Left – Lindi Ortega. Photo – Kurt Petersen. Cover – Z-Star Delta. Photo – Greyrose
Music has the capacity to bring everyone together under the same flag; the same nation of appreciation: yes – we are all linked when the first strum of the guitar, banjo, ukelele, bass, fiddle (get the drift?) reaches our ears. From the first note, dangling or screaming to be let out; sighed with reverence or slammed into our psyche, we share the souls and sounds of so many, all collected under the one banner of Mullum Music Festival.
Ten years on and what’s changed? NOTHING. This festival remains the same (thank you Glenn Wright, Director). Oh yes, the musicians have come, gone and come back again, and fashion has tweeked and twirked this way and that – but the essence; the true heart and soul of this festival, is constant. Happy in the knowledge that this festival will not be oversold or overwhelmed by headline acts too big for their own sound systems; the Magic Bus has not been superseded; prices haven’t soared because there’s a golden opportunity to make-a-killing due to influx of trade, we purchase our Gold, Silver, or daily pass and just enjoy the musical ride in the comfortable vibe that is Mullumbimby. The whole town appears to be on board and this is an all-inclusive endeavour, with many hands reaching across many platforms, from festival patrons, to workshops, Youth Mentorship, educational institutions coming to the party (and what a party it is) and so many locals just wandering around their own town, embracing what’s on offer, even if you don’t have a ticket! Buskers-with-a-dream have a chance to show their musicality to a music-lovin’ crowd and we witness musicians stopping to talk to other musicians; children cartwheeling in the street whilst families sit and enjoy the marketplace atmosphere.
Perception, conception and reception: construction, deconstruction and reconstruction – this is the basis of creativity, and so many of this year’s line-up show how to bend and stretch music beyond their own perceived boundaries. Cross-pollination and cross-referencing is such a highlight of the Mullum Music Festival, with so many bands showing tribute, love and respect to those who came before them. Let me mention a few:
The Twoks: Melbourne-based duo, she with high energy mesmerising voice and violin, layering and looping and dancing around; him drumming up a storm to sound like an orchestra. Wallis Bird (all the way from Ireland) passionately throttling her guitar and whipping the audience into a frenzy, full-forced and lyrical. Z-Star Delta from the UK, another female/male duo offering up a smorgasbord of tunes, effects and rhythms. One minute you’re rocking and then you’re in a science fiction movie! Deep down and dirty rendition of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ – complex and enthralling and how does she drum like that AND SING!!! Out of Range, winners of the ‘Play Mullum Song-writing Comp’ were thrilled to win the ‘Celebration’ themed contest, singing in their “genre-fluid” style, playing to a receptive audience. Tin Can String Band (local and legends in their own right) combining their collective talents into pure musical bliss, harmonising and stringing us along with every pick. When they played Dylan’s ‘Signor’, I was complete. Low Down Riders taking us to New Orleans with a twist of comic Oz, with young and old up and dancing, as is this festival’s want. Levingstone with their deconstruction and reconstruction of ‘cruisy’ funky jazz, letting it “wash over” us. Gabriel Garzon-Montano (New York) was like a pied-piper, playing music and gathering the entranced dancers to the front of the stage with his ‘trippy’ constructions: Salsa played on Mars, I’m sure. Sex on Toast: so many musicians on stage, bending and twisting and embellishing ‘80s funk with so many instruments and gyrations, the High School Auditorium was packed with interpretive dancers! The Coconut Kids (also part-n-parcel with Ukelele Death Squad) are an act not to miss! Hailing from Adelaide, this musical handful are soulful, dancey with great delivery – comic and high-octane, getting everyone moving with sax, trombone (female trombonist and singer extraordinaire) and ukelele, to mention but a few of the instruments (COWBELL!) and musicians. Hussy Hicks go from strength to strength and their timeless, raunchy, gutsy style, collaborating with many other musicians on their stage time, personifies how powerful these women are. Joplanesque delivery (“...is it my fault now…”) had the audience in awe, with reverb to die for, and “...history books are written by crooks...” making that same audience go to the merchandise table to buy their own copy of this tornado of talent.
I cannot finish this review without making a special mention of Jo Jo Smith’s 50 years in the music industry. We were lucky enough to witness her brilliance, her clarity of voice, her all encompassing musicianship with ‘old’ band members from her past, spanning the years of collaboration, which Jo Jo is synonymous with. She remains a legend and never ceases to bring a tear to my eyes – yes, Damn Your Eyes indeed!
10th Anniversary Celebration presents
Mullum Music Festival
Venue: (various) | Mullumbimby NSW
Dates: 16 – 19 Nov 2017