Drive to Mullumbimby on any given day and you will find buskers on sitar, buskers on guitar and kids out-busking them all. There’ll be a shirtless bloke in a kilt on his mobile, a nice neat Nana off to the doctor and a seedpod of single mums outside Santos health food store sharing tips on crystal deodorant. There’s pie eating workmen, emo teenagers skipping school and eating chips on the pavement, a hot pink mariachi man hitching a ride home and some disheveled rock star buying his groceries. In ‘Mullum’ the whitened teeth brigade hold court with the toothless, and everywhere people are talking, laughing, hugging, complaining, gathered in groups, dotted in shops, drinking coffee, playing drums: it’s a small town symphony of noise. This is a vibrant, flawed gloriously messed up cacophony of community. Mullumbimby needs to be heritage listed. They just don’t do small towns like this anywhere else in Australia!
Once a year the town of Mullumbimby opens her arms to the world and invites them to experience one of the most unique music events in the country: The Mullum Music Festival. This year, from Thursday to Sunday 25 – 28 November, venues throughout the town host over 100 performances, with festival goers able to amble from gig to gig through the streets of Mullumbimby. It’s a festival for everybody with men, women, children and clowns, able to participate in this demographically and stylistically inclusive event.
One of the big drawcards of this year’s festival is Washington. Megan Washington was unearthed by Triple J only a year ago and since then she and her band have been on a non-stop round of performances culminating in the recent Aria Awards where she scored six nominations and won two awards in the categories of Best Female Artist and Breakthrough Artist. The festival’s program promises an all singing, all dancing affair with costumes and cupcakes and plenty of suprises. I think she’s going to be huge and this may be one of the last chances we have to see her in such an intimate environment. Here she is talking about the inspiration for her album I Believe You Liar.
I had hoped to have the director of the festival, Glenn Wright, into the studio for a chat but with only two days to go before lift-off, Glenn didn’t make it. But he very generously donated a day pass to the festival for one of the BayFM subscribers and that was one by Jay. Congrats and thanks to Glenn for your generosity.
If you’re a fan of reggae, rock steady and ska then Sydney group King Tide are for you. They’ll perform at the festival on Saturday night. I particiularly like the track ROCKERS STYLE. Just to prove the diversity of the festival’s line-up we followed with Nashville singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier with MARCH 11, 1962 from her latest album, Foundling. Produced by Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, it’s an amazingly honest album that draws inspiration from her own life. Achingly beautiful. Here’s an amateur video taken at a performance in London June 2010:
We followed with Heath Cullen & The 45s with BREAK MY HEART, which might just have a back-story of its own. Heath is a highly regarded guitarist having graced all of Lucie Thorne’s most recent recordings, amongst others. In this video clip he’s performing with the 45’s: Jay McMahon, drums; David Hibbert, guitar; Robyn Martin, bass; Jason Coman, guitar; and Pete Wild, keyboards.
Tijuana Cartel are amazing. They’re the band to see if you want to get up and dance. It’s a wild combo of funk, hip-hop, reggae, flamenco with a Middle Eastern flavour. We played an oldie but a goodie of theirs: RISE UP from their debut album Frequent Flyers Redeemed.
A late addition to the festival is UK singer Gemma Ray. Here’s a brilliant video clip of the track 100MPH (IN 2ND GEAR). Directed by Miranda Bowen and edited by Leo Scott its got an almost Lynchian sensibility. Love the song, love the video.
One of my favourites is the gorgeous sister act, Scarlett Affection. Nerida and Melia will be performing at the festival in their own right and will also be supporting students from their new contemporary music school. A little birdy told me that there is some amazing talent coming out of the Scarlett School, so I’m really looking forward to that performance on Saturday in the Civic Hall. One of my favourite songs of theirs is ROMANTIC from their album Our Sweet Ambush.
Sunshine Coast based Oka are a genre defying group who know how to get a room up and moving. MUSIC MAKES ME HAPPY showcases the throbbing, earthy beats of tribal music for the digital age.
Pieta Brown comes straight from the American heartland. Her father is renowned folk singer Greg Brown whose songs have been covered by Willie Nelson among others. Described as a cross between Loretta Lyn, P.J. Harvey and Cat Power, she’s one of the highlights of the festival. Here she sings HEY RUN from the Remember The Sun album.
Jazz fans won’t be disappointed as the much admired Vince Jones returns to Mullum. We played his very smooth rendition of AUTO FREAKS and followed with another brilliant local artist, Gyan, with a track from her latest album Superfragiistically, WWW.
