Nymagee Outback Music Festival – A Day In The Dirt

That’s How We Roll…

The Western sun rises over a sleepy outback village, a few dusty peppercorn trees shade the remains of the houses still standing in the deserted street. In the back of a dusty corrugated iron cottage in an old stone floored cookhouse there is a body dressed all in black sprawled on the floor. Pinned to the chest of the unmoving form is a note with the words of the legendary Townes Van Zandt scrawled across in a rough hand.

“Living on the road my friend, was going to keep you free and clean,
now you wear your skin like iron and your breath’s as hard as kerosene….”

The body is that of festival organiser, Tonchi McIntosh, the day is Sunday the 2nd of November and the town is Nymagee. Soon Tonchi will rise to greet the day; he will smell bacon and eggs being cooked on the festival grounds where the Slowdowns are busy preparing sustenance for the weary travellers. The previous day they sold ‘slowdowns specials’:- (bacon and egg roll, berrocca, Panadol, coffee and a slowdowns cd) and they performed a set of their legendary country classics to a willing audience of Nymagee locals and travelling musicians.

Tonchi will nurse his head while he breakfasts and the memories will slowly slide back into his mind like a thick molasses. He will remember the set performed by Neil Murray who carved out a new audience (and reinforced his old one) with his immaculately crafted Australian music. Tonchi will gradually recall that Jackie Marshall held 300 people in the palm of her hand for nearly and hour, and that Den Hanrahan drove in and out in a day just to show some people who thought they could play what it was really all about.

As the coffee slowly infuses into his blood, Tonchi will see shapes emerging from the dirt, strangely familiar shapes. He will recognise Mick Daley and will remember the ragged glory of the Re-mains final set as the audience took a lottery on who would fall off the stage first. (The visage of Jones clinging to his instrument as though it were the last piece of buoyant flotsam in a raging sea will be forever burnt into some peoples retina’s) But with horn section in tow the Re-mains reminded us what Nymagee was all about. Tonchi will recall sharing the stage with Mick for a foot-stomping, knee slapping batch of CRnR with the Lonely Horse Band as well as Pete Bufo and the Dust Devils before bashing out a smashing set of his own luminous tunes.

Others gather around the festival grounds, loading cars, tying down loads, clearing heads and recovering. They all will share their favourite memories of the journey to the centre of New South Wales and the Nymagee Festival for 2008. The acoustic stage, light show and fireworks organised by Mango and the Blue Surf Red Dust crew was a highlight and thoroughly well handled. The list of acts that made the trek, the Yellerbellies, the Hoo Haas, Sharna Bourcher, Slim Knackers and Andrew Hull as well as the punters who made the epic journey and have all earned themselves some CRnR stripes and a swag full of stories to dine out on. Mostly they’ll share memories of the sheer jump around adrenalin charged sunburnt dirty sweaty fun of it all.

Someone will point out to Tonchi that he has a note stuck to him, and on reading it he will remember something else Townes Van Zandt said: “I figure there’s a heaven, then purgatory, then there’s hell, and below that there’s the blues….” – and this will surely remind him of the blues mastery of Owen Campbell who single-handedly stomped out a massive set of songs in the mid afternoon heat. And how Sarah Carroll’s beautiful songs floated over the Nymagee dust like a cool soothing breeze, creating a bubble of beauty in an otherwise unkempt arena. Darren Hanlon has an epic journeyman’s tale to take away as well as a stack of new fans and a real understanding of the phrase “Big name, no blankets”…..but that’s just one tale among many.

It was dirty, it was dusty and it was damn good fun. There were kids, there were grandparents, there was everything in-between. Special marks go to Leigh Ivin who somehow managed to sew three old PA’s together with a bit of number 8 wire and kept them working beautifully while 16 acts performed on the main stage, half of whom he performed with ! ! So many people assisted, but Matt Earl, Chris Ware and Lisa Crisp deserve a special mention for their willing support whenever called upon. Kel, Gerard, Jay, Dolly, Nicho, Darby, Skye and Asher and all those who helped….you know who you are.

So, as the sun rises higher and the sting of sunburn begins to creep, with bacon and egg burger in hand and memories streaming through his mind, Tonchi will take a seat in his dusty vehicle and join the slow caravan that winds its way out of Nymagee, and off to unknown futures, vowing never to return but knowing deep in his heart that he surely will.

And when he is asked: “what happened?” he will say:

“I don’t know…. but it happened”

and that, my friends, is how we roll…

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