| WOODFORD: Woodstock with yuppies.
Letter sent December 31, 2011 from Woodford, Queensland, Australia.
Old buddy I am penning this from Woodford Folk Festival, a much celebrated shindig now run by profit-culture gurus who took over what was, once upon a time, a spontaneous happening reflecting the injustices of our times in song and speech. I figured the bash would be some kind of modern Woodstock but turned out to be so sanitized even the toilets were perfumed. The main message was not to raise the spirit but to raise the belly.
Bro, imagine 26 auditorium sites - tent halls with white chairs to park your bum instead of wetting it on grass; then you had sleepover tents costing 110 bucks per couple, another 110 bucks for linen and a blanket and all that after you’d already forked out 113 greenbacks for a day pass at the gates.
| It’s a festival tucked into wayward eucalyptus woods for cashed up cats, the yuppie breed.
The dudes and babes strutted in tight label jeans, boutique blouses, some arrived in Daddy’s Porsche (or may be their own); their lacquered hairdos rinse out before the bods show up at their 100,000 bucks-a-year jobs. The tattoos are fine art not just alley chiselers; and you could submit to a fifteen minute massage for a mere forty-five bucks from a guy wearing a nightshirt and a belt. Over one hundred stalls selling clothes, gifts, souvenirs and jewellery - what were they doing at a folk festival?
Truth be said I expected a bit of action in these times of economic recession, imminent depression, rising unemployment, some kind of protest but the joint was so peaceful and quiet, man, I could not detect a whiff of hooch, day or night, not even a stub, a toss-away, only hillside corals labelled ‘smokers’ for ostracized cats puffing real tobacco from packets with Big Brother warnings: ‘Smoking can kill you.’
Bro, these folks Down Under live on an oasis, the jobless are only five percent, social security is still in tact and the pension age is still the same. It’s Shangri-La. But something is missing.
Had it not been for Buffy Saint Marie I might have walked away disgusted with the organizers’ boast sixty per cent of their prepaid audience earned over a hundred thousand dollars last year, forty per cent held managerial jobs --- and then these gurus of spin added as an afterthought “but we also welcome hippies…..”
Man, the only hippies I spied were Nostalgics, grey geriatrics, potbellied, wrinkled, holding on to the seam of an old dream, may be waiting for the sunrise of a new happening. Nothing doing. Their only consolation: Buffy Saint Marie, the pint-sized Cree Indian lady, now seventy summers old, darling of the flower era, still belting out the songs she wrote in the sixties and seventies, eternal songs like ‘Universal Soldier’ ‘Tell it to the Mountain’ and ‘Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee.’ Buffy was A-one. The new generation clapped politely, respect due to an icon. The oldies choked, man. On the fringe of the concert tent, alone, an ex flower child, stout and gray now, gyrated gently and alone to the songs – and Buffy gave her a wave and sang on.
Oh that lovely Indian lady had poignant words about the rape of the environment, right here in Oz she said, a place where rapacious mining keeps the country in surplus so she reminded her audience. She sang haunting ballads of past persecutions of indigenes peoples in her native Canada, the USA and don’t forget Australia. Her songs were banned during the Reagan and Nixon years. She was off the air for nine years. But the protest against injustice and the growing wealth gap must not rest, she says. Dear old Buffy, you want to hug her, a relic from another era.
Not far away in another tent sat a panel of guys with titles and letters after their names splitting hairs about plutocrats in government for those who still didn’t know – and there are lots of those. And there were workshops for umbaba brass players, Balkan dancers, gypsy music, classical guitarists, ear-deafening bands, balladeers you couldn’t hear over the heavy metal beat, Irish fiddlers, Scottish pipers, a mini circus with a tall lady and a muscle man, greenie seminars and more eateries than shows. Food, food everywhere in forty-six cafes, restaurants and bars, anything from Tibetan momos to Jerusalem felafals, from German Bratwurst to freshly made Italian pasta, from Indian curry to Laotian beef stew and Jewish hamburgers served by bearded fundies of the Jewish faith. I am telling you, man, this Down Under species grows large and meaty, both genders (obesity being a national malaise) and just loves to feed the maw.
More people sat in eateries than in concerts.
After all Bro, when your stomach is full who wants to protest?
Your old buddy of Woodstock days.