2014 Mullum Music Festival

2014 Mullum Music FestivalLeft – Declan Kelly. Cover – The Yearlings. Photos – Lyn McCarthy

“Hang on, before we start, I just want to say I love this Festival: we play heaps of festivals and this is my favourite. Look at this front row; kids and oldies and everyone into it...”

Straight out of the mouth of Declan Kelly (& The Rising Sun). This is not a solo performer’s opinion, this was the notion embraced by most of the performers for this, the seventh Mullum Music Festival, raging throughout the small and beautiful town of Mullumbimby. 

By now the performers are lining up to play this choice gig, this fest-feast that infuses music throughout the streets, parks, halls, clubs, pubs and many vestibules in tidy town. As CR Avery so eloquently put it (could CR Avery put it any other way than eloquently?) “...this is not a festival, this is YOUR TOWN!!” Damn straight, and even if it isn’t your town on a yearly basis, it is for those four short magical musical nights and two full days in November. Share the love and the music...

And on that note of sharing the music and the word: wow, wow and thrice wow (I still have legend CR Avery’s verbose tonal ringings in my brain, calling himself “the grey area of rock and roll”), this festival just gets better and better. No massive crowds pushing and shoving, just the flow of families, friends and music worshippers streaming through doors to cool venues or hanging out in the parks, chilling, which was hard to do in up to 40 degree heat (any musician is a god/dess who can stand such hot conditions, and under stage lights, performing their buns off)! It is all about the vibe and the vibe connects everyone – just get on the Magic Bus if you are in doubt! What a rockin’ hoot...

Bullhorn was the wake-up call on Sunday morning with a powerhouse of sound and everyone up on the dance floor, even the people who were flogged from the day before (count me in on that one – I thought I couldn’t stand, let alone dance, but I defy anyone to keep seated when this mighty band blows the first note). Bullhorn owned the crowd with a nine piece music-machine pumping out the music, or should I say MUSIC as this hip hop, jazz, soul, funk mix-up of everything you want to hear on a Sunday morning to awaken and liven-up your spirit. Gotta get me some o’ dat: bought both of their CDs and that’s my testament. Seven horns, a drummer that has reserved his place in musical heaven and a MC that should be our next Prime Minister (please)! Vote One Bullhorn.

The natives weren’t restless at the Mullumbimby high school auditorium when Wild Marmalade took the stage – they were satiated with dancing-dreadlocks bouncing in a belly-dancing trance. My ethnic background brought out the bazouki in me: what Paul George (flamenco guitarist from Tijuana Cartel) couldn’t do with his guitar was not worth doing. Wild Marmalade have toured the world with their “cutting edge didgeridoo dance grooves” and the combo-deal witnessed on Saturday with guitar, drums and didge were nothing short of a miracle.

Declan Kelly & The Rising Sun performed their magic with Reggae/Roots harmonies and island feel, pouring spirit and soul into the Mullum Bowlo and getting the crowd up and dancing, including The Peppercorn Queen and her newest Fat Lamb

Rewind to the Court House Hotel, opening song dynamics from The Peppercorn Queen et The Fat Lambs: full throttle ahead with vocal dexterity to rival some of the greats, her band-coupling with The Fat Lambs was a perfect melding of all that is good in the music world. Snappy repartee (“horror-zontals, you think you are coming for music, ha ha...”) and songs like ‘I Can’t Get High Anymore’ had the crowd begging for more. Sexy, gutsy and all inclusive, this band really does rock.

Hang on, though, it isn’t all about hard-hitting music-blasting get-up-on-the-dance-floor and shake-rattle-and-roll, the Mullum Music Festival is all-encompassing. Marlon Williams held the packed crowd in his hands at The Court House Hotel on Saturday – and for this he was truly thankful. This balladeer with clarity of voice delivered enthusiastic and melodic songs with New Zealand accented zippy banter (he could also be a comedian and make himself a name) mixing in his own poignant ruminations and some excellent cover choices for his resonant and tonal voice: Frank Ifield’s ‘I Remember You’ was never served up better to a hungry crowd. Beautiful on all counts.

Sal Kimber & The Rollin Wheel, always a favourite, enthralled the crowd yet again with her ambient, original and warm glow, this band never letting the audience stray for a moment as her stories unfold and her music embraces. 

Caressing the guitar, soft and gentle lyrics, The Yearlings opened their set with cool harmonies for such a hot night. Rolling into the music, the drummer (BJ Barker’s birthday that night; the crowd sung ‘Happy Birthday’ – did I mention how much I LOVE THIS FESTIVAL?) softly brushed the drums and the impact this band hand on the crowd was tantamount to a love affair. My friend, who had seen The Yearlings the night before, insisted this was an act NOT to miss, adding, “The Yearlings start each song with a rootsy style and storytelling lullaby, then build to take you into their wonderful grooves of solid bass, chilled drumming and twangy guitar riffs... aaahhhhh!”

Fourplay redifined the String Quartet for the entire audience in the packed Civic Hall on Saturday and Sunday with their innovative, thought provoking and cutting-edge delivery of contemporary ‘stringings and singings’. Using violas instead of violins (the norm in string quartet world) Fourplay milk the music and pour vocal honey onto the audience.

With such a festival as is the Mullum Music Festival, it is impossible to see all that is on offer, and there is so much on offer it boggles the brain. Festival patron, Harry James Angus, got to create his own venue this year – The Village Vanguard, his “kind of a motley jazz club” bringing more brass into Mullum than ever before. Thank you Harry for Bullhorn, my personal favourite for wow-factor second to none. I overheard one of the photographers leaving the venue say, “My god, I never liked hip hop before but I am a convert now!” 

As Glenn Wright, Festival Director, admits, “I love festivals that challenge and provoke... a good festival might make you cry or laugh... inspire you to protest, start a romance, or to pack up your bags and hit the road...”

Only one ‘ouch’ of the festival line-up was The Church. Oh dear. Move over pretension and let talent take the stage. Waiting half an hour, with many roadies and sound checkers (not like the other professional acts) The Church finally appeared, lead singer apologising for being a ‘bit’ late. Half an hour is half of the act, plus robbing punters of a more polished and promising performance by innovative acts elsewhere. Mercifully we left after two ‘songs’ and headed to the Court House Hotel where Sal Kimber rocked us in her warm, talented and loving arms, followed on time by CR Avery who could write another thought-provoking and probing prose on the pomposity of past performers who rest on their laurels and have nothing new on offer. The Church with their wall of discordant noise blasting an audience who had waited the half hour, only to rush from the building to get back to the beauty that is the rest of the Mullum Music Festival.

“This festival welcomes many talented first time artists, new performance spaces and initiatives”: praise be for visionaries in the music field like Glenn Wright who can bring such a musical feast of such a diverse nature to a hungry audience in such a wonderful town. Standing ovation, and I can’t wait until next November!

The 2014 Mullum Music Festival

Venue: Northern New South Wales
Dates: November 20 – 23, 2014
Info: www.mullummusicfestival.com

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