Embrace your inner Russian with these blokes at Woodford
IF THERE'S one place outside of their native Mullumbimby where the burly men of Dustyesky have been embraced, it's Woodfordia.
The all-male choir returns for its third outing at the Woodford Folk Festival to perform rousting renditions of Red Army and traditional Russian folk songs.
"It's a bit of an honour," choir master Andrew Swain tells the Daily. "We're such a wacky act, we're happy they asked us back.
"The first time we played there we hadn't been going that long, so we were a bit overwhelmed. It was the biggest stage we'd ever played and with the development of any band or act, it's those challenging pre-show moments where you're just like 'Holy sh-- what are we doing here?'.
"The second time we went back we were the first act on the first day at 1pm and when we got there to warm up there was no one there. Then when we walked out on the stage it was completely packed and they just got into it. From the first moment of the first song there were people dancing and tearing it up. That's what Woodford is all about - people go in boots and all."
What started as a joke between mates, none of whom speak Russian, has evolved into a weekly social gathering which doubles as a touring act.
"The first time we performed we literally just put the group together to do these couple of pop-up shows at the Mullumbimby Music Festival. We learned three songs, and one of the attractions of the gig was that it wasn't a long-term thing," Mr Swain says. "It was meant to be a few rehearsals, a couple of songs, a couple of shows, it would be a bit of a laugh and then we'd all get on with our lives."
Five years later, they're still going strong.
"It's a lot about the camaraderie, which is pretty rare unless you're part of the bowls club or rotary," he says. "We get together every week and talk the same sh-- but it's still funny."
The 28-strong choir of ''humble salmon smokers' has a loyal following, including many Russians and Russian expats who send Mr Swain links to new songs for their set list.
"Russian people love to send me links to obscure Russian folk songs and drinking songs. Almost every day through Facebook Messenger I get sent links to songs, and I listen to them all," he says.
"We only have a repertoire of 13 songs at the moment, not because the songs aren't amazing but because they're so bloody hard to learn.
"Russians here in Australia think it's bloody hilarious because they understand the irony of it. I'm terrified if we went to Russia the irony and the play on language we use would be lost."
The group will help festival-goers find their inner Russian at a special singing in Russian workshop on Saturday night.
"We always say that we're all Russian, some are just more Russian than others. It's a matter of delving into yourself," he says. "Everyone gets to sing and play with the Russians on stage. We even auction off some of the better looking Russians for a date.
"We did a similar workshop at Mullum in November. It was at 10am at the pub and it was packed. Considering this one is at 8pm on Saturday night, there will be no excuse to not work hard to find your inner Russian; vodka will be compulsory."
Dustyesky performs at the Woodford Folk Festival daily from Friday through Sunday. For more information go to woodfordfolkfestival.com.