Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival 2010

Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival 2010Set in a town infamous for potatoes, the annual Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival celebrated its ninth year on October 22, 23 and 24. The three day camping festival held at the town’s showground showcased some of the country’s best and undiscovered folk and bluegrass acts.

Attracting growing crowds each year, the festival is a national gathering of folk, bluegrass musicians and many variations thereof. Reminiscent of a medieval fare, the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival is one of the few festivals without any airs or graces but the talent required to make it a success.

This year, opening night alluded to the festival being a total washout as storm clouds gathered over the mountain, but all that was dampened was the feet not the spirits of those who traveled to participate in the event.

Shared between two humble stages housed in the showground’s original wooden halls – the main and lunch pavilion – Australian greats such as The Stiff Gins graced the crowd with their inimitable presence that has been fine tuned and mastered over the years.The festival is all about grass roots music… music that tells stories such as folk, whether that be of the Gauls or the Anglos whom traveled to pioneer America, bluegrass or an interpretation of one or the two.

Over three days the festival witnessed some wonderful music pedaled by largely unknown or off the beaten track musicians. An example of this was outstanding return act for 2010 The Junes; a titillating group headlined by three quirky women. The multi-instrumentalist divas brought the house down with a satirical set list of bluesy/country swing songs and anecdotes. 

Another gem hidden within the festival program was the appearance of Parvyn Singh, daughter of Dya Singh and member of his World Music Group, alongside guitar virtuoso Josh Bennett. The duo have combined a spicy mix of classical Indian, Brazilian and bluegrass sounds and made a masterpiece. If standouts are being mentioned then the Ewan Mackenzie Duo and Miles to Go Trio are definitely worth an accolade. Renowned gypsy/jazz musician Ewan Mackenzie brought a marvelously manouche touch to an otherwise Celtic and Appalachian affair.

Off stage, the festival’s biggest draw card has always been the musical workshops. Held over the weekend were ‘bluegrass’, ‘flatpicking’ and ‘clawhammer’ workshops on instruments such as banjo, mandolin, fiddle, cello, harmonica and dobro (to mention a few) conducted for those wanting to deepen their understanding of the music.

Meanwhile children were kept amused with workshops of their own in Bollywood dance, singing and storytelling. After the workshops ended, musicians sat underneath the tree canopy at the showground sharing hints and tips in informal jam sessions providing another layer to the relaxed festival aura.

Resonating among members of the audience was a shared belief that what made this festival special was the intimate atmosphere and its size. And for a festival of its size, it packs a lot of punch and stands up as a contender for future notoriety.


By Vanessa Lahey

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