Kate Miller-Heidke: Woodford Folk

Kate Miller-Heidke

Over the last decade, Kate Miller-Heidke's extraordinary talent has taken her around the world, from Australia to Asia, the US to the UK. But in all that time, and in all those places, she's never found a festival that compares to her first.

“I've been going to Woodford since I was a teenager,” she remembers. “It's where I had some of my most formative musical experiences, really. It's what first got me interested in the craft of songwriting, watching all those old folkies and people like Colin Hay and Kristina Olsen. It was at that point that the fire was lit within me somehow. It's been a big part of my life, almost like a ritual. I try to go every year, even just as a punter if I'm not playing.”

Certainly, on the Australian scene, Miller-Heidke doesn't think the likes of Splendour In The Grass or Big Day Out can hold a candle to Woodford's multidisciplinary offerings.

“Oh, it's completely different,” she says. “I mean, it's on such a huge scale... I think it's the biggest festival in Australia, over 100,000 people go to it, but it's got such a little village atmosphere and it's really approachable. I think that's because there are so many different stages of all different sizes, and there are maybe 30 or 40 different things going on at any given time.

“You can just roam around, and if your ears prick up at something, you can wander into a tent and find all this amazing shit going on. And not just music! We're talking about comedy, debates, interviews, film, circus stuff... and good circus stuff, not crappy circus stuff! For example, my cousin Annie Lee, who's in the Kranky Sisters, has run this incredible freak show there in the past. It's a huge, large-scale performance art installation.

“I'm always surprised when I meet people in Brisbane who have never been to Woodford,” she continues. “I guess that's because it's just been such a big part of my life! I can understand [why people wouldn't go], though, because it does get really fucking hot around that time. My partner Kier [Nuttall] says the heat is like a dickhead filter, because it keeps the dabblers away. But everyone at the festival ends up bonding through the adversity of the extreme weather conditions.”

Besides KMH, we think it's worth braving those extreme weather conditions this time around to see...

The Fire Event — The sounds of the People's Orchestra (that's you), Fire Choir and festival guests will echo through Woodfordia in a show directed by Joey Ruigrok van der Werven, featuring a huge team of artists, performers, singers, dancers, technicians and volunteers.

Folk Uke — Born into two of the most revered families in music, Cathy Guthrie (daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody) and Amy Nelson (daughter of Willie) combine their guitar and ukelele to play charming songs from the heart.

Canadians Sing Canadians — Three of Canada's favourite songwriters - Dave Gunning, Tim Chaisson and Andy Brown — pay tribute to three other Canadians (Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young). Should be a great night, eh?

Rory McLeod — A former jug-band player, fire-breather and Mexican circus clown, one-man band McLeod uses tap shoes, a cappella, harmonica, guitar, trombone, spoons, finger cymbals, bandorea, djembe and various percussion instruments to get his point across.

Ben Sollee — A genre-bending cellist and vocalist known for his uniquely political mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz and R&B.

Young Magic — Brooklyn duo Young Magic - led by Australian-born Isaac Emmanuel - make the sort of psychedelic, sparkling and lush music that's tailor-made for Woodfordia.

Mr Percival's Ensembleous Spontaneous Vocalabulous — Before he was topping ARIA charts as everybody's favourite lovable uncle from 'The Voice', Darren Percival was Mr Percival, one of the most gifted members of the Woodford family. This'll be big.

Urthboy — There are a few hip hop highlights on the Woodford calendar this year (Hermitude and Bankrupt Billionaires amongst them), but they don't come any bigger than the erstwhile Herd mastermind. 'Smokey's Haunt' is one of the year's best records.

The Saints — Chris Bailey fronts the latest line-up of The Saints, a rag-tag band of hungry and war-weary mercenaries. Just a little tougher than your average Woodford fare, they'll welcome you to the weekend.

The Dream Of Zedkat Nabu — The world premiere of a new work devised by Linsey Pollak and performed by four talented singers: Kacey Patrick, Velvet Pesu, Jeunae Rodgers and Nadia Sunde. A story of a world in peril, and of species doomed for extinction.

Warsaw Village Band — Poland's BBC Radio 3 award winning, Grammy nominated WVB are one of Europe's most exciting bands, with their edgy reworkings of traditional folk styles.

Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings - Brooklyn's leading soul sister fronts one of the world's premier live acts, steeped in the gilded and gritty sounds of gospel, soul, and funk. Prepare to be wrung out.

Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School — Since its inception by New York's Molly Crabapple in 2005, Dr Sketchy has established itself as the largest chain of avant-garde life drawing sessions in the world, featuring beautiful, cheeky — and very, very sketachable — burlesque artists.

Briefs: Club Night — A circus-infused variety show for the not-so-faint of heart. Don't miss Australia's finest vaudeville, burlesque and circus performers in an award-winning all male show.

Woodford Folk Festival runs from December 27 - January 1 at Woodfordia.

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