Wirrina Bluegrass Festival

Well 2 weeks ago Geoff and I attended and performed at the 2nd Wirrina Bluegrass Festival in the most beautiful setting down on the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA. Peter had had to make a lightning trip to China so we were without the ‘Colonel’ unfortunately. I drove the caravan by myself (first time – major undertaking!) with the 2 dogs down to the gorgeous campground for the weekend but the festival is held in a resort with great facilities and there was a shuttle bus running up and down so nice and easy to access.

The festival was really well organised and there were some great acts – it is really a Bluegrass and Acoustic Music event as there is not enough Bluegrass in SA to sustain a festival on its own…. so there was a wide variety of styles to enjoy over the weekend…. but the bluegrass bands were the feature, with the Davidson Bros coming over and performing up a storm  as usual. A few new highlights for me were ‘The Shared Affair’ from Mildura and ‘Nigel Wearne’ flying solo and the’ Ukulele Circus’.

Ian Main and his bunch of volunteers did a fabulous job….. I hope we can get more Victorians across to support the event next year!

Ian runs the Yankallilla Acoustic Music Group which has an open mic and music gathering on the 3rd Sat of each month in that beautiful part of the world….. we are going to go down this weekend and check it out.

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Kelly Country Pick 2013

Another fabulous Kelly Country Pick this year folks. Lots of photos on Ian Fisk’s photo gallery page https://plus.google.com/photos/104270286940582723366/albums/5912835680820591761

I’ve just finished all the final bits and pieces and am putting it all away for another year.

This was our biggest Kelly Country Pick yet. More people coming, new happy faces…. really inspiring to see. It was the festival’s 15th year and our 6th of running it. The usual suspects provided their invaluable assistance…. Michael and Mary, Helen, Alison, Mel, Anne and Mal and then a whole new crew of helpers…. Saxon, Madeleine, Jimmy, Jeanette, Brian and Vivien, Auriol……. and others I can’t think of off the top of my head….THANKYOU, THANKYOU, THANKYOU.

I’ve fallen off my music horse a bit lately, having injured my vocal cords (again) by going back to teaching….. I’m on the mend though and looking forward to getting back up again.

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Old Timey Sessions at ‘The Gov’

Well, we are 6 months in Adelaide now…..Peter has been hosting a new old timey session, Friday nights at ‘The Gov’ for the last month. Brian Tonkin is a big old timey fan, playing the clawhammer banjo and Vivien Tonkin plays the autoharp. Then when the rest of the family joins in – Richard on fiddle, Jazzy on fiddle,  banjo uke and clogging and Mia on fiddle and clogging – we have 3 generations of the family all playing together. What a treat!

The front bar has had a face lift and is warm and cozy for Friday night winter sessions. It has been a great turnout so far with a rotating group of musicians all coming along and learning the tunes. Peter is giving a bit of bowing instruction too and we are hoping to recruit more bass players so that I can play other instruments. Both Geoff and I have both got the fiddles out and taking the opportunity to start learning….

Kelly Country Pick is well underway and only about 6 weeks away!

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ADELAIDE

Well folks, please excuse the lack of blogging….. life has been intervening….

Yes, the fools have become residents of Adelaide – and what a beautiful city it is!!! I think they keep it a bit of a secret down here. Gorgeous parklands all around the city, big wide streets, fabulous architecture, shady streets, central markets and asian food district to die for…. I’m in heaven! And then there is the music/cultural scene! We’ve been going along to the Gov, which has to be one of the best live music venues I’ve ever been in anywhere in Australia. And the Hillbilly Hoot on Monday nights is just what the name says – a ‘hoot’… a live radio broadcast to join in on, every Monday night at 3D radio, 93.7 fm….check it out, it has been going for 15 years, rain, hail or shine…a true community event, all levels of performers welcome.

And now the city is alive with the Fringe and Adelaide Festivals and Womadelaide is coming up….they call it Mad March… temperature is warm (sometimes bloody hot!) and dry and all of Adelaide is buzzing!

We’ve been getting settled the last month or so and we’re looking forward to getting some music happening here…. especially since Geoff Wright has decided to join us over here! Another fool to join the ranks! Mind you Geoff has been an honorary fool from the start!

