Bluesfest 2014 #7: at the crossroads facing the gallows pole; or, that’s the way I like it (apparently)

Hello dear reader. This is my second last post about Bluesfest 2014. It has taken a few days to get to due to the usual stuff; packing and travelling home then dealing with computer issues and general catching up. But for those that have been reading along, here’s my thoughts on a very fine last day…

My decision to invest in new boots before coming to Byron was proving to be a good one as although I had been showing signs of suffering the Byron Shuffle, my daily recovery was much quicker than at my last festival. So apart from an interesting last day line-up, I was feeling more than up to the last day of the 2014 Bluesfest.

After a light lunch with parents K and S it was off to catch Sydney band Lime Cordiale in the Jambalaya stage. The day was bright with an anticipated very much last day relaxed feel about it as we entered the festival site. The usually attentive and almost military-like volunteer traffic controllers could hardly be bothered waving cars to designated areas, looking as if they were perhaps suffering from early hangovers. The once packed camping areas looked almost abandoned, the cramped mayhem of the previous few days gone. Even the ‘security’ people at the gates looked as if they would rather head for the beach than deal with the sweaty masses one last time.

Inside the Jambalaya tent the ‘chilled out’ last day feel permeated the still decent early crowd, many of whom lay down or sat. Lime Cordiale follow my (Badones) Twitter feed and having seen them perform on the defunct Thursday FC TV show, I was keen on hearing them live. We only caught half their set as I’d been helping Bill S with his computer so we arrived a little late but they’re a tight soul/funk outfit who had an ardent little group of followers still prepared to dance through their Byron Shuffle pain. They sounded good too (the band that is), if not a little lost on the large stage. I’d like to catch them in a smaller venue. Maybe their drummer might be more engaged with the rest of the band by then…

Other than catching Lime Cordiale, my last day plans involved spending the day at the Crossroads stage as the last group of acts I wanted to see were playing there. We headed off to buy last minute drink tickets and fill up our water bottles, taking a few moments to check out the merchandise once more on the way past. As we stopped and looked at the different t-shirts on display (there was an Elvis Costello one that did tempt me. Not this time however), a couple that we had spoken with the night before prior to the Magic Band came up and asked about my blog and how we enjoyed the previous night’s performance (we all agreed it was fantastic). Turns out that Debbie and her husband (sorry, can’t remember his name) had met Tom and Sandy before at a mutual friends 50th birthday party in Gladstone and at the festival! So we spent a few minutes discussing this coincidence and wishing each other the best for the rest of the festival. The chance meeting seemed to illustrate not only the friendly communal feel of this festival but also epitomise the relaxed atmosphere of this final day.

Filling our bottles we stopped for a few minutes to take in the snaking line-up to an ATM, fittingly situated under the projected backside of Devendra Benhart.

We parted ways then, all off to our respective final day performances.

Sandy came with me briefly and caught part of War’s second set of the festival, while I stayed for all of it. They were much better than the Saturday night’s first set, and while the songs seemed much the same as what they played previously, there was a better and more relaxed feel about the entire performance. Or maybe I was a little less tired? Not sure but a band I had long admired had redeemed themselves in my eyes (and ears). The crowd certainly enjoyed them too.

If Robert Johnson had truly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, then he surely would have been reclaiming it following KC and the Sunshine Band’s set. Look, I’ve never liked disco and a younger me would have run screaming if offered a chance to see these Kings of Disco but I must admit I was very curious to see what they would bring to a place such as Bluesfest. I know, George Clinton and Parliament had played the place before, but I wasn’t there and besides, KC’s brand of soul inspired disco is way more mainstream than the Punk Funk of Mr C and co. To put it simply, KC’s show was a hoot. You have to admire a 63 old guy who’s prepared to ham it up in such an enjoyable fashion. Despite myself, my feet were bopping along to the infectious rhythms of the very tight Sunshine Band. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the 4 gorgeous and very flexible female dancers/singers that graced the stage in various forms of (un)dress. The sight of young people, much younger than my own kids, dancing and singing along was also something to see. The whole set was a truly joyful experience and just what a tiring last day crowd needed. The time just flew. It was a blast. Any punk cred I may have attained felt like it had left the building while a more guilty pleasure I haven’t felt for a long time.

