|Blue Mountains Music Festival 2022
Review by Annette Sale
Photos by Noel Plummer
Published in T&N 152 November 2022
Worth the wait!
They all made the trek, up and over the Blue Mountains and into Katoomba, NSW, for the Silver Anniversary Blue Mountains Festival, after two cancellations and one postponement.
Friday night began with the powerful Welcome to Country and ended with Kasey Chambers and her great band feeding the hunger left by two years in the desert of Covid 19.
Her music, her Aussi humour, and her outstanding performance left us all feeling that the cold rain and muddy boots were worth it!
On Saturday, the great music continued, and the torrential rain poured down.
The contingent of overseas artists was very small this year and Harry Manx, from Canada, once again touched our souls with his original blended Indian blues and amazing banjo and guitar accompaniment.
If you don’t know Kiwi Kerryn Fields, keep an eye out for her and listen for her unique voice and hauntingly beautiful lyrics.
When I heard the big band sound of MZAZA playing, it took me back to the lively smoky music bars in Budapest, the blend of old and new folk played by great musicians from different parts of the world.
Whitetop Mountaineers from the high hills of Virginia, USA, are a duo from a family band who entertained with real old-time mountain and roots music.
This festival, we were fortunate to hear many talented Blue Mountains’ performers like Aurora Li, who is already a seasoned folk, rock, and indie performer at 18, with her beautiful voice and original songs.
Other local talent included Sarah Humphreys from Eagle & The Wolf, who played solo as her husband, Kristen Lee Morris, hurt his hand and couldn’t attend.
A Few Good Spooky Men were a smaller group of performers, because many of their tribe were not available, and the those that performed were in top form with many of their fun songs and spooky tricks.
The crowds were treated to other locals like Jimmi Carr with his raw intensity and honest lyrics, Isobel Knight’s quiet, strong story telling in song and Jerrah Patson’s original songs related to his daily life.
Other Katoomba groups included the talented Linda Mizzi Trio and previous Spooky Man, Nic Danta, performing his own pop folk music.
Phil Davidson was born in Northern Ireland and although now based in Katoomba, his roots are strongly Celtic, as are many of his best songs.
Pat Drummond has had an extensive career as a singer-songwriter and his songs come from events in his life and actual interviews, so his lyrics always hit home.
Mic Conway, a veteran vaudeville entertainer with the Beez, all now living in Katoomba, entertain so well together!
It was great to see Uptown Brown as Performer at Large, popping up in unexpected places!
Not having so many overseas acts made it also possible to have many Australian groups like Miss Eileen & King Lear, brother and sister act from the Perch family with Lear playing standing drums and Eileen singing a powerful rendition of Held by the Air.
Montgomery Church, a duo from the Snowy Mountains write beautiful songs and while passing The Shed, I was drawn across the muddy grass by the strains of a haunting song and stayed to listen to the wonderful melodic sounds, song after song.
Storying telling ballads and Rory Ellis & The Devil’s Right Hand go hand in hand and I caught him singing his great ballad of the bottle, his grandfather, and the Church Bridge.
Rory was accompanied by the amazing Peter Kreft on Bass and world-famous Christian Marsh on harmonica.
Two acts I hadn’t seen before were This Way North, a duo with addictive drumming which causes reactive moving and dancing and the uniquely soulful original sound of Kelly Brouhaha.
19-Twenty with their own brand of highly energetic unpredictable blues captured the audience and packed the wonderful new RSL Blues Room.
There was plenty of blues for the fans with the famous Big Merino, The Blues Preachers, a good old-fashioned blues mix, and Dom Turner & The Rural Blues Project.
Dom, of Backsliders’ fame, needs no introduction.
It was great to hear Better Things, a song written by Kee’ahn, a proud Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal, Zenadh Kes song woman from North Queensland.
Shanteya and Jo are Saije, a very professional Aussi contemporary folk duo who look and sound the part from their superb outfits and promotional material to their incredible soulful song writing which seems to spring from a deep well of understanding of themselves and their connection to land.
The multi award-winning Aussi duo, The Weeping Willows, featuring Andrew Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates, have amazing attention to detail and weave magical stories through lyrical song writing.
The Grigoryans, Slava and Leonard, are classical guitarists and were well received and played to a crowded Big Top audience.
If you love the Waifs, you’ll know Vikki Thorn, who performed with her band, ThornBird, and showcased many of her great original songs written while living in the canyons of Utah.
Lior and Domini began writing many of their songs in 2019 and during lockdown, and it was great to be able to listen to their storytelling songs from the past two years.
Mama Kin Spender, aka Danielle Caruana, and producer, Tommy Spender, work well together.
Loved the fresh energetic standing drum performance of Mama Kin and the synergy between her and Tommy.
The highlight of the festival for me was John Butler’s performance on Saturday night in the Big Top, which was spectacular with the tingly atmosphere and John’s breathtaking guitar playing.
Staying home and practising for two years certainly showed.
A guest appearance from Mama Kin singing with John was unexpected and a rare treat.
John Butler and Danielle Caruana joined Heartlands Conversations on Sunday morning.
The conversation was raw and honest and there weren’t many dry eyes in the audience.
They talked about meeting, family life, feminism, bringing boys into manhood, support and mentoring for young musicians and mental health support for musicians.
True to form, the festival was well organised by Bob Charter and the BMMF 2022 Team, from the excellent program booklet to the set-up of one Big Top and six smaller stages or venues.
There was plenty of amazing food and the staff and members of Katoomba Public School and P&C Association worked tirelessly assisting in various capacities, particularly with organising an excellent recycling regime.
Also. a shout out to the 300 volunteers!
The calibre of the musicians, the joyful atmosphere, and the outstanding performances, I’m not sure but the music seemed sweeter, and the mood of the audience could not be dampened by the relentless rain.
Being at the festival and hearing live music after lockdown was magic.
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