Photos Jeff Dawson; text Mandy Nolan
Mullum Music Fest: the best acts you never heard of
Even cloudy skies during Sunday’s street parade failed to take the sheen off the 10th annual Mullum Music Festival.
It simply provided an excuse to add an array of umbrellas to the already colourful street scene.
The street parade, as usual, inspired locals and visitors alike.
‘My acquaintances were totally blown away and had grins from ear to ear,’ wrote Mullumbimby local Paul Jameson.
‘One said “I can really see why you like living here”.
‘I felt so proud to be a local and to be a part of such fun and creativity that brings such joy to so many people,’ Mr Jameson said.
As always, the event was a mix of top-notch regulars and brilliant Aussie and overseas acts that you may never hear otherwise.
‘After 10 years of running this event we got pounded by rain but it was great to see it didn’t effect of the integrity of the event or the experience of the festival goers. This year’s street parade was the best ever, we are well on our way to becoming Mullum’s version of a New Orleans street band with over 1000 people coming together to sing gospel. Miraculously the skies cleared and it didn’t rain on our parade,’ said festival director Glenn Wright
The Opening night gala set the tone with a goosebump version of ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ by the Festival Patrons past and present: Suzannah Espie, Harry James Angus and Mama Kin joined on stage by percussionists Greg Sheehan and Skillz.
Unique collaborative performances are the trademark of this little festival that Mama Kin declared on stage as her ‘favourite’ when she and Spender were joined by a local choir who had spent the last 6 weeks learning her songs. When she sang about ‘holding hands underground’ there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
It was Wallis Bird who captured the hearts of festival goers. This Irish stomp boxing guitar shredding pocket rocket of visceral energy was a stand out artist of the festival and one of the most generous, not only in the amount she gave to audiences but she was constantly being invited on stage to play with old friends like her compatriot Aine Tyrell and new friends she met at the festival.
Suzannah Espie created moments of brilliance at the Courthouse on Saturday when she was joined onstage by the extraordinary sisterhood of Mullum Fest: Liz Stringer, Mama Kin, Jo Jo Smith, Sara Tindley, Lucie Thorne, Aine Tyrell and Tracy Miller. This was testament to the powerful representation of women on the festival with a bill that tipped over 50 per cent women on stage.
Mullum Fest favourite Jo Jo Smith celebrated 50 years in the music industry, Stella Donnelly rocked out to young and old fans alike, Domini Forster and Cecilia Brandolini curated an incredible showcase of previous Youth Mentorship winners with Song Harvest.
Jon Cleary’s solo show was one of the jewels of the festival with punters marvelling at the power of one man at the keys, many of those same people returning to witness him bring the house down at his massive closing show with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen on Sunday night.
The Teskey Brothers became everyone’s new favourite band. They got the dance floor grooving as did Z Star Delta, the UK power duo who have a driving energy reminiscent of the White Stripes. Frontwoman Zee has amazing charisma and combine that with the guitar prodigy of Sebastien Heintz and you have a dangerous concoction of swampy blues and desert rock.
Trumpet in hand, Harry Angus led the street parade, he played with the wild and swinging Jazz Party that had bodies sweating it out on the dancefloor at the Village Vanguard until late and he displayed his performance super powers with his huge Struggle with Glory show.
Dustyesky, the faux Russian choir continued the Moscow to Mullum connection, proving just why this laid back, lets-get-together-for-vodka-and-sing-in-Russian men’s choir have gone viral in the motherland. Like a middle-aged boy band, these men really know how to let themselves go. And wow, festival goers just can’t get enough.
With festival goers coming from around the country this was truly an incredible year for Mullum Music Festival, proving 10 years on that there really is a place for small, sustainable music festivals for people who love music you don’t hear on mainstream radio. Festival goers may come from every demographic, but they share just one thing: they love good music.
Hats off, once again, to Glenn Wright and his tiny team for reminding us why the biggest little town is the best place to be on the third weekend of November.