If you thought Thredbo was only for skiing, think again. Among the many other off season things to do down there, it was also a scenic and successful place to run the Snowy Mountains Country Music Festival.
With the festival proper happening on Saturday, the Viper Creek Band kicked things off on Friday night, warming punters up for the main stage with a fantastic set at Thredbo's Keller bar.
The following day, after a breakfast set from Pete Denahy, festivities commenced at the foot of Friday Flat (that's the learner's slope during ski season, for those not in the know).
And while the setting was pretty dreamy, the quality of the acts on show was first rate.
The first band to take the stage was Doug Bruce and the Tailgaters, who played a solid set full of Bruce's well known tracks and plenty of friendly banter. At one point Bruce threatened to turn Thredbo into a five-star honky-tonk town, and do you know what? That is just what he proceeded to do. Good times.
Next up, all the way from Montana in the United States, was Wylie and The Wild West. This band has had more than 50 appearances at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, and played a West Coast-influenced, old-fashioned sound. With years of experience behind them, full of yodelling and plenty of Montana cowboy music, these guys played a top class, honest, satisfying set.
Then came Catherine Britt, who brought a bit of glamour to the Thredbo stage. For the first couple of tracks she seemed to be forcing her voice more than a little, although this might have been because of the sound guys trying to get everything balanced and sounding smooth. Certainly Britt/the sound men soon settled in and delivered a professional set, where the starlet treated the crowd to a handful of songs from her soon-to-be-released album Boneshaker. These seemed to take a darker bent than her earlier recorded music and had Britt trying her hand at some deeper grooves. At the end of the day, it must be said that the ABC Radio Saturday Night Country presenter has an amazing voice, which people got to hear in all its delicacy, power and beauty on tracks like Working Class Man (a new track, written for her fiancé) and Too Far Gone. Yes, Britt is more than capable of wooing an audience with her sweet country girl charms.
Next, folks were treated to one of the festival's most memorable sets, from the recently announced CMA Global Country Artist Award recipient Morgan Evans. In the early afternoon timeslot, Evans and his band put on a show. To a pounding rhythm, once Evans warmed up he rattled off big track after big track, finding a series of new gears as he went. He particularly came alive during, and after, a number called Eye for an Eye. Showing incredible ability to keep the energy at boiling point, he presented every bit the country rock star he has become. The massive lineup to meet him after the performance was testament to his popularity among the punters.
Then, there was a burst of joy in the form of the Sunny Cowgirls. I just loved this set. The Cowgirls are unashamedly Australian, and throw terms like "headless chook" and "drinking cold ones" into their songs with comfortable ease. Live, they sing an addictive brand of harmony, and have a style that is all their own. It was pure enjoyment to sit back and take it in.
As the Sunny Cowgirls finished, the sun began to set behind the mountains. While jackets started going on and people lined up to meet the Cowgirls at the merchandise tent, the stage started to be set for one of the festival's marque acts, 2015 CMA of Australia Group of the Year, The McClymonts. And what an up-tempo set these ladies put on. Watching them, it felt like they were the only girl band that mattered on the planet. Blessed with amazing voices and rockstar looks, the McClymonts enjoy the limelight. They belong there, and earn respect at every note.
Presenting a big clean sound, with clever, melodic, powerful harmonies, the sisters and band generated a huge amount of positivity. Playing numbers like Here's To You and I, I'm Not Done With You Just Yet and Wrapped Up Good, it was like the good times wouldn't stop. Pure girl power.
Ending a superbly curated festival was the very gentlemanly Adam Brand. As the temperature started to fall, Brand treated the crowd to a polished set. A little more laid back than some of the rockier performances witnessed that day, a classy Brand did turn up the heat toward the end of the set, and gave a mature, well-rounded and satisfying show.
Though things were not quite done yet.
The day ended late in the evening with a packed crowd enjoying themselves back where it all began, in the Keller Bar jiving out to the Viper Street Band. Can't get a whole lot better than that.
Snowy Mountains Country Music Festival
When: 21 March 2015
Where: Thredbo Alpine Village.
The writer was a guest of the Festival.