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Harrietville 2012

We’ve missed the last 3 Harrietville festivals so it was great to get there this year and catch up with old friends, do some picking and see how the festival has developed. We went up a week early to have some chill out time in the caravan park which was so relaxing (despite some rain) and also found out that the Bright Rod Run happens the week before. So that was an amazing event to behold – hundreds and hundreds of incrediblybeautiful restored cars promenading the leafy streets and roads. I saw so many classic American cars we could have been back in the U.S.!
The U.S. guest artists were fabulous as usual, we’d seen Audie a bit in the States and he and the boys really layed it on for us out here. Adam Hurt and co. were wonderful and Sammy and Nadine were an extra treat.
It was great to see so many new folk attending the festival too – a healthy sign for the future.
The festival had a sad ending for us though, with our gorgeous Ritchie boy (Kelpie extroadinaire) falling sick on the Sunday – he hung on for a few days but we had to let him go – he was 12 or so and had been blind for the last 10 months – but a better companion would be hard to find! He and Lola have travelled the country with us and we miss him.

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Hickinbothams Winery

We had another great weekend down at ‘Hicko’s’ – a week after our return from the U.S. Chilled out around the duck pond with all the dogs and had a bit of a musical reunion for the Sunday afternoon gig. The legendary Jimmy Murphy flew over from Flinders Island and joined us – a pleasure always! David Dixon filled in on the bass, Geoff Wright – my Stringbean companion and favourite musician, so accomplished and such great harmony singing – almost a permanent member of the ‘Fools’… and an unexpected treat with the guitar finesse of the lovely Ben Folkman. A great catch up with some of the locals – Collie and the Wallaces, M & M all the way from Phillip Island and the No. 1 Stringbean fans – Peter and Marg. Thanks for coming everyone and special thanks to Andrew and Terryn for having us yet again!

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Back to Texas – and home!

A quick stop overnight in Houston – visiting Peter’s Indian friends – lovely family whom he met in Delhi 10 years ago when he spent 3 months there teaching! Then on to San Antonio, where we spent 2 nights with Dave and Patti Dyer – friends from last year’s Kaufman camp. It was nice to have a few nights in people’s homes rather than motels! San Antonio has alot of Spanish Architecture and has its famous Alamo landmark in the heart of the city. I understand alot more about the history of Texas now….at one stage the Mexicans were trying to keep the Americans out of their territory instead of the other way around! Had a nice pick with a few of Dave and Patti’s friends and cooked them a curry – they had never eaten it before!! Off to Austin next for another few days – what an insane city! So much night life going on. There was a major festival in town – Austin City Limits – we heard about 30,000 people in town for it over 3 days, it was held in a big park outside the city. At first we thought we’d struck the jackpot but it was sold out! But we did strike gold because we managed to get tickets to see the Punch Brothers in town late on the Friday night. Absolutely inspiring stuff!!! Gorgeous Chris Thile with his big smile and great vibe ripping it up with the other young men in the band!!! The crowd was so into it – the applause was deafening!!! Peter managed to catch 3 songs from Asleep at the Wheel – (I stayed asleep as it was at 8.30am) We caught a Texas Swing band for dinner on Friday night at the Central Market – a big healthy supermarket with a licensed cafe – a bit of a different setting for dancing!On to Fort Worth/Dallas for the weekend – a day in Dallas at the Texas State Fair to finish off on Sunday. A nice way to spend the day – back with some animals!! – chooks, cows, horses, dog shows, an absolutely amazing bird show with lots of gorgeous wild birds, some trained to fly down from the top of the Ferris Wheel to the trainer!! Such a treat we went back and watched it a second time!

Now it is struggle with the luggage!!! And back to Melbourne tomorrow!! Looking forward to seeing all the puppies!!

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Lafayette

Well, a few days in Lafayette brought mixed experiences, some great, some disappointing. First night we found Randoll’s – a cajun restaurant and dance hall. A good start – big plastic tub of crabs and shrimp, with a cane basket for the scraps and a mallet – no plate just bash the crabs on the tables! A cajun band and people of all ages and colours out dancing together. Thought we’d head out and check out downtown but not a cajun/zydeco sound to be found – just nite clubs and loud predictable bands. Oh well, we’d been told to go for Sat morning Zydeco Breakfast at Breaux Bridge and that was amazing!!! It was supposed to start at 8.30am, we got up early and headed over in plenty of time but when we got there the place was packed already and people were dancing and there was an hour long wait to get a table. The place was absolutely jumping – all ages, black and white, dancing together, bloody mary’s and champagne and orange flowing, great breakfasts being served…. amazing to see – on Sat morning!!! Who gets up and goes dancing for breakfast in Australia!!! One thing about these folk is they love to dance!!! Everywhere we went they were dancing!! It just so happened that they also were having a city wide garage sale the same day so the streets were lined with stalls and cars everywhere!
In the afternoon we decided to take in an American Football game – it was the Louisiana State University ‘Ragin Cajuns’ homecoming game – what a cultural experience!! ‘Tailgating’ activities are the massive partying that takes place from the previous day when everyone moves in and sets up camp; big band and dance spectacle to begin and at half time…and friendly folk explaining rules as we go….but so slow compared to our football games… too much stopping and starting and time out!

