Martin Chambers

Martin Chambers Header

Music Festivals - not about the instrument

Last weekend we were at the Fairbridge Festival, a music festival that we try to go to every year. In the early days we would pour over the program and select all the ‘must sees’ and sprint between venues so we got the good seats. We’d bump into friends ‘no time to talk now, we’re off to see …’ and only weeks later compare notes, to discover we had missed the highlight, probably some unknown who crowded the stage with musician friends as they improvised some folky jazz.

[Kristina Olsen] One year it rained and rained, and the tents flooded, and the power went out. You probably know the story of Bob Dylan playing electric guitar and being booed by the crowd. ‘Electric is not folk’, they said. Well, at Fairbridge in that year folk was without electric and the stage was silent. Until the [Narasirato Pan Pipers]( from the Solomon Islands took to the stage, impromptu, energetic and alive, and despite most of us in the crowd cold and wet, they sweated, took off their shirts and we enjoyed eye and ear candy and one by one some others came, a saxophone, a trumpet, and it was one of the most memorable music shows I have ever been to. Now when we go to [Fairbridge]( we play scant regard to the program. We sit ourselves in the front row and let the musicians do the run between the gigs and tents. Stars come and play their tunes, technically perfect, they perform for us. [Pugsley Buzzard](, who can play boogie woogie piano with the best of them. But who was he? It was a great performance, but I want more. [Doug de Vries,]( guitar genius, how dare I say it, but Sexteto Zona Sul while excellent, (especially the flute) lacked something. It was as if they were at work. You know how some people, say a bank teller or the greengrocer or the lady selling shoes, how they can be simply at work or something more. If you buy shoes from someone who gives the impression they enjoyed the interaction with you and your feet it makes your day. In fact, you’ll probably go back and buy more shoes even if you don’t need them. Entertainment is the same. It is more than the music or the instrument it is played on. Highlights this year were [Laique] ( played as if they enjoyed being there, and when I spoke to them later, looked so exhausted I knew they had enjoyed it a bit too much. [A.J. Leonard](, who taught us the history of the ukulele and then played ‘Somewhere, over the rainbow’ and we all sang along and we are not as good as [Israel Kamkawiwo’ole]( but gosh it was. And [Daramad,]( Tara Tiba who sang in Farsi and whose voice is an instrument, one that pulls out your soul and leaves it exposed to bleed. And of course, singer songwriter [Kristina Olsen,]( who does not need an instrument to entertain but uses a guitar all the same. I hesitate to make the reference to [Lance Armstrong](, who told us it was not about the bike and we all know what it turned out to be about. Musicians? Well, it’s not about that either. But, it is not about the instrument.