Festivals & Feelings
Almost a year ago now I (Liesl) was asked by a very kind woman who writes a blog to write a contribution about performing at festivals. Specifically, she wanted a blog about Palm Creek Folk Festival in Townsville which we performed at in June, and she wanted me to capture that euphoric feeling we’d written about in our newsletter. Well, that festival came and went, and I wrote no blog. Woodford came and went, no blog. Illawarra came and went, still no blog. Now I’m sitting here with a spare hour and a dire need to write and so I guess it will have to be a nostalgic kind of post rather than a euphoria-driven one. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I won’t be filling the blog with lots of scatty and over-excited ‘amazings’ and ‘greats’ but rather a mellowed excitement that sees the experiences for what they really were.
They were amazing. And great.
Palm Creek back in June was the end of our first national tour with the album. It was the culmination of two months of intense touring, after several months of intense bookings and promotions. Needless to say we were emotional, tired and in a daze. The whole tour had gone so well and we were pleased with the coverage and exposure we were getting, our fans growing in numbers and all our hopes and dreams with them. So we were happy and looking forward to celebrating.
We arrived in the evening and found a spot and set our van up in the dark. We were lucky enough to have friends who were also performing who set up with us, as well as our road buddy Louise, and for the first time we had a little festival camp. The next day we started our performances and had a lovely response from the crowd. We also did our first workshop, on songwriting. After seeing Frencham Smith for the first time Fred asked us if we’d sing on a couple of songs with him and Liz and a whole bunch of us, which was both extremely fun (especially rehearsing in our camp) and a privilege.
Our last set was on the main stage on the final night of the festival. For us that was a huge deal, that a festival would give us that stage on that night, and of course we wanted to live up to expectations. So we really gave it our all. I don’t know if it came across, it felt like it did, and mostly I remember seeing my breath in the electric blue light in the freezing June air, filled with this big sound, one of the best we’ve ever had. When our friends Ange and Josh (Swoon) came on to support us on a couple of songs, it felt like we were not just filling the air but also the stage.
As a duo we never have a band or the presence of other people on stage to give us that extra sense of security and confidence. But that night we did for a couple of songs, and it felt so good. It felt so good I almost cried in the climax of Your Heart in My Hands with Ange singing spine-tingling harmonies.
Event though we go through a roller-coaster of emotions at every show (nerves, anticipation, impatience, frustration, fear, excitement etc), it’s not at every show that you feel something in your core. That night was, in fact, euphoric. I felt the sheer pleasure of performing, of expressing, of sharing. None of the heavy stuff, no nerves (there was no time – we had to run from Frencham Smith’s set to ours), no fear of rejection or judgement or stuffing up. There was no mistaking it, and that feeling was promptly followed by gratitude.
Many things made that festival special. It was all the little things like the great company, collaborating with musicians we look up to, trying something new with a workshop, and being able to party after the last set knowing we didn’t have any shows in the coming days, allowing ourselves to relax and celebrate. Almost a year later it still remains one of my favourite and strongest festival memories.
Thankfully, that year ended with Woodford. Few festivals would’ve been able to measure up to Palm Creek but luckily for us Woodford did. Woodford was something else altogether. For six days we lived festival. It’s so incredible how the equivalent of a whole town is set up over a just a couple of weeks, it’s a cocoon. And I didn’t want to leave. I can be pretty impatient, I don’t like staying in the one place for too long. But I was in no hurry to leave Woodfordia. I couldn’t believe how at home I felt. We set up camp, again, with Betsey next to some drain in the performers area. With our bed, plenty of coffee and food and an awning for the sun we were truly at home the whole time.
We’d get up in the morning, sip coffee and eat breakfast then throw on our clothes and get picked up with our gear by the instrument transport and driven down to the stage where we were performing. Then we’d do our set, each time to an unexpectedly large crowd, and then we’d go back ‘home’ again and decide who we were going to go see next. Just being there was so much fun. We enjoyed every performance we saw, were it music, dance, circus, comedy, and I just felt so at home among all these living-for-their-art people. I’m no martyr for my music and there are plenty of things other than music that get me excited about life, but something about this environment makes me feel like everything that has happened in my life so far was to prepare me for this lifestyle. This is what I am the most qualified at.
Having moved around so much growing up, learning to live in different cultures, speaking different languages, it’s all given me skills for this lifestyle; constant travel, always adapting to new places, new rules, new attitudes, being able to communicate with different people. The uni studies that had nothing to do with music but got me writing and taught me everything BUT the music, that is everything else you need to know in order to live off your music. The culture of music in Leksand (Sweden) that surrounded and consumed me, fuelled many a daydream and showed me that my love of singing was stronger than my fear of performing. And Nick who later showed me that my love of singing is stronger than my fear of not conforming.
I digress. Woodford was a turning point for us, we ‘stepped it up a level’ while we were at Woodford. We don’t know how or why but so many people came to our sets. We would get up on stage, having been hiding backstage warming up and doing starjumps or something similar to get ourselves revved up, and say to each other ‘where did all these people come from?’. That showed in our sales as well and for the first time making a normal living off our music seemed a realistic proposition. At most of our shows since then there’s always been someone who saw us or heard of us at Woodford. Venues know who we are when we ring them to book a show. It’s something for us to return to when we have a low, when we feel undeserving or not good enough.
So that was a little bit about the feelings I go through at festivals, especially great ones like Palm Creek and Woodford. I’m sorry it’s one-sided, it’s hard to be personal if you’re writing for two, and I wouldn’t want to presume to know exactly what Nick goes through even if a lot of it is the same. Maybe you need to ask him to write the next blog. I tell him he should write but it’s not the same coming from your girlfriend!