The reason why my daily diary stopped at the end of day 3 was that I had too much to see and do and not enough time to write! Overall, these are my thoughts and highlights of the festival in Australia’s country music cap, and my hometown of Tamworth. As I said in my facebook post, I have to stop beating myself up over not being able to see everybody and I do try to see folks that I can’t see during the year. It is also great to catch up with fellow fans in what has become something like a family reunion. Most of my days started on the 7.13 bus and finished at midnight, sometimes a bit before until a bit after. There were some must sees for me this festival. The obvious one is the launch for Mike Carr and Matty Cornell’s album which I will be reviewing soon. Thanks to my friend, I was able to go to the Golden Guitars, where the red carpet was awesome and I was able to witness Andrew Swift win two of the awards that he was nominated for as well as my fellow Tamworthian, Lawrie Minson, winning musician of the year. I was hoping that Imogen would win a gong but I was very happy for the legend that is Beccy Cole, winning for best female artist. The most touching moment was when Karl Broadie’s boys accepted the award with BBU for the collaboration of their late father with the terrific trio. The love and the support that I received from the artists, not just on the red carpet but throughout the festival was amazing. I do what I do because I love doing it, it is my passion, I never really expect anything back, but when a big star says hello to me or thanks me for the little thing that I do, it means the absolute world to me. My favourite gig at the festival is always Country Music Cares at the iconic Town Hall. It is the best line up and it is always for a good cause. I love the songwriters in the round sessions, especially those ones that mix my favourites with some new artists that I get to discover for the first time. I really wanted to see Matt Ward, and since he appeared with my little mate, Rory Phillips and Amy Nelson, I was triple blessed! I wanted to see Chalkie White and his show was awesome. It was great how he had lots of new young talent supporting him, including Kora. I missed my mate Benny Allen’s launch in Melbourne, so it was wonderful to be able to see him in Tamworth. Poor Benny, just about every gig that I went to, Benny was there. It became our joke for most of the festival that I was stalking the poor young man, though it just turned out that we both had the same excellent taste.
I was most impressed with the new Press Club 2340, which is in the old Northern Daily Leader building. Now when the old newspaper building was closing down, I was a might depressed, as it is an iconic building in Tamworth. I am very happy to report that I went there twice, both Allison Forbes’ Medicine Show gigs, (I missed the third due to a clash with Lukie) and it was marvellous. Comfortable seating, lovely intimate venue, not too cold air conditioning and friendly staff. Most of all, the décor is top notch and the music was splendid. Forbesy is always excellent, but the guests were practically handpicked from Kaz’s favourites too. I got to see and hear Jen Mize, Montgomery Church, Kelly Cork, Megan Cooper, Ben Leece and Michael Waugh there. Apart from Kelly, I have reviewed all of their albums and intend to get Kelly’s soon.
Of course, I never miss Lukie, (O’Shea) that is, but I have never met a Luke that I didn’t like, and I also saw Luke Dickens (album launch, review soon), Luke Austen (with the Legends’ Lunch). Sally-Anne Whitten was awesome as usual and I was so glad that Sal and Al won awards in the ICMAs. Sadly, I couldn’t be there, but that would have to be one of my favourite things that happened at the festival, well deserved and overdue.
I always start my official festival duties by going to the ladies of country, and Gina Timms had a great line up again, including Sandra Humphries who had several farewells to Tamworth with her impending retirement. It was great to finally meet Gayle O’Neill and Clelia Adams, whom I have had a bit to do with but I have never met them in person.
The April Family were obviously on my to do list, and I had quite a front row position at their gig, almost claiming to be the 5th member of the band (Kylie’s hubby has to be the 4th!).
My air triangle got a bit of a work out at some gigs, as did my air guitar but I had trouble keeping up with 8 Ball and Alwyn Aurisch! It was lovely to see Col Finley who spent a large amount of the festival in hospital. Chris and Michael were quite amazing filling in for Col at various gigs, they should be well praised for their efforts. The Bearded Blokes at Nia’s Songwriters’ Sessions was one of the highlights for me, spent with a good mate and starring Allan Caswell, Mitch Power, Pixie Jenkins and some bloke called Andrew Swift!
Another historical and sometimes hysterical event was the family reunion of Beccy Cole, Lyn Bowtell, Tania Kernaghan and the much welcomed return of the one and only Gina Jeffreys. The gig was sold out and it was on the same night as many big gigs, including that Keith bloke. I was so glad that I went. I was in one of the back seats, but I was there.
