JamGrass Music Festival 2015

Originally published on addictedtonoise.com.au

JamGrass Music Festival 2015 – 7 November


Photo Jim Jacob

The fifth JamGrass Music Festival was held on 7 November at Bundoora Park, a large green space fifteen kilometers north-east of Melbourne.

It’s an event that has slowly grown.  Last year was my first experience of this little festival (then held over three days at The Thornbury Theatre) and I was taken by both how impressive the music was on offer and the fact that the event didn’t attract more punters.  Melbourne being such a renowned music city has had, perhaps because of that very fact with the sheer number and diversity of live shows, a somewhat checkered history with roots music festivals in and around the city.

JamGrass organisers took the bold step this year of moving the event outdoors and confining it to a single day (with a launch party the night before).  I assume that this was an attempt to expand the event through attracting more ticket sales – there certainly seemed to be a good deal more promotion surrounding the build-up to the event, than in past years).

Now JamGrass is not a bluegrass-only zone.

It does embrace bluegrass, but only as part of a broader roots focus which includes jug, folk, old-time, psychedelic, roots jamming, alt. country and indie rock.  What’s in a name, anyway?  It could well have been called ‘hardly strictly bluegrass’, if someone else hadn’t thought of that badge first.

I was at the festival site early.  The rain of the past two days had luckily finished and, by 12.30, it was cloudy with a light cool breeze.  The festival precinct was around a historic village and farm settlement.  The single stage was on a gentle slope, with great visibility.  There was plenty of interesting psychedelic art work around and looked like almost all the helpers were volunteers.

The new space allowed for plenty of food options – California Salsa, Cajun Kitchen, The Nutty Nut and Juice Hut, Sam’s Enviro-Pies, Donuts for the sweet of tooth, and a groovy retro coffee cart.  Altogether, a vast improvement on last year’s offerings.  There was also an art stall, merchandise tent and the Bootleggers Bar, including the mystery drink Old Smokey Moonshine.  There’s s plenty of space to walk around, see the blacksmith in action and, as the day wore on, catch various informal jamming sessions from the performers.

Okay, over to the serious part.  Twelve acts over eleven hours or so.


The scene during the afternoon at Bundoora Park – photo Jim Jacob

Mr Alford played a diverse set of original country songs, with four albums to his credit and the country blues-grooving “Sailor Jerry Rum” was a salty yarn to close a nice intro for the day.

The John Flanagan Trio provided some engaging folk and Americana songs, with thoughtful lyrics and a delightfully melodious voice and precise group harmonies.  He has recorded an album in Nashville with Viktor Krauss (to be titled There’s Another Way To Where You’re Going) which is due for release early next year.  Some new songs were showcased and I believe the new album will be one to look out for – “Bodhi Tree” and his account of a meeting with Paul Kelly, “The Last Of The Cassette Men”, were just two highlights.  Toto’s “Africa” got an interesting and fresh makeover, as well.


The John Flanagan Trio (from left to right, guest Jeri Foreman, Liz Frencham, Flanagan and Paddy Montgomery)

The Stetson Family were up next, on the trail of promoting the new, well-received and lovable album True North (released in July 2015).  From that collection, Bob Dylan’s “Billy” was the opener and simultaneously, the sun came out with its greatest strength of the day – it was a nice moment.  The set included “Run Daddy Run”, a lively tale of a fiery relationship and the tender ballad “Every Beat Of My Heart” (an album highlight).  The cautionary “Haunted Hills” closed the set.  The Stetsons I’ve seen a few times now and they are in top form with a nice blend of bluegrass, old-time and Americana elements.


Nadine Budge and Luke Richardson from The Stetson Family – photo Jim Jacob

The Drunken Poachers formed with a critical goal in mind – ‘so they didn’t have to pay for their drinks’.  The set included whiskey and beer punchy ballads, Irish jigs about drinking, and moonshine tales of, er, drinking – some Old Crow Medicine Show influences and memorable ditties like “I’m A Hooligan When I’m Drinking”, “Chase My Whiskey With A Whiskey” and “All For Me Grog”.  It was catchy, strident and a lot of fun, and the first sign of dancing for the day.

