The Brunswick Music Festival is a perfectly timed extravaganza, falling right after Port Fairy Folk Festival, and allowing the opportunity to nab all the great musos in town already. It also allows people like me, who don’t quite manage the trek to Port Fairy, to experience the raging folk scene from the comfort of good old Brunswick.
I have a Scottish friend with very good taste in music who told me I simply had to see his favourite band, Shooglenifty. I’m very into blind trust, so next thing I knew we were nicely seated in the Town Hall waiting for the first band to begin.
Manran (who now sit firmly on my Spotify playlist) won me over instantly with a song about my favourite piece of Scottish history – the stone of destiny. All relatively young, the boys had great chemistry and banter, miming deadly bow and arrow fights and all. My favourite part of Manran was not just their reels (which were amazing and had us all wildly spinning each other around) but their vocals. Vocalist Ewan Henderson wound his voice around beautiful Gaelic lyrics that we tried to force said Scottish friend to translate while simultaneously coming up with our own potential lyrics.
I have never before seen two folk bands so fantastic that they cause a spontaneous mosh pit at an all-seated gig. Honestly, the organisers should have known better, cos it wasn’t long til the only thing any person left sitting could see was the backs of lots of people doing some great awkward swaying.
By the time Shooglenifty came out, my friends and I were waiting directly at the stage, ready to dance the rest of the night away. Shooglenifty are definitely a glimpse into the future for Manran, the band playing like old pros that know each other intimately well after many years are wont to do. Melbourne’s own mandolin legend Luke Plumb seemed to slot in like a perfect puzzle piece, his playing fitting in perfectly alongside the violin genius of Angus R. Grant.
Shooglenifty have clearly developed their own style, with less hectic high powered reels and more hypnotic layered journeys with an amount of Indian influence, especially in a few songs collaborated on in past travels. Shooglenifty welcomed the angel-voiced light-footed Kaela Rowan on stage with them when in need of vocals. She also sung in Gaelic, with a beautiful range and effortlessness, at times slipping to the rear of the stage to bust out some amazing Highland dancing that we tried to mimic and horribly failed at.
By the time the encore rolled around, we were an entire audience of super sweaty, happy, thoroughly danced-out folk lovers with zero energy left, but we reached deep within and danced those last three songs like there was no tomorrow.
Jasmin Ashton is a PR whiz and freelance writer/designer from Melbourne who has a lot of feelings about pretty much everything. Find her at @Jasmanna.
The Brunswick Music Festival runs 15-20 March 2016. Read our guide to the best of the festival.
Some venues are accessible.