Only 57 days to go until start of Tamworth's country music festival

WHILE most people are counting down to Christmas at this time of year, I’m into festival sleep-counting mode – there are only 57 to go (and 50 until the Countdown).

From all reports it’s shaping up to be a beauty, although I’m not sure just how the new busking arrangements will go down.

I can see some merit in the overall plan, but I still have quite a few reservations that it may turn a fair few people off taking to the streets. 

Now I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, as my festival is mainly spent inside venues, not on Peel St, although I do take the occasional stroll to see what I can see and indulge in some retail therapy at the markets.

I’VE been in festival mode for some weeks now, writing stories for the 2013 Festival Official Guide, which comes out early in January.

You can pre-order your copy of the guide and have it mailed to you for $15, postage and handling paid to anywhere in Australia.

You can order online at or phone your order in on freecall 1800 649 866.

The guide is an excellent publication, jam-packed with ads and information that’s handy for seasoned veterans and first-timers alike.

It will be interesting to see how the program shapes up this time around, as Rural Press Events, publishers of the guide, have put the onus on venue operators, promoters and artists to upload their gigs online to the website, www.tam 

Technology can prove a challenge for the best of us, including some of us dinosaurs, so let’s see how it goes.

THERE are some terrific shows in store for us – including some fabulous freebies.

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson yesterday announced their only Tamworth concert and it’s live and free in Peel St at 8pm on Wednesday, January 23.

That should brighten up the CBD no end at the festival’s halfway point. Wednesday is usually the day depression/desperation sets in, as there are only five days left to soak up the last drops of Tamworth’s biggest party of the year.

With all the expense it takes to get here, it’s great to see so many free shows on offer – and the majority of them are quality in the quantity, if you get my drift.

ANOTHER fabulous festival freebie is the “up close and personal” meet-and-greet showcases at Tamworth’s largest tourist attraction.

From 10.30am Monday, January 21, through to Friday, January 25, at the Big Golden Guitar, meet some great independent and signed acts, such as O’Shea, the Sunny Cowgirls, Tamara Stewart, Katrina Burgoyne, Lyn Bowtell, Jeff Brown, 2012 Toyota Star Maker Bob Corbett, newcomers Kaylens Rain, and the one and only “Mr Mildura” – Luke O’Shea, who brought home all the trophies (apart from female vocal) at the Australian Independent Country Music Awards.

No, just kidding – he did leave a few for some others, but he did manage a handy haul of four awards.

Check your program for the times your favourite stars will be at the Big GG.

ANOTHER thing I noticed when perusing the shows to come was the surrounding towns are now jumping in and hosting their own festival program in January.

Quirindi RSL Club has gigs booked from Saturday, January 19, through to Saturday, January 26, from 6pm to 8pm.

The Chris Webbe Duo, Johanna Hemara, Jonny Taylor, Ryan Sampson, The Long and Short Of It, Errol Gray, Melody Feder and Mitchell Steele are on the program.

Manilla RSL Club is having its own mini-festival, with the Manilla and District Country Music Association hosting a talent quest with heats on Friday and Saturday, January 18 and 19, and the final on the Saturday night.   

On Wednesday and Friday from 6pm to 8.30pm catch Brent Larkham and Johanna Hemara respectively, and Ryan Sampson will sing songs from all the country greats on Sunday, from 2.30pm ‘til 4.30pm.

Werris Creek Bowling Club and Werris Creek Golf Club have a couple of country shows locked in, and Kooty Bowlo has country on the menu every day.

Local favourite Brian Letton is one of Kooty’s star offerings.

Further afield, there’s something pretty exciting happening in the Hills of Gold, out Nundle way.

John Krsulja, owner of The DAG Sheep Station, has some fabulous concerts happening for festival visitors and locals who love a day in the country. The Peel Inn has a pretty switched-on program, with an alt-country flavour that is sure to appeal to visitors and locals alike.

I’ll tell you more about the Nundle experience in a future column, when I have some more detailed information.

FOR many years there was very little happening out at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre during the festival, apart from the Golden Guitar Awards.

That has changed dramatically in the past decade  with the evolution of Tamworth Country Theatre, the brainchild of Rural Press Events general manager Barry Harley.

Tamworth Regional Council has now taken control of TRECC’s festival offerings and this year’s program has some excellent ticketed events.

First up is the Toyota Star Maker top 12 final on Sunday, January 20, at 7.30pm.

This year Star Maker is being split into two huge events – the first at TRECC and the grand final on Friday, January 25, free in Bicentennial Park. Wow. That is going to be one heck of a show.

Widely regarded as Australia’s most prestigious country talent searches, Star Maker has launched the careers of Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Gina Jeffreys, Beccy Cole, Travis Collins, Samantha McClymont, Luke Austen, Luke Dickens and dual Golden Guitar finalist Bob Corbett.

If you want to see all 12 finalists fight it out, get your tickets early for this not-to-be-missed event.

TRECC is obviously a pretty cool venue for a launching pad, as it’s also the venue for Telstra Road to Discovery, now in its 10th year.

This will be staged on Tuesday, January 22, and will not only feature 10 of Australia’s most exciting emerging blues and roots, folk, country and alt-country artists, you get to see a dynamic debut from a sensational new outfit. The Hillbilly Killers is a recently formed supergroup composed of Bill Chambers, Tim Rogers, Catherine Britt, Shane O’Mara and Michael Muchow and their debut performance is expected to blow the roof off TRECC – hope the insurance policy is up to date!

That’s about all I have space for this week. Catch you soon with more exciting stuff to come at the biggest party of the year – the 41st Tamworth Country Music Festival.

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson will present their only concert of the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival live and free in Peel St.

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson will present their only concert of the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival live and free in Peel St.


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