Woodford, Queensland, Friday December 27, 2013 – By Brian Wise
They call it Woodfordia – not just Woodford. For a week each year over the Christmas/New Year period a large tract of land an hour north of Brisbane in the coastal hinterlands becomes a village of 20,000 people a day and the home to one of the world’s most intriguing music festivals.
Ostensibly a folk festival it has become, as many other have too, much more. From Beth Orton to a former Australian Prime Minister in Bob Hawke you can enjoy music of almost all dimensions and talk about things that matter. On the first evening we enjoyed the opening ceremony with 15,000 or so others at the huge ampitheatre which is at one of the festival site. The stage was financed more than a decade ago by Midnight Oil and Rob Hirst from that band is appearing with The Break on Saturday night.
Afterwards Canadians Half Moon Run – kind of Mumford & Sons meets electronica and Coldplay with some CSN-like harmonies – gave an enthusiastic performance. And why wouldn’t they be enthusiastic, thousands of kilometers from the freezing cold of their home country in the tropical heat. This is the group’s second visit here, the kids love them and they seem a couple of great songs away from being really big.
Wandering through the ‘village’ late in the evening, through the array of what seems to be hundreds of food and craft stall, we encountered a huge wooden wagon bearing chanting Hare Krishnas being pulled along by festival-goers, sounding a foghorn and blowing steam. We also encountered a young bearded man wearing a dress, chatting as he walked with his friends. That’s Woodford. You need to leave your preconceptions at the gate.
Director Bill Hauritz eschews the term ‘hippie’ when it is applied to the festival but if it means people chatting to you at random, saying hello or even offering to carry your bags – and volunteers smiling and being incredibly helpful – I’ll take ‘hippie’ any day compared to the big city where I come from!
it is a decade since I last visited Woodford. Three times I stayed in my own tent, sleeping on the floor and usually on the side of a hill, and enjoyed cold showers at 7.00am as the tent turned into a sauna as soon as the sun came up. I still got to the shower block before 7.00 to make sure I got in. But a few things havechanged since I was last here. I now have a tent with a camp bed and there is hot water in the showers! Not that you can spend much time in the tent because you really need to wait for the evening air to cool unless you are happy to sit in the sauna. This encourages long days and evenings watching concerts and wandering around the village.
My memory is that the heat here can be oppressive at times but waking on Saturday morning there was cloud cover and a very light drizzle – perfect. I will let you know how things progress. The rain has settled the dust and we look forward to a good day.
Of course, I brought too much, even though I have a relatively small rolling duffle bag. I packed four light shirts and four t-shirts. What was I thinking? I soon recalled that you just have two shirts and recycle them – no one here cares if you smell a little! Still I am keeping one good shirt for when I leave for the real world.
Finally, before I head off for breakfast and to see Bob Hawke,I am listening to my radio program that I pre-recorded the other day. That is weird.