Talk about something completely different.  Returning from a long UK and Scandinavian stint, The String Contingent added some spirited refinement, with a number of reflective and powerful instrumentals.  The acoustic chamber-folk trio comprises Australians Chris Stone (violin) and Holly Downes (double bass), with Scot Graham McLeod (guitar), together beautiful explorational musicians, moving gracefully through classical, Celtic, baroque, jazz and Indian, all pitched in a contemporary sound.


The String Contingent – photo Jim Jacob

The Morrisons hail from New South Wales and are big band (seven-piece) roots collective – they have a full bluegrass and folk sound, with the high and lonesome harmonies a feature.  The set kicked off with an interesting choice – Nick Cave’s powerful “I Had A Dream, Joe” and the list included a lightning take on Paul Kelly’s “Taught By Experts”, some interesting originals and finished with Cold Chisel’s “Flame Trees”.  The band won the 2014 Folk/Acoustic Song Of The Year at the Australian Song Writers Association Awards.


The Morrisons – photo Jim Jacob

The Imprints are a high-energy duo from Melbourne (actually, my stomping ground of Northcote).  Featuring an unlikely combo of violin and drums, there’s plenty of looping string sections and intricate and pulsating rhythms with a Mediterranean influence.  A unique sound and one the crowd appreciated.  Remember The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” from the classic album Who’s Next?  At the end of the song, there’s a wonderful segment of a crowning violin with the band leading to a crescendo.  That’s a taste of what The Imprints sounded like.  A delightful surprise. Brilliant!


The Imprints – photo Jim Jacob

Indie folk outfit Tin Pan Orange hit the stage around 6 pm.  The sun had previously built up some dimension and consistency, but was now quickly waning.  The natural light was softening and the artificial lights on the stage were beginning to show some ascendancy.  The band’s “Barcelona” was swaying through the air and the set included a soft and sensuous reading of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya”.

Now I mentioned the cool breeze a while back and this was relentless for those insufficiently attired.  It was enough to send a few people packing as the reality of an outdoor festival in Melbourne’s unpredictable mid-spring set in.

There was plenty of entertainment in the synthesizer trance rock, power sitar and self-deprecating humour of Richard In Your Mind.  The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats are JamGrass favourites and have a raw and gritty old-time style of style of bluegrass, with a definite Australian twist.  The outfit almost has the classic bluegrass instrumentation, except the violin/fiddle is replaced by a washboard and there’s plenty of intensity and vibrancy.  A host of new engaging songs were on display as was a break-neck version of Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues” as the dance ‘floor’ filled for the first time today.


The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats – photo Jim Jacob

Mustered Courage provided an appropriate next step in the bill.  In its fifth JamGrass appearance, there was plenty to like.  The sound, as it had been all day, was excellent and much better from where I stood at the band’s Out On The Weekend’s set a few weeks back.  Mustered Courage has always pushed the bluegrass boundaries.  I saw them at the IBMA’s (International Bluegrass Music Association) biggest shindig, in Raleigh North Carolina last year where they were received with much acclaim as their high energy and innovative performance stood out from the more traditional fare.  Since then, a record deal signed with Lost Highway Australia, a new album, member changes, the addition of drums, keyboards and, today, a flirtation with a pair of trombones.  The crowd revelled in the band’s spontaneous and spirited set.


Mustered Courage – photo Jim Jacob

The headliner Harts, from New South Wales, is in fact a young man with plenty of stage presence alternating between guitar and keyboards and accompanied by drums.  Part guitar rock god and part electro-funk rocker.  I saw a quote the other day about Harts from none other than Prince“He reminds me of how I was at that age”.  High praise, indeed.  The remaining crowd loved the vitality and showmanship.

And so it ended.  Somewhat of a music marathon.

After outgrowing a series of indoor halls, concert spaces and ballrooms, the festival has created its own outdoor space.  There was an abundance of variety on and off stage and, for a gate price of $65 (cheaper with an earlier booking), fantastic value.

