Australia Day 10 & 11 (Recap and Thoughts)

As the Cairns Ukulele Festival comes to a close, I sit in my hotel room in Sydney thinking about everything that has happened. This is the first time in over a week that I can finally put together my thoughts and share with you in greater detail, my trip to the land down under.

It was nice being one of the first musicians to arrive in Cairns and I took the first day to just unwind and relax a bit. I was able to meet Gaby straight out of the gate and her enthusiasm about the festival was definitely contagious. She worked hard for all of us to be a part of this event and it really showed. I got to check out Music City Cairns which was chock full of ukuleles! It reminded me of Pacific Winds in Eugene but had much more of a focus on stringed instruments. The vibe was definitely friendly. This is also where I got a chance to meet Ryo for the first time. Ryo is an amazing guitarist and has even done a small tour with Matt Dahlberg last year after the festival. I knew in the first 5 minutes of jamming with him that I wanted to get him up when I played my set on Sunday at the Tanks. I also got to meet Tiffany (another employee at Music City and another local performer I brought up Sunday), though it wasn't just yet that I got a chance to hear her sing.

Matt showed up and we got a chance to catch up on things. It was only last year that I met him at the Seattle Ukulele Festival. I'm so proud of how much he has grown as a song writer and performer over this past year. He's one of the rare musicians that is actually a better teacher than anything else, and he confirmed my suspicions when he brought up the fact that he'd rather teach than play. It's a good thing for us that he does both right now!

Luke Walker then enters the store. Luke donates his time as a driver for the performers and was one of my saviors during this trip. I got to spend some time with his amazing family and felt instantly taken in as one of their own. I was happy to see not only his St Andrews ukulele club perform a few times throughout the trip but also two of his daughters! They were all such great performers... It'll be amazing to see how much they progress this year as ukulele players and performers. I'll be sure to keep in touch with the Walkers as the year goes on. Thank you Luke, for everything!

The week leading up to the festival was packed to the rim with things... We had 8AM interviews with various radio stations, 8AM photo shoots (one including the Mayor of Cairns), 8AM boat rides to private resorts... why does everything happen so early? The rest of those days usually consisted of music, food, and lots of Bundaberg Rum :) Along the way Thom Jackson, Mike Jackson, Lorenzo Vignando and Victoria Vox joined us for interviews and merry making.

Thom and Mike Jackson are both from Australia and are amazing performers. Mike lead many of the learning workshops and even took charge of the big record breaking attempt at the court house Saturday night. Thom fit in nicely with our weird humor and we instantly became friends. I was so happy to have him jump up on stage with me Sunday! Lorenzo is such an honest person and performer. I hope we cross paths again soon. Everyone had such a huge part in my experience here in Australia. It was great to see Victoria again and I think this was the first time we were ever on the same stage at the same time (though she did dance hula for the first time with me at the past Gorge Ukulele Fest!). It's fascinating to watch her perform. I learn something new every time I see her.

Brittni Paiva and Daniel Ho joined us a bit later in the week and I really wish I got to spend more time with the both of them! Both are so down to Earth and had such a nice sense of home that I usually only get when I head down usually for Christmas. I hope to see them both sooner than later! Thank you again Brittni for joining me on stage and thank you Daniel for letting us rock out with you too!

I was blown away by the support shown at the Green Island resort. I felt truly honored to share the event with Iwao Yamaguchi (an incredibly charismatic performer from Japan!). It was such a beautiful getaway and everyone who attended was ready to learn and be entertained! Although I got extremely sick on the boat ride over, with everyone's help I pushed through and it ended up being a great day. Saturday's record breaking attempt was so cool to be on a stage overlooking over a thousand people. Although we were just 40 short this year, I'm determined to break it next year! Having a chance to rock out with Matt and Ryo right after really took the cake though... So much fun! It was the best jumpstart to the big round of performances Sunday.

Sunday was an absolute blast. I had a huge rush all day be it performing, taking photos of my friends performing or just sitting and taking everything in. It was so cool to see everyone packed in so tight and standing all along the back for my set. I really hope people enjoyed themselves. Will and Jonathan really pulled through and it was if we played music together for years instead of just the 20minutes we had for sound check. I had so much fun and am so grateful for all my friends who jumped up and jammed with me... I can't wait to see the footage! Brittni, Daniel, Victoria and the Hollywaiians were on absolute fire Sunday night and I can only hope I had the same energy poured into my performance.

Although I didn't get a chance to spend a heap of time with them at Cairns, I got spend a lot of time with my parents in Sydney both before and after the festival. It was so nice having them here for support and to know they were there in the audience during my performances.

Phew... that was a lot of words... I think I'm fighting a fierce cold so I better turn in and get some rest. I'll probably be talking about the festival in the blog for a while, I'll keep thinking of more stories to share :)

Everyone has been so open with me. I do wish I had more time to spend with everyone in Cairns. Thank you everyone for making this such an incredible experience. Thank you for your support, your inspiration and your love.

Aloha,

Craig

PS: You can see many of my photos from the trip (a lot are the same ones that I posted here but all in one gallery) here: Craig's Photos of Cairns Fest