2018 Bello Winter Music FestivalLeft – Z-Star Trinity. Photo – and the trees photography. Cover – Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier. Photo – Bruce Jacups

Winter in Bellingen: what better way to celebrate the season than with hot music and warm encounters of every kind. Kindness and camaraderie is doing fine in ‘Bello’ and apparent, from the onset, that the township has embraced this music festival as their own. My partner chatted to one of the local barmaids at the Golf Club and asked what impact the festival has had on the town. Her enthusiastic response (with hoarse voice from too much singing) confirmed my own observations, "oh it is wonderful, the whole town gets involved and it has changed the face of Bello – everyone sees the benefit and we are so very proud…”

Locals and festival goers are chatting in the streets, clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes: it is uplifting to hear their conversations, ranging from “…oh yes, that’s the band I want to see next, they are awesome and would you believe half of them are locals…” to “wow, look at how the shops are decorated, mum, can we hang around and see what’s happening, must be a festival…”

The park is jumping, the music is pumping and the streets are filled with LIFE. What to see, what to hear and what to eat – so many options and four days/nights to experience it all. I am going to bear witness this weekend (so many side-shows, mentorships, collaborations and surprises around every corner) and my partner and I have decided to INTERACT at the coal face, so to speak, choosing which workshops we will join. I’ve always wanted to join a singing workshop (thank you Imogen Pemberton, I finally learnt how to breathe) and my drumming-partner said he would love to be part of the Sunday street parade. He even brought his snare drum in anticipation, and would you believe there was a ‘Parade Drumming with Dave Sanders’ workshop on Saturday! Yeeha. Let’s take one day at a time, I said, as trying to plan your space at a festival as all-encompassing as Bello Winter Music puts too much pressure on my already over-excited brain. Slowly, slowly… let’s cruise.

Deborah Conway sits with Willy Zygier, (what a show they put on!) listening to a busker whilst sharing-plate at the corner cafe, and we weave through the streets, bumping into people clutching their programs saying, “Yeah, I reckon Lior will bring it home” and “Thando, what a set of lungs, and her back-up singers, well, they sound like Aretha Franklin backed by The Supremes”. This is a true celebration of music, with punters and performers mingling, and all for one and one for all. We walk to the Golf Club venue and a six piece band are setting up for the first act of the night. It’s 5pm and The Beans start their set and WOW. Multi-instrumental – the saxophonist nails us to the wall with the lead singer confident, charismatic and dynamic: brassy and complete, these young men could write a screen-tune for James Bond! Resolved and harmonious: their great original sound (yet strangely familiar) is breathtaking at times, with a dance floor hopping and a few covers, “… we will dip into a cheeky little cover…” thrown in, just to show how THEY do it!

Jack Carty and The Satellite Strings (Gus Gardiner) start up with “Kindness is burning out of this world…” – a message song delivered with an ample dose of strings, melodic and poignant, lyrical and soothing to the soul. Jack introduces the three session-stringers and admits that they only met at 4.30pm that afternoon: “working with these musicians is like working with elite athletes.” Jack, festival patron this year, sings the songs that Gus Gardiner has penned, promoting their new album ‘Hospital Hill’ and giving a huge thank you to Glenn Wright, Director. Jack said, “Glenn brought us together, this began in Bello and this arrangement will now end with Bello… leaving for London on Tuesday and I want to thank Glenn for making this possible.” I’m sure many musos on the bill would have the same praise! “Tiny country hall in a quiet country town”, we leave Memorial Hall and enter St Margaret’s Hall…. and then Z-Star Trinity thunder into action with power and force, I could feel the beat through the floorboards, lifting me up out of my seat and onto the dance floor. Hard to praise every act in a short review (getting longer by the minute) but let me mention Billygoat Tucker Band, alt country and blues, with their ‘slow down for lunch and speed up again’ original sound (New Orleans eat your heart out) rag time and all that jazz.

The Wanderers (from Adelaide) with their full sound for a three-piece band, soulful feeling with a voice full of grunt and harmonies to cry for – audience parlance, clicking and building up to a crescendo of guitar, keyboard-bass-line and a wicked drummer to top it all off.

Workshop – did I mention workshop? Workshop singing with Dustyesky (who, after reviewing Mullum Music Fest and Bello for years) I had still not witnessed first hand – their “leading genuine fake fusion Russian choir…” even though half of the twenty-eight strong males looked visibly familiar! Was it the vodka? Not only can these blokes sing, they are FUNNY. Yes, Russian songs are not known for their comedic value, but not anymore. Roll over Trotsky, they’re Putin on a showsky. They had the huge crowd singing in Russian and then ‘we must march, take the streets of Bellinski, until the police stop us’ and after much laughing and singing, the entire workshop, singing the Russian Barge (?) song, walked slowly from the Golf Club to The Memorial Hall, culminating in one cacophony of choir. The street loved it.

2018 was an interactive year for the family-friendly Bello Winter Music Festival for me, and my Street Parade imagery, to feed me for another year. My partner joining the drummers and brassy blowers, holding hands with a ‘young person’ who grabbed my hand in the crowd. I could feel her relating through the music, the excitement she felt, and her carer came toward me (I could be anyone, after all) and the moment of joy music brought her was palpable. Share the love, share the music – so easy at Bello!!


2018 Bello Winter Music Festival

Venue: Throughout the township of Bellingen NSW
Dates: 12 – 15 July 2018
Bookings: www.bellowintermusic.com



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