We kept looking for music from then on but didn’t have much luck, we found bands but they were more r’n’b with a token cajun accordian all playing through massive P.A.’s, not really what we were looking for but the locals were happy – still all dancing! We stayed at a cute little cabin on the bayou – recommended by Margot Hitchcock – our very own Australian Cajun Queen. I’m a bit over having to eat out though…. and I’m not too keen on some of the things they eat down here…I’m looking forward to being able to cook my own healthy food again soon!

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New Orleans

Wow, how cool is the French Quarter? You could easily hang out there for a while. 2 days in New Orleans is almost criminal. Wandering the streets the first day we stumbled upon Frenchmans St where all the jazz bands are playing – so refreshing to see the brass/reed front line with banjo/bass/washboard….all acoustic. Great stuff! Actually thee is acoustic jazz everywhere – in every cafe, busking in the streets… all sounding so tight and clean…so nice to hear the brass! The Spotted Cat Cafe was cool – with an accordian, sax, guitars, bass line up and a guest trumpet for some of it. Bourbon St – you only need to walk down once, to say you’ve done it – far more loud and obtrusive than Broadway or Beale St. New Orleans is the only place in America where it is legal to walk the streets drinking alcohol – and Bourbon St is the prime location – frozen daiquiri stands everywhere. Talking drinks – I had the most amazing Bloody Mary in the Maison Bar – called ‘Proud Mary’- garlic and basil infused vodka, and all the bloody mary’s have spicy cajun green beans and stuffed green olives in them too – just divine drink!

A ride on the trolley car takes you through another part of town where you can look at all the old mansion houses…gorgeous old architecture. Music and festivals of all kinds coming up, seems sad to have to leave after such a tiny taste but time is short now and it is off to Lafayette for the Cajun experience.

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Memphis

Three hours drive down the highway to Memphis from Nashville. In Memphis you can feel that you are in a poorer environment, more run down housing everywhere. Seems to be some kind of transport hub – transportation and logistics centres and trucks everywhere. We’ve only got time for quick stops everywhere now which is not the best way to experience new places but beggars can’t be choosers. An essential trip into the city to see the incredible Peabody hotel and watch the march of the ducks – there is a group of ducks who live in the penthouse and spend their day swimming in the amazing fountain carved from a single piece of marble with a most spectacular floral display on top. Movement to and from the penthouse to the fountain involves a ride in the elevator and a trip on the red carpet twice a day. It is a ritual that brings hordes of people everyday to watch the strange phenomenon which has been taking place for decades.
Then a walk down to Beale St which was reasonably quiet for a Monday night – neon lights and blues music blasting from the doorways – touts trying to tempt you inside. Dinner at BB Kings Blues Club and a great soul band – a refresing change from frantic bluegrass. A ride round the city on the tram and that is enough… still tired from the mad week in Nashville.
Next day off to Graceland. We bought a VIP ticket ($70) because we had been advised to do so – but one of the lesser tickets would have suited us better. It is 35 years since his death and they have new exhibits which virtually mimic everything else you’ve already seen – more and more copies of clothing that he wore and video excerpts of his tv specials and video documentary. By the time you get to those you can’t help but be extremely cynical about the whole money making industry exploiting his fame in death as in life. There is a souvenir shop connected to every exhibit – must be about 7 different souvenir shops in the complex – all across the road from Graceland where the tour buses take hundreds of people a day up to the ‘mansion’…. which surprisingly is not so big… but I suppose it would have been enormous in 1957 or so when he bought it at age 21…. amazing to think how big he got in just a couple of years…. he was about 18 when he cut his first records at Sun Studios. His life just seems so sad and tragic in many ways…. dead at 42….too much fame, too many drugs (and probably an increasingly unhealthy diet)…common story.
I’ve been looking at diet pretty seriously the last few years (the effects of excess sugar and added chemicals and preservatives in everything we buy)…. and I can’t help but feel a bit despairing for the American diet which is so obviously killing them… the obesity here is overwhelming and they are coming to see this as normal…we heard on the radio that every 39 seconds in America someone has a heart attack…. the ambulance roared into Bean Blossom festival 3 times over the weekend we were there…..

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