Beechworth Bluegrass Festival 2006

Found the time to travel to the 8th Beechworth Bluegrass Festival.

The weather forecast had predicted clearing showers with snow on the Alps, so clearly the only way to get there on my motorcycle was through Melbourne. I was most fortunate to miss most of the showers and only a bit of the edges of some, so I hardly got wet at all. In fact I got wet more from the spray of the front wheel from the wet road.

I passed Peter Fidler twice on the way up the Hume Highway. I passed him once and then had to stop for petrol and then passed him again.

I left the Hume Highway where the alternate route to the snow leaves the highway. When I reached the Great Alpine Road I didn't know which way to turn. I guessed right and went to Myrtleford and was wrong. I should have turned left. Not long later I was at the Carriage Motel and not long after at 'The Priory', a rather large and rambling place, with rooms, doors and stairs all over the place. It has possibly five levels and is an adventure playground to navigate.

I'd taken leave from work on the Friday so I could travel with time to spare and indeed I did. Mind you, the last 100km were decidedly cooler.

The main concerts were split between 'The Priory' and the Commercial Hotel. Workshops were held Saturday and Sunday and well as a Blackboard contest on Saturday afternoon.

The festival is reaching out to the community to the extent that they are encouraging local young people to learn Bluegrass and perform at the festival. A group of four young players named "Shaky Hannah & The Bluegrass Nannies" did quite a commendable job considering they only started playing three or four months ago.

The major reason for attending was to attend a Dobro workshop being held by Peter Fidler. I first heard Peter play at the Friday night concert where he sings and plays 'Dobro' in the Somervilles band. Tight outfit and was most impressed with their version of 'Choctaw hayride', Peter made it look easy.

As is usual at these festivals jams go to nearly dawn, but not for me. I gracefully retired at 11:00 pm

Had breakfast at 'The Priory' and caught up with quite a few festival friends and even attended a guitar building workshop held by Joe Gallacher before attending the Dobro workshop which started at 11:00 am Peter had assumed the help of some of his band mates but they didn't turn up until very late. The workshop was poorly attended I'm sad to say, with only a few beginner players and a few listeners. Peter took us through the basic techniques of the style but didn't get into anything really complex. As this was the last workshop being held in that room, Peter was able to give us an extra half an hour which was a most unexpected bonus.

I had hoped to have a one-on-one session with Peter, but he seemed to prefer the company of the 'A' players. Oh well.

The Saturday night main concert was held at the Commercial Hotel. It was really squishy. I stood for about two hours before my ankles couldn't take anymore, before hobbling back to 'The Priory' for more picking.

Had breakfast again at 'The Priory' and ended up on the back lawn just playing anything that came into my head and chatting with a few people who asked questions about the guitar.

Sat in with the Gospel singing/playing on the front lawn but didn't get a chance to solo. They finished up at midday and everyone was herded into the Dinning Hall for the farewell concert. The organisers are running a tight ship here.

This was my point of departure as I wanted to arrive home close to dusk, so I packed up and headed for Mount Hotham. All of the "Fit Chains" signs were on display, so I was a bit nervous as I made the climb to the summit. When I reached the entry station I was asked if I had chains. I replied "No!" Chains for a motorcycle, I don't think so. I was warned about icy patches and to go slow before they let me pass. I'd purposely chosen the middle of the day so that any ice could melt before I arrived and before it got too cold later in the afternoon. I had no problems.

I arrived home around 6:00 pm safe and sound.

Glad I made the effort to attend.