Bruthen the Greatest Smallest Music Town in Australia

Music in the Park

Music in the Park

Twizel, New Zealand March 2015

In a country with a population of only 23 million people in an area of 7,692,024 km², the concept of town is quite different from than in my country Mexico.

A town in Australia might just be a street or a gas station, a coffee shop and several houses that could be counted with the fingers of your hands. However, size has nothing to do with greatness. A great example of this is Bruthen, a town that lies in the middle of the Great Southern Rail Trail. A town which it’s center is a Pub as well as motel by the name The Bruthen Inn on top of a hill over looking a creek.

Just behind the hill there is a camping place looked after by a very jolly and friendly character whose name suits his personality Wally. The camping offers, toilets, showers, a common area to read, a sort of a kitchen perfectly suited to heat up your breakfast burrito and a couple of books to chillax.

Wally in Action

Wally in Action

You have come in the right time”, Wally opened his welcome greeting while we were parking our heavy bikes on the side of a picnic benches that surrounded the camping ground. “ Tomorrow is a great day, we celebrate the annual biggest little blues festival by the name The Bruthen Blues and Arts Festival” You are welcome to join, your camping fee includes the entry!

And well Wally wasn’t lying, the festival has been part of the East Gippsland culture for 20 years now and attracts the attention of all the surrounding towns in the Gippsland area in OZ. In his voice you could already feel the enthusiasm and the festivity in the what was about to come the next day. So injected by his energy we decided to stay the extra day to see what was the festival all about.

Music in the Park

Music in the Park

The following morning the stage was being set up, a big pavilion was protecting the musicians on the stage, the wiring was set up and the background was a big mantle with red letters with the title of the festival. The boom boxes we turned on about 10 am, you could hear The Doors, Muddy Waters, BB King, Feetwood Mac among other, the feeling was of blues, summer and the arts.

It was 11 am and a woman arrived with her daughter to mount her food stand: Vietnam Style Spring Rolls! The sun was starting to hit hard and the beers started flowing. By 12 mid day people where arriving with camping chairs, picnic blankets, wine, cheese crackers, kids and laughter. It was on, the party had already begun.

Mmm Spring Rolls!

Mmm Spring Rolls Vietnam Style!

Bruthen has a big tradition of Blues, there is tons of talent in this small town that we export to the big Oz cities. Also there are quite a few important groups that come here and play.” Wally was telling us.

The the lights were turned on, the speakers where booming for the opening artist. For my surprise one on the first ones to play was a girl, she was no more than 16 years old and she could sing a play guitar like a pro. She played a cover I could not recognize, but I did not care, it was as if she had made the song hers. She also played songs written by herself, so that was also extraordinary. Everyone seemed to know who she was except us.

Bruthen Talent

Bruthen Talent

Rocking Since Young

Rocking Since Young

Then there was a man, playing a couple of good old fashion country songs. The sun did not seem to matter, the weather was fantastic, could not have wanted a better scenario. I tasted one of the ladies spring rolls and was instantaneously transported to South East Asia. There were also couple of activities going on at the same time, one that included the Hula Hoop. So I ridiculed myself by doing it very sloppy, the woman’s daughter was way better than me and well, she sure showed me.

By 5 pm the camping ground looked full, many of the green areas were covered by colorful picnic blankets, kids, grandpas, uncles, musicians, non musicians, well everybody was having a great time.

Playing the Hang

Playing the Hang

Annika taking video

Annika taking video

6pm and a young man took the stage. He played an instrument that I had never seen in my life. It was like a wok upside down hammered down un certain areas. The name of the instrument is called Hang and it was created by a couple in Bern, Switerland. The youngster by the name Keith explained about the instrument. His music was soothing, bluey and yet powerful, he even gave us a cd with a copy of his work.

When he knew I was Mexican he told me that his dream was to live in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. He told me, “ Roberto, one day I was playing Hang in the middle of the street in the city center and after just a couple of 15 minutes there were already 3 musicians jamming with me for hours, this place is incredible.”

The afternoon took it’s course and we were granted a couple of beers and even a couple of steaks from the grill to eat with the crew.

The Jolly Audience

The Jolly Audience

Wally and Me

Wally and Me

And finally the main act, Wally and his group. He never told us but apparently Wally is one of the main organizers of the festival and also the leading man of a Blues Band. The people applauded for the man and from then on the music went on till about 9 or 10 when the sun was slowly dying. Until it did and the festival would have to see another day until next year.

I remember saying to Annika, “ We will just pay the camp here for the shower and leave tomorrow morning, I do not think there is a lot to see in this town”.

Boy was I wrong, the lesson: there is always something great going on whenever people inhabit a place, even if it is as small as Bruthen. You just have to keep your mind open.

Bruthen Inn

Bruthen Inn

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