Bluesfest 2014 #4: Downpour at Byron, or, combating Hat Rage

Our first full day at the festival and even at around 1 in the afternoon it’s clear that there’s many more people in attendance than yesterday. This would become more of an issue later on in the evening but if you are looking to feed off a mobscene then today’s your day.

First up an observation.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat out in the Australian sun is a damn good and very sensible idea. Wearing the same hat in a crowd of people trying to see their favourite performer inside a covered tent is just fucking stupid.  Not to mention plain ignorant.  Some got it and slipped them off but there were too many that didn’t. Not a great way to try and see the legendary Garland Jeffreys although perhaps Hat Rage sparked the inspiration for one of his most well known songs, Wild in the Street? Next time I ‘see’ him I’ll make sure to ask…

The small Cavanbah tent/stage was the perfect setting for Jeffreys though, even more so for Suzanne Vega who followed.

Quite a deal of setting up preceded Vega’s set which then became something of a surprise to see only her and her guitarist take the stage. The reason for the lengthy setting up was revealed in the broad range of sounds that guitarist Gerry offered up. A wider sound palette outside of a Sonic Youth gig I don’t think I’ve heard. And it was perfect for Vega’s often intimate tales as well the more universal ones. Vega is a storyteller and she delivered beautifully. When she played Luka, arguably her most well known song, it was impossible not to feel a lump in my throat and a tear or two in the eye. The brutal beauty of those words mean so much more to me now compared to the time I first heard that song over 25 years ago.

From the intimacy of the Cavanbah I then headed to Crossroads, the main stage, and on of the most stunning performances of the festival so far. Joss Stone was simply amazing. From the moment she entered centre stage and looked up to see the massed crowd, mouthing ‘wow’, turning to her band in seeming disbelief that all these people were there to see her (well, we all know many would have been tent sitting, but they were there nonetheless) Stone had the place with her. So unassuming and with such a spoken little girl’s so-English voice; yet, in singing mode, she was completely transformed to a sleek, soul seductress many years beyond her age. Stone has always been stunning from the time we all heard her as a 16 year old delivering soul classics. She certainly is growing into her voice but I doubt she will ever catch it up. Seeing the projected images of her getting down with the crowd and the wide eyes of boys and men alike will stay with me for a long time. If ever there was a singer who could draw you in and address a crowd like she was speaking directly to every individual she is it. Damn. Wish I’d remembered to take some photos!

Directly following Stone was someone at the other end of the blues scale, long travelled guitarist Buddy Guy. Boy, is this ‘guy’ something to see in the flesh. I’ve heard his records over the years but this was my first time in the flesh. Although I must say the video screens proved very useful for his performance as I was not that close to the stage and couldn’t quite make out his expressions. As you’d expect, his band was hot, he was an amazing showman, not even letting a failed guitar remote faze him, getting a young lad from the crowd to strum his guitar, great stuff. I’m sure next time the jokes will be the same as will some of the ‘impromptu’ song interruptions but I look forward to it all just the same.

With  my feet beginning to suffer from Bluesfest throb, I took the chance to avoid the Lido shuffle and sat outside in the cooling night time grass. Time to fuel up on the snacks and water before deciding my next move. A heard of rampant Kiwis decided that for me and I moved on, taking in a delicious Grilled Burger and once again visiting the Magic Band. It meant I missed the Doobies but I’m pleased I did. The MB was even better tonight although sadly with a smaller crowd. I guess the Jack Johnson aficionados will never get these guys. A different set, as promised, and the guys looked lose and fully enjoying themselves. A dick with a mohawk (boy was he in the wrong place) head butted someone just across from me for seemingly no reason and was promptly shown the way out. The band looked pretty stunned to see all that happening in front of them.

I found my way to Tom and Sandy and once again we were able to make a quick exit. The nights are getting cooler and the walks to the car are getting harder already so goodness knows how we are going to feel in a couple of days.

Guinness, crackers, shower, bed.

Oh, and the Downpour at Byron? See the picture…

’til tomorrow.

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