Decided that it would be a good thing to get away for the weekend and the 11th Kelly Country Pick.
First order of the day was to organise some accommodation. Since I usually leave this to the last moment I thought I'd have my plans in order early and arranged accommodation for Friday and Saturday nights at the Armour Motel in Camp St. Couldn't get much closer to the action than that. I used wotif.com to secure the room. All in hand, great.
I decided to take the Friday off work and have a lazy travel day. Unfortunately, I imbibed somewhat and was in no real mood for an early start. This proved to be a positive as a storm hit while I was still pondering whether to get up or not at 11:00 am, and boy was there some fierce wind and rain that I'm glad I didn't have to face.
By the time I was organised packed up I left at 1:30 and it was still blowing a gale with heavy rain. I had decided against going over Mt Hotham due to the ice and snow, so I had planned to travel up though Healesville and Whitfield. The news reports confirmed that there were trees down everywhere. The route through Melbourne is only about 30 km longer, so I took the wimpy route.
Not 15 minutes into the trip, the wind had died down, no rain, the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining! Some sort of miracle!
I arrived around 6:30 and went to the Motel and presented my papers. The blank look on the owners face said it all: What booking? Somehow wotif hadn't communicated the booking the the Motel. Now what? Good question. Seems Friday night wasn't an issue but Saturday was already booked out. Just great. I would have achieved the same result by not booking and just showing up. The owner did ring around and found that everything in town was booked on Saturday night. Maybe there'll be a cancellation he offered. Maybe.
The owners did call wotif and a friendly Patrick said there had been a problem (really?) and that I had two options: Cancel Satuday night or cancel both nights! I opted for the former. In retrospect, what I should have done was to demand they find a place for me on Saturday night at their own expense, after all it was their fault. I'm just too nice a guy, really.
Next stop was dinner. Decided on something easy: Pizza. Went to the Beechworth Pizza shop and ordered a rather spicy Mexican and garlic bread. While I was waiting, Martin Louis, the banjo player for 'Blue Mountain Rain' and his family came in and we had a chat while we waited for our meals.
Drove to the priory and paid the festival fee of $40. Cheap for three days.
I ended up at the Nicholas Hotel where Blue Mountain Rain were performing. A couple that I knew beckond to me and I was able to sit at their table. Most of the Hotels have a very poor audience area, as there always seems to be some wall or pillar in the way obscuring the view, except for perhaps the Hibernian which a nice big open area. To make matters worse, late comers will dawdle along and just lean against the pillars obscuring the view even more.
I still wasn't feeling that great, so I retired back to the hotel and was in bed by 10:30.
Up early and headed off for the first blackboard concert at the Hibernian which was supposed to start at 8:00.
Let me explain. The reception area for the festival is at the Priory between the front door and the stairs. Immediately in front of the stairs were three big cardboard boards that identified the blackboard concert and had numbered positions from 1 to 12. The idea is that a participant will write their name down on a suitable number confirming that spot. Predictably there was a wag or two in attendance with the likes of 'The Wiggles', 'Led Zeppelin', etc magically appearing on the board. By the way, for some reason, they never appeared.
Anyway, back to the Hibernian, there was not a car or a soul in sight. Hmm?! Drove to the Priory and was told that it's really a 9:00 start. I wandered around for awhile and then made my way back to the Hibernian and found some people carrying instruments and cars parked out the front. All up attendance was poor and it ended up with most of us playing from our chairs at the tables in a sort of loose jam. I found this rather good, as we all shared the duties and no one was 'up front'.
Wandered back to the the Priory and attended the Dobro workshop held by Evan Webb. We probably had a dozen people in attendance and Evan did a great job emphasising the practical aspects. The hour passed quickly.
Looked around the nooks and crannies of the Priory and jammed with a few groups of people.
That's me, centre back.
For lunch I settled on The Bakery and had a salad roll and three mini quiches (don't tell anyone.)
Played in the blackboard concert held at the Priory on the main stage. I played two instrumentals: 'Blues for Vicky' and 'How Great Thou Art' followed by 'The Suit'. There's a lot of words in the song and I was concentrating on that to the detriment of my chording. At one particular spot in each verse I couldn't remember the chord sequence and got about half of them right. Made for an interesting arrangement. Maybe I should have practiced before performing?
On the Main Stage at the Priory.
Sat in on a few more informal jams which filled most of the afternoon.
Maybe it's me, but I tend to approach jams carefully and don't just jump in. I was not quite in the circle when a guy flew in and parked himself in front of me and proceeded to engage in a most enthusiastic way. After awhile he noticed his backside was in my face and apologised. That's good, but it was bad manners. Yes he was keen and all that stuff, but ... !
Spotted Hamish and Lachlan Davidson and had a very quick chat with them. I heard their jams were something to behold. Why am I not surprised.
Decided to take a drive out to Yakandandah and ended up continuing on the Wadonga and Albury. This turned out well as I had dinner at Taco Bills.
Drove back to the Priory and jammed on for a bit. I'm getting better with my solos and accept the invitation to play one instead of skipping. All good.
I managed to find accommodation at the Newtown Motel, a few kilometres out of town. The Hotels were full to capacity with no real place to sit, so I had another early night.
Sunday morning I attended the Gospel In the Garden pick. Lots of players spread out making it hard to hear what was going on and the solo vocalist was facing away and in front of us.
Near the end I quickly launched into "How Great Thou Art' but was shushed down by Wendy Jackson. Faux Pas on my part! No words Wendy explained, you can't play it. I did, after all the performers, including Wendy finished and had removed their instruments.
Me, Dave and Leonie.
No, I am not asleep, just making sure I don't sound bad.
Dave's a smart man, he made both mandolins!
Lunch at The Bakery again. Same items.
Upstairs there was a duo performing covers of pop songs from the sixties. I think the festival missed an opportunity here: Should have been a Bluegrass band.
Last event was the Blackboard concert held at The Brewery. I was third and I'm glad I was. The event started at 2:00 and I had planned to leave as soon as I finished for the trip home. Up to now you were allocated three songs/ten minutes. That works out fine, I will be gone by 2:30. Aha! But not today. Performers played 20 minutes easily and not three but perhaps five or six songs. That caught me out. Rather squishy too, up there with the vats. Evan Webb was the sound man.
As I was waiting for my spot, I had a big surprise when "Phil from Aus" walks up to me and introduces himself with a smile and a big handshake. Phil was the man behind the two CD releases of "Global Resonators", a project that included mainly members of the Jerry Douglas Bulletin Board to raise funds for Josh Graves. Phil now lives in Beechworth. An extremely small world we live in.
By the time I had done my set, I was able to get away at 3:30, a lot later than I planned.
Using the P.A. as a music stand.
Do you get some idea of the plumbing?
Back through Melbourne.
Great weekend away.
P.S. A very big thanks to Ian who took these pics and a multitude more of anything that moved.