TAMWORTH’S TEN-DAY JAYCO Country Music Festival is preceded by a ten-day Festival Countdown for those so excited about the impending shebang that they need the extra time to settle in and plan. That’s Tourism Tamworth’s thinking, anyway. Very likely it has the full encouragement of the festival’s sponsor, a maker of caravans. Twenty days in that January heat and you’d be looking to ditch the tent for a van, too.
The Festival itself counts down to Australia Day, and the vans, and fans, arrive festooned with flags. Country music is by definition more nationalistic than other genres, and visitors like it to be known they’re true blue – to the extent that, to those of us a lesser shade, Tamworth can seem not so much a festival of music as a festival of the flag. Lee Kernaghan, the country’s biggest name in country, and Kevin Rudd’s 2008 Australian of the Year, is known to use the Australian flag as a backdrop, and even to drop to one knee before it, hand on heart, as part of his act. But it’s not all bad: an elder of the folk music scene, whose invitations to more hip festivals have been drying up of late, wistfully describes Tamworth as the country’s most democratic music festival. He means anyone can go to Tamworth, busk on the street or hire a hall, and keep the change.
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