A personal diary about life in a country town, Bungendore NSW Australia

  31 January -1 February 2004
'The Change' perform at the Harp Inn and the kids take the dance floor Click for larger imageClick for larger image
Left: The local pubs provide entertainment all day until late
Saturday morning buskers, with Saturday morning drinkers.
2004 Bungendore Country Muster weekend 

This is a diary entry about what happens in town on the weekend of the Country Muster. It's not about the country music festival itself, because in my eight years here, I've never been to the concerts. And I explain why I probably won't below. So if you've found this page looking for information about the muster you may be disappointed.

But first some background. The Bungendore Country Muster is held on the first weekend in February, that's a week after the show that I covered in the last entry, and again the show grounds is the venue. Camping and caravans are allowed in the grounds and a large stage is setup for the two days. The town fills with people, caravans slow the traffic and local business put on extra staff to handle the crowd. It's a community event, with volunteers helping in lots of areas and the town has a real buzz. I like the sound of far-off music when I'm working in the garden and then coming through my open bedroom window on a summer's night.

Now, maybe I'm slow but it took me until a couple of years ago to work out why there were no names on the posters that I knew, or had ever heard of. The pictures all seemed to be of older, certainly not glamorous, singers and even yodelers. It didn't look like the kind of country music I listen to, and when I passed the buskers in the town on the Saturday morning I knew this wasn't my musical taste. (Although I suspected that maybe the buskers were the wanna be's or the has beens or never would be's but I wasn't sure. And why were the audiences, or at least the visitors in the town, so elderly?)

I hadn't fixed the Muster's country genre at all (and it probably would have taken just one concert attendance eight years ago and I'd have known). If you do a web search for information on the Muster, you'll find that its home is the Australian Bush Balladeers Association. It's a pure and true event for bush balladeers. This isn't country music as in the Tamworth Country Music festival, (there's a rival group behind that, the Country Music Association of Australia although it does have sections for bush ballads and heritage music).

So I figured I'd nailed it, the Tamworth Festival is modern country, and the Bungendore Muster is traditional country. Now maybe I'd could enjoy it. Or at least examine it and appreciate its difference and preservation of that style of folk ballads. We went to the Bush Poets breakfast last year and I enjoyed the traditional facets of that (and wished I'd had a movie camera to record it for you). Maybe I'd enjoy the Muster music as well?

Of course the pub bands that I do get to see performing in town, are just playing 'pub country' covers and old rock songs to the general entertainment of the audiences. That's much more contemporary country music and it's what is played as entertainment here all year round. But, just down the showground road it's apparently a different world. 

If I seem hung up on the things I saw around me in town on the Bungendore Country Muster weekend, it's because there's a brittle edge in it. There's so much of the 'real ordinary world' trying for 'showbiz stardom' to keep the tension up. If I could just lighten up a bit, I'd think it was all a bit of a hoot. I'll be taking pictures next year I guess to get to the heart of it.

Click for a larger image of some of these moments. Hold your mouse over the pictures below for my comments.

Miiming to the CD playing from the van might get you through the morning, but didn't make me want to buy a CD.   Then there's the full production, mixing desk and all. Alan Neale outside the Gunna-Do Bakery
Jess Wilding might have just been heard over the street noise, but you have to start somewhere.   Outside the newsagency.
When you forget the words, and didn't wear your glasses.   The truck tray is the stage at the Royal Hotel
The Baillie sisters were buskers last year, this time performers on the truck stage of the top pub.   "This is a song dedicated to the cute boys over there, it's a Hank Williams tune."
Out of the sun, and watching the performers.   The T-shirt says "I'm cute? No Shit." The hot dog didn't say anything
The sign beside this lady reminds us when 'the prawn man' visits town.   Eating peaches in a prime Gibralter Street location
Living rough   "The swaggie" reciting poems outside the Motel wanted $5 to let me take his photo. Sorry mate, not interested.
Frank Turton parks his truck in front of the Harp Inn each year, here he's entertaining the kids with a Silky hen balanced on his hat.   Michael and Maria Cameron outside the Heritage cafe. Playing real good for free.










On the night before last year's Muster I took this picture of a child dressed up 'country' eating in the Chinese restaurant in the bottom pub. It seemed to sum up what I felt about everyone 'playing at country music'. The sexy off the shoulder glitter dress, the cowboy hat... it made me feel a bit sad but I'm sure she was having fun with no idea of how artificial it all was (but her parents would have surely?)

The photo below I took when one of the local girls (9-10 years old?) took the mic to sing Kasey Chambers "Aren't I pretty enough" in a real little girl voice rather than a stylised one. There was no pre-teen sexuality just the artificiality of a child singing that aching song and an awkward feeling that made me shiver. I'm sure it's all more complex then that and the Baillie sisters photos at left show that I'm obviously comfortable looking at pretty girls when they're older. Maybe it's that I'm a father/step father of three girls and still feel protective...

So do I like country music? Sure some of it, and lots of other types as well.

  Fred Harden 2003 <thinktag> After a few days, these entries are added to the Archive Menu

Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden