The Family Hotel, 23 January

The Huckleberry Swedes’ gig was my first stop upon arriving in the country music capital. I’d already previewed their music on their MySpace page; they’d also received a recommendation on Wendy’s Choice Picks. So I knew they’d be better than average, but anything can happen at a gig – a bad PA, for example.

The nature of Tamworth is that you can meander around from venue to venue, and there’s so much on that staying for three sets of one band is not always the best use of your time. But once the Huck Swedes started playing, I lost any inclination to go anywhere else. What a seductive sound – delicately balanced instrumentation and vocals, plus great stage get-up (late 19th century–looking britches and caps, shirts and a tie that was literally a bow). Their original songs were beautiful and clever, and they do a few very nice covers, including Patty Griffin’s ‘Making Pies’.

Spending three hours in the company of this Adelaide gang of five was the best possible way to start festival activities. While they’re not strictly country – ‘alt country’ possibly applies, but they cross a lot of genres – they exemplified one of the best things about the festival: categories don’t matter, just music, and if you’re playing music then you’re welcome.