Thursday 26th January
Hot, hot, hot. We reached Newstead in the early afternoon and it was roasting. We found the Troubadour Stage, which was to be our first venue of the festival. A big bloke came striding up and said “Hi Kip and Dave, I’m Andrew”. We’d never met him before, but Andrew had already been a great help to us. He’d arranged some gigs and helped get our visa applications on track. Newstead Live takes place in several venues around the town and the Troubadour stage is Andrew’s baby and that’s where you’ll find him all weekend. It’s a Marquee with a stage, indoor and outdoor seating, a bar and food.
Andrew gave us a quick tour and told us where to register, get our wristbands etc, after which we returned to the Troubadour for our only set of the day.
It went well up until the last song, when half way through the heat got to Dave. “My head started to spin and I broke into a cold sweat. All I could think was do not collapse while you’re singing this song.” The song was Still Life in the Old Dog Yet (“Isn’t it ironic?” as Alanis would have said). Thankfully he did a quick edit, finished the song early and was fine again in a matter of minutes.
We then went to meet our hosts for the festival. We were billeted at “the house attatched to the butcher’s shop”. Ruby answered the door and asked us in, at which point Grace, one of their dogs, bolted out of the front door and down the road. Ruby was hot on her heels. Dave dumped the bag and went running down the street after both of them. Ruby’s partner Shane was helping run the bar in the community centre. She’d phoned him straight away and he managed to catch Grace a bit further down the road. This wasn’t the introduction we’d intended but Shane and Dave shook hands and Ruby dragged Grace back home.
Shane and Ruby are both twenty two years old. They’ve been together a long time, they have two gorgeous Pointers and have had nothing to do with folk music until now.
When Newstead Live put out an appeal for people to billet performers over the weekend they volunteered.
As mentioned earlier, their house is attached to the butcher’s shop. Shane worked there as an apprentice and then bought the business and the house when he was twenty one. The shop was closed today as it was Australia Day, a bank holiday, so Shane went to help out at the community centre. He was up at 4am the next day making fresh sausages as he’d sold out the day before, and he didn’t get home until about six that evening. That’s the trouble with the youth of today, they don’t know what hard work is.
We spent ages chatting with folks, “Where are you from? Where do you go next?” always making connections and finding common ground. Kip was telling one lady that we’re due to fly to Auckland on Tuesday, the lady replied “My first two husbands came from New Zealand – Rex the ex and Malcolm the unwelcome!” (You have to do the accent for that to really work! – K)
To our delight we got to see Andy Irvine and Luke Plumb again. They were both at the festival all weekend and we caught up with them several times and managed to have a brief chat. Andy has long been a hero of ours and it was great to discover he’s a lovely bloke as well as an inspirational musician.
Shane and Ruby cooked up some of Shane’s sausages on the Saturday afternoon. Shane’s Bullboar sausages are legendary and are much sought after around these parts. The recipe was handed to him from the guy who had the shop before him. This chap had worked the shop for forty years and he got the recipe passed onto him by the previous owner. The recipe is a closely guarded secret and the sausages taste lovely.
We had now been in Australia for just over three weeks and had not seen a kangaroo. We had reached the point where we thought that kangaroos don’t exist – Skippy was just a fat bastard wallaby and we’ll make no mention of what it was that Rolf Harris tied down (sport).
Ruby to the rescue. On Sunday morning she gave us directions to a dirt track about five kilometres away (they don’t do miles here mate), where we were “bound to see kangaroos”, possibly hundreds of them.
Beady eyed and smiling we set off. Two go mad in the bush (insert your own joke here – I’m in enough shit already). We drove until the dirt track became rocks and didn’t see one chuffing roo. Fooled again, gutted, dejected, deeply hurt. We turned around to head for home.
Well I’ll be a dingo’s jockstrap! On the return journey we saw a mother and her baby just a few yards from the track. Hallelujah, praise be to Bruce! All is forgiven; they do exist. A little further down the lane we spotted another about two hundred yards away on the edge of a wood. It wasn’t the sweeping herds we’d hoped for,but it was a start.
Look very closely – it’s definitely a kangaroo.
Then we saw one of the best post boxes ever on our way back up the lane.
We played our final set in the community hall that afternoon and then headed off to the Troubadour stage for a couple of the local beers and to watch Andy & Luke one more time followed by Danny Spooner and friends.
Danny has long been a stalwart of the Australian folk scene. He came here from East London many years ago and has travelled the world, gaining an immense amount of knowledge of the songs of the sea. His health hasn’t been great recently and there was a really good turn out to see him back on the stage. Even the hardest of hearts couldn’t fail to have been moved at the end of his set when he smiled and said that in over fifty years on the folk scene he’d had nothing but good times and had had a great life. He thanked everyone for their support and left to a standing ovation.
Sadly Danny passed away on March 3rd you can read all about his life and music here
We went back to Shane and Ruby’s where Shane was playing his guitar, then Ruby put on some records (yes real records made from vinyl). She was singing along to Bowie’s Hunky Dory album, Melanie’s Leftover Wine and Billy Joel’s Piano Man among others. That’s the trouble with the youth of today, they wouldn’t know a good album if it slapped ’em round the ears.
Newstead Live was lovely; we saw some great music, most of which was new to us (check out the Mae Trio) There were also some great sessions going on in the street – from Bluegrass to Irish to Eastern European. And of the course the ubiquitous Morris sides (they get everywhere). Whilst having a coffee one morning we met Drew, the ex-Pom Morris dancer now living in Melbourne, and explained the wonders of the Deamon Barber roadshow to him. That’ll be four hours of his life lost to YouTube when he gets back to Melbourne.
Thanks to Andrew for getting us there, to Kelly, Bronwyn, Jim and the rest of the team for pulling together this wonderful weekend of music and to folks who came to see us play and who chatted to us on many occasions during the festival.
We got to have a chat with Kelly while she was winding down with a hard earned glass of wine in a bar on Sunday evening.
A special thanks has to go to Ruby and Shane for taking the plunge and allowing us to share their house, their time and their dogs over the weekend.