HAPPY Boxing Day, folks. Hope you’re all full of Christmas cheer and looking forward to the next year, which starts, of course, with the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
It’s only 16 days until the Countdown begins and then another seven until the official start of the 2014 festival.
But why wait until you get the official go-ahead?
There is plenty of great country music around before the mayor says “Let the music begin”.
As he’s a country music fan himself, I’m sure Col Murray would endorse everyone getting out at the earliest opportunity and kicking up their heels.
So let’s look at what’s on and where.
TWO of Tamworth’s premier country hotspots through the festival, Wests and Diggers, start the ball rolling with two excellent local acts on the program – Bolton Crook in Diggers’ courtyard and Those Gals in Legends Bar at Wests – at 8pm on Friday, January 10.
Meanwhile at Tamworth Services Club, old silver tonsils himself, Shane Teinaki plays hit after danceable hit from 8.30pm.
This is the first of a series of concerts by Shane, who’s also there Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday nights for the enjoyment of patrons of the Marius St establishment.
For those who start their evening a little later, catch Chad Shuttleworth at The Post Office Hotel from 10.30pm on Friday.
No matter what weekend it is any time of the year you can always find great country music at Des and Joyce Gilfillan’s Oasis Hotel on the Armidale Rd.
The fabulous Dally Croft Band cranks up at 7pm, with host Janelle on Saturday, January 11 and then Rex Baldwin on Sunday at 5.30pm.
They’re serious about their country at the Oasis and Countdown shows begin in earnest from Monday, January 13 with three acts nightly including Trevor Coombes, Len Teelow, Kevin Harris, Kez ’n’ Mike, Jim Hartley, Graeme Doubleday and the annual Bucketts Way to Tamworth evening on Wednesday, hosted by our very own Dubby.
Wests continues to deliver the country goodness right through the Countdown week with shows at Diggers and Legends featuring some great acts like Dan Murphy and Murphy’s Law, Acoustic Convention, Lou Bradley, Bolton Crook, Those Gals, Chris James, Benn Gunn, Travis List, Livi Robins and The Rain.
For locals who love their country but have to work during the day, this is an ideal opportunity to get your fix after you’ve clocked off from the boss.
There are evening shows daily and from early in the week the momentum gathers, with 2pm and 5pm gigs added to the mix.
Nemingha Tavern has joined the Countdown brigade with daily shows from Friday, January 10 featuring Samantha Bellamy, Backtrakkin’ and The Long and The Short Of It.
Alby Pool & No City Limits kick off the Countdown at that friendly little bowlo on the south side of town on Wednesday, January 15 at 6.30pm.
Alby recently hinted this could be his last festival, so don’t miss the opportunity to catch this fabulous act while you can.
Wednesday is also the day the Central kicks into gear for the big festival ahead, with local band Route 67 on centre stage from 8.30pm, then it’s action stations at the Central from Thursday onwards.
On Wednesday at 7.30pm Tamworth’s resident Golden Guitar winner Lawrie Minson picks up a storm at the Pickin’ Pen at the Hog’s Breath Café with his regular songwriters’ night.
It’s always a great night at the Pickin’ Pen, but this close to festival, there could be some added surprise guests to the usual roster.
A HUGE event on the Countdown weekend takes place at Kooty Bowlo on Sunday, January 12.
It’s the Tamworth Balladeers and Friends Fun Day from 10am to 4pm and there is a cast of thousands on stage and off.
The recipient of this charitable gig is the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
Entry is via gold-coin donation and there will be raffles and auctions throughout the day.
There is a courtesy bus doing the rounds of Tamworth. Give Marie a call on 6765 5571 or Maureen on 0408 211 843 to find out where pick-up points are.
ONE big change I’ve noticed on the festival program this year is Terry Gordon’s shows have gone west – to West Tamworth Sports and Bowling Club – instead of their regular East Tamworth haunt.
Terry and his cohorts – the Gunbarrel Highwaymen – present their first concert there at 3pm on Thursday, January 15.
Along with Reg Poole and Owen Blundell, you can enjoy special guest Trevor Day at this event.
Sam Smyth’s Bush Poets and Balladeers shows have also crossed the river and can be found at the West Bowlo from day one of the festival, with entry to the function centre via Gipps St.
THINGS get pretty hectic after the Countdown week and you really do need to be prepared or you could miss something special.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get hold of your “festival bible” – the Tamworth Country Music Festival Official Guide, which should be at your favourite newsagent right now.
There are 288 pages in this year’s guide, and it features the exclusive A-Z artist listing so you can find your favourite act alphabetically, rather than trawling through the program.
Compiling the guide is a huge undertaking and for the past couple of years the publishers have made a few changes, putting the onus on artists and venues to upload their own gigs, rather than someone physically chasing venues and acts for their program details.
If something is missed out, there is a reason for it, so it might not be the fault of the publisher.
It could just mean some artists or venue operators forgot to upload their shows to the www.tamworthcountrymusic.com.au website – but all is not lost.
Aaron Harley at Rural Press Events has designed an app so you can virtually have the program in the palm of your hand by downloading it to your iPhone or Android device. Unlike the Official Guide, which is printed early in December, this can be updated daily with all the latest changes.
WHILE there has been a lot of flak flying lately about the Golden Guitar Awards, I really feel the festival itself is much bigger than that.
The normal, everyday fan that comes to town for the festival could care less about the ruckus from on high.
There will still be buskers down the street – provided the council’s stricter traffic plan doesn’t drive them away – and your favourite venue will continue to provide icy cold refreshments and decent meals to enjoy while you’re tapping your toes to free, live entertainment.
Forget the politics – get out there and get amongst it.
It only happens once a year on this scale and we could all do with letting off a little steam to make our way into 2014.