Some people think of folk music as a bunch of bearded gents playing diddly diddly music on tin whistles. So says Rob Saunders, Director of the 2014 Gold Coast Folk Festival speaking to our editor Samantha Morris.
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“But it’s actually very diverse,” he assures me. “The music you will hear at the Gold Coast Folk Festival ranges from heartfelt ballads and soulful tunes from contemporary singer songwriters, to bush music, hard core delta blues and lightning fast bluegrass licks.”
The 2014 GC Folk Festival hosted by Coast Acoustics will feature 20 bands. Twenty! Held over two days this month, it’s been developed by the Gold Coast Acoustic Music Club, whose aim is to keep live music happening on the Gold Coast.
Rob tells me the group aims to provide a venue for people to hear great music and where emerging and established musicians can get together andshowcase their material.
And while this is only the second year the event has been held at Country Paradise, the festival has actually been going since 2009.
“Our vision is to establish the festival as a major event on the Australian folk music circuit and also establish Country Paradise as a centre for live music on the Coast,” Rob Said.
The venue is ideal for an event like this too. Set on around 30 acres of Council parkland just outside of Nerang, it has a definite rural feel. Once a farmstyle theme park and a popular spot for weddings, the entire location is under cover, but there’s something else that makes the venue extra special.
“What is particularly nice about Country Paradise is that the whole place is being utilised and managed by non profit community groups,” Rob said.
“Tim Wilson and the guys from the Country Paradise Association do a wonderful job of managing the site, the River Keepers have spent many weekends clearing weeds and revegetating the grounds with native plants. There is a Men’s Shed and a Sheila’s Shack, a community garden and Healing Hooves do wonderful work with kids and horses.”
“One day we hope to see a fully decked out stage and auditorium on site and extend the folk festival to a week long event to include music camps aimed at all ages.”
Every year the festival has taken place a larger audience has been reached and Rob said that over the years they’ve built a really strong following up and down the East Coast, but the medium term goal is to organise a folk festival for the Commonwealth Games with local talent as a central feature.
“It has been quite a learning experience for us all securing grant funds each year, organising and running the event, improving our marketing strategy and attracting new artists each year,” Rob said. He also acknowledged the incredible contribution volunteers have made to the event.
“We have also had great support from the media and within the music industry and Councillor Tracey Gilmore has really come on board in the last couple of years. She recognises the cultural and economic benefits that a folk festival can bring to the community and the hinterland in general.”
According to Rob, Councillor Gilmore has said that she’d like to help develop the festival into a signature event for the City.
“With Council’s support, the Folk Festival is now starting to appear on a lot more websites and facebook pages so I am expecting a pretty good crowd this year,” Rob said.
Rob told Blank that the thing that really sets this festival apart from others is that one minute you could be listening to some of Australia’s finest musicians, and next you’re jamming with them over a beer.
“It’s all about engaging people in the whole atmosphere of a folk festival,” Rob said.
And as is usually the case with festivals of this caliber, the performances are just one element. At the Gold Coast Folk Festival there will be workshops on guitar, songwriting, banjo playing and ukulele plus informal jam sessions.
“So bring your instruments and join in,” Rob said. “You can jam along with Michael Fix or learn how to write lyrics like I was only nineteen from John Schumann. There is also comedy with Coolgrass and a circus act plus lots of food and market stalls. And of course, there will be a bush dance on Saturday night with the Leaping Lizards.”
I made the mistake of asking Rob what he was most excited about seeing at the Festival. No surprises that the headline act gets a mention, but, wow, there’s a lot of talented people appearing at this year’s event.
“I am a big fan of John Schumann,” Rob said. “The first band I was in was called Yureeka and we covered every song by Redgum. John Schumann’s songwriting has changed the way a nation thinks,” he said.
“I am also pretty excited about getting Wes Carr up from Sydney,” Rob said. “Wes is an exceptionally entertaining and talented performer who really knows how to connect with the audience.”
“Hat Fitz is a veteran wild man of the blues scene in Australia and he and Cara always have a packed tent at Bluesfest. And of course the Round Mountain Girls are always a hit with the crowd.”
“The Company and Owl Valley keep the audience mesmerised with fast finger-picking bluegrass. Quatro (pictured) are four classically trained musicians from rural Queensland now living locally and Leaping Lizards are very well known around the region.”
So, twenty bands, two days, workshops and jams, family friendly, under cover and totally free. If you’re on the couch when the GC Folk Festival comes to town, you’re crazy.
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Gold Coast Folk Festival hits Country Paradise on 20 – 21 September and entry is free.
You can join the GC Acoustic Music Club and membership is only $15 for a family.
Get all the details online at coastacoustics.com.au.