Harry James Angus: Patron Mullum Music Festival

When our Editor spoke to Harry James Angus it had only been two days since he performed at Miami Marketta with The Cat Empire. But he specifically wanted to chat about his role as Patron of Mullum Music Festival. Samantha Morris talked to him by telephone as he wandered the streets of Mullumbimby, excited about the festival and his very unique role.
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Of course, on the back of a sold-out show at Miami Marketta, our conversation starts with a debrief. Of sorts.

What a cool little hub,” Harry said. “Amazing. I think it was a sorely needed injection of … I don’t know. It seemed like something was missing on the Gold Coast and the Marketta has kind of filled the gap.”

A wonderful sentiment when you consider that The Cat Empire have played more than 1000 shows across the globe.

But this accomplished trumpeter now has his eyes very firmly set on Mullum Music Festival where he’s just taken on the role as Patron. It’s a role he’s extremely excited about. As well as performing with the Harry James Angus Band, he’s also curating his very own venue.

“The last couple of years the patron of the festival was Mama Kin. She’s an amazing kind of power woman, a really emotionally-intense woman. And she did this amazing stuff with the High School choir and had all these kids singing her songs in choral arrangements. I went to the show and everyone in the room was balling their eyes out – intense, amazing, beautiful.”

“There’s no way I can do anything like that,” Harry said.

“What I’m doing is making a little jazz club in the RSL here – I’ve kind of got my own venue to play. I’ve booked artists that I’m into and I’m bringing them to Mullum from all over the country. We’re doing a lot of one off stuff and premieres of weird and wonderful things.”

He said that the inspiration came from the conversations he’s had with fellow artists. “You’ll have a few drinks with a muso and they’ll tell you about all these projects they want to do one day. So I’ve called them up and said, ‘hey, you should do that thing at Mullum.’”

He rattles off a list of artists he’s locked in for the feast of jazz. Husky, Dustyesky Male Choir, Hue Blanes, Melatonins, Baby et Lulu, Mojo Juju, Martin Martini. It’s a long list.

“Basically all the acts I’ve programmed for the venue have a link to a vintage kind of thing. There’ll be a fair bit of looking backwards to the nostalgic musical genres of jazz and cabaret.”

“It won’t look like a RSL club either,” he says of the venue – the Mullumbimby ex-Services Club. “The organisers are pretty excited about transforming it into looking like Rics from Cassablanca, with tuxedos and lamps and cocktails up the back.”

He’s also leading the Street Parade – the much-adored highlight of the Festival.

“You can see the best musicians in Australia,” he said. “ And they’ll be marching alongside a girl with a recorder, and a big dude from the hills banging on a drum.”

“It’s a really rare thing at a festival for the performers to cross that invisible barrier at the front of the stage and really connect with the town on a level other than getting up and performing.”

“For some reason at Mullum Music Festival it just happens time and time again.”

This won’t be the first time Harry’s been a member of the Street Parade.

“Whenever I can I do it,” he said. “Both when I’m a performer at the festival, and when I’m a punter at the festival. My wife plays in a band, Tin Pan Orange and over the last few years we’ve been here every year because at least one of us is playing.”

Harry has a young family – two little boys. I ask him whether either of them are musically included.

“Oh well, the oldest Louie is 3.5 and will play on a drum for a couple of hours,” he said. “But I’m hoping that he’ll get interested in something a bit more useful to me. Maybe carpentary or plumbing or IT.”

“Let’s just say we’re in dire need to have someone fix our computer,” he laughed.

We move on to talking about the Harry James Angus Band.

“It’s just a loose association. There’s a bunch of us back in Melbourne who went to the same High School. Just a bunch of musicians who form a loose collective depending on whose turn it is to lead the project.”

“We were doing this thing in Melbourne called the jazz party – just a bunch of mates getting together to play certain kind of jazz – 20’s or 30’s New Orleans style jazz music. And it’s just become this real phenomenon in Melbourne where every time we play now it’s just the craziest, sweatiest dance party.”

“I don’t know where everyone comes from but every time we play there’s queues out the door and people going nuts.”

In my whole career as a jazz musician, I’ve never seen so many people dance to jazz – I’m not sure why it happens, but it just does.”

But the conversation finds its way back to Mullumbimby and the festival itself. And Harry’s quick to point out that tickets are selling really fast this year.

“It’s a unique town, Mullumbimby,” he said. “You can’t under-estimate the impact that the town itself has on the festival.”

“This festival couldn’t happen anywhere else. What is it they say? Mullum, the biggest little town in Australia – that’s their slogan, and certainly when it comes to the festival, that really is true.”

“Because of the local characters and colour and talent they’ve managed to make the festival bigger than what it should be. The crowds are better than what they should be. It kind of punches above its weight,” he said.
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Mullum Music Festival takes place over four glorious days, 20 – 23 November. Get all the details at mullummusicfestival.com/.

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