Despite the good shoes my feet were starting to hurt again and after being told not to use the small borrowed fold-out seat I was carrying by the one still zealous tent security staff on hand prior to KC’s show, I decided to take the opportunity to prepare for what I anticipated would be a long standing session for Jake Bugg and Elvis Costello later in the night by sitting down outside for Irish singer Foy Vance’s set. I moved to the back fence, away from the majority of smokers who occupied the previous place I tried to sit down and spoke with a few people who still had smiles on their faces after the Sunshine Band’s performance. Everyone seemed to have loved it.

I was a bit curious about Vance but a need for a seat, a snack and one last coffee were more pressing priorities. On the way to the Organic Donut stand I took in some artists painting a large Bluesfest mural, all part of the colour of the event. I then indulged in buying a giant, dark chocolate filled doughnut and headed to the coffee centre to enjoy it, listening to Vance as I did. The doughnut and coffee hit the spot and I was happy to have avoided standing to listen to Vance. He was engaging enough for the small crowd but his set dragged for me. Maybe I was thinking too much about the broken zipper on my back-pack and the message I had just gotten on my ‘phone from Optus saying I owed them more than $350 (ex-GST) having exceeded my data limit…certainly Vance going over time in his set did little to brighten my gloom.

But along came Jake Bugg. I knew little about Bugg. I had seen one song from him on a highlights from Glastonbury TV show and that sparked enough interest from me to want to see him at the festival. Besides, even if he turned out to be rubbish, at least I could get a good spot to see Elvis. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Bugg’s seemingly hurried set. Not that he was in a hurry to get his two piece band on stage. They took their time in what seemed like a copy of tennis player Raphael Nadal’s method of keeping his opponent waiting on the court for him to start. However, in terms of value, I’m sure he played more songs in 75 minutes than any other performer I had seen at the festival. His stage presence had a lot of attitude about it with him only speaking to the mostly younger adoring crowd very briefly to say ‘thanks’ a few times. I did catch a small smile towards the end of his set too but that was it. I only knew one of his songs but others clearly were far more knowledgeable than I. Sprinkles of Dylan and Liam Gallagher help make up the young Bugg persona and style. Just how old is he? He looks like he’s 14! He can clearly play and sing although I was more fond of his own voice and not the hayseed Southern US drawl he affected for a couple of songs. A cover of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My completed the set before a brief one song encore (the one I knew) and he was gone. A real pleasant surprise.

And then there was Elvis. I have followed the career of Elvis Costello since his first singles on Stiff Records in the mid/late 70s. Through various band names and styles, I continue to listen and admire his music. I had never seen him in live performance until the festival and I can say I was not disappointed. His set was electric but not entirely eclectic, a full-on Greatest Hits package that the crowd had obviously come to hear. This time I knew all the songs and sang along with much gusto. He commands the stage and unlike the younger charge that came before him, he really worked hard to engage the crowd, something that didn’t always appear to work mind you. The playing was superb from the Impostors (all past Attractions bar one) although Costello’s guitar sound was a little off and muddy from time to time, particularly in more acoustic mode.

No encore, a full 75 minutes and that was it.

What a way to finish.

My feet were protesting by now so I shuffled my way to our usual meeting place, caught up with Tom and Sandy and started our one last long walk to the car. Other performances were still going on but that was it for us. The crowd was humming with people talking about their day and the cheerful volunteers wished us all well and looked forward to catching us the following year. We responded in the affirmative, thanking them for their hard work as we left them to what is surely one of the largest clean-up operations in the country.

Our feet are tired, our bones are weary and our senses are on overload. Home to drink and pack for the trip home in the morning.

See you all next year.

 

 

 

 

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