After 2016 saw some of our brightest musical flames go out, Woodford Folk Festival continues to keep the torches burning bright.
One of Australia’s largest and longest-running music festivals showed it has lost none of its heart and spirit, wrapping up what has been a painful year for many, in a big, warm hug.Image © Tamaryn Bremner
For the uninitiated, Woodford is not just a festival. But rather a collective experience that sees people shedding their inhibitions, casting off the shackles of the mundane day-to-day, and slipping into a surreal world of wonder and discovery.Click here for more photos.
The annual festival, now in its 31st year, sees a coming together of people from the world over to celebrate diversity, community, social expression, the visual and performing arts, and of course, music. The purpose-built site spread over 500 acres, boasts an impressive 25 venues, and over 400 acts, performing over the course of 6 days.Image © Tamaryn Bremner
I was privileged to have taken part in days 2 and 3 of the festival (28-29 December), which for me, looked a little something like this.
After the whirlwind that is checking-in, setting up camp, and walking my first of many kilometres during the festival, the first act I saw was Thelma Plum at The Grande. Thelma received a fair bit of media attention recently, after calling out Sticky Fingers frontman Dylan Frost on social media. She was full of praise for the Woodford festival, claiming it as safe a space for people, especially women, to celebrate their love of music.Thelma Plum - image © Tamaryn Bremner
Next up was the incomparable Urthboy, performing his one and only show at the festival. From start to finish, his high-energy performance had the capacity crowd literally bouncing. His lyrics touch on inequality for women, being a parent in today’s world, and the importance of our elders.Urthboy - image © Tamaryn Bremner
He invited any grandparents/ great grandparents at the festival to get up on stage with him and dance. One gentleman was born in the 1940s, but this is Woodford after all, and you should be able to dance like no one’s watching, no matter what your age… they ripped it up!Urthboy dancers - image © Tamaryn Bremner
If like me, you love Magic Dirt, then Adalita needs no introduction. The talented guitarist/ vocalist performed a solo show to a smaller, but certainly no less appreciative audience, also at the Grande stage. She worked through a range of songs, both old and new, and marvelled out-loud at all the younger audience members who had assembled front and centre.
To close her set, she invited a couple of kids up on-stage to play percussion, and geez… play they did! The rhythm section was tight!Adalita - image © Tamaryn Bremner
By now, the sun had well and truly set, and it was time to get a bit more… intimate. I headed down to some of the smaller stages to check out some of the bands I had been hearing great things about. The God God Dammit Dammits were first on the list.
The ten-piece can only be described as funk fused with soul, with a dollop of Frank Zappa-essence added to the mix, and some punk, just, well, because they can. They were big, loud, in your face, and made you wanna dance! What’s not to like? Also worth a mention for the evening was the electro/ hip hop two-piece out-fit Gold Member.
By 6am my tent was a balmy 60 degrees. Fearing death by spontaneous combustion, I decided it would be safest to get up, and get the day going early. Going off the bleary eyed looks of my fellow man/ woman, we were all suffering a similar problem.Image © Tamaryn Bremner
After cruising around checking out the goings-on around the festival precinct, it was time to catch the insanely gifted, multi-instrumentalist, and ‘loopologist,’ Tash Sultana. Seeing Tash perform live, is quite literally like nothing you have seen before.
Watching her work through the looping/ layering process, is much like watching a wave building. What starts off as a mere ripple, quickly grows into a wall of sound, washes over you, and leaves you in awe of its sheer power.Tash Sultana - image © Tamaryn Bremner
Tash’s vocals are so emotive and raw, you can’t help but feel her sorrow or share in her joy. Several instrument rotations later, including a melodica, she casually pulls out a pan flute, which she begins beat-boxing into/ playing simultaneously. She defies conventional music, and her seeming unlimited musical repertoire defies logic. Genius.Click here for more photos.
Next up, the Dubioza Kolektiv. These guys came all the way from Bosnia… and hot damn…they came to party! Their style is probably best described as a fusion of electro, punk, funk, reggae and dub, with a Slavic twist.Dubioza Kolektiv - image Tamaryn Bremner
The Grande is swollen to capacity and the band begin firing out their first few songs. With a few rules. No sitting. Only dancing. No standing. Only dancing. Last rule…no more rules. A surprise guest is announced, and Steve Poltz takes to the stage, guitar in hand. They perform an acoustic number, inspired by the Woodford campsite life, followed by a cry from the band for the whole crowd to get up on stage, and you guessed it. Dance.
After a healthy dose of crowd surfing, the MC arrived to wind their set up, but there was no stopping the Bosnian party machines, launching into another song, before they are eventually ushered off stage.Dubioza Kolektiv - image © Tamaryn Bremner
The next act I’m about to see are uber fun! They claim to be from Berlin, Germany, and to be brother and sister ya, but those accents… It's Otto and Astrid from Die Roten Punkte! For those who haven’t seen the comedic, and err… musical stylings of this duo, think Jack Black’s character in ‘School Of Rock’ meets Spinal Tap, but with more lipstick.Die Roten Punkte - image © Tamaryn Bremner
From their undersized instruments, right through to their over-the-top on stage tantrums, they had the audience laughing out-loud, and singing along; with their tentacles in the air of course!
The last, intimate show I would see for the festival was Yirrmal. He played a soulful, contemporary-acoustic set mixed with traditional harmonies, and his percussive guitar-work was just beautiful.Yirramal - image © Tamaryn Bremner
Last, but certainly not least, was the Aussie roots/ reggae power-house, Blue King Brown. Like some kind of holy pilgrimage, the crowd had begun slowly snaking its way up into the hills towards the festivals largest stage, The Amphitheatre. Several puffs on my inhaler later, and I had finally crested the last hill.Blue King Brown - image © Tamaryn Bremner
An enormous field stretched out before me, and a packed crowd formed a groove pit as far as the eye could see. The band performed a mix of their older and newer songs, and proudly hoisted the banned West Papuan flag, calling for peace and for us all to rise up and put an end to oppression the world over.Image © Tamaryn Bremner
Big-ups to the organisers, and to the thousands of volunteers that help keep this festival going strong. The work that goes into running an event like this is huge! Thanks for the musical memories Woodford, and for reminding us all to be excellent to one another. Peace.- Tamaryn Bremner
Not even a heat wave could hold back the record-breaking crowd
of music lovers for the 31st year of the Woodford Folk Festival. Each year the festival seems to be growing in size, with this year marking the largest crowd Woodfordia has seen yet.
Woodford Folk Festival is one of Australia’s largest, cultural festivals attracting over 125,000 people to partake in a week of world-class entertainment. From international artists to our very own Sunshine Coast bands, this festival upholds a high standard of talent while catering to many different tastes and genres.Image © Emelia Ebejer
Woodford Folk Festival stands out from the rest, as it attracts attendees from multiple generations. During the day, the sprightly middle-age festival gooers and young families brave the heat to listen to talks, attend workshops, sit in for some stand-up comedy or attend a circus or two.Image © Emelia Ebejer
But it’s not until nightfall when the streets of Woodford become a mad hustle and bustle. Crowds of people flood Woodfordia, racing from one venue to the next. The nightlife could be compared to a night out in Bangkok, with its crowded laneways bustling with market stalls, street-food venders and bars.Image © Emelia Ebejer
Woodford is held over one of the hottest and sometimes wettest weeks of the year! This year the typical ‘Mudford’ took a year off and gave way to a much brighter looking festival. It sure was sunny and it certainly was hot!
Attending Woodford in a heatwave at times felt like a matter of life or death and at around midday, surviving the heat became my only focus. To my absolute surprise it hardly deterred anyone from partaking in the usual amount of dancing and partying. However, one festival goer admitted to putting ice cubes in her shoes to relieve her from the heat!
One thing I really appreciate about Woodford is the outstanding world music line-up. A highlight for me was catching Vieux Farka Toure at The Grande late Friday afternoon.Click here for more photos.
Vieux is a Malian guitarist whose father, Ali Farka Toure, was born into a tribe of soldiers, but fled to pursue his path as a musician. Vieux followed in his father’s footsteps and has become a talented guitarist and songwriter. His music created a beautiful, afternoon atmosphere for patrons to sit on the large hill at The Grande, have a drink and enjoy the breeze.Vieux Farka Toure - image Emelia Ebejer
Later that night Australians own Gang Of Youths took the spotlight at The Amphitheatre. The indie-rock group attracted a younger audience as The Amphitheatre filled up with squealing teenage girls (and boys) who were all very excited to get onto the dancefloor and push their way to the front of the crowd. It’s great to see a festival cater so well to such an eclectic crowd of both young and old.Gang Of Youths - image © Emelia Ebejer
Whether or not you follow the programme or are familiar with the headlining acts, you are bound to bump into some unexpected talent. On the trek to a much needed cold shower I caught the soothing voice of Karl S. Williams and decided to stop in the shade to watch his set.Karl S. Williams - image © Emelia Ebejer
Accompanied by his band, he played a set at the Garland on Saturday afternoon that really caught me by surprise. Karl is a blues musician from Melbourne and for a lanky, white man he certainly has a soulful voice. He played keyboard, guitar and banjo while belting out expressive lyrics. I can see Karl S. Williams becoming one of the major acts at Woodford in the years to come.Image © Emelia Ebejer
After a much needed rest on Saturday afternoon I geared up for New Year’s Eve. And what better way to spend your New Year’s celebration than gallivanting around Woodfordia with the giant Woodford family. I started my New Year’s Eve with a delicious Thai feast, though finding somewhere to eat can be a difficult choice as the options are all amazing.
I headed to the Blue Lotus where I was told Oka were putting on a secret show. Though it wasn’t Oka, a few members of the band played a set with some other fine musicians and built up a lot of energy in me which kicked off the spirit of the evening.Highlife - image © Emelia Ebejer
For the countdown I headed to The Tropic to see Highlife; a band from my own town Maleny. Highlife consists of a group of highly talented Sunshine Coast musicians whose frontman, Hayden Hack, brings his distinct voice and sound to the group.
Together they create a unique Afro funk, psychedelic sound. It was awesome to experience my local band showing Woodford that we’ve got world-class music right here on the Sunshine Coast. Their high-energy music and performance created the perfect set for the 2016 count down and everyone on and off stage felt ecstatic while welcoming in the New Year!Image © Emelia Ebejer
My New Year’s Eve experience at Woodford was well worth the survival of the heatwave and though the weather was hot, the musicians were hotter. Cheers Woodfordia and see you again next year.- Emelia EbejerClick here for more photos.