Monday, January 16, 2006

The Illustrated Woodford Files 2: amusements

I find that the acts offered at Woodford are totally secondary to the people-watching opportunities, and I also found, this year, that it wasn't as fun a line-up as the other years I've been. Maybe that is because I was busy in other ways, but I spent a lot of time wandering around catching little bits of things rather than chasing down particular acts.

The one exception is the 'Snack, Popple and Crap' breakfast show by Martin Pearson and John Thompson which is the best way to begin your Woodford (and National) Folk Festival day. Held at the Troubadour Wine Bar, it is an age-old institution, and the audience-member-in-the-know arrives a long time before the 9am start time, to get the best a seat.
The Troubadour Wine tent, at breakfast time

We have a habit of sending one of us along (usually BB, as he wakes up at dawn's crack anyway) to save seats. up until this year, it's a long tedious wait with a coffee and the papers, but this year John and Martin organised a couple of slots before the show to showcase up and coming singers. It looked (to the cynical eye) like J&M were meeting nice young girlie singer/songwriters around the performers' showerblock and offering to make them a star, because there were very few male up and coming singers featured. nevertheless, it made the waiting time a lot more fun, and it did introduce me to some great voices, one of whom I mentioned earlier, Emma Dean (Hello, Emma, in case your mum googled you again! The cheque is in the mail for a CD!).

Anyhoo, breakfast with Martin and John is a series of jolly japes with good jokes, fun songs and interesting guests (George Negus was there the first day, and Sandy McCutcheon made appearances through the week). Martin sources a lot of stuff from the internet to read out, although I do suffer a bit from the fact that he reads the same jokes at Woodford as he reads at the National Folk Festival (at Easter in Canberra). But that's my fault for going to too many bloody festivals (I'm not a devoted folkie, just married to someone who likes to think he is, but isn't!).

daisy hill
This is the new Troubadour 'annex', affectionately dubbed Daisy Hill, which allows a much bigger crowd to listen to what is happening on stage. No problems with overcrowding this year! Until now, if you turned up late, there was no chance in hell of seeing or hearing anything. Now, you sit on the hill. A much better arrangement.

John, on the left, was a lawyer until a few years ago when he threw it all in for love and music. He is now one half of the gorgeous Cloudstreet. He has a beautiful tenor voice, and a keen appreciation of the absurd.

Breakfast Martin (on the right) is one half of himself, and I mean that in the sense that there is comedian Martin, who splits his face in half with a huge grin and has a razor-sharp wit, and then there is musician Martin, who sings beautiful folk ballads with his eyes closed (always! never opens his eyes when singing 'real' music) and performs spoken word acts like reading the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf to Celtic music (one of the highlights of this year's festival for me). I get the feeling he would like this latter half appreciated more.
Martin reciting Beowulf, to the accompaniment of Nancy Kerr and James Fagan.
His best work so far (I think) is his comic musical interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkien. And I'm cackling away in the audience on the CD! heh.

Liz Frencham performing her cover of a Fozzie Bear song while Martin and John do Muppetty things with arms (unfortunately sitting at the side of the stage, but perhaps capturing the best view!)

The other marvellous regular amusement at WFF is the variety of street theatre. Again, I failed to photograph some of the best things, and I'm extremely sorry to miss the chance to shoot the kangaroos. They were brilliant. Three huge big red roo costumes, constructed a-la Tank Girl style (complete with flying goggles) from fake fur and using spring stilts to bounce around, with one female (carrying a toy joey) and two males. The males had huge bobbling testicles under their tails, which squeaked if anyone squeezed them (there's always someone in a crowd who wants to squeeze testicles). They would bounce around through the crowd, joking and teasing (they didn't have kangaroo faces, just left their own faces exposed under the ears). If one of the minibuses came near, or anyone with a torch, they would shriek out warnings about THE HEADLIGHTS!!! and pretend to be transfixed. They would also find grassy patches and lie around scratching themselves and chatting to passers-by. They were the bomb.

Other entertainers included Huge seagulls, who walked around being naughty, The Woodford Marching Girls, sundry floaty faery-type chicks, Big Rory (an enormous scotsman on stilts), plus
The Woodford Cricketers, who would find odd areas to play, just in case anyone was missing the cricket...

'Squirt', an installation of perspex frogs in jewel-like colours that had variously-toned frog sounds activated by pressure-sensors so that people could squirt them with water and make their own music.

Will-o-the-Wisp Fire Circus...

and lots of huge lantern puppets, including a dragon that you can see in the crowd scene in an earlier post.

Other good things seen:
Eric Bibb. Shite photo, awesome man. Charismatic uplifting blues, if such a thing can exist. I will never miss an opportunity to see him again as long as I live.

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen. A bit strange to travel to Qld to see them when they are quite often close to home, but they never disappoint. They had a scheduled session entitled 'From the Desk of the Black Sea Gents' which was meant to be a panel discussion of their roots and influences, but ended up being an opportunity for them to be naughty and taunt the audience, with Mikel stripping down to his jocks at one point.

Stay tuned for the next time I can find a moment. I hope you're enjoying this. Let me know if you're sick of the whole subject. (Then I could start telling you stories of drinking an awesome marguerita last night while Zoe skinnydipped in her new paddling pool.)

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