Left – Hussy Hicks. Cover – Nano Stern
“We have music in common”
This was my first overheard conversation for this ‘twelfth’ Mullum Music Festival – first of many eave’s droppings, always so beneficial for grabbing the pulse of the crowd. Yes, we do have music in common, all of us, down to every man, woman and child. And how wonderful to be part of this appreciation – “appreciation” being the key-word at this year’s Mullum Music Festival. I heard it through the music and through the performers’ actually voicing this out loud. Nano Stern (from Chile) appreciating the fact that he can sing his heartfelt songs without fear of being dragged off the stage and the ensuing audience appreciation of being able to witness such a powerhouse of performance. One man alone does not a village make, but he made Mullum village listen through his vocalisation and guitar virtuosity. Yes, there is smoke in the air from fires still ravaging the Northern Rivers (and beyond, far and wide) and fear of loss in every direction, but Nano sings in Spanish and everyone understands how lucky we really are. As he sings, talking us through his stories, he makes us aware that we are, “the last survivors… stop this madness and take care of our communities.” This is the awareness festival and he taps into the collective conscience saying, “everywhere you look the world is in trouble – enough!” The Blaze-Aid buckets were being sent around the audience and Nano sung the song of water, “the veins of the earth are suffering”, which only made it more poignant.
Comedy and tragedy go hand in hand, which gives grist to Mandy Nolan (MC opening night – always a winner). Not that Mandy needs any grist, she is her own mill-of-grist and seriously (did I just use the word ‘seriously’ when describing Mandy?) she can make a rock laugh. She is ever hopeful and can envisage the day when vegans can sit next to the lactose-intolerant: “Everyone has got something wrong with them … if there is nothing wrong with you, then leave now.”
Mandy introduces the Youth Mentorship winners, Bridge Left: under fifteen (is that possible?) from Palm Beach, with the young lad rocking the ukulele whilst the young lass roared her wonderful talent over the crowd, singing “this is me, look at me now”. I’m looking at you now and wonder how amazing their career trajectory will be, with such talent! The crowd lapped it up with a standing ovation. Loose Content, last year’s Youth Mentorship winners also had a return gig at the Festival and they rocked the crowd: “I can’t feel nothing at all … and I feel everything”. Music makes you feel everything, and in the hands of the next generation, it sounds awesome.
Never crowded (but mostly sold-out) this Mullum Music Festival weaves its magic throughout the town and the crowds. Mullum locals can witness the vibe the town throws open to new arrivals and even if the tickets are sold out, you can still find a carpark space and not get charged for it; still ride on the Magic Bus for $2 all day, hop on and off; can still sit in the parks and watch free circus, free Cassettes (always awesome, this year ‘Car Wash’ hitting the streets, ending in ‘Xanadu’ for us wot thrived in the ‘80s) and the Street Parade, amassing the throng-of-throngs with musicians and crowd-punters alike walking the streets of Mullum, singing and playing whatever instrument available. Glenn Wright (right indeed) leading the Street Parade, thanks everyone for being involved, and this year’s patrons, Husky and Gideon, thanking Glenn for making it all possible again this year.
Glenn’s Welcome: “where artists from across the globe and musical spectrum gather in this quirky coastal counter-culture town to create a 4-day joyous gumbo of musical delights in the halls, pubs, cafes, churches and streets.”
So many artists, from far and wide, and we can only witness but a few as there is so much on offer, with workshops and general vibe-viewing (including all the food venues available and soooo spoilt for choice) also vying for our attention. Let me run through a few acts I was privileged to bear witness:
Dustyesky, “Mullum’s genuine fake Russian Choir” asking us to “get in touch with your inner Russian” and try to look “severe, disdainful… so Mullumgrad can be proud.” Suggesting we get naked and rub ourselves down with macadamia butter, and that they “invited Putin to go bare-chested, rubbed in macca butter, in the river, but invite ignored” (said with a Ruski accent). Once you start with that accent, it is with you all day, comrade! “Russian about, slow down, smell the gherkin liqueur and enjoy Russian sing-song without the angst.” Russian Workshop now has a new meaning for me, although the Russian Boat Song did get us arm-chained together, walking the streets of Mullumgrad!
Songs of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Sunday first up at the Civic Hall and everyone on board. The audience, packed to overflowing, gobbling up every nuance. Wow, they nailed it, every instrument and every voice! Hussy Hicks join the talent-team belting out song after song, with variety and even renditions from Raising Sand album, as well as past-tributes to Plant and Page influences. Memphis Mini finally getting credit for ‘Levy Breaks’ and OMG was that out of this world! Dave Sanders on drums, after completing the hot walk-thru-town parade only minutes before, rocked the house and this band, put together with minimal rehearsal, were PERFECT, just perfect. Need I say more? Whole Lotta Love was just that – a whole lot of love, and Ruby Boots, “been a long time, long time,” with the full contingency of female singers, creamed it.
Jo Pug, poignant balladeer, with a message and musicality, all the way from the US of eh? A one man band, with simpatico delivery. Sunnyside playing, what is that, rap, hip-hop, trip-hop, bee-bop, inventive as all get out. Is there even a name for what they play? So fresh, so ‘get up and dance, try not to, I dare you’ and seeing them later at other gigs, fully responding and being involved – too good. The New Savages “strumming in the rain”, yes, RAIN for five minutes, taking credit for conjuring up a storm with their ‘Mississippi Black Water’ and deep, strong vocals, succinct, with the drummer going off. Might I add, the two of them, a marriage made in musical heaven, have only played together twice! Kent Burnside, thanking Milan (The New Savages) for befriending him on a blues pilgrimage into the Mississippi Hill Country, travelled to Australia to tour with them, and seeing the drummer playing with Burnside’s throttling band, it all fell into musical place. Full-on rock and blues, classics repurposed and everyone up on the dance floor. Nobody could resist. Milan joined Burnside (as many interchanges happen at this festival – another exercise in diversity, respect and sharing) and my feast of music was complete.
Tek Tek Ensemble also packed the room with dancers. The vibe, every instrument employed to garner the sounds they exploded into, from Disco to Mexico and all the way back again. Rivetting, nostalgic, big sounds, fabulous voices and renditions to turn you around, these people could play a fence post and make it sound good!
Angus Field, young singer-songwriter, is also the complete package. Model good looks, youthful heartfelt delivery and a truly beautiful voice, singing his originals, thanking the audience (who come and go during the performance) for hanging in there and listening to him. Keyboard player (apologies, can’t find your name but know that you are a legend) and Angus were wonderful musical pairing. Angus Field is “completing his studies at Southern Cross University” – watch this space. Another reason why the Mullum Music Festival is so vital to our community – everyone has a chance to shine.
Cannot cover even half of the content, overwhelmingly positive and perfect, but will sign off with a quote from Glenn Wright, the Festival Director: “and the ‘swing’ is the final and most important element. The swing is the music. And it’s at this point that the success of the event rests in the hands of the amazing artist lineup for 2019.” Swing low, sweet musical chariot – you carried me home, and for this, I applaud you all. Can’t wait for next year!
Mullum Music Festival 2019
Venue: Various | Mullumbimby NSW
Dates: 14 – 17 November 2019