The organisers of Western Australia’s annualÂ Fairbridge Festival think that their’s is the fourth largest folk/roots festival in the country behind the National, Port Fairy and Woodford. I’ll take their word for it, it’s certainly large and diverse. Bluegrass and Old Time music represent only a tiny proportion of the music on offer. While lots of people attend, the festival site provides plenty of space for everyone.
We went down on Saturday and only spent the day at the festival. First up we saw Bluegrass Parkway in the Dinning Hall. Most people were there to listen rather than eat and it turned out to be a good show. The sound was good, and band played well. This was the first outing for Paul Duff’s new mandolin and it sounded pretty good. It’s only been played for a couple of weeks so there’s plenty of opening up to come. Donal Baylor flew over for the weekend so we got to hear some twin fiddle tunes too. These guys aren’t resting on their laurels. I heard one person comment that nearly half the show was new material.
After lunch we went to a session billed as Banjo Meltdown. Rather than the mass destruction of banjos suggested by this name, we saw and heard a lot of fine banjo playing from a very flu-struck Mick O’Neill, Ian Simpson, Dave Hellens, Ruth Hazelton, Cat Moser and â€œOld Manâ€ Luedecke. This lineup provided a chance to hear a wide range of banjo styles and some great songs too.
After a restorative ale in the beer tent, where we saw Big Rory (a 9ft tall Scotsman) and his dog causing mayhem, we wandered off to catch the Lawnmowers on the Riverside stage. They were billed as a â€œNewgrassâ€ band and played mostly intrumentals in that style. There were a couple of songs and one or two original compositions. They certainly gave the sound man a work out!
In my opinion there are two aspects to any festival, the performance side and the jamming side. Fairbridge has the performance side nailed down, but in my experience it’s hard to find any jamming. To be fair, I’ve only ever gone for one day on each of the three times I’ve attended, which is limiting, but you don’t see too many people wandering around with instruments and there aren’t too many obvious places for â€œlike-minded peopleâ€ to gather. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Harrietville?
Submitted by Ed Lowe, WA.