Bluesfest 2014 #6: Tuning in your own time with Australia’s 127th best songwriter

Good day again dear reader, Happy Easter and welcome to this day four summary of my Bluesfest experience and what a fine one it has been thus far. That is despite the onset of the dreaded Byron Shuffle that happens this far into the festival that even solid well-supporting shoes can do little to save you from. Your feet throb uncontrollably, so hard they burn, no matter what you do to try and relieve them. Only sitting brings but brief respite as you must rise and walk again. Oh the pain.

…all thoroughly worth it of course!

Our 2nd last day was to be spent casually wandering around with only a couple of definite ‘sees’ on our lists. In my previous post I mentioned catching up once again with Scottish singer KT Tunstall but that didn’t happen as we didn’t arrive on site until after her set had started. A delay buying and eating a wonderful chocolate coated frozen banana had some bearing on catching anyone’s set. These bananas are sold to raise money for a local charity called the Uncle Project that mentors disadvantaged young boys with responsible adult father figures. A greater reason to buy a frozen fruit there can’t be.

We headed for the small Juke Joint stage, passing a packed and closing KT’s show at the Cavanbah. We were checking out the Candye Kane Band, someone I knew nothing about. As we made our way to the stage left side of the barrier, Tom explained that Candye was a large bosomed black lady who sang down a storm, playing piano with her breasts. Hmmm…this should be interesting I thought. Through a gap in the back stage curtains, I caught glimpse of a lady dressed in retro looking, 1930s like garb, talking with the stage manager. I wondered if this could be Candye but as she was neither large and big bosomed let alone black I wasn’t so sure. After the band warmed up with an instrumental intro (and what a top guitarist BTW), this same woman appeared stage right to the announcement ‘welcome the love of my life, Candye Kane’! The look on Tom’s surprised face was priceless, although I’m not sure he was happy with my jibe about oncoming Alzheimers…anyway, turns out this was the same Candye he had seen 12 years ago but she had fought off cancer which had clearly left its mark on her. She was quite a performer although we both left Sandy to see out her set after a few songs as we wanted to catch Tim Rogers.

I confess. I love the work of Tim Rogers. He is one of my favourite song writers and one of my reasons for looking forward to coming to this year’s festival. Why he hasn’t had more commrcial success is a discredit to the music buying public and radio programmers of this country. Apart from his career with You Am I his solo and other collaborative work is  always of the highest calibre. He is witty, self-depreciating and a clever wordsmith, all facets on display during his performance on the Delta stage with friend Shane O’Mara whom he jokingly refers to as his ‘son’ at one point. Rogers seems a little surprised at the large gathering for his set and he really shouldn’t be. He jokes with the audience, has digs at his lack of ability to forge a bigger career because of his ‘depressing’ songs (interrupting one tune to state that one great line was why he was Australia’s 127th best songwriter), all the while more greatly endearing himself to the appreciate crowd. Something was bugging him during his set though as he managed a couple of sarcastic barbs that seemed aimed at the stage crew but for anyone who has attended a You Am I show this prickliness is part of who Rogers is and only to be expected. The crowd loved him all the more for it and demanded one more song from him but as he left the stage saying he didn’t want to go over time for Booker T, I could only admire the ragged dignity he carries himself with.

The only other act on today’s bill we all wanted to see was the Magic Band (yes, my third time) so we wandered around, catching a couple of drinks, enjoying the food and general atmosphere of the festival.

My friend Sandy insisted I get a photo with an Easter bunny following an earlier comment made by me about the Easter Bunny overlooking Byron…sorry, it was the best I could do…

We wandered around in and out of tents catching some great performances (Saidah Baba Talibah was full on funk and rock), some not so great (sorry but someone has to tell James Cotton his harp playing was off) and the pleasant but not worth hanging around for (Jimmy Vaughn) with throbbing extremities (that’s FEET).

Of course witnessing the Magic Band made everything that came after seem redundant, like the time I saw the Stooges at Big Day Out and left as the White Stripes came on. I mean, how could you top that? The MB were just sublime, an intoxicating mix of off beat takes on blues and jazz, all played with great expertise and humour, singer ‘Drumbo’ Ford forgetting the words to a song and then making that a performance in itself. Absolutely wonderful and a great way to close off an evening. Sorry Jimmy, you just couldn’t maintain my interest after them.

We also took time to check out a guest advertised as Mystery Performance. The large crowd gathered in the Jambalaya tent were abuzz with who it might with comments ranging from Joss Stone to a close forensic examination of all the gear and mic stand placements. Alas, for the performers I feel as well as the majority of the audience, the ‘mystery’ guest were none other than Australian funk/soul act Saskwatch. They are good but clearly not what many in the crowd wish to see as they leave in masses before even one song had ended, with us in amongst them.

We headed home, another quick exit favouring us yet again. A top day yet again and for all the talk of this being a weak line-up this year, I am feeling well satisfied with my Bluesfest experiences. The last day coming up and one I feel will be just as good if not better than the days before.

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