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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

Mullum Music Festival comes of age

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Estere from New Zealand was a popular choice for many Mullum Music Festival punters last weekend. Photo Tao Jones.
Estere from New Zealand was a popular choice for many Mullum Music Festival punters last weekend. Photo Tao Jones.

By Mandy Nolan

There is something enormously democratic about a music festival with a street parade, where musicians, street performers, volunteers, and patrons join forces blowing horns and banging drums, weaving their way through Australia’s ‘Biggest Little Town’ to celebrate the 8th Mullum Music Festival.

Last weekend’s Mullum Music Festival was certainly something special, with the sun gods shining down and knock out performances by the likes of Montaigne, Hein Cooper, Irish Mythen, We Two Thieves, All Our Exes Live in Texas, the quiet power of Jenn Grant, the lapsteel genius of Thomas Oliver (who also has a pretty impressive falsetto) and with the halls packed to capacity to hear the musical stylings of world class songwriters Robert Forster and Ron Sexsmith.

The opening gala saw the passion and intensity of Arte Kanela bring people to their feet in a standing ovation and setting the tone for what was to come.

With a program boasting over 80 acts it was impossible to see them all, instead you decided whether you wanted to dance or sit, with Californian Honeydrops, Tora, Trinity and Cornerstone Roots, Yeshe and Kurai driving audiences to the dance floor, while others such as Lucie Thorne and Loren Kate heralding those quieter moments.

Hauschka bought a touch of Berlin to the festival with ping pong balls and plastic toys literally jumping out of the keyboard and New Zealand’s Estere created grand music sound scapes with her MPC and her mythic themes.

But this was not just a festival of musicians playing their regular gigs. This was a festival for musicians who love to play, and are happiest outside the comfort zone of a set list. This is where Mullum Music
Festival shines, offering artists the opportunity to deliver something a little different.

With a hidden piano bar hosted by The Cat Empire’s Ollie McGill, musicians drifted up to partner with McGill in spectacular jam sessions that saw McGill behind that piano for hours at a time, a man clearly in love with his piano. A woman leant over while I was watching and said ‘His mother once said I wish he’d stop playing the piano long enough to get out of his pyjamas.’

In a weekend where musicians delivered marathon performances, it was perhaps patron Harry Angus who put in the most stage time.

Programming and heading up the Village Vanguard, Harry was in residence with his Jazz Party bringing each day to a close with a frenzied call to the dance floor.

It was as wild as it was wonderful. Angus’ talent seems to know no bounds – conducting from side of stage, singing jazz, and presenting a solo gig that saw his collaborative genius matched with festival artists jumping up to guest with him. Angus noted at the opening of the festival in an interview with the ABC that the most remarkable feature of Mullum Music Festival was the strong female line up.

This would be one of the few festivals where the number of women artists matched the men.

The strong feminine flavour permeated the festival culminating in one of the event’s highlights, The Nina Simone Tribute – with Mama Kin belting out Baby Just Cares For Me, the glorious Loretta Miller closing with the anthemic Ain’t Got No… I’ve got Life’, Parvyn Singh soaring through octaves with Wild is the Wind and Emily Lubitz delivering a spectacular version of perhaps the hardest song of Simone’s to sing, her song for Martin Luther King, The King of Love is Dead.

With comedy, street theatre, buskers, food markets, brightly coloured double decker buses full of happy people, the town buzzed from morning to night, with festival moments everywhere including a favourite: a candle lit piano playing classical music in the dark with patrons lying sprawled in the grass.

Mullum Music Festival has come of age, and she has found her voice. And yes, I think there’s no question, Mullum Music Festival is a girl!

Mullum Music Festival 2015 was a celebration of the feminine – in men, in women, on the dancefloor and in the hearts of town that’s not afraid of strong women!

The Mullum Music Festival is supported by the NSW Government as part of its Regional Flagship Event program.

For a photo album of the event visit:


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