing at Fields Of Fire, set down for Blazing Saddles at Yorkeys Knob (4-7pm).


The festival scene moves further north at the end of the month with the annual Wallaby Creek Festival on weekend SEPTEMBER 27TH-28TH with South American reggae legend Quique Neira headlining a star-studded bill. More details and ticket information at:


Quique Neira performs in his native Chile.


Yungaburra’s Tablelands Folk Festival, the longest running event of its type in Queensland, will offer one of its strongest ever lineups on OCTOBER 25th-27 th, including Shane Howard, Steven Pigram, Sandi Thom, Margret RoadKnight and the Volatinsky Trio. Tickets and further info at:


• Sandi Thom sings her mega-hit ‘I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker’:


Dan SultanSteven PigramThere’s some huge concerts scheduled for the last quarter of the year, culminating of course with the appearance of the great Canadian poet/singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen at the Cairns Convention Centre on Tuesday, NOVEMBER 26th on what will probably be his farewell Australian tour. Nashville-based Aussie Guitar whiz TOMMY EMMANUEL will be pulling out the pyrotechnics at the Cairns Civic Theatre on Saturday NOVEMBER 9th as part of his national tour.


Punters can also look forward to concerts in the Botanic Gardens on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15TH from Gurrumul and on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11th from Missy Higgins. The adjacent Tanks Arts Centre will be hosting The Cat Empire on weekend of OCTOBER 5th/6th and Colin Hay on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6th, not to mention the final World Music and Jazz Up North series concerts of the year, featuring the country’s top flamenco troupe Arte Kanela on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18TH and songbird Kristen Berardi on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25th.


That all adds up to a thrilling three months for local music lovers.


• Tracks by many of the acts mentioned in the above article and much more can be heard during Tony Hillier’s World of Music, a weekly segment on ABC Radio Far North (Friday 4:45-5pm). The program is also available as a podcast at:


Tony Hillier