In March this year Breabach embarked on a trip to Australia for what would be our seventh time visiting the country. I still can’t quite fathom getting the opportunity to travel out there once in my life let alone multiple times! We’ve steadily been building up a network of gigs and contacts over the past few years into what has now become a decent stretch of gigs. This tour was also special for us as it would be the first time bringing our album Astar to these shores. The music on that album was heavily inspired by our travels out there so it was really exciting to be able to play it for Australian crowds.
There is definitely an audience for Scottish folk music in Australia, what with the amount of ex-pats that have grown up or relocated there, as well as the increasing interest in folk and roots music across the globe. There are even some relatives of the band that live out there which is a nice bonus. March and April are particularly good for touring due to the large amount of folk festivals that take place, we generally will play a festival at the weekends and then smaller shows on the week days as we travel between them, keeps us busy and helps make things a bit more viable financially.
So, after travelling the 22 hour journey from Glasgow to Melbourne (I wouldn’t wish that on anyone…) we picked up our van and headed south to the Port Fairy Folk Festival. It’s a massive event that takes over this small seaside town. As well as the main festival stages the whole place is alive with street markets, buskers and more. It was a great way to kick off the tour and jumping straight into work mode actually helped beat the jet lag.
It was then off to Tasmania (with a quick detour via the Fringe Festival in Adelaide) where we played three shows. One of the things we love about touring is the variety of venues we get to play, from the Spiegeltent in Hobart, to a community hall in Chudleigh to a little restaurant in Sheffield called Mountain Mumma (lovely dinner and maybe one or two wines…and a gig). It forces us to stay adaptable in a musical sense as well as dealing with ever varying technical set ups, keeps the days interesting! Tasmania was also great because we were able to visit the Mole Creek wildlife sanctuary and hang out with some kangaroos and Tasi devils. We have very few days off on this tour, so a quick afternoon off to do something different is always welcome.
Next stop was the Blue Mountains Festival. It’s located in a beautiful spot west of Sydney in a town called Katoomba which looks over the most stunning landscape. Really fun festival and double fun because we got to hang out with The Elephant Sessions who were on a similar tour schedule to us. Always nice to see some pals when so far from home! It was also a good chance reunite with people we hadn’t seen in a long time and make some new friends such as Ten String Symphony, Gordie Mackeeman, Flats and Sharps and Liam Gerner. We managed a dip at the Minnehaha falls & swimming hole too which was a very refreshing way to spend the afternoon!
The tour continued with visits to Bellingen, Sydney, Melbourne (where Megan and Ewan did some workshopping with the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club) and a little cafe in Deans Marsh (where the stage was invaded mid-set by a Huntsman spider. Scary). Sometimes we flew between shows but most of the time we drove, it’s a big country, many hours in the van, many podcasts consumed, many crosswords started.
Next stop for us was the National Folk Festival, on the way there we played a show in Murrah, an area that had been affected by recent bush fires resulting in the loss of many homes. What we met though was a very resilient community and a crowd of people up for letting their hair down for the evening. We shared a curry, some home bakes, a few laughs and had a really fun show. The National (The nash) is one of the biggest folk festivals in Australia and takes place in Canberra. Plenty of sessions and craic as well as some really good gigs and a chance to soak up some sun.
With only a week to go until heading home we managed to pack in a few more gigs in Newcastle, Uralla (an acoustic gig in a Buddhist Gompa), Brisbane, Eatonsville and (after an afternoon chilling on the beach in Byron Bay) we closed out the tour with a jumping gig in Mullumbimby. It was then off to the airport to start the long journey back to Glasgow.
Overall I think it was a successful tour, I feel like we’ve broken more ground which may lead to another trip in a year or two. It can be a bit of a gamble financially taking on a tour like this so far away and there’s the added personal and professional pressures of being away from home so long, but we make it work and are always thankful for the opportunity. We keep busy (on this trip we worked hard on the press side as well as the gigs) but we have fun too, good company, good food and tunes! and kangaroos.