Katoomba, Blue Mountains
Friday March 13 – Sunday March 15, 2015 :
Arriving bright and early Saturday to a warm mountain morning, I was surprised to hear of the rain that had feel the previous night. Then again, Katoomba can throw these weather changes at you and it’s part of the charm of the Blue Mountains.
Stepping into the RSL Pavilion to catch the final 20 minutes of Dan Sultan, I was impressed at how Sultan in solo mode can hold an audience, and this was with a lunchtime crowd. It was a passionate display, as was his repeat performance later that evening, be it with a guitar in hand or behind the keys. Classy stuff.
Leah Flanagan was a bit of a find for me, and a real surprise. More indie rock than what I was expecting, Flanagan’s song structures and vocal melodies were quirky and engaging. She is a name I will remember and hope to catch at a small venue.
A real eye opener was Maru Tarang, an amazing collaboration of vocals, guitar, tabla, khartal and sindhi sarangi. Don’t worry, I had no idea what these instruments were until I saw and heard them. Jeff Lang may be the man holding the guitar but he real does play second fiddle to the eye-opening talent sitting around him. For sheer musicianship, Maru Tarang has it in abundance.
John Butler was a nightmare to photograph, and for the people in the front rows. Predictably punters had made their way to the front barrier prior to the set, and the six foot space in front of the front row was filled with people standing in preparation for Butler. I too was amongst the throng with my camera to try and get something decent (no photo pits at this festival). And then, just before Butler was to arrive on stage, everyone who was standing was asked to sit. What a joke. There was no room for anyone to sit and we ended up on the ground all over each other. I stayed and shot for one song, that’s all I could put up with. My apologies for the lack of review of JB’s set but I was out of there quick smart and headed to the Big Top.
And it was a wise choice to grab some time with Buffy Sainte-Marie, an absolute folk legend who on stage delivers a multi-genre onslaught. This was a high energy performance, powerful, and insightful. And when she rocked she did it hard which is great to see at this festival.
A quick dash over to the RSL Blue Room to catch the final three songs of The Mighty Reapers. With blues, soul and funk in abundance, the Reapers could be the best party band happening. The dance floor was packed, “Continental” Robert let out his vocal screams, and it began to get steamy in the Blue Room. The perfect fix to the evening mountain chill.
You can’t help but fall in love with Henry Wagons. The enigmatic vocalist lead his band, Wagons, through a raucous set that closed out the RSL Pavilion in style. These guys carry a great live presence, interacting with the crowd, funny and personable, they’re the band you want at your house party. What a great way to finish off Saturday night.
Following a leisurely start to my Sunday, I decided to check out one of the young artists at the Tantric Turtle stage. Performing as part of the Folk Alliance Australia showcase, 18 year old, Andie, is a Blue Mountains local who possesses a crystalline voice and some wonderful songwriting. Throw in some trumpet beat boxing and you have a great way to begin the day.
Back into the RSL Blueroom for a guy that I have wanted to catch for many years, Steve Poltz. Totally engaging this guy, right from the moment he comes onstage to introduce himself to a rounding applause. And when he loops into his “Aussie Anthem”, ‘Fuckin’ Fucked’, he had the crowd in stitches. Great songwriting, clever lyrics and a wonderful guitarist to top it off. I should have caught him live years ago.
Back into the RSL Pavilion to find a good spot to catch Macy Gray. After the mess that was the previous night’s John Butler photo access, I grabbed a front row seat early to ensure I had my spot. Striding onstage all glammed up, Gray owned the stage. She charmed the audience which was now thick within the pavilion, and delivered a set full of her early classics. To hear that voice live was an experience that will live me for a long time.
For this reviewer, the Blue Mountains Music Festival is all about catching some well known artists, and stumbling upon some hidden treasures. Each year, and I have been going for about 10 years now, I seem to know a handful of artists prior to turning up, and leave with another handful to Youtube. This year was no exception.
Reviewer and Photographer: Kevin Bull
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