5 Mar 2024
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Festival Review: Auckland Folk Festival 2024

02 Feb 2024 // A review by Maggie Cocco
Auckland Folk Festival 2024 overcame the fallout from the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods of 2023 to deliver a successful marriage of folk and frivolity. Featuring five stages and a variety of international and local folky favourites from 9am - God's hour, the all ages and stages crowds had more than enough to entertain.


Friday night kicked off at 7:15pm with The Alum Ridge Boys & Ashlee (USA). Traditional mountain music, bluegrass, and early country from the fertile hills of Virginia lent the classic "something old" to the bridal suite. Across campus the young and young at heart kicked up their heels at the Welcome Ceilidh Dance, while the cerebral and sentimental among us drew near the Village Stage for some of NZ's best singer-songwriters - HOOP, Tom Cunliffe, Bill Angus and the Mighty Ways, Raylee Bradfield and Renee Cosio - presented by the Ministry of Folk. Terry Free, in honour of the virtual Godfather of the Auckland folk music scene, The Roger Giles, began the weekend of evening group sing-a-longs from the Barn stage. As the dancers danced, the singers sung, and the Ministry of Folk concluded its sermon, Te Kaahu took the main stage. Haunting vocals, downtempo alt-folk fusion, and the craft and skill of Maori songwriting and storytelling blessed the union of folk for the coming weekend. A subsequent 'Late Night Trad Disco' featuring Indian and Western influenced global folk duo, Mishra (UK), bumped late into the night. 

The Village Stage was first to rouse on Saturday with Krissy Jackson's Morning Yoga at 8:30am, followed by a trip around the world with Sonia & Nigel. Returning to AFF with a multimedia offering of art and music from new project Sweet Paname, Sonia & Nigel wove a tapestry of French, Kiwi, American, and original songs through stories and images inspired by their travels. Meanwhile in the workshop room participants traveled through space and time for an "old time sound" singing workshop with Alum Ridge & Ashlee - boy do singing styles vary over space and time! By 10:30am all five stages were humming. Folk dance workshops included Iranian/Persian Dance, Playford Dances, Morris Dancing, Maayan Israeli Dancing, and Early dance. 'Pick o' the Clubs' featuring the best of each folk club's local talent, 'Gone But Not Forgotten', and other heartwarming community acknowledgements and performances gave The Barn a homey feel that listeners - including and especially those looking for respite from the intermittent rain - leaned into. The adorably decorated outdoor Kids Stage was abandoned for dryer, indoor pastures where skilled entertainers, including Kids Television celebrity Suzy Cato and Kindy melody songwriter Claudia Robin Gunn, kept the wee huddled masses dry and entertained.

Audiences at the Village stage self-compacted or embraced the weather under and around the tented canopy for 'Songs from the Old Country' featuring UNESCO award winning Iranian kamancheh player Rasoul Abbasi, global musician Dudi Shaul, the Bulgarian and world vocal ensembles of Tui Mamaki, and more. Still more made camp at the covered main stage where singer-songwriter Ari Leason's playful banter gave way to banjoist Dan Walsh's (pictured above) inspired virtuosity, gave way to uillean piper Tom Delaney & concertina player Caroline Keane's flawless tradition, gave way to Ethno New Zealand's youthful energy, gave way to Mishra's hypnotizing fusion. If you napped, you missed something. 

Dinner hour with Chris Dent and Hannah Morrell (pictured below) served a clever turn of phrase or two along with a welcome reprieve from the rain. As shadows fell around campus, those inclined to dance turned to the Vicfolk Ceilidh, the Saturday Night Showcase brought recent headliners and additions Dave Alley & Mickey Muggeridge to the fore, and the singers waited in anticipation for 'Drinking Songs with Lewis Black'. The volume and length of the latter outpaced even the Late Night Trad Disco featuring festival favourites, Rough Town. 

Reports of clear skies for Sunday came to naught as the wind picked up and rain fell steadily. The Kids stage-turned-shed kicked off blessedly early as the other stages eased into the day. Still, not a smile seemed soggy as festival goers dashed to their preferred experiences. South American Folk Dances, Square Dance, EuroGypsy Dance, Morris Dancing, and Scottish Dance graced the Hall. Banjo, ukulele, and tune workshops - many led by the festival's international headliners - occupied the workshop space. And the Barn was once again a homey respite for community centered moments including more Pick o' the Clubs and the rousing Penman Family Jam. 

The Village Stage picked up a couple of errant workshops, including a much-anticipated songwriting workshop with Te Kaahu (pictured below), between performances by bluesy old time string band Railway Pie, musical and mulleted Mickey Muggeridge, the Auckland Bluegrass Club, and Louise Evans' Folk Showcase. As the rain picked up and the day grew closer to the final showcase and festival finale, audiences staked their claim to seating in front of the Big Shed's main stage. Long time festival contributor Gavin Asher sang to what felt like a crowd of friends, bringing a touch of the Barn's community feel to the big stage. Newly formed nu-folk project Tenelach delivered free flowing nu-folk soundscapes that gave way to the indie folk energy boost of Albi & the Wolves, gave way to the roots revival goodness of Shindig, gave way to the quirky and affable Good Habits. 

By now there is only standing room at the back of the shed. The Sunday night showcase is our final ritual in this folk marriage party. For good measure, we have had many something olds, something news, something borroweds, and something blues. Small children crowd the open area before the stage while packs of teenagers crowd its fringes. Generations of music lovers, long time festival goers and first timers create a sea of seated and expectant witnesses. First, the Folkin' Youth Orchestra and Martin Blackman. Award winners strew creativity and talent as flowers in their wake. In chronological keeping, Ari Leason gives the readings with a diverse set of originals and songs that inspire her. Respective sets from Mishra and Good Habits hint at the coming gospel which manifests as a folkified 80's cover set featuring the festival's international cohort - Mishra, Good Habits, Dan Walsh - plus Pascal Roggen from Albi & the Wolves in transcendent collaboration. I now pronounce you folk and festival. 

...A good reception needs a good band. With hand clapping, foot stomping, voice soaring, festival veteran assuredness, Albi & the Wolves held the energy of the night at its height right through their inevitable encore. The crowd of people, spent or still buzzing, dispersed in the darkness to their respective beds, dances, or final jam sessions. As the music lingered late into the night, no one wanted it to end. 

Images © Steve Bone

Saturday Photos
Sunday Photos

Please do not crop or use any of these photos for other purposes without written permission by the photographer.

 

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