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Thousands flock to folk festival

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Thousands of music lovers from all across Australia flocked to the nation’s capital on the Easter long weekend to soak up 200 performing artists, including 27 acts from various parts of the world.

The National Folk Festival was another big success in 2017, bringing Canberra to life for five days with a wide variety of musical experiences.

International acts included the stirring rhythms and five-part harmonies of Flats and Sharps from Cornwall, the Afro jazzy Himmerland from Denmark, from Quebec Les Poules a Colin, and the alt-country flavour of one of New Zealand’s hottest new stars Mel Parsons. 

Bluegrass was a highlight with outstanding US act The Galax Bogtrotters, as was UK doctor Jarlath Henderson with his Uileann pipes.  The Bridge Project featured artists from Israel, Turkey and Australia sharing a united spirit of musical cooperation, while Daiori Farrell Trio and The Aoife Scott Band merged old and new traditions of Ireland.

Outstanding Australian acts included 2017 Golden Guitar Winner Fanny Lumsden, as well as Mic Conway’s National Junk Band, Dubmarine, and The Mae Trio. Heath Cullen brought his dark country music to the festival, which was a real crowd pleaser. The Lowdown Riders were another big hit. Other acts such as Charm of Finches, The Bean Project, Ben Whiting, Crazy Old Maurice and Conchillia all were well received.

Returning this year after being so well received last year was Aussie-US duo Phil Wiggins and Dom Turner. A trans-Pacific blues duo, these guys lifted the roof with their Piedmont, delta, and hill country blues. Wiggins is one of America’s foremost harmonica virtuosos, while Turner is the renowned Aussie guitarist and singer from the Backsliders.

The National has a unique feature known as FringeWorld, a new playground for the cool and the quirky. A precinct with its own dedicated program of adventure, food tents, chill out spaces, crazy games and immersive workshops presenting a very different folk experience. That’s where the groovy people hung out. The rest of us flitted between pavilions, marquees and tents to catch the best the festival had to offer. 

Chris Johnson