Big changes at the festival this year on a number of fronts.
The major changes are:
This is the third move for the festival. When I first attended it was held at a place called Bon Accord. They had to move because the place was being sold. They moved to the grounds of the Feathertop Chalet. This time the move was because the new manager and the festival committee could not find common ground.
The new site is the area from the main road to the creek around the Public Hall. Lots and lots of room and a much better view of the hills surrounding the town.
Although the committee did try hard, the extra covered areas provided did not provide sufficient acoustic isolation between the Marquee and any of the other covered areas. It was hard enough to hold workshops, etc, when the P.A. in the Marquee was overpowering any attempt at trying to perform a workshop or anything else acoustically. Ironically enough, a performer in the Marquee, complained to the audience during his set, that he was being put off by the sound of a double bass coming from somewhere.
That was one great advantage of the previous site: There were numerous places you could go to that were completely out of reach acoustically of the Marquee.
Including the hotels in the program was a great idea of including the town in the festival. This worked well except for the food vendors that were placed in the main area. I heard one of the workers complain that they were asked to stay set up, with food prepared, beyond the finish time of the Marquee concert. The result is that everyone left the the main area and moved to the Hotels leaving the food vendors to cope with no patrons. Another kink for sure as it's the first time that food has been available on site.
On the subject of food, we were well catered for. Baked potatoes and gourmet sausages. Doesn't get much better than that.
The festival started on Thursday night in a somewhat unofficial manner and continued until Sunday night.
The festival stopped at 11:00 pm every night and then switched to one or other of the hotels, which required a bit of locomotion.
The foreigners from the U.S.A. were great value.
The Patuxent Partners
These guys were just overflowing with experience and the freshness of youth. They are a five piece band with a guest guitarist sitting in with them. Tom Mindte, Bryan Deere and John Brunschwyler made up the experience side of the band, while Nate Leath, Jordan Tice and Darrell Muller made up the next generation of players. The mix was quite electric, they could all play but the younger players had an experience outside of Bluegrass and performed non-Bluegrass material. The first night I heard them I was surprised to hear Tom hand over the stage to the youngsters for one song and just step aside and let them do their thing. Lovely stuff. After the show as we walking back to the hotel, I asked Tom about the non-Bluegrass song. Tom admitted that he didn't know how it would 'go down' but was adamant that they would get their one song per set. Darrell Muller I suspect became a victim of the Festival Police as his first set featured an upright ELECTIC bass. I never saw it used again in their remaining sets. Nate Leath played a real mean fiddle and was at home in any musical world and had a real impish humour, you'd never be sure where he was going but it all sounded great. I asked Tom about having two guitar players in the band. He told me that Jordan Tice wasn't part of the band but was invited to expand his horizons. I bought all of the CD's that Jordan brought with him. I haven't listened to them yet, but Jordan informs me that it's not all Bluegrass. Jordan twice had string failures which caused him to flee the stage. He's a great player, although, I found his performing style of never looking at the fretboard and staring blankly into space to be somewhat disconcerting.
The RFD Boys
These guys were a little more laid back but still great players. Dick Dieterie was the spokesman for the band and never failed to deliver a long monologue before each song with some mention of one or more members of the band and some disparging remark to go along with it. Will Spencer was the brunt of most of his humour. Dick told us that RFD stood for Rural Free Delivery. Almost the same as our RMB - Rural Mail Box.
Mike & Tim Bing and Charlie Walden
I enjoyed their last visit and they delivered more of the same: Great musicianship and good humour. I had a chat with Tim Bing and we both shared the experience of getting older: Stiff joints, not as dexterous, etc. I asked Tim if he was going to do a dance for us as he done last time. Tim replied that even that was becoming hard to do with all the aches and pains. However, on the final nights set he did a dance. the audience roared with approval.
Ross only performed one set and was a little technical and didn't seem to connect well with the audience as he just didn't talk a lot. Seemed like he didn't have a lot of speaking experience. That was all forgotten when he played, he sure made difficult stuff look easy. Not too sure what the Festival Police made off his rendition of 'Stairway to heaven'.
On Sunday afternoon the festival holds an 'Open Mic' session, so I put my name down for it. I had decided on Mr Douglas' 'Grants Corner', an original 'Amandah' and 'The Suit'. Since it was a solo performance I had to pick songs that didn't rely on other instruments. I grouped the first two songs as songs about children. Amandah is my daughter and I wrote it when she was four, originally on guitar but it translates well to the slide. 'The Suit' was another matter. I have always had trouble with lyrics. Not in the sense of remembering them, just their order. I'll most likely get all the lyrics out, but the order is somewhat questionable. 'The Suit' has a lot of words and nothing is repeated, it's just one long story. To solve this problem, I had brough along a book with a chord chart and the lyrics. Before I left I grabbed the book I thought had the song in it only to find it was another musicians song book with minutes to go. Oh dear! If I had had a bit more time I could have made up another prompt sheet, but I didn't, so I opted for 'How Great Thou Art', after all it was a Sunday. The 'Open Mic' hosts and the sound man complimented me on my effort. The sound guy mentioned the tone I was getting was the sweetest he'd heard at the festival. I'd done a 'Tut Taylor' and only used a plectrum, and fingernails, all three of them. That's how I play at home and somehow that's the best tone ever. Mind you, fingernails don't hold up well. But if you can, give it a go.
I guess the main gripe I had was that the the Hotels hadn't extended their licences and kicked people out at 1:00 am, except for Sunday when it was 12:00 am. I asked the owners if they could somehow extend the times and was told that they would for next year, but it's a business decision: There has to be bums on seats to make it worthwhile.
The other gripe, which the committee had no control over was the temperature drop once the sun slides behind the hills. It was cold, brrr!
While I'm at it, I do have one more gripe. When you are walking around the site and see a group of musicians playing together you intially think "Hey, It's a jam!". That is not all together true and requires a lot of interpretation before you decide to "Join in." Quite a lot of the time, these are acts rehearsing for their moment of fame on the stage and do not require you presence in the least. They don't say anything, but seem rather distant until you understand the circumstances. Oops!
I noticed quite a few local musicians make the trek as well. I may approach John Werner who lives quite close to me if he'd like to help me out on next years 'Open Mic'. John had the thrill of performing at the main concert playing Bass for Phil Paker and the Bridgland Brothers, a South Australian band.
All in all I had a great time and am looking forward to next years festival.
I lodged at the Elm Motel in Bright. Yes I had to ride home every night, but that kept my alcohol intake to a legal level which is a good thing. The Motel is the old lodging quarters of the employees of a Saw Mill that used to be located close by, and thus has a rustic quality.
The Motel is rated at three stars, and yes, I didn't expect too much, but I was a trifle disappointed that my room was never serviced for the four days I was there and most of the water related equipment leaked. Yes, the shower leaked, as nearly did the basin. Brute force couldn't solve the leaky shower and the management had thoughtfully placed a towel under the drip which didn't solve the drip sound. I took matters in my own hands and purchased a ball of string and ran the string from the nozzle to the floor of the shower giving the water a path to travel and completely eliminate the sound of the drip!
I only made use of the pre-paid breakfasts once, on the day I left. When you arrive back at 2:00 am, you tend to rise just that little bit later and miss the 8:00 am to 9:00 am breakfast times.
I didn't win Tattslotto!