For over a decade now, the Whittlesea Township has held the annual Country Music Festival; an event that showcases Australia’s biggest and best country performers. The festival has grown steadily over the past ten years however popularity has doubled in recent years now making the festival an impressive three day event over a weekend in mid February. There were three stages of music in the main street home to 40 acts, including Shannon Noll, Beccy Cole, Steve Forde, The Sunny Cowgirls and Boom Crash Opera to name a few. The festival is also comprised of a Gala awards night, over 100 shopping stalls, a Truck and Ute show, an all-out street party and several children’s rides.
The event was off to a flying start on Friday night with great performances by Courtney Conway, Steve Passfield, Beccy Cole and acoustic trio Bella.
Bella – Kate Ballantyne, Karen O’shea and Lyn Bowtell
This years ‘Instrumental of the Year’ winner Steve Passfield has been a long time Nexo and DiGiCo user. Being a man of many talents, he was also front of house engineer on Friday night for Beccy Cole and Bella using his favourite rig comprising of 2 x Nexo PS15 R2’s per side, a Nexo RS15 sub and 1 x NXAMP 4×4 for FOH. Monitoring was done by 4 x Nexo PS10 R2’s, 1 NXAMP 4×1 and 1 x RCF ART 725. Front and center was a DiGiCo SD9 console.
Courtney Conway, relative newcomer to the Australian music scene kicked off the nights proceedings and gave quite a fun filled performance. With her upbeat style and contemporary country sound, Courtney’s star is certainly on the rise bringing a younger fan base to the Australian country scene. As Steve recounts, “Courtney had a simple setup, easy to mix. An acoustic guitar, keyboard and vocals – I got great feedback from her and all of the groups about the sound.”
Courtney Conway On Stage
Steve followed Courtney’s performance on the night and he’s certainly a man who needs no introduction in the country music scene. With an international career spanning almost three decades, Steve began his professional career as the pioneering force behind the classic ‘Handpicked Band’. After touring extensively throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand, the Hand Picked Band went on to record and release 3 successful albums. In 2007, Steve decided to embark on a solo career which quickly saw him win a string of country music awards. A track from his 2010 album ‘Timberman’ included the instrumental ‘Badl Bounce’ which won this year’s Whittlesea Festival Instrumental of the Year award. With Group Technologies Paul Polito at the helm of SD9 keeping an eye on mix, Steve gave a choice performance with a lot of heart.
The DiGiCo up front and Steve Passfield Performing in the Distance
Bella’s history is also impressive to say the least with each member having successful solo careers winning a number of vocal and songwriting awards. The group formed by accident and continued due to the enthusiastic encouragement from fans. They released their first single ‘Tumbling Down’ in September 2003 and by within a year of being formed, Bella took out “Vocal Group of the Year” at the prestigious Golden Guitar Awards in 2004. Soon afterwards, their music video for ‘Tumbling Down’ reached No. 1 on Australia’s Country Music Channel (CMC) and Bella are now signed to BMG.
Steve Fine Tuning the Mix – We Love to Tweak!
Their performance on Friday night was heartfelt and passionate to say the least. With a crowd captivated, Bella’s enchanting style had everyone’s attention. “For Bella, it was straightforward enough, 3 guitars, 3 girls vocals singing a lot of close harmonies, bass player Sean Rudd who was also using a stomp box. Pulling a good sound was a breeze. I have a standard festival stage patch which I dial in as a starting point; its comprised of 4 vocals, 4 DI’s and 4 sends. Once I got a nice mix going there, I just tuned the foldback up to suit the room. I also save the whole lot in case I ever do another gig there.”
Steve Standing by an SD9 with His Latest Award – Congrats Steve!
Beccy Cole is also no stranger to the world of success with no less than 7 Golden Guitars, 2 Entertainer of the Year awards, and 3 gold albums. A true performer Beccy has been doing her country thing for over twenty years and is the epitomy of an entertainer. Steve discussed one of the more interesting instruments to manage on a stage; the stomp box. “Sean Rudd has played with Beccy Cole for a very long time. He’s a really talented bass player who also plays the stomp box. The stomp box can be tricky to mix; it really depends on how its played. Sean hits it hard, really hard – like a sledgehammer hitting a beef carcass – It can make the stomp sound wooly. The compressors and E.Q’s in the SD9 are just great so I could tighten it up and make it really punchy. I used an RCF ART 715 for his foldback also, Sean commented about his foldback in particular, he was really happy with what he was hearing.”
In terms of the front of house sound using the Nexo rig, Steve mentions his continued favour for them. “I constantly get great wraps for the sound. Country audiences are made up of a mix of young and older members so I love that the Nexo’s can get loud without being annoying or harsh to the older folk. With the combination of kit, I’m already booked for a few more festivals later on in the year.”
Always with a smile, Steve Giving a PS10 Some Love