Maldon Folk Festival: banjos, fiddles and mosh pits

By Michelle Slater

The Maldon Folk Festival plays an important part in supporting independent Australian songwriters, according to Neil Murray, a headlining artist at this year’s event.

Murray is best known for his signature tune, My Island Home. He was one of 70 Australian and local artists at the festival, in its 38th year. “Live venues have diminished everywhere across the country,” he said. “It’s theselittle festivals that enable musicians to be able to keep performing their craft. It’s all that’s left.”

“Too many festivals are led by having to have a large international act, then they blow their budget for local acts. They do their audiences a disservice.”

Murray has been a regular performer at music festivals for over 20 years. He travels extensively across the country and he writes songs about the land and its people.

He said that Australia must support its musicians. “We have to cherish our own arts and songs and stories. This is what sustains us as a nation- not how many gold medals we win.”

He said that Maldon is one his favourites.“Its got a lot of history and a lot of heart. It doesn’t have all the hype of the large festivals, that’s its charm.”

Local Artsists are supported

Local area artist, Janette Giri has played at Maldon for 10 years and says that the the festival is great for promoting the local music scene. “They have a policy of having local and Australian artists at this festival,” she said. “I’ve just moved not far from here. The local scene is thriving, diverse and colourful.”

Cool weather and smattering showers kept audiences rugged up over the Melbourne Cup weekend. This didn’t mar the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the festival.

Folk music mosh pit

Friday night kicked off with the under 50′s crowd starting up a mosh-pit to folk-punk outfit, The Go Set who played in the Guiness tent at the Tarrengower Reserve.

The band’s encore performance on Saturday night got the crowd even further revved up when chairs were removed from the venue and crowd surfing broke out.

The Woohoo Revue’s hot gypsy- folk fiddle got audiences up and waltzing, while Bluestone Junction inspired some thigh slapping to traditional bluegrass picking on the main stage.

A Beatles sing-a-long, mandolin style, packed out the session tent on Sunday night. The more sedate audiences watched songwriters like Greg Champion and Shaun Kirk perform in the Wine Tent.

Tim Woods, from Thornbury, won the Maldon Minstrels Award on Sunday morning with his song called Tail of the Possum. “I didnt plan on entering the comp, but my friend said come and put my name down,” he said. Woods won a recording package and a performer’s spot on next year’s program.

Street jams Street jams and buskers highlighted the spirit of participation in the festival. Morris dancers, with their jangly bells added colour in the main street. A number of different venues including the local churches, the Maldon Hotel and the Penny School hosted a diversity of acts that catered to different tastes.

Jed Rowe, from the Dandenong Ranges, performed at last year’s event. He returned as a spectator with his family this year. “Its a good family kind of thing,” he said. “The people are friendly and there’s a good range of eclectic music.”

The festival wound down on Monday afternoon in the Maldon Hotel. Those not required to work partied on with blues guitar from artists such as Tom Richardson and Nick Charles.

Listen to the sounds and the people at the festival:http://soundcloud.com/midnightoil-1/maldon-folk-festival-2011

To listen to the entire Neil Murray interview click here:http://soundcloud.com/midnightoil-1/neil-murray-at-the-maldon

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