Tag Archives: Woodford Folk Festival

Freedom. Or Perks?

It’s the time of year when we reflect on the past and look forward to the future. I’ve spent part of the past week at the Woodford Folk Festival and, unlike a lot of other festival-goers, for me it’s been a sobering experience.

Often we don’t notice the changes that occur in our everyday lives. The days slip by, the years flow on and we ease gracefully into other states of being. Well, that’s how I perceive it happening for other people. For myself any change is usually accompanied by much clashing and gnashing.

The first Woodford Festival I went to was a tribal experience. I drove up from Sydney with five others in a Kingswood called Gretel. We set up camp in amongst other people’s tent ropes and tarpaulins. I wandered wide-eyed and sleepless for the entire six days. I went to every jam session and danced all night in the Chai Tent. I joined the choir and made lanterns. I entered The Great Band Competition and circled every act in the program. I immersed myself in the Woodford experience and when it was time to resurface I couldn’t even remember my pin number.

My second Woodford Festival was spent as a performer. I played the Big Top and slept in the Performers’ Camp. I hung out in the Green Room and played in a few jams. I wore one of those coveted “access all areas” wristbands and got to watch packed out shows from the space beside the stage.

The next time I went as a radio announcer. It rained the entire time but I didn’t care. I was like a pig in the proverbial and there was plenty of that.  I interviewed as many performers as I could and when they played for me a crowd would gather. It was live radio at its best.

Since then I’ve produced and presented many national broadcasts from Woodford for the ABC. And when I became a published author I spent a couple of Woodfords on stage as a speaker. Every year I’ve had special privileges because of my position as a broadcaster, a performer and an author including parking spots, all-access wristbands, free tickets and speedy entry.

This year all that changed. It was the first year since that first tribal trip to Woodford that I’ve paid for a ticket. No access all areas, no special treatment.  At first I felt free; I had no responsibilities, no burden of care, nobody expected anything of me. I had no deadlines and no particular place to be. For the first time in almost twenty years I could experience the Woodford Folk Festival on my own terms. But when The Hubby and I had to park in the day parking area and catch the shuttle bus along with all the other punters, the reality sunk in and I didn’t like it. The truth is I enjoy being special. I love having perks and privileges. I scowled like a cranky toddler.

‘Don’t they realise who I am?’ I huffed.

‘Don’t you mean, who you were?’ The Hubby replied.

And it’s true. I love the freedom of retirement. Every day I’m grateful that I get to choose what I do, or don’t do. And after a lifetime in the public eye in one form or another, I adore the invisibility of anonymity. But freedom comes at a price. And for me that included the cost of a ticket and experiencing the festival as a mere member of the public.

So would I change anything about that experience? Would I shackle myself back to the burdens and responsibilities of a working life for the sake of a free ticket and more convenient parking?

I have had the experience of attending the Woodford Folk Festival in many different guises, and those roles of musician, broadcaster and speaker have suited me at the time. But times change and we change with them or we are doomed to a life of resentment and regret. Freedom is more important to me now than recognition, prestige and the perks of a media pass (even though, yes, sometimes I miss those perks).

So here’s to looking forward, to a life of freedom and choices based on that freedom. And if I get a bit huffy from time to time because I used to be someone, I hope I remember that I much prefer the someone that I am now.

Happy 2017.

How Michael Franti Saved My Marriage

Many years ago, when our relationship was just a young bud, I took The Hubby to the Byron Bay Blues Festival. I’d spent many years at music festivals of all different kinds, as a performer and a punter. I loved them. I loved music. I’d spent most of my twenties and thirties playing in bands, touring and recording. Now I was working in radio. Festivals were still on the agenda but this time I was usually presenting an outside broadcast or interviewing musicians.

The Hubby had spent most of his twenties and thirties in a very different world. A world of aircraft carriers, trackers, Orions and uniforms. Sure he liked music but his tastes were formed by the mainstream and restricted by what was available on board or at the base.

Bluesfest was an ear opening experience for him. I dragged him from one must-see, or must-hear, to the next. I was in heaven. The Hubby was not. He became decidedly downcast. He didn’t know any of the acts, he’d never heard of them and what he heard he didn’t like. I couldn’t believe it.  Here we were, surrounded by the best music in the world and he was unhappy, dejected, out of place.

I thought dancing together might cheer him up. Another disaster. When I’d played bass and then rhythm guitar in bands  I’d always sat just behind the beat. I liked to stretch out the rhythm into a relaxed lope. The Hubby, perhaps due to the military bands and all that marching, sat right on the beat, or even just in front, always vigilant, always aware. Our dancing became an awkward, wordless struggle. We were clumsy together and became impatient with each other.

In the meantime the kind of bloke I used to go out with was circling. A three-quarter boy with a lopsided grin, a cigarette and a pair of drum sticks. Yep, yet another muso. Charming and shiftless but talking a language I understood. The more The Hubby struggled with the sounds he was hearing, the more I was tempted to stray. Back to the world of talking crap and hanging out, of being surrounded by a pack of wise-cracking musicians strutting their stuff. The world I used to live in. The life I left behind. The pull back to that louche existence was strong in this time of doubt.

I looked at The Hubby and saw a stranger. The man I loved, the honest, soulful, wise and funny man, was gone. I couldn’t see him. Instead a saw a grumpy, rhythmless lump. A millstone. I wanted to be free. Free to enjoy the kaleidoscope of music, free to dance to my own beat, free to indulge in the sonic feast spread out before me. Free of my husband.

And then Michael Franti came on stage.

The Hubby stopped frowning. His body loosened up. There was a hint of a smile on his lips.

‘I like this man,’ he said. ‘I can understand every word he’s singing. His message is great. He has something worth saying. And I like the music.’

The Hubby nodded his head in agreement with Michael Franti’s words. The nod became a smile, the smile became a dance.

I stopped frowning. I loosened up. I began to smile.  I reached for my husband’s hand. If this man could love Michael Franti, I could love this man.

We were back. Back in alignment. Back in love. All thanks to Michael Franti.

Ten years later The Hubby and I were at another music festival. Michael Franti was playing. I said to The Hubby, ‘Let’s go check out his sound check, before the crowds get there.’

We sat on the grass in the natural amphitheatre at the Woodford Folk Festival. Michael Franti gave us, and the other ten or so people who’d had the same idea, a private concert. We danced, we cheered, we clapped, we laughed. And then he came down from the stage in his bare feet, walked over to the grass and sat with us for a chat and an acoustic song. It was magical.

And did I tell him the story of how he’d saved our marriage? You bet I did. He looked askance at first. Unsure of where the story was heading. But when I got to the end there was laughter and hugging. Lots of hugging. “Everybody gotta hug somebody at least once a day.”

Thank you Michael Franti, the man who saved my marriage.

Above is the song he sang on that magical afternoon. If you listen closely you can hear The Hubby and me singing along.

 

 

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas

It’s the time of year to retrieve the Christmas carol albums from the bottom furthermost Christmasrung of the CD stand where they’ve been waiting their moment of glory for almost 12 months. After dusting the cobwebs off mine I’d put them on one of the stereo speakers ready for the big day. It’s a shame that I’ve got such a great collection of Christmas tunes and they only get played once a year. Clearly The Hubby thought so too and very early this morning blasted me with The Huddersfield Choral Society doing a jolly medley of Joy to the World and Ding Dong Merrily on High. I felt like donging him merrily on high, that would have brought great joy to my world. Needless to say The Huddersfield Choral Society had an abbreviated airing. Bah humbug! They’ll have to wait their turn on Tuesday along with The Blind Boys of Alabama’s Christmas album “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and my personal favourite “Christmas Cocktails“. This album has a wonderful selection of festive faves including Julie London singing “I’d Like You for Christmas”, “Jingle Bells Bossa Nova” by Eddie Dunstedter and Kay Starr’s rendition of “Everybody’s Waiting for the Man With the Bag”. Hand me an eggnog I feel like hanging out under the mistletoe!

I’m an old-fashioned girl and I like to keep the Christmas tunes to the day itself, well maybe a few on Christmas Eve but that’s about it. So I decided to visit a few ghosts of Christmas past as I’ve been wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards and doing a bit of fattening festive baking (why does everything to do with Christmas have to contain quite so much butter!).

Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to revisit the soundtrack of your life, knowing that songs and music have a powerful way of bringing back the memories and the emotions of that time. Dare I play Radiohead’s album ‘The Bends” and go back to a summer in Sydney and the boy who’s heart I broke, seriously damaging mine in the process? Much easier to choose The Leisuremasters, the precursor to Karma County. Every morning I’d swim at the Boy Charlton pool in Woolloomooloo, walk back home and eat a mango for breakfast while listening to their E.P. Sweetness, heat and satisfaction.

The one Christmas I spent in Tamworth you’d think I would have Slim Dusty’s Greatest Christmas Truckin’ Greats glued to the stereo. Instead I almost wore out my copy of Shawn Colvin’s “A Few Small Repairs”. I had the CD in the house and the cassette in the car. Luckily I got a job in Townsville otherwise my friends would have run me and Shawn out of town I’m sure.

And what did I listen to while gazing out over the Coral Sea towards Magnetic Island?  I revisited Moby’s “Play” and was amazed and how slow and melodic a lot of it is. My memory was of a grooving’, jumpin’ album that gave me the energy I needed to go and work the 16 hour days I was putting in. Seems I never had time back then to listen to the whole thing.

My time living on the Sunshine Coast has been dominated by The Woodford Folk Festival at this time of year. It starts on the 27th of December and wraps up on the 2nd of January. Last festival The Hubby and I by happy accident found ourselves sitting almost front and centre at a Nick and Liesl gig. We were both entranced and have been all year. Their album and EP have been on high rotation all year. It’s always wonderful to find music that we both enjoy. And who knows I maybe I’ll learn to enjoy The Huddersfield Choral Society doing a jolly medley first thing in the morning. Maybe…