Stringband brings vintage back

A BAND with a difference will grace northern stages this weekend, playing music many of us haven’t heard in years – and the younger generation, possibly never!

The Jugalug Stringband plays mainly black American music and bluesy white country on authentic vintage instruments.

They’ve been around for several years and have only recently made forays into the North West, performing to a sellout crowd at Bingara’s Roxy Theatre just prior to Christmas.

They’re playing at Quirindi’s Royal Theatre tomorrow from 8pm and at Jazz by the Lake at Keepit Dam on Saturday from 5.30pm.

Tickets for tomorrow night’s concert are $20 and can be purchased at the door, and for Saturday’s Jazz by the Lake they’re available in Gunnedah at Mag’s Boutique, Marval Designs and Gordon Barry & Co. In Quirindi, call in to Shoppe Two Ten and see Lorraine; in Manilla they’re available at the Manilla Express office; and in Tamworth, your ticketing outlets are Brodbeck’s Electrical, Sandy McKinnon Jewellers and Inspirations Gift & Patchwork Gallery. The best part is they’re only $22. What a bargain!

Bring a rug, chairs and your picnic basket filled with food and refreshments and you’re laughing.

The five-piece outfit is composed of Phil Donnison, who sings and plays a Tricone National lap steel guitar and Resonator ukulele; Stuie Binsted, who plays a National guitar and 1920s-style banjo; Marcus Holden wielding a Stroviol Resonator violin, mandolin and tenor National guitar; Stan Valacos on double bass; and Adam Barnard, son of legendary jazz man Bob Barnard, on washboard and suitcase.

Now you don’t hear those instruments every day, do you?

Marcus, known to many as one of the founders of Fiddlers Feast, has been working with the stringband for the past seven years and appears on their past three albums.

“We concentrate on music played before World War II – and don’t do anything past that,” Marcus said yesterday.

“It’s very unamplified – you could call it ‘heavy tin’ – as opposed to heavy metal – played on vintage instruments.

“It’s a very unusual band. In fact, there’s nothing like it. It’s as unusual as Mic Conway’s National Junk Band and its predecessor, the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, and reminiscent of the old jug bands of the ’30s.”

A couple of songs you might hear from this bluesy, quirky outfit are Mama, Don’t Give Your Lard Away and Sadie Green – Vamp of New Orleans.

Never heard them? What a great excuse to get along to the gigs and witness something you’ve never seen or heard before.

Marcus reckons you’d be hard pressed finding a band that sounds like it anywhere in Australia.

“It’s very much a fun thing. When we get together, a certain amount of drinking goes on and we always have a ball in the studio,” he said.

“Our latest album is called Warbash Blues and it’s available from the website.”

There’s a lot of musical history in the band. The great thing they all enjoy is being able to play songs few would dare to do.

“We get to explore all these wonderful old songs no one else does and with all the authentic instruments, close your eyes and it sounds just like an old-time original recording,” Marcus said.

“The reaction from people is what makes this band so much fun. When they hear something from the ’20s, ’30s or ’40s, it takes them back to that time. It’s a real pleasure creating that sort of atmosphere at a venue.”

They’ve performed all over the country – at the Mudgee Brewery on New Year’s Eve, the Bellingen Jazz Festival (a few times), the Newcastle Jazz Festival and the Southern Highlands Jazz Festival – and they’re a firm favourite at Sydney Jazz Club picnics at the Flying Squadron Yacht Club in Kirribilli.

“We play all the old-school stuff and older people love it, but more and more young people are discovering us these days on YouTube,” Marcus said.

“We’re reviving a traditional pre-World War II jazz sound; we’re not taking the piss out of it, but at the same time we have a healthy disrespect for it.

“None of us are trying to be absolutely note-perfect; we’re there to give the audience a good time.

“They’re all great musos and that makes it a heap of fun to be a part of.”

Marcus was most recently seen in Tamworth at the festival performing with Fiddlers Feast and also with Mic Conway’s National Junk Bank – and he couldn’t stay away from fiddle night at Andrew Clermont’s Supper Club.

“Mic was a Tamworth virgin this year, but his shows went well,” Marcus said.

“He’s as nutty as usual and they’re about to start work on a new album.”

Fiddlers Feast has just released its new album, Caravan, which will be featured in a future column, and there are plans afoot to take that outfit to Europe from late June to early August for a six-week tour.

Marcus and fellow fiddler Mark Oats will meet up with Andrew Clermont in Berlin for a series of dates, including the Skagen Festival in Denmark.

During that period Marcus will present some workshops in Tuscany – gee, life’s tough for some – in between Fiddlers Feast performances.

When he’s not globetrotting Marcus likes to keep busy, teaching at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney and performing with several musical combinations.

“I’ve been working with Luke Webb and a heap of young bluegrass guys as well, including Bellyache Ben (Ben Daley) and the Steamgrass Boys,” Marcus said.

“We’re flying into Papua New Guinea as Fiddlers Feast to do a gig for St Patrick’s Day and will be joined by Caroline Trango, a singer-violin player from the Sunshine Coast, who’s stepped into the vacancy in the band created by the departure of Clare O’Meara.

“Life’s never boring. There’s always something to do.

“They reckon the life of a musician is fairly exciting, but we spend most of our time on the road or in the air.

“After Saturday’s gig at Lake Keepit, we’ve all got to get up early the next day and drive back to Sydney, as most of us have gigs that afternoon.

“That’s how we roll, I suppose.”

In the meantime, check out their website at and have a taste of the music they play.

Two excellent gigs in this neck of the woods. We’re very spoilt, aren’t we?

*   *   *    * 

HERE’S a handy note for your forward-planning gig diary: on Saturday night, March 16, Wanita and Her Honky Tonk Bar Dwellers will perform at Des and Joyce Gilfillan’s Oasis Hotel on Armidale Rd, Tamworth.

They’re hoping to get a good mob there, as the gig will be filmed to put some “live concert” clips up on YouTube.

Get along and be part of the fun with Australia’s Queen of Honky Tonk and her fabulous band.

NOSTALGIA AND FUN: The Jugalug Stringband, back from left, Stuie Binsted, Stan Valacos and Adam Barnard, and at front, Marcus Holden and Phil Donnison, will bring the fun and nostalgia of pre-World War II music to the north this weekend with concerts at Quirindi’s Royal Theatre tomorrow night and Jazz by the Lake at Keepit Dam on Saturday.

NOSTALGIA AND FUN: The Jugalug Stringband, back from left, Stuie Binsted, Stan Valacos and Adam Barnard, and at front, Marcus Holden and Phil Donnison, will bring the fun and nostalgia of pre-World War II music to the north this weekend with concerts at Quirindi’s Royal Theatre tomorrow night and Jazz by the Lake at Keepit Dam on Saturday.


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