Opening in 1999 to bring tourism to the small country town of Deniliquin, New South Wales, the ,concluded September and kicked off October with a bang! Although, as it was wet and muddy throughout the whole weekend – that bang may have been the crack of thunder, we just can’t be too sure …
A lot of people found the weather miserable, but I found it atmospheric. Perhaps it’s because I’m from the city so there’s humour in stepping in mud and watching your foot sink up to your knees. Maybe this is how people who live in snow must feel when temperatures reach minus temperatures – but how often do you get to experience dancing and partying in the mud? I had a blast!
There’s some very charming about watching drunken festival-goers falling over in mud. I even saw kids in little blow up boats being pulled by people trekking through the mud. If you didn’t own gumboots, you bought a pair in one of the numerous stalls, selling all kinds of jeans, knit wear, shoes, belts and other leather and handmade goods. If you were feeling peckish, there were numerous food stalls and nearby bars gave audiences shelter and an excuse for a drink.
The best thing about the festival was also it’s worst – there’s just so much to do that you can’t fit it all in. But you damn well try! With everything in close proximity, it was easy to walk around from event to event for an overall glimpse of the festival, or read the detailed schedule and plan your day.
The Muster lived up to its name as a family event. For the kids, there was a petting zoo, face painting, bubble blowing, camel rides, balloon animals and more. Also, the Brophy Bros Circus dazzled with dangerous fire juggling, cute dog tricks, impressive lasso wrangling, energetic plate spinning, unicycle riding and laugh care of Oscar the Clown.
For the older teens, there was carnival rides (I especially enjoyed the Cha-Cha), selfies with Batman and his Batmobile, a firework display and exhilarating Monster Truck rides. It’s no easy feet to be hit in the face with brown clay-like mud and still come out smiling – but somehow you do and join the line up to go on again and again.
Car enthusiasts enjoyed the Milwaukee Barrel Race and GME Circle Work Championships. Also on offer was The Australian Travelling Fishing Show, Kitty Hawk aerial flyover displays, chainsaw art, the AWPA NSW Whipcracking Championships, Bull Riding, Wood Chopping, the Milwaukee Tradie Challenge, the Coates Hire Show N Shine and more. $60/5 minute helicopter rides offered a spectacular view of the Deni Ute Muster showgrounds. You really got a sense of how big the Muster is and the sheer number of Utes in attendance you could see from the skies was incredible!
There were world records made to be broken, with the annual Blue Singlet Count and the Ute Count taking place again this year. Fans rallied in their ‘bluey’s to beat the current record of 3,959. The current Ute record stands at 9,736. Wow! Deniliquin doesn’t hold the Ute Capital of the World title for nothing, folks!
Of course, at the end of the day, it was all about the music – and headliner Keith Urban did not disappoint! With fans setting up tents at the front of the stage from 10am (he wasn’t on until 9.45pm, mind you) to get the perfect spot; he proved why he’s one of the industries best and beloved worldwide. Keith performed in the huge downpour, but the fans still danced and sang with huge smiles on their faces. I don’t think any of us regret the extra money we spent on cold and flu medicine after standing in the rain for hours watching him perform. He invited lucky fans on stage for a selfie, gave away his guitar to a man in the crowd for letting him wear his hat, and even performed a duet of “We Were Us” with CMAA New Talent of the Year, Christie Lamb.
There was no lack of entertainment though with Christie Lamb; country music icon John Williamson; 4-time ARIA Winner Troy Cassar-Daley and CMAA Female Artist of the Year, Catherine Britt all putting on great a display Friday night. With lesser rain, Saturday bought an even larger crowd! Melbourne’s Deep Creek Road kicked off the main stage entertainment, followed by Queensland duo, Busby Marou.
Muster favourite, The Sunny Cowgirls premiered their song, “Rev It Up” (written about the Deni Ute Muster itself) and performed two other songs from their new album, Here We Go, released that very weekend. Australia’s favourite, Shannon Noll recorded his “Who I Am” music video live on the night. Nollsie gets a bad rap, but he absolutely smashed it! Killer vocals and charisma to bring the party vibe, the crowd lapped up every single moment! James Reyne followed, with favourites Adam Brand and the Outlaws closing the festivities.
But not forgetting the day stage either – even if you’re just listening from a nearby bar – it was the perfect place to watch the newbies, the newly-discovered, the up-the-comers who may not be as known yet but still put on a ripper show. There was no lack of talent over the two days. My favourites on Friday were country-rock four-piece, Iain Archibald Band. Although, it’s a shame James Blundell couldn’t finish his set due to safety concerns during the heavy downpour. Newly-signed with Sony, 21-year-old Missy Lancaster proved one to watch out for! Her young, fun and energetic set sent crowds dancing and singing along, and was my favourite on the Saturday.
When you think of country music events, and especially Musters, you get an idea of bogans in boots and cowboy hats with a can of beer in their hands. And yes, while you do see that – the country music scene is expanding beyond those traditional stereotypes, and the Muster brought people from many different walks of life. As that old saying goes, one cannot really explain it – you just have to experience it for yourself. And with a camping spot included in your ticket price and free regular shuttle buses into town – with so much on offer, why wouldn’t you?
The author visited Deniliquin as a guest of Destination NSW, and spent a night at Riverview Motel courtesy of the motel. We flew with Rex Regional Express. Photos by the author on the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100, except for Adam Brand and John Williamson.