Another highlight was the gig that was on just before that one. Brad Butcher and Felicity Urquhart. It was funny, emotional and full with beautiful songs and a crowd who appreciated both of these fine talents.
I had to clip the end of the gig before those two so that I could get to them, but it was a beauty too. I have never been backwards in coming forward about how much I love and admire Melody Moko. With the fabulous Woman Enough – Americana Women gig, she led some amazing women in song. Megan Cooper, Gretta Ziller (whom I missed but I get to see all of the time in Victoria), special guests Catherine Britt and Tori Forsyth and I was blown away by Natalie Henry and some amazing young talents who also appeared.
Kristy Cox wore a cape for the whole festival. If there ever is a Superwoman of Country Music, this chick is it. She organized 100’s of gigs (it seemed like it), flew in from America with hubby Trav List and young Adelaide, 8 months pregnant in Tamworth heat and knocked them dead on the red carpet in a Peta Lawrence outfit (I think!). She is truly an amazing lady. All of the shows that I went to of her gang’s – Bluegrass, Great Country Love Songs and the first of the Tamworth Opry’s were wonderful.
One of my big surprises of the festival was Fred Smith. I went to see Carter and Carter at a Songwriters’ gig and Fred and Megan were the two other songwriters and both were awesome. Fred was particularly fabulous. He pretty much stole the show. I thought Merelyn and David were going to fall off their chairs from laughing so much. He had us near tears or speechless some minutes with his experiences in Afghanistan and then cracked us up with a thousand one liners. If you get to see Fred, please do. I had to rush off to another gig, otherwise I would have hung around for a chat.
Kerry Kennedy and Michael Bryers are two other faves who I try not to miss and they were just awesome as always.
It was good to see Kate Hindle, happy and healthy and doing really well. Angus Gill and I had a lovely chat and I am very much looking forward to his new album. My sister from another mister, Melissa Robertson hosted a cool range of talent, including Ian Burns, Kylie Adams-Collier, and one of my country music sons, Adam Toms.
Some of the fans were disappointing. Whinging about the heat – it is January, Australia, Summer….yes it is hot. Whinging about just about everything. People would have killed to have been there.
It was lovely seeing the Golden Guitars remember Rob Wilson in the In Memoriam segment and with Graeme Connors, Catherine Britt and The Cold Cold Hearts singing a Connors/Michael Carr song as they honoured those whom we lost, it was definitely a poignant moment.
It became the festival where just about everybody on every stage said the immortal words “This is a song that I wrote with Allan Caswell”. It never gets old. It is a true reward to one of the most gifted people in this country and a man who honoured me with calling me his friend and singing my favourite Allan Caswell song, Stolen Roses at one of the songwriters’ gigs. Ironically in the same round, Paul Costa sang my favourite Paul Costa song and Chris and Michael who were standing in for Col Finley, sang my favourite Col Finley song. What are the odds?
There were gigs that I didn’t get to, but I averaged 7-10 every day with more than one person on each gig.
Special thanks to Leonie M for giving me one of my most special moments, not only at the festival but in my life. I cherish my award, for mainly what it represents, all of the folks that I write about.
Seeing 8 play on a 2 string guitar, Mike Carr calling Matty Cornell Fanta Pants, Imogen Clark saying all of the beautiful things to me on the red carpet, the great moments with the Custards, (Montgomery Church), the love and support that I received from so many, with special mentions to my April Family and The Weeping Willows who sang a song for me on my birthday, to my besty Tracey Cook and my landlady and old and dear friend E.J for her generosity, and Shirley and P my chauffeurs, thank you.
I came home with a cold, so I have been a bit slow with the writing – but have reviews of Shanley Del and James Gillard, Mike Carr and Matt Cornell, Luke Dickens, Ian Burns, Chloe Styler, Clint Wilson, Bill Chambers, Michael Bryers and Amanda Cook coming up. Really getting excited about the future offerings from Felicity Urquhart and some others, including our Lukie O’Shea and in the post is Harmony James new album.
Despite all the moaning and groaning from some quarters, Tamworth was fab. I had a great time catching up with old mates and making some new ones, and seeing and hearing some great gigs. I haven’t listed all of them, but I will be mentioning them from time to time. We missed all of those who couldn’t make it this year. Congrats to all of those who won and were nominated for awards – there were a few different presentations – and it has to be said, on every street corner, in every crowd, and on every stage, we spared a thought for Al Slade and Rob Wilson. You were there, fellas.
Thank you Tamworth, love ya.