A bluegrass festival is a different animal to the commercially driven rock blockbusters and this is particularly true in say, Dorrigo. This hamlet up in the Range is now more of a grey nomad stopover than the roaring timber town of yore, but you can still see a good old-fashioned brawl outside the pub at peak hour on a Friday afternoon. The festival itself is blissfully tranquil. A ban on booze means no excitable chest-beaters or mega systems erupting with the latest pop sensations. All you can hear is the pleasant trickle of mandolins, banjos and violins extolling thousand year old folksongs. This was the scene for the launch of the Lonely Horse Band’s latest album, written, recorded and released in the town last weekend. We previewed our latest tunes about the contemporary histories of one-horse towns alongside the likes of Scarlett Affection and country music history incarnate in the forms of Anne Kirkpatrick (?), daughter of Slim Dusty, and Ami Williamson, daughter of John. After our show on Saturday night we were just in time to miss a 40-person brawl outside the pub, and next morning I motored off to play the Coaching Station in Nymboida, a much less sedate affair – fire-fighting choppers coming and going made us feel like the Doors playing live at an Apocalypse Now re-enactment. Now that’s ancient history.
I was up in Dorrigo recently with the Lonely Horse Band. That’s the mob with whom I’ve done projects at the opal fields in White Cliffs, and out on the malleee at Nymagee, writing, recording and performing songs about these remote, eroded communities.
Dorrigo used to be at the heart of the forestry wars, back in the 90s when the timber barons could sense the coming of the end, as the country began to wake up to the fact that we need trees to survive. That was in the days before Howard, when the ferals raged through the forests, locking down dozers in bare-faced defiance of antiquated laws, while aggressive Unions firing up disgruntled loggers in the pubs.
Dorrigo’s a different town now, the pubs outnumbered by coffee shops. It produces more mementoes of the past than timber and boasts a terrific museum that graphically portrays a tough and often brutal past for the settlers and the dispossessed, casually referred to as the Wild Blacks. The only really wild action occurs on the footy fields or at the RSL when The Re-Mains are in town, which we will be on October 16, or the Lonely Horse Band returns to the Plateau to play the Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival on Oct 22-24th. It’s a lovely town, if you’re not locked on to a dozer.