The Byron Shire is a big place serving up some drop dead beautiful countryside, colourful characters and a barrage of holiday experiences often centred on spirituality and creativity.
One of the regions great creative focuses is the Mullum Music Festival now in its 7th year and growing steadily to serve up a diverse program beautifully coloured around the edges with the vibrant green of the surrounding landscape and the beautiful people who live and love to visit Mullumbimby this ‘biggest little town in Australia’.
Like the town the music festival is the biggest little festival. No big marquees here. No long lines for food and drink. Instead the venues are existing pubs, clubs and school halls throughout the town and the food and plenty of it is available from festival vendors, a great range of main street cafes and some top pub grub.
My music tastes are diverse and these days I pay little attention to what’s new and who’s who in the music industry. So when I attend these events I’m clueless as to what’s in and the current “thing”. So we pick the acts we want to see somewhat like picking a racehorse with no idea of the form. The names sounds good, the venue seems large and yeah we should find a seat there too. Key specs when you reach a certain age.
Because we were in the biggest little town in Australia our first stop was the Little Big Band performing in the back garden of the massive Santos healthy food emporium. A small intimate, green space we think was dominated by the young musicians parents, music teachers and adoring young female fans. We found a place beneath an umbrella and enjoyed a half hour performance by these five high school students. A limited repertoire but they hit the right note and their enthusiasm and “men in black’ outfits let you now they were serious with a sense of fun. Loved it.
Next we wandered down the shady side of the main street to the Courthouse Pub to hear Marlon Williams. We’d never heard of him but obviously many others had. The place was packed with enthusiastic fans craning their necks to take in this talented New Zealander who delivered some exquisite ballads, many of this own compositions and a few Elvis inspired notes that had the old girls swooning.
He’s often described as “the impossible love child of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Townes Van Zandt” and is labelled ‘the act to watch’ by Rhythms Magazine. We we were pleased to hear he’d left the land of the long white cloud and now lives in one our favourite big cities, Melbourne. We’d love to catch him again.
The Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club is one of the key venues with its main auditorium morphng into an intimate Village Vanguard theatre for the life of the festival. It too was packed to the rafters for a saucy gal called Loretta Miller delivering a Patsy Cline tribute.
Loretta delivered some of Patsy’s sweetest and most haunting music including her signature “Have you ever Been Lonely”. It was a great tribute to this country music princess right down to the hand movements, the tilt of the head, pouting and prancing. I wonder when Loretta woke up and said to herself “I want to be Pasty Cline”. We’re glad she did.
The 72-page festival program delivered up a plethora of other other acts. It as hard to choose so we took to the outdoors to enjoy a Spaghetti Circus performance. Spaghetti Circus is a Mullumbimby community circus this time delivering a “Ram Bam Thank you Lamb” family performance enchanting all age groups and for the adults a humorous anti coal seam gas message woven into the dialogue between some incredible stilt walking, acrobatics and silly jokes.
Festival head-liners included The Church, Saskwatch, Hurray for Riff Raff and the Bombay Royale and the festival’s music patron for 2014 and 2015 is Harry Angus from the Cat Empire.
We weren’t there but we heard rave revues about the opening Wild Party on the first night of the four day festival.
The Street Parade on the Sunday morning was another highlight with local and visiting musicians leading the parade down the main street, Dixieland style. Some people carried coloured umbrellas swaying with the music. An acrobat led the parade cartwheeling toward eager photographers. There were men and children on bikes, people in funny hats, and a lot of good humour and an electric community spirit.
The fashion stakes in Mullum are a riot of colour and casual “I don’t care” Savoir faire. Women favour hip hugging long colourful skirts with body hugging singlets and tops, hair piled carelessly and held in place with equally colourful scarves and a jangle of bangles and beads. The men wear comfortable striped or patterned long pants, cotton shirts with all but one button holding it in place, short sharp cuts or dreadlocks and very cool sunnies. Hats are not compulsory but those who wear them choose them carefully and they are often broad brimmed one-offs.
This is not the grunge hippy look of the 70’s. Fashionable Mullums have taken “the look” to a new level and I loved it.
We’ll share some images and hope they continue to draw the story. In the meantime if you want to learn more about the extensive program hop on line and check it out on http://www.mullummusicfestival.com/ and start planning for 2015.