Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Confessions of a Festival Anarchist

It's getting near that time again where I plan my annual road-trip to the Wellington Folk Festival in the backhills of Wainuiomata. As usual it'll either be sunny and hot or a miserable, cold and drizzly sea of mud. It's called WellyFest and the double entendre is not lost on those who've forgotten to bring their gumboots.

I make myself useful by twiddling knobs at the sound desk as part of a highly social tech team that meets up there every year. Mostly I go to connect with my North Island music friends and play some tunes. I wrote in a previous post that I have a chequered history in this regard. As someone armed with an acoustic guitar and 50-plus years of popular song in my noodle I can keep a singing session going from sundown to sun-up if stamina serves. With great ability comes great responsibility. For many years I thought it was my responsibility to turn every gathering of four or more musicians into a raucous, full-throated Beatles singalong. To be fair, there was a considerable number of session-anarchists who supported me in this endeavour. All but the toughest and most resilient of the original musicians would pack up their instruments and slink away into the shadows. Job done.

In the last decade or so I've applied myself to playing the fiddle with murderous intent. It's been my observation that there's no skill that can't be replaced with great confidence. Witness the number of charlatans posing successfully as physicians, teachers, CEO's, airline pilots - only to be found out way down the line they have none of the qualifications they purport to have. So it can be with fiddle playing, I thought. I'll write more about the arcane nature of learning the fiddle in another post, after the psychoanalysis is complete.

Once I found out that small secret gatherings of musicians were hiding away in bunkrooms and kitchens around a given festival site; deliberately cramped in small spaces that made it impossible to wield a guitar; in tight little circles hunched inward to exclude the possibility of a singer penetrating the ring; once I found these gatherings, I would poke my elbow in with my fiddle in my fist and, oblivious to the sudden blanching of the incumbents, would assume the position. The shoe now firmly on the other foot, I did my penance.

These days as I walk around the campsites with a fiddle case, I swear I am looked upon with pity, nostalgia - even contempt - by those that still crave a good Beatles song. "He used to be one of us," I can hear them thinking.
Mike Moroney
Dedicated to Anna Bowen.

No comments: