If there is a more enjoyable form of escapism than attending a festival, I’d like to know what it might be. For music junkies like your humble correspondent, festivals really are the ultimate fix. Even for those with only a cursory interest in music, festivals offer a weekend away from the mundane worries of work and life in general, the chance to relax, catch up with old mates, make new friends, and generally kick back or kick up your heels, whichever and whatever takes your fancy.
Here in the far north, there’s no more vibrant annual event than the Tablelands Folk Festival. That, in a nutshell, is why the weekend of October 21st, 22nd and 23rd has been ringed in so many local calendars and why this will be the 31st such festival. TFF has endured and flourished because it exudes bonhomie and is always richly entertaining and fulfilling. The fact that it’s so easy-going and children-friendly makes it a wonderful family event. That it utilises pretty well all of the main area of the historical and picturesque township of Yungaburra is a huge plus. The main drag is cordoned off to create a car-free zone for the weekend. And, of course, the festival happens to coincide with a thriving monthly market: http://www.yungaburramarkets.com/visitors/whatsthere
Up to seven stages will be operating simultaneously at Yungaburra during this year’s festival, from 6pm on Friday the 21st until close of play at 6pm on Sunday the 23rd. In all, this year’s event will feature more than 80 concerts, and that’s not including the chalkboard sessions and spontaneous jams that are inevitable with so many musos gathered in the same place. The veranda of the stately Lake Eacham Hotel — http://www.yungaburrapub.com.au — is “Craic Central”. So if you’re of a musical bent don’t forget to bring your instrument with you.
Themed events such as Friday’s traditional Bush Dance in the Community Hall, again to be hosted by the effervescent Hillbilly Goats, http://www.goatmusic.austarnet.com.au , and Saturday’s Blues Showcase in the idyllic acoustic environment of The Village Chapel, are not to be missed. The blues arvo this year features the talents of Tobias Moldenhauer http://www.tobiasmoldenhauer.com , Marisa Quigley http://www.marisaquigley.com , Nigel Wearne http://www.myspace.com/nigelwearne and Andrew Winton http://www.andrewwinton.com If you’re not familiar with their respective talents, check out their websites — they’re all brilliant and impressively diverse. Don’t forget discovery is the essence of festival-going. It is for yours truly, at any rate.
Other regular events such as the Poets Breakfast, the Children’s Festival & Parade, Songwriting Showcase, the Wellbeing Fair and Beer Tasting have all been retained, along with the ever-popular workshops, where festivalgoers can be simultaneously entertained and educated — “edutained”, to coin David Hudson’s hybrid expression.
The Tablelands’ premier music event actually kicks off in the historic town of Herberton on the evening of Thursday, October 20th. There’s a terrific mix of local acts and interstate visitors billed for the Royal Hotel, http://www.royalhotelherberton.com.au ,comprising singer-songwriters Bob Elliston and Jasmine Chapman, funky Sydney duo Grimick and Perth guitar wizard Andrew Winton. They’ll ensure that the 2011 Tablelands Folk Festival makes a flying start.
The action at Yungaburra’s main stage, The Pavilion in the park — or “Pav” as it has become known — on Friday will commence with a remarkable indigenous singer-songwriter. LJ Hill’s no-holds-barred songs reflect a life spent on the banks of the Namoi River on the northwest plains of NSW and in the city streets of Sydney and Melbourne. LJ has an intriguing ancestry that’s part Australian Aboriginal and part North American Indian, with a bit of Irish thrown in for good measure.
The festival will close on Sunday with what is guaranteed to be a high octane set in The Pav from those mercurial Melburnian purveyors of so-called “gypsy death core”, the Barons of Tang — http://www.thebaronsoftang.com
In between the aforementioned acts there’ll be music catering for most tastes. Peruse the program, located at http://www.tablelandsfolkfestival.org , and make your own choice. Personal recommendations include W.A.’s Miles To Go Trio, http://www.milestogo.com.au , whose mellow Celtic-infused songs and tunes reflect the wide expanse of their native state, the funky Holycow, from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, http://www.reverbnation.com/holycowband and BrisVegas’s sultans of swing Laique http://www.laique.com.au
Look out also for Israeli Noam Blat http://www.noamblat.com whose original songs echo traditional sounds of India, the Middle East and Spain, Bendigo-based twins Alanna & Alicia, who produce the sweetest sibling harmonies, http://www.myspace.com/alannaandaliciaeganband and Grimick, http://www.grimick.com
Your correspond is duty bound to mention that local bush music champions Snake Gully Ensemble —http://www.myspace.com/snakegully — will be celebrating their 25th anniversary at Yungaburra with a 9-piece line-up that encompasses past and present members. Also that the Kamerunga band, fresh from wowing ’em at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr0syx5neAo
— with their “whisky-soaked shanty swagger”, will be performing on the same evening (Saturday).
Local talent will also be well represented by The McMenamins, http://www.themacswebsite.com , Sunbird http://www.shariwilliams.com.au/sunbird and the Far Northern Soul Collective, http://www.myspace.com/farnorthernsoulcollective
In between the music and myriad other activities, the 2011 TFF promises to deliver a barrelful of laughs via Steady Eddy and S. Sorrensen, who’ll both be waxing hysterical about big-ticket issues.
Camping is available at the festival. Tickets in advance from Uptown Music (Atherton) and the Rainforest Gallery (Yungaburra) or online at http://www.ticketlink.com.au or at the festival itself.
For up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening on the big gig scene in Cairns and environs, and to hear relevant tracks, tune in to ABC Far North on Friday afternoons between 4:45pm and 5:00pm for Tony Hillier’s World Of Music. Hillier’s interviews and reviews can be read in the national print media, notably the Weekend Australian and Rhythms, the country’s only dedicated roots music magazine.