Just back from the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, as usual with a long list of music to investigate, not least the wonderful local Luke Howard and the Joe O'Connor Trios. The former, with their European sensibilities, were great despite rather than because they played in the horrible church venue, an acoustic hell chamber (despite what the generally reliable Jessica Nicholas states in her otherwise accurate review in today's Age) and the latter, lead by a previous winner of Wang's National Jazz award, included an extraordinary guest performance from the great Scott Tinkler (Oz's best musician??) in a raucous out there avant garde masterwork.
The international acts weren't as well known as usual, vindictive federal funding cuts made sure of that, but the Musical Director, Adrian Jackson, pulled his jazz loaves and fishes act and the "Shy boy" suite from Ronan Guilfoyle with the assistance of 3 great Oz musos was stunning. And there were dozens of other great performances, as per normal, and I even briefly ventured down to the blues, relocated to the flawed Garden Stage after the threatened floods lead to the pulling of the usual tented blues venue, to see the US import JJ Thames use her huge voice and boundless energy in Tina Turner style rocking blues with the local blues legend Fiona Boyes and her Band.
The bad news was that the crowds were definitely down, due to weather and funding cuts according to the previously quoted Age article, but it should be noted that the attempts to "encourage" the locals to pay $30 per day for music that was previously free has been a resounding failure. The "old" Reid Street setup, with its music stages and stalls and thousands of locals, was a great FREE gift to the people of Wangaratta and to remove it for a fairly soulless paying venue isn't working.
If you're considering a future visit let me say that it merits support and does much to nurture young creative musicians and adventurous creative music. The musical variety is amazing and the WPAC Theatre is the BEST music venue for aural quality and physical comfort I've ever experienced, and that includes most of Melbourne's major venues.
If it withers and dies this State and this country loses, FULL STOP