2015 Bello Winter Music

2015 Bello Winter MusicLeft – Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders. Cover – The Seven Ups. Photos – David Andreas.

Where else could you sit and listen to off-the-richter-scale jazz/funk/soul/reggae/bluegrass/hip-hop/electro-couplings of notable audacity, order an egg and bacon burger for $6 and be part of a beautiful vintage town for three full days and four nights? Beautiful Bellingen, that’s where! 

The inaugural Bello Winter Music Festival exceeded expectations for musicians and punters alike, converting Bellingen to one huge creative hub for a long weekend. Music festivals, town-spread, offer a taste of that town, a sort of ‘music sampler’ or ‘mini music holiday’ enabling people to linger longer, with a purpose, checking out areas that they might not, otherwise, venture into. What a cross-pollination, cross-population treat the Bello Music Festival was, with young and old, local and out-of-towners joining in the common love of music. 

And it is love, considering the monumental effort that must be poured into the music-cup to bring so many quality acts to so many great venues, keeping music (and musicians) alive and attainable. So many stories; so many tunes; so many heartfelt and innovative expressions, sung, strung and multiplied by community; served up in a smorgasbord spread from church to club to pub and cafes alike. 

As with it’s sister ship, the Mullum Music Festival, Bello Winter Music is all inclusive with many and varied workshops; youth mentorship; musical couplings (always a treat to walk into a venue and see the melding of musical entities having as much fun as the audience); local musicians, interstate and overseas acts; comedy and even the Magic Bus!  

Sitting, having a coffee, observing bands interchanging gear in and out of tight spots, brought home the herculean logistics involved, taking live music festivals on the road, converting concept into reality.

Bello Winter Music was a music awareness weekend (for muso’s and fans alike) and judging by the reaction of the crowd (many and varied) it was a feelgood festival: musicians regaling other musicians, hanging around to either listen to their contemporaries/peers or to join them on stage at any opportunity. The Bread and Butter session at the Golf Club on Saturday was just such a musical event, offering up a curated mix of musicians, single and collective, sampling “how different voices go together.” Rolling in talent after talent, Jack Carty, Jo Jo Smith, Lucie Thorne, Hamish Stuart, The Mae Trio, and Oh-Pep joined by Starboard Canons showcased their musical prowess, giving the audience a taste of the fuller menu to choose from later on.

A snapshot of Bello: to the sound of the chorus singing “...think we might be waking up...” (Kym Pitman with Chris Judd, Sunday morning at the Diggers Tavern) a young mother cleaves her baby to her chest, jiggling up and down to the musical chant; two young adolescent girls are listening intently, one red haired and freckle-faced beauty, plaiting the hair of her seated and equally gorgeous Asian girlfriend. Three plaits later, they both sit together – the room is filling with new recruits for the audience’ chorus and everyone feels the musical embrace. Kym Pitman has the Sunday voice of an angel, singing her Tim- Winton-speech-inspired song, “shame, bringing shame on our country, shame on our watch, in our name...” and assuring us that ASIO won’t be visiting on a Sunday morning in Bellingen... With all those voices lifted in song, with a commonality that only music can bring, there was many a moist-eyeball being dabbed: Kym’s beautiful melodic voice is a wake-up call. Music has the ability to evoke, promote, illustrate, negotiate and empower. It gives the unsung amongst us a voice, too, and a feeling of belonging to a greater cause (something that is much needed in our ‘worlds’ right now).

Only downside of any festival is that you just can’t get to see everyone (more’s the pity) or individually rave on about all the acts that were witnessed, however, let me sing some praises to:

The Seven Ups: launching straight into the tribal rhythm with congas on fire, giving that festival fiesta feeling and carnival atmosphere, launching dancers onto the floor from the onset (and a Bellingen drummer, too!). As my drummer friend noted, “hardly a whisker between them – the future of music is in safe hands with their relentless rhythmic invention!” A mobile-user behind us saying, “I’m sending you a text – GET HERE NOW!”

Emma Donovan & The Putbacks: Emma’s warm up already got a standing ovation – combine the force of The Putbacks, this soulful, gospel, style-melding and all-encompassing band made the hairs on my arms stick up (being ethnic, that’s a lot of hair). Add traditional songs sung in Gumbaynggirr language (Emma’s grandfather’s tongue) and tears will flow, too.

Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders: Is there nothing Marlon can’t do? Comic and melodic, with a great stage presence, Marlon and the band rip it up, slow it down, with many instrument changes and vocal ranges, heartfelt ballads and blissful harmonies, Marlon’s repertoire is inexhaustible, making the packed Memorial Hall go ballistic for an encore, and Marlon saying, “Another... well, OK.” Watch this space!

Bullhorn: Oh my, this band is a powerhouse, they can strip paint off the wall with their musical force – so exciting, the crowd ate them up. “Oh yeah, now we’re cooking” says Bullhorn, and the audience member beside me, “Pure Manpower – especially with all those horns, ha ha ha...”  When the Hip-hop-head-honcho says he is taking it down a notch with freestyle, he raps “all welcome in, our friends from Bellingen.” True that.

Tin Pan Orange, with their delicate delivery of originals and tributes (Paul Kelly, Regrets, WOW), mesmerising voice and sensitive lyrics, maestro musicians and comic relief, they wrap up the festival with a common voice,  “...festivals like these top up our world...we feel so held and loved and heard... we would like to thank the Festival organisers for this huge undertaking...” and the MC thanking Tin Pan Orange, speaking for us all – “What a way to finish the festival...”

Live music is just that – LIVE. Come alive, stay alive, join in, be inspired, create new genres, experiment, perform and inform. It just doesn’t happen on its own and if you can’t perform, you can always be a heartfelt audience. VOTE 1 Glenn Wright, Festival Director and all that sail with him, we can look forward to more music and ultimately, more love...

Bello Winter Music

Venue: Bellingen Township – Various Venues
Dates: July 2 – 5, 2015
Visit: www.bellowintermusic.com

Most read Sydney reviews

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is beautiful. The music will bubble in your blood and the...

No End of Blame | Sport for Jove

Putting the ink into think, Howard Barker’s No End of Blame is as powerful and poignant, perhaps...

Do Not Go Gentle | Drill Hall Theatre & Everyman Theatre Company

There are few topics more challenging than death, and the inevitable journey toward this state...

Amadeus Live | Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Amadeus Live is an engaging performance, which perfectly combines history, entertainment, and...

Miracle City | The Theatre Division

This is an excellent production of a show which is likely to entertain, but may not quite have...

Sign up for our newsletter

* indicates required