By Christopher Hollow
It was the start of the new millennium when a Melbourne Americana festival called Harvest found a wide and willing audience. The buzz and enthusiasm that took this event from a small backyard gathering to a full-fledged grand scale success was generated by Marcus Mulcahy, a radio volunteer, who curated a show on community radio 3CR called Blue Green Footprints [in tribute to the Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman”].
Mulcahy’s passion and drive helped galvanise a community and turn Melbourne into an alt-country town. He toured the Handsome Family, Kelley Stoltz and the Willard Grant Conspiracy and was instrumental in launching bands like Wagons, the Sand Pebbles, the Spoils and the Darling Downs, whilst also finding new audiences for Ed Kuepper, Conway Savage and Lisa Miller.
But enough of the history lesson. Harvest is unfortunately long gone, its name appropriated by another festival [also now passed], but finally its Americana feel and fervour has now been taken up by the upcoming Out on the Weekend Festival, the brainchild of Boogie Festival organiser Brian Taranto, known to sport a Gram Parsons-inspired Nudie suit, and for a zeal similar to Mulcahy’s.
Out on the Weekend, named for the opening track on Neil Young’s Harvest album, is the brand-new event being held on October 18 at Seaworks, a Williamstown maritime heritage venue.
“I’m a giant Neil Young fan,” says Taranto. “And I reckon the one thing that will connect everyone at this event will be that they have all heard Harvest in it’s entirety.”
The inaugural line-up showcases a line-up headlined by Americana royalty, Justin Townes Earle.
Earle’s latest album, Single Mothers, is his most intimate yet. On the title song he appears to be addressing his father, rebel country star, Steve Earle.
“Absent father, never offer even a dollar/ He doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that he’s forfeited his rights to his own/ Absent father is long gone.” Earle then details his childhood in direct terms: “Single mothers, absent fathers, broken home.”
Also featured is Ryan Bingham, who won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for ‘The Weary Kind’ from the Jeff Bridges’ movie, Crazy Heart and the Dan Auerbach-produced South Carolina bad-girl Nikki Lane.
There’s former Vanda Chris Altmann, who’s other former band, The Drowners, was a favourite of Marcus Mulcahy and 2014 CCMA for Roots Artist of the Year Lindy Ortega, Nashville performer Robert Ellis, alt-supergroup the Delines [who recently released the cracking lp, Colfax], Jonny Fritz, the artist formerly known as Jonny Corndawg, the ARIA-nominated Double J presenter Emma Swift, Melbourne’s Raised by Eagles and another local New-Grass outfit, the Morrisons.
In a nice touch, Wagons’ frontman Henry Wagons – who’s been touring the world and beyond promoting Acid Rain & Sugar Cane – is the link between the original Harvest Festival and Out on the Weekend.
Along with the music, the day will have a strong emphasis on food, with Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz (Porteño and Bodega) to do the honours. Joining them will be Raph Rashid, the man behind Melbourne’s Beatbox Kitchen, Taco Truck and All Day Donuts.
“It’s not a huge festival,” Taranto explains. “Just somewhere to get into it for a day with friends and like-minded folks. I’ve always tried to bring the best of what I see, hear and discover to our fine shores for us all to experience the good shit. One that offers great food with alcoholic drops of liquid gold at a cool space.”
Long may you run, Out on the Weekend, long may you run.
Emma Swift, who’s just been nominated for ARIA’s Best Country Album, picks her three must-see artists:
“Nikki Lane is a bad-ass. She’s a little bit honky tonk, a little bit rock and roll and a little bit Marilyn Monroe. I love her new record. I’ll be listening out for “Sleep With A Stranger”.”
“Robert Ellis has the voice of George Jones but plays guitar like Paul Simon. If commercial country music had any soul these days, he’d be the King of the Opry. I’m hoping he’ll play his cover of “The Grand Tour”.”
“Jonny Fritz [nee Johnny Corndawg]writes really great, funny songs. He takes country themes that should be desperately sad and turns them into playful, poignant scenarios. I want to hear “Oversteppin’”.”
Out On The Weekend, Saturday October 18, Seaworks, Williamstown, from 11am. More details at outontheweekend.com.au