Folk stars feel at home in the Illawarra

Dom Flemons is performing at the Illawarra Folk Festival. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR
Dom Flemons is performing at the Illawarra Folk Festival. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

International and local musicians sang the praises of the Illawarra Folk Festival on its first day yesterday.

Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, from Prince Edward Island, Canada, said they were "honoured" to make it out to Australia for this festival.

"It feels like home. You guys are just like Canadians. Everyone smiles a lot," guitarist Mark Geddes said.

Gordie MacKeeman provides the traditional Prince Edward Island style of foot percussion, a near cousin to tap dancing.

MacKeeman started dancing at the age of six after his older brother took up dance lessons.

"My older brother went to pick up girls and didn't stick with it but I just kept going."

The group said their island home provided a supportive scene. "The island has its own really developed music scene. We're remote but it's good because we do it our own way," he said.

The Canadian natives were looking forward to exploring Bulli Beach yesterday.

Folk festivals are fertile breeding grounds for new bands, with both The Latchikos and The Miss Chiefs forming after playing the festival circuit.

The Miss Chiefs trio met at the National Folk Festival during a spontaneous jam on stage. This year's Illawarra Folk Festival is their fifth gig together.

Guitarist Laura Zarb said the trio had no plans to release recorded music and only played at festivals.

"We only really come together for festivals because we live all over the place."

Violinist Amelia Gibson added: "It can be quite intense because we don't really rehearse, it all just comes together on stage."

Songs about sobriety usually have no place in traditional Irish folk tunes but the majority of The Latchikos' songs document their fiddler's "road to recovery" from alcohol and drugs. The band are the pioneers of "gyp-hop", which involves rapping traditional and original songs over Irish folk accompaniment.



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