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The Great Alpine Pick 2021

We review the 2021 GAP event

Photo: LTTL

The Great Alpine Pick

Harrietville, Victoria

26 to 28 February 2021

By Rob Dickens

Pete Denahy – Photo: LTTL

How good to be back at a music festival!

It is almost twelve months to the day since we covered the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2020. Andrew Barcham and the Mountain Pickers Association team did an outstanding job to get the 2021 Great Alpine Pick rolled out when all looked to be COVID-imperiled until Victoria just emerged from its third Lock Down in time.

Pull it off they did while complying with the pandemic rules of the day, which altered even during the festival.

This was the tenth edition of The Pick, situated in the beautiful village of Harrietville, three to four hours north of Melbourne.

The program was carefully crafted:

  • two community hall ticketed concerts featuring three bands each on Friday and Saturday nights (the Community Hall and the Mountain View Hall)
  • a free session with those bands at the local cricket club on Saturday afternoon and
  • a free gospel session Sunday morning right on the Ovens River West Branch (see photo at the head of this article)

Compliance to COVID-rules was paramount – social distancing, QR-code-only admission, limited venue numbers, masks and hand sanitisers at the ready.

Photo: LTTL

Friday Night

The Spokeshave Mountaineers kicked off proceedings with a lively and warm set – some covers (from Tim O’Brien and Hank Williams) and originals “The Ballad of Rex McLean” was memorable. The band is three-quarters of Nine Mile CreekAndrew Barcham (bass), Mark Pottenger (mandolin) and Doug Wallace (guitar). Nice harmonies and microphone sharing with O’Brien’s “Melancholy Moon” a standout.

The Spokeshave Mountaineers – Photo: LTTL

Pete Denahy is a wonderful, professional showman. Always a significant addition to any event and his set was typically tight and entertaining. He is able to move from wry humour, crisp stage banter and serious songwriting with grace. Story topics included clearing sales, gold rush dreams, singing shoes, celery, mail coach drivers and…even…toilet paper had its moment of glory.

Denahy swapped over the fiddle for an impressive take on “Orange Blossom Special” and Aron McLean provided a tremendous foil – musically and comically.

Pete Denahy – Photo: LTTL

From the nearby town of Beechworth, the Kissin’ Cousins have nine years of experience to fall on and their full sound was a treat. Of particular note was the twelve months COVID-enforced gap since their last show. The dual fiddle attack worked very well, great harmonies and rousing tunes like “Union Man” and Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Rock Salt and Nails”. A winning close for the night.

The Kissin’ Cousins – Photo: LTTL

Saturday Night

It took a while for songwriter Peter Chapman to set up his six guitars or so, but it was definitely worth the effort. Louise Dempsey has a delightful voice, Bruce Packard kept the timing tight and Josh Bennett (Davidson Brothers, The Bombay Royale) provided some wonderful multi-instrumental playing that took the end result to another level. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and Crosby Still Nash’s “Find The Cost of Freedom” were magnificently handled. Some tasteful originals thrown in left this writer in a mood to get hold of some more of this impressive Canyon outfit.

Canyon – Photo: LTTL

The three-piece Lonesome Still were another addition to the bill, enjoying getting back on the stage after a significant hiatus. Shaking off the rust and getting used to a new guitar posed some obstacles but I really liked their take on Norman Blake’s “Last Train From Poor Valley”.

Lonesome Still – Photo: LTTL

The loose, but indomitable and formidable collective The Strzelecki Stringbusters were augmented by even two more players – Josh Grundy (Kissin’ Cousins) and Colin Weight (The Colvin Brothers).

Everyone had a turn at the mic, each entertaining the audience in their own way. “Blue Side Of The Mountain” by The SteelDrivers was a personal favourite but if you do not enjoy the enthusiasm, humour and breadth of a Strzelecki show, you may need to check your pulse.

The Strezlecki Stringdusters – Photo: LTTL

Sunday Morning

Add to a glorious morning by a sleepy stream, green banks, a small but attentive crowd and an open mic/chalkboard menu, the local camping ground painted the prettiest picture as I started to make my way home.

Photo: LTTL

Again hats off to The Mountain Pickers Association for managing to celebrate its tenth anniversary in style against the odds.

The Mountain Pickers Association, formed back in 2011, is dedicated to the promotion of bluegrass, old time and associated music in Victoria. ​

The association has a monthly club night at the Ferntree Gully Bowling Club. This is held on the last Tuesday of the month from January to November. The club night consists of a chalkboard concert featuring local working bands followed by a feature act, both local and overseas guests appear.

Membership of the Association is only $25 and enables discounted entry to club concerts and The Great Alpine Pick. ​

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We review the 2021 GAP event

We review the 2021 GAP event

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Author: Rob Dickens

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