he North Coast of NSW, home of the long running and iconic music festivals the beloved Byron Bay Bluesfest and for the younger crowd the mighty Splendour in the Grass, has recently decided to try its hand at boutique festivals. I’m not sure if the long running Mullumbimby Festival could be included having been successfully operating for the last nine years, or if it’s been the inspiration for the newcomers, but the (one day) Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass festival, the recently postponed (two day) Tweed Valley Country Roots fest, the (two day) Nimbin Roots Festival along with Blues on Broadbeach and the Broadbeach Country Music Festival just 40 minutes up the Pacific Hwy suggests that we are literally swimming if not drowning in Roots music up here these days. I’m not sure if the failure of last year’s Murwillumbah Country Roots fest might be an indication that we are maybe becoming a little over serviced when it comes to live outdoor music in our neck of the woods. I guess only time and ticket sales will tell.
The Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass Festival, now in its third year seems to have the recipe right by primarily going for one day, keeping it local, and adding the element of food as a major part of its charm. If the last two sold out years are any indication I suspect that they may have got it right. Although much smaller the event has similar qualities to the Mullumbimby festival in that its focus, apart from the BBQ aspect and specific style of music, is on creating a great environment for families and the appeal of involving and catering (in more ways than one) to community.
It’s held in the middle of town at the Bangalow Showgrounds unlike Mullum which utilises several local venues, halls and school and features on the eve of the event an Old Time Variety Show in the tradition of the live radio shows of the fifties at the old A&I Hall. It showcases along with most of the acts appearing at the festival, a host of local singers and performers each doing one song in a variety of musical combinations of their choosing, a host and a running commentary panel. This inspired inclusion has become an integral part of the overall event and as I discovered last year was a great deal of fun to be involved in, when I got to share the stage myself with long time Slim Dusty producer Rod Coe and Tamworth icon, the lovely Clelia Adams and others performing the old Jimmy Rogers classic ‘Waiting For a Train’.
Festival day, along with numerous bluegrass acts young and old, this year offers Melbourne’s The Stetsons, The Cartridge Family, The Hillbilly Goats, Owl Valley Bluegrass, Honey and Knives and many more. Also a plethora of BBQ treats to sample and the Firebrand BBQ Cook-off with a $1500.00 prize, a Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin/Fiddle Pickers Competition with a $250.00 prize and multiple kids games. It’s an inspired and well organised affair that I suspect will endure whilst others aiming for the bigger line ups of more high profile acts, bigger crowds and the out of town/tourist market, I suspect could ultimately be riskier ventures.
Read the rest in Issue 82…