One Night at The Muster
Gympie Music Muster Amamoor State Forest Queensland
August 24 – 27, 2023
Review by Natasha Rachow
Photos by David Jackson
From the onset, one night at Gympie was not enough. We arrived early Thursday afternoon to find the forest bulging. Campers were forced into overflow areas due to record ticket sales. For the first time in history, the four-day passes were sold out before the event started, and the number of attendees was estimated to be over 45,000, which is incredible given the oversaturation of festivals in 2023. Gympie has always been on the musical fans’ bucket list with a line-up dominated by country. The vibe from the onset was one of relaxation and fun. The transition into the camping area was done with ease; a massive shout out to the volunteers who were pinnacle in making this happen.
Once settled, we took every opportunity to see what we could of this historic festival.
A short walk from our campsite, we were at the Gympie mainstage. Although we were a couple of hours away from the entertainment, crowds were already swelling, chairs were placed, and positions were claimed for the evening’s entertainment. Located near the main stage are many food vendors of all varieties, from vegan to slow-cooked ribs. There is also a market atmosphere with multiple pop-up stores selling everything from leather boots to handmade clothing. All this adds to the environment.
The Muster consists of several venues surrounding the main Hill Stage. Stages include The Great Northern Muster Club, The Bundy Crowbar, Boss Hire Blues Bar, The Dodge Tavern, and The Grove. All venues are within easy walking distance from the main stage, allowing the punter to choose which artists they want to see and what a choice they have; over 100 artists performed at Gympie over the four-day event.
The music at Gympie has always been a mix of country, roots, blues, and folk, with a dose of rock thrown in for good measure. For me, I positioned myself front and centre on the Hill Stage to watch three headlining artists play to a packed venue. Kasey Chambers took the stage just before 5:00 p.m. and played a ninety-minute set of old hits and new songs. Chamber’s relationship with her audience has always been one of respect and appreciation, built on honesty. There were moments during her set where she acknowledged her past relationships, her children, and some mistakes she has made in her life. Chambers also talked about her need to return to her roots, buy a caravan, travel the country, and expose small communities to her music. I must say I have seen Kasey multiple times over the years, and this was one of the best sets I have seen her play. Supported by her father and guitarist ‘Dingo’, her set was tight and well-appreciated by the ever-swelling crowd.
Busby Marou recently released their fifth studio album ‘Blood Red’. Their Gympie set consisted of songs from this album and a healthy pick from their back catalogue. The synergy between Thomas Busby and Jeremy Marou is evident even to the first-time listener. Since meeting in Rockhampton in 2007, Busby Marou has been a staple in almost every festival, from Bluesfest to CMC. Their music is easy to listen to, but an underlying complexity is highlighted by Marou’s guitar work, which is undoubtedly one of the best in the country. A highlight for me was when Busby noticed a fan in the audience holding a Torres Strait flag, the birthplace and homeland of Marou. An impromptu version of the Warumpi Band’s ‘My Island Home’ went well with the packed crowd.
I caught upcoming country artist Angus Gill for a few songs at The Grove, where I found a talented and engaging artist providing the audience with humour and originality. As an added treat, playing lead guitar, none other than The Ferret’s lead singer Billy Miller, who sang his 70’s Australian classic ‘Don’t Fall in Love’ talk about being in the right place and at the right time.
Back to the main stage to watch the current king of country music, Travis Collins, straight off a plane from Music City Nashville, Collins task was to close the evening. I had a feeling he would be good, but I had no idea how much power and effort he now puts into his performance. The set was full throttle from the onset; he has a killer backing band, and there was barely time for a breath between songs. Collins moved himself to the absolute front of the stage to engage with the audience. His set was a mixture of old and new. He played songs from his new album, ‘Any Less Anymore’. Although only recently released, the audience still managed to sing every word.
A quick trip to The Grove gave me time to catch Josh Cunningham and Felicity Urquhart. Playing to yet another packed house. Since forming a duo, Cunningham (The Waifs) and Urquhart have amassed awards and a very dedicated following. Their music is original and uplifting, and the talent on stage is terrific ‘Spare Parts’ is a song that has come from life experience and, sadly, tragedy; no doubt it will be a staple on the setlist.
A quick trip over to The Crowbar to catch Canadian Dan Davidson again playing to a packed house, a quick move up to the Blues Bar to catch the Bondi Cigars and the night’s music was over. I said at the start my time here was far too short, and I wanted more and no doubt from feedback from friends over the next three days the festival delivered. I already have my bag packed and placed close to the front door in anticipation of attending next year’s festival.