It was great to be able to speak to two of the artists appearing at the festival, live in the studio. First up, comedian, acrobat, juggler extraordaire Joel Salom had me in stitches as we talked about his gig as MC of the opening night on Thursday and his solo slot on Friday night. Here he is performing with Circus Oz and he did suggest that there may be some ‘accidental’ stripping at Mullum as well.
The opening night of the festival not only features Joel as MC but it features an amazing line-up of talent: Pieta Brown, The Rhythm Hunters, Nano Stern, Flap!, Dick & Christa Hughes and Mama Kin. Quickly gaining a reputation for an act not to be missed, Mama Kin’s music is powerful stuff. We featured I’M GONNA DO IT, from her album Beat and Holler.
Local musician and producer, Christian Pyle, also paid us a visit and it was a pleasure speaking to such a down to earth artist who is clearly very talented. We played two of the songs from his solo album, Nothing Left to Burn – RAY OF YOUR SUNSHINE and TREES & STONE. Christian will be peforming on Saturday and, as well, he’ll front up with the band Ghost Mountain on Sunday. Christian told me that with Ghost Mountain they’re a very seasoned band who all bring their own influences to the music. We played EVERYTHING’S OK from the album Art Without Audience.
Christian also produces an array of artists out of his studio in Goonengerry. One of them happens to be one of my favourites of the moment. M. Jack Bee is a storyteller par excellence and his latest album, In Loops is a beauty. I particularly like the track MOTH. This video clip was filmed by Christian in his studio when they were recording the song. Watch to the end when Christian makes his own appearance. Let’s call it a Hitchcock moment!
Also returning to the festival, and all the way from Darwin, is Leah Flanagan. I saw her perform last year and she was brilliant. She plays a mean ukelele, so for me that just makes her show compulsory. Another group returning to Mullum are the equally talented Tinpan Orange. Their latest album THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE is a great indication of the breadth of their talent.
How good is Jordie Lane? His song FELL INTO ME from his album Sleeping Patterns, is on constantly at my house at the moment. He’s performing on Saturday and Sunday at the festival and also on Sunday with Jen Cloher, which should make a hot double-bill. Here he is talking about how he recorded his previous album, Lovers Ride, for under $A150! Incredible.
We finished the show on a suitably alternative note with Mojo Juju & The Snake Oil Merchants. What can you say about these all-round performers who meld jazz, rock and punk into a vaudevillian show that is pure entertainment. Here they are performing CATCH A FIRE at another of the great festivals that we host up here in the Northern Rivers, The Byron Blues Fest:
Thanks so much to everyone at the Mullum Music Festival, in particular my guests Joel Salom and Christian Pyle.
Next week, I’m rec0gnising World Aids Day (December 1) with SONGS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY. Now before you all start leaving me messages about HIV and AIDS not being a gay disease. I know that! But let’s recognise that its the gay community that have been at the forefront of political activism, not only fighting discrimination but also promoting understanding and support for ALL people suffering from this dreadful malady. So let’s celebrate the gays! Any suggestions? Let’s concentrate on the song, rather than the singer. Just because Dusty Springfield was gay doesn’t make The Look of Love a gay song, now does it? Hmmmm.
So, while you’re pondering that list, check out this week’s:
I Believe You Liar – I Believe You Liar, Washington
Rockers Style – RoOTS POP Reggae, King Tide
March 11, 1962 – The Foundling, Mary Gauthier
Break My Heart – Heath Cullen
Rise Up – Frequent Flyers Redeemed, Tijuana Cartel
100 mph (in 2nd Gear) – Lights Out Zoltar!, Gemma Ray
Romantic – Our Sweet Ambush, Scarlett Affection
Music Makes Me Happy – Music Makes Me Happy, OKA
Hey Run – Remember the Sun, Pieta Brown
Auto Freaks – Moving Through Taboos, Vince Jones
WWW. – Superfragilistically, Gyan
Ray of Your Sunshine – Nothing Left to Burn, Christain Pyle
I’m Gonna Do It – Beat And Holler, Mama Kin
Trees & Stone – Nothing Left to Burn, Christian Pyle
Everything’s OK – Art Without Audience, Ghost Mountain
Moth – In Loops, M. Jack Bee
Tipsy Tango – Making Waves, Leah Flannigan
The Bottom Of The Lake – The Bottom Of The Lake, TinPan Orange
Fell Into Me – Sleeping Patterns, Jordie Lane
Catch a Fire – Sellin’ You Salvation, Mojo Juju and The Snake Oil Merchants
Next week: SONGS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY