6 February 2014
Nestled in the countryside of New South Wales, Tamworth has a soundscape of its own thanks to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. This year, the festival was the biggest to date, starting with the opening night. Adam Harvey and Troy Cassar-Daley co-headlined, playing all the well-known country classics – the music that inspired them to become who they are in music today. Though their show was big, it was just 1 of 4,000 shows that took place during the festival. Over 800 performers showed at the festival across 120 different venues. Talk about a big event!
Tamworth is more than just music, make no mistake! Of the 600 registered buskers on Peel Street in 2014, many of them are outside the realm of country music. Whips doused in kerosene, some buskers create awesome fireball every time they crack the whip. Traditional, handmade whips are for sale, many of them used to accent music like with their cracks like a country tap dance number. If you’re close enough, you could feel the heat graze your face when buskers would blow fire or spin flaming balls on rope. Serious question: when are whips not cool? Never.
The most enthralling part about busking is that it has a crucial role in the country music scene. Many of the performers, even headlining acts, got their start on Peel Street themselves. No matter your talent level or even your type of show, it’s all about freedom of performance. Talent scouts roam the streets to find the next big act. And it’s all pretty much free entertainment–buskers merely suggest donating a coin or two to their cause. Not a bad deal considering the level of talent you can find.
However, the music doesn’t stop in downtown Tamworth. If you’re looking to get a taste of real-deal Australian country life, head to Nundle just down the road. The Dag Sheep Station has shearing demonstrations in the wool shed, a massive pig named Charlotte and acoustic performances in the meal hall. John at The Dag will wholly welcome you and make you feel right at home.
The biggest takeaway is to see how much music is loved in the countryside and how interested people are in fostering music culture, encouraging the art of performance. Tamworth is packed with record shops and music stores, and instruments can be found everywhere. There’s even a massive golden guitar to seal it’s role as the Australian capital of country. It’s hard to image the likes of Troy Cassar-Daley, Kasey Chambers, Beccy Cole, and of course Keith Urban busking on Peel Street, but it makes it considerably more imaginable when you can meet them yourself in the dedicated Fanzone. There’s humility about the festival that is welcoming. It’s all about the roots of country music, community and discovery.
Country Music Festival Tamworth 17-26 January 2014
Eight hundred artists will present nearly 4,000 performances before the festival culminates with the Golden Guitar awards next weekend.