I love Folkie. I’ve haven’t missed a Folkie for 13 years. I get excited when it’s coming and depressed when it’s over. The combination of music, circus, friends, tents, kransky, and pyjamas pluck at a banjo that resides deep in my chest.
However, with the National coming in at the rear of the craziest festival and event season Canberra has ever known, even I was feeling a bit reluctant to dive into four days of fun and art. I could see it in the eyes of those around me too. Everyone was just so tired.
Thankfully Folkie is a caring and loving creature. She comforted her attendees with some new apple and ginger cider (which was as good as it sounds), a fantastic variety of food, and of course, quite a bit of rather pleasant music.
This year saw some rather large changes to the layout and organisation of Folkie, mostly due to liquor licensing requirements. The session bar’s outdoor area is now caged in. Smokers are stuck sitting in a small box with no view of the oval, with just a large hessian covered fence to keep them company. Even as a non-smoker this change really bugged me. The hill outside the session bar was the ideal place to stop for a drink in the afternoon, with the view of the oval and the fact it was a thoroughfare between the festival and camping area making it a great place to hang out and bump into people. Alas this is no more.
The oval in now a massive campsite. More camping closer to the festival is always good, but this did mean we no longer saw any impromptue circus/sports/drama games being played on the oval throughout the day which was a little sad.
As usual I spent almost my whole time at the Majestic, which had received a shiny new tent and a relocation off the oval and into the festival proper. The huge wait times that tended to occur during the evening were a thing of the past, and the fact that the Majestic was inside the main festival meant that whatever lines did form had plenty around them to keep them entertained. The move wasn’t without its downsides however. the Tent was placed on an area with little grass, which unfortunately meant dust became a huge problem. This problem was most noticeable when the audience were moved to dance, but it never really stopped. I’ve been sneezing out clouds of dust for days and my sinuses feel like a desert. It was not ideal.
Despite this, the Majestic was very much the place to be.
The lineup was fantastic. Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens played better than I’ve heard them play before, while Fun Machine did what Fun Machine do best (make everything bright and fabulous). For me however, the real stand out of the Majestic’s lineup was Sam King’s new solo (with friends) act.
Sam King has played in some of the Folk Festival’s (and Canberra’s) most beloved bands over the past decade or so, but has never been the frontman. It was time. Sam’s music was touching in its sincerity and beautiful in its arrangement. He was joined on stage by some of Canberra’s nicest and most talented musicians. It was very pleasant. Absolutely a festival highlight.
The circus presence at the National is always spectacular, and this year was no different. The Gadjo Family was a supergroup of Folkie regulars and plus a few new faces. World class performers each of them. Every year I watch their shows and every year I see something new and terrifying. Also of note was Poncho Circus, a group of young and exciting circus artists who formed at last years Folk Festival. Their work was creative, energetic, and hilarious. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.
Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit! ran wonderfully at the festival, better than ever before. Although I co-ran that event so maybe I’m a bit biased. Still the poets who entered were amazing and the audience got into the spirit of the event so I really can’t claim any real ownership of its success.
The final day of the Folk Festival came with the most surprises. Fun Machine got into the April Fools spirit by convincing their audience they were becoming a Oasis cover band, although the enthusiastic support of the audience during the prank makes one wonder if that shouldn’t become the bands actual direction.
I managed to fall over and injure my ankle while on my way to teach a workshop on clowning where I was going to teach people to fall over correctly. That wasn’t an intentional April Fools joke from me, but it did kinda felt like the universe was having a laugh at my expense.
Lastly, the Majestic Director Adam Hadley said goodbye to the festival, claiming he would not return for 2014. This was met by an outcry of emotion from the audience. Hadley claimed he would like to see the venue live on in someone else’s hands, and pleaded with the audience to let the festival know via social media if they wanted the majestic to live on.
The Majestic has been a bright sparkling light in the festival for the past four years. A place for the fringe-arts of the scene to come together, a celebration of the absurd, and a home to the non-traditional but still kinda folkish bands that might have otherwise been ignored.
Let the festival know if you want to see more of that.