JamGrass has grown a little more again.  If it’s held at the same venue next year, it can easily accommodate more ticket sales simply by moving the stage further down the slope.

Let’s hope there’s a JamGrass VI.  Its imprint on the Melbourne music scene is becoming undeniable.


Originally published on addictedtonoise.com.au


JamGrass Music Festival 2015 – Set Times and Site Map

Set times for Melbourne’s Psychedelic ‘Grass Festival Have Been Announced

SATURDAY 7 November 2015

12:30 Mr. Alford
1:10 John Flanagan Trio
1:55 The Stetson Family
2:40 The Drunken Poachers
3:25 The String Contingent
4:15 The Morrisons
5:10 The Imprints
6:00 Tinpan Orange
7:00 Richard In Your Mind
8:00 Quarry Mountain Dead Rats
9:00 Mustered Courage
10:00 Harts

Here’s The Site Map

Further info at the JamGrass Website


JamGrass 2015 Only A Few Days Away


JamGrass Music Festival

Main Day 7 November 2015

Launch Party 6 November 2015

Just a few days away to a great inner-Melbourne music festival JamGrass.

All tickets here 

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Jam Grass Festival 2015 – Launch Party

jam grass launch party

JamGrass 2015, Melbourne’s ‘Psychedelic String’ festival will take place on Saturday 7 November at the new location, Bundoora Park in Bundoora.

Rising star Harts will be the headliner, bringing his blend of classic 70’s rock and funk to this party in the park.

Harts will be joined by Melbourne indie-folk darlings TinPan Orange, Mustered Courage back from their big US tour, bluegrass rockers Quarry Mountain Dead Rats and Sydney psych-pop groovers Richard In Your Mind.  For more details head HERE.

As well as the festival, there will be a launch party the night before, at The Spotted Mallard on Sydney Road, a nice venue with a great line-up:

The Ramblin’ Roses

The Morrisons

The Scrimshaw Four

Astra Cobalt

Little Rabbit

The Weeping Willows

The launch party kicks off at around 6pm.  If not sold out, tables are available as are meals.


The Ramblin’ Roses – photo by Jim Jacob


The Morrisons – photo by Jim Jacob

the weeping willows

The Weeping Willows


JamGrass Music Festival 2015

JamGrass 2015, Melbourne’s ‘Psychedelic String’ festival, has announced its line-up and new venue.

Rising star Harts will be the headliner, bringing his blend of classic 70’s rock and funk to this party in the park.

Harts will be joined by Melbourne indie-folk darlings TinPan Orange, Mustered Courage back from their big US tour, bluegrass rockers Quarry Mountain Dead Rats and Sydney psych-pop groovers Richard In Your Mind.

The full program includes The Morrisons, The Imprints, The String Contingent, The Stetson Family, John Flanagan Trio, Mr. Alford Country and The Drunken Poachers.

There’ll also be plenty of gourmet food options, festival market and art installations.

All of this to take place on Saturday 7 November at Bundoora Park in Bundoora.  Patrons familiar with last year’s ripper event will just stay on the number 86 tram for a little longer to get to the new festival site.

To get things started, there will be a launch party on JamGrass Eve.  The festival will be taking over the popular inner city venue The Spotted Mallard in Sydney Road Brunswick with The Morrisons, The Scrimshaw Four, The Ramblin’ Roses, Astro Cobalt, Little Rabbit and The Weeping Willows.  Six incredible bands kicking off JamGrass 2015 on the Friday night 6 December 2015 will be an extra treat.

Mustered Courage at JamGrass 2014 – Photo by Jim Jacob

Two-day passes and Friday-only tickets will be extremely limited so grab them early as they’re sure to go quickly.  Public tickets on sale at 10am Friday 28 August.

Melbourne’s JamGrass Festival 2015 – Dates Announced


The Main JamGrass Stage 2014 – Photo By Jim Jacob

Melbourne’s Longest and Most Underrated Roots Music Festival


Mustered Courage – Photo By Jim Jacob


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