2019 Bello Winter Music FestivalFive years! Where does the time go?

As we drive toward the Bello Winter Music festival, I ponder what is in store for us this year? With changes happening everywhere; worldwide, nationwide and statewide, it is interesting to see what the musicians and entertainers will tickle our fancy with – so many comedic challenges in this environment.

Mentioning the environment, a quote from the Festival Director, (the amazing) Glenn Wright, “Bello Winter Music is a family friendly whole-town festival, featuring Bellingen LeaF, a sustainability focused program, and the hugely successful and invaluable Youth Mentorship Program for aspiring, young musicians.” Thank heavens someone has the environment and youth on their mind! It takes a ‘muso’ to inspire, create, sustain, love, entertain, soothe, and “put their money where their mouths are” as creativity, once more, shows us all the way. Talk about your ‘gig’ economy! There is love there, on show, in every vibe and musical moment.

Not only do we look forward to the music on offer at Bello WM, we commit to the whole ‘journey’ that is a four day weekend in Bellingen, a magical place indeed. The magic is happening throughout the festival, in every nook and cranny, every ‘hidey-hole’ and every venue that can accommodate a crowd, large or small, doesn’t matter!

Five years on and I now know how to cruise the town. No panic – I know where I want to start and I know where I hope to finish, but inevitably, the festival-walk takes on a life of its own and just when you thought you were on your way to see a particular act, the music wafting in the streets, bars, cafes and pubs spins you round (like a record, ha ha) and you are now at St Margarets witnessing Captain Dreamboat and all that sail with them. A voluminous voice, shaking the walls and reverberating from the floorboards up – OMG this woman can belt it out and deliver on every level, with a band that leads her into another world. Funky, jazzy and strong with a five piece band that summons religion. When Ofa Fanaika (lead singer) saw The Montgomery Brothers bearing witness, she said in a totally ‘flu-ridden’ voice, “Hey, it’s the Montgomery boys – we wanna see you later…” This is Bello Winter Music at its finest – the camaraderie between other performers is palpable and the respect glows. The fact she could barely croak out a verb when speaking, yet when she gave the audience her ALL, well, I bow to your power, Ofa!

Merpire, hauntingly melodic, with her five piece extravaganza of a band: tight, fresh and innovative, with a vivid voice, harmonising lyrically and musically. The audience were as diverse as her music and they danced their little hearts out.

Off to the Parade Drumming Workshop with Dave Sanders (later we saw him ‘ply his trade with Hetty Kate at the Golf Club). He’s like rust, he’s everywhere! And lucky for us he is: what would a street parade be like without the boom, boom, clickety-click of parade drummers, tapping out a beat to follow and keeping our ears and hearts erect? Glenn Wright leads the parade out with his trombone and many many many ‘brassers’ following suit. WOW. This is a crowd pleaser – actually, EVERYTHING is a crowd pleaser and this festival is so inclusive, you can sit in the park and watch some of the acts; join in the Street Parade on Sunday morning and feel part of it all, just by being fortunate enough to live in Bellingen! Not precious, not exclusive – the polar opposite, actually. I love this festival, what can I say?

A comment from a random punter, when we were ordering our delicious curry lunch: “How’s your day so far?” My reply, “Good, how’s yours?” He says, “I started my day with music and I’ll end it with music – doesn’t get any better than that!” Sing it, brother.

Such variety, so inclusive and so many acts/events/workshops to witness – you cannot take it all in, no matter how organised I was this year. But I do need to mention a few acts that really put a smile on my dial and rhythm in my step.

The Moving Stills, a young band from the Central Coast, saying thanks, “Thanks heaps for watching – this is awesome”. Awesome indeed, we stayed for the complete set – couldn’t drag myself out, but managed to move on after they were packing up. High energy, diverse and innovative music (again) which seems to be the order of the day (and night).

Feelds at the Federal Hotel with lead singer Merpire joining in for a co-written song (as she did at the Purple Carrot cafe in the early morning hours) and Feelds (from Melbourne) praising, “We’ve had such fun in Bello, we’ve played every day and met some wonderful people.” Now playing with the full band backing, the female vocals harmonising and the band ‘going off’, Feelds were complete and cohesive, melodic and meaningful. The crowd were rapt, with young and old bobbing and nodding in synch! Pure voice with a huge range, with a debut record coming out in September.

Emily Wurramara captivating the audience with her haunting and heartfelt ballads and personal stories, bringing the crowd onto the dance floor and holding them with her heart. Singing in both languages, she carved a niche for herself in the crowd when she was singing her native language for ‘Caretakers of the Sea’, and saying, “if you know this one, sing along.” Laugh… she is captivating the audience… Perhaps, one day soon, we will be able to sing along – there is always hope.

Now in every festival, there is a moment shared by many, with visuals to make a grown woman weep. Ethno Folk Orchestra arrive on stage at the Memorial Hall (how many, 13, 14, more?? I lost count) and inform us that they have had one week to learn songs, one from every nation, with everyone joining in for the landscape of sound. “We are going to take you on a trip around the world.” Israel’s song about hope, from a lass who grew up in Bello, was born in Israel and sung her song in Hebrew. The myriad-national Ethno Folk Orchestra play everything that can rattle, shake, bump and squeal: a young child walks to the empty dance floor and starts her interpretive dance, swaying and dancing to the mesmerising music. The child, uninhibited, sways, arms outstretched in a ballet pose, making use of the entire floor. A song from Jordan features next: a song of love (and more love) with more dancers, as though called by the Pied Piper, filtering down to the dance floor. I swear I am crying with all this sharing and caring, traditional music seeping into my psyche. How can Music Festivals get it so RIGHT and our governments get it so WRONG? Within the Memorial Hall walls, everyone is embracing and creating. Love. That is the theme of this year’s Bello Winter Music. Love!


Venue: Various | Bellingen NSW
Dates: 11 – 14 July 2019
Bookings: www.bellowintermusic.com



Most read Sydney reviews

More from this author