FOR some years now – indeed since its inception, “Citynews” has been following the festival known as the Snowy Mountains of Music from afar, previewing the event, but never actually getting there.
This year, we headed south to the Snowies, where the event, now unimaginatively restyled “The Peak Festival,” was in full swing all over Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes.
With over 130 separate acts held in chalets, public venues and larger pubs, it marks the opening of the snow season, and we momentarily felt the first gentle falls over the valley.
Eclectic was the word for this year’s event, with its folk origins all but obscured by poetry, rock, Afro beat, world music, gentle pop and hip hop.
A highlight of the Festival was Peak Upload, a music industry competition at The Man From Snowy River that saw Canberra duo Alex and Joel and Newcastle songstress Amy Vee, miss out to the very seasoned “Balladeer from Bulli,” Timothy James Bowen. Bowen won a swag of industry-related prizes donated by the Australasian World Music Expo, the Herd, Troubadour Music, photographer Mandy Lamont (who supplied the photos for this story) and professional publicist Miss Bettina.
I traipsed around the valley and bussed across to Smiggin Holes to catch a broad cross-section of acts. That is the best one could do with simultaneous gigs at up to 10 venues at any time.
For geographical reasons, I managed to miss all the poetry slams, but here’s a smattering of what I saw…
All around the place, including at the Eiger Chalet, where I was lodging, was Year 12 school girl singer-songwriter from Cronulla, Jorja Carroll. Here’s a talent to watch out for and she has an accessible style of chit-chat too. Carroll performed covers and her own pieces, including a striking one about youth suicide.
Over at Smiggins hotel (‘Smigs’) I saw indi-pop group The little Stevies – sister duo Sibylla and Bethany Stephen – followed by virtuosic guitarist, Claude Hay performing with the Gentle Enemies.
Next morning the Jax stage lounge at the Perisher Centre, I joined the crowd dancing to the beat of Azadoota, a world music band headed up by Robin Zirwanda, an Iraqi Assyrian who sings most of his songs in neo-Aramaic. It didn’t matter a bit, as the mixed Brazilian and middle eastern rhythms had everyone up on the floor, including me.
A gentler note was struck at the Sundeck Hotel with indigenous singer Shellie Morris, 2014 NT Australian of the Year, who proved to be one of the smoothest acts of the Peak. Most of Morris’s work was original, touching on issues like Reconciliation and Closing the Gap in a quietly relaxed way and sending us off with a happy singalong to “My Island Home.” Working the sound at the Sundeck was an old acquaintance, David Ross McDonald from Candelo, former drummer with The Waifs. To have McDonald behind-the-scenes is an indication of the high quality director Dave de Santi has aimed for in the Peak.
Sunday night, we were told, was really Saturday night in disguise, (since it was the long weekend) as the crowds headed for Smigs again to hear Lachy Doley’s hard-nosed brand of rock followed by the ‘Ethio-Soul’ band Dereb the ambassador – again the floor was alive – while a young generation audience slowly packed in for some late night hip-hop with The Herd.
Over the weekend, audiences were generally good, likewise the sound systems (mostly) and the sets were long and solid. People who bought weekend festival passes surely got their money’s worth – there were packages for the whole long weekend at around $300, including accommodation and a festival wristband.
As the word spreads, the Perisher Peak Festival will undoubtedly grow bigger, but I hope not too big. I found it easy to get to talk to all of the artists who interested me, not as a journo but as a member of the public. And moving around a lot meant that you were talking to people – a friendly festival, in short. Word-of-mouth should do the trick. It’s a cliché to say that there was something for everyone, but it’s almost true.
The next Peak Festival will run over the June long weekend in 2015. If you like to fill your lungs with fresh and your ears with music, watch this space and visit peakfestival.com.au
All photos by Mandy Lamont.