Hats Off to Hats Off, 2016



I have to be honest. I am getting to like the idea of the mid year country music festival in Tamworth better than the January one. In some ways, it is like comparing apples and oranges. They are both lovely pieces of fruit but they taste different. I had a couple of personal mishaps at Hats Off, which prevented me from going to everything that I hoped, and there was the usual thing (which happens in January too) that everything was on in one night and you had to make tough decisions.

July in Tamworth is cold, though it was fairly mild this year. When I said that,  locals said to me that I must be a local, as those from Queensland and other parts of Australia thought that it was freezing. Of course, that is sort of true, I am a Tamworth girl originally. A lot of the action was out at the Dag, and being a non-driver and carrying an injury, it was a bit difficult to get there. Having said that, there were some of the artists who did a balancing act, by appearing in town as well as at the Dag. Sadly, I missed the wonderful Sandra Humphries and Anthony Taylor but I did get to see a lot of local artists who I don’t get to see very often. I also stumbled upon some talent that I hadn’t come across before. I have been pretty lucky to see a lot of Mr Wonderful, Luke O’Shea and Mr Hubba Hubba Harvey as well as the fantastic Ashleigh Dallas, so I swayed more towards the “lesser knowns”.  I also got to see and hear Matt Scullion, who is one of my favourite Aussie songwriters and he just happened to have Lawrie Minson in the wings and the two sang their big hit together. That was a special moment. I was able to see probably my favourite Aussie Country act at the moment, The Weeping Willows and the likes of Wendy Wood (a brave soul, considering that she was not a very well girl), my dear friend and very talented songwriter, Melissa Robertson, wonderful young talents, Becci Nethery and Emma-Jene, The Long and Short of It (another current fave), Ian Burns (who was probably one of my favourite acts of the weekend) and many more. Marie Hodson and Wendy Phypers as Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee were fantastic, playing to an overstuffed North Bowlo! It is not a Hats Off without Don Costa, whether he is at The Lowes Theatre in Peel Street or Tamworth Shopping World Opry House, you have to catch the Don.

The highlight for me was a double concert at The Tudor, with Sally Anne Whitten and Alwyn Aurisch on first with their funky, bluesy, folky country and a little bit of everything, including my fave Sal song which happens to be co-written by the following act, the birthday gal, Allison Forbes. I had a great night, it really was a party. Allison’s party was a mix of alternative country acts, and some just blew my party socks off. Safe to say that night was what I really, really wanted…..in joke. Good to see the likes of Andrew Swift and Tori Forsyth.

I also got to see some waxed heroes, something that I never get time for every time that I go to Tamworth.

I went to three TSA gigs, something that I am very proud of, as I got to see a lot of songwriters who don’t often get promoted or mentioned. There are some really talented people out there. Shelly Jones Band was another one that impressed and The Kings.

Some negatives, but they are things that can easily be fixed. On Thursday and Friday, they need more day time gigs. I know that the Dag had some, but they need some in town too. If it wasn’t for Marie and Wendy and Don Costa, there would have been nothing on in the day time. They had to turn people away from Marie and Wendy’s gig because the place was so full, that should say something. There were people in town wanting to go to things but not much on. At night, it was the opposite, you had to miss out on something to go to something else. Saturday and Sunday were much better with options and stuff on in the day time, but if you are going to have a four day festival, have a four day festival.

Also, transport. Not everybody drives or has wheels to get about in. Perhaps they could have more buses on like they do for January. I walked, caught the few buses available and caught cabs. There were some courtesy buses from the clubs but only at certain times and only to certain places. I am sure that the locals would appreciate it too, and perhaps one out to Nundle as well.

Well done to the Academy, what I am hearing is all good.

The beauty of the July festival is that it is not as crowded. It is an intimate, cozy and welcoming festival. It could be even better with a little tweaking.


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