And so it’s here: the final day of our Bluesfest adventure for another year. The legs are just holding on but with a blue-skied morning greeting us the day ahead was looking good.
Kaylene and I took the time out to try and have lunch at the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse but with limited parking and an apparent influx of tourists it was impossible to get near. So we tried another paid parking spot close to a beach café where we found it equally impossible to get a table. We ordered extravagantly priced takeaway only for someone to grab our order by mistake. We were forced to wait longer and just dodged a parking ticket…a nice way to start the day.
The festival day started after 3.30 pm for Sandy, Tom and I (John and Steve left earlier). We spent a little time at Angelique Kidjo as we had decided to tent sit for 3 other acts to follow. And while that meant for me that I’d miss John Mayall’s full set, I was certainly not disappointed by what I saw.
There was a brief interlude to draw the winners of the Cystic Fibrosis guitars (I wasn’t one of them), with Peter Noble announcing over $48k had been raised for CF research over the festival. Some effort!
Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires were up first and boy, what a classic soul performance. Bradley changed costumes and continually told the audience how he loved us; when he performed the splits mid-song and managed to keep going to throw the mic stand away and retrieve it with the lead, then used the stand to illustrate his love of Jesus as he simulated Christ’s carrying of the cross it all made for great theatre. When his hour was over I couldn’t believe it; it seemed to be the quickest hour and my feet suddenly weren’t aching anymore. A truly religious experience is Mr Charles Bradley.
Next was Paul Kelly presents the Merri Soul Sessions, a group consisting of Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, Kira Puru, the guitarist from Even and that drummer bloke from Rockwiz. As well as a few others, including Mr Kelly of course.
What a show. One of the festival highlights for me and another hour flashed by. I could have listened to them all night as the band performed like a soul revue with revolving singers. Vika Bull’s rendition of Sweet Guy had to be heard to believed as she really brought out the darkness residing in Kelly’s tale of domestic violence written from a woman’s point of view. To hear the song performed by this powerful woman was a stirring moment indeed.
There were too many highlights to list here but needless to say if this group comes to your town, you must find some time to check them out.
The final performance for us was George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. Expecting a lengthy set and not big fans, we planned an early exit. That we stayed a little longer is tribute to the performance of this legendary act. The sound for such a huge ensemble would have been a huge challenge to try and mix right and unfortunately the sound guys struggled in this set to balance the instruments and vocals. A real shame as the players gave it everything and for a music I am not a big fan of, this proved one of the most enjoyable performances of the weekend. I couldn’t get the theme of it all but the sheer number of players all interlocking and playing together was something to witness.
And that was it. We did leave before Clinton’s set finished but that proved a wise decision as we were all tired and fully satiated with our final festival experience. The last day proved a massive winner and the reason we’ll all be looking forward to coming back next year.
A couple of quiet beers at home as John and I reminisced about Status Quo then it was all over.
Hello dear occasional reader, and an explanation for this post’s title. Late nights and pleasant early mornings spent catching up with friends have provided little opportunity for indulging in internet posting the last few days. Regrets? Nah. Not one. But the result is this belated and unapologetically lengthy catch-up. I hope you enjoy.
After a disappointing Day 1 and one brief ‘wow’-like moment when I bumped into a couple of Bluebirds people (shout outs to Baily and his mum), the first full on WOW moment came on Day 2 with uke player Jake Shimabukuru (or as some bloke on his phone called him, ‘Jake…with the really long surname’). Jake was simply amazing, with the most stunning, virtuoso display of ukulele playing I have ever heard. Now the uke is not an instrument I like; I put it up there with the recorder imagining it as some kind of ‘wanna-be’ real instrument.
But I will now happily cease my cynicism and admit that in the right hands it rocks! And to witness a crowd singing the words to Bohemian Rhapsody as accompaniment to Shimabukuru’s instrumental interpretation is something I will never forget. This guy knew how to work a crowd but he had the chops to go with it. Stunning.
Band of Skulls was next on my list of acts to check out and I was hoping not to repeat the 1st night’s experience with Sticky Fingers, given I hadn’t heard BOS before either.
I shouldn’t have worried however as the English 3-piece delivered an enjoyable and dynamic set that left me wondering why I hadn’t heard them before and also why there were no CDs in the merch shop….the numbers of camera people about indicated this band has been tagged as one to watch.
BOS play a radio friendly alternative rock sound with a live ferocity that captures your attention and doesn’t let go from start to finish. They are one of the tightest acts I’ve heard live and the interplay between drums and bass was solid as.
Another enjoyable encounter was 80s ska/pop act the Beat. Lots of tunes that got feet dancing and voices singing along. The abs on singer Ranking Roger, who must be in his 60s, had the younger ladies swooning and the older men guiltily sucking in their paunches….
After a short break for an excellent vegetarian meal it was off to Jeff Lang, another artist who I had heard much about but never seen in performance. And what a performance it turned out to be. Just him and a drummer and the revamped Juke Joint was captivated. Here too was the first blues performance of the weekend that I’d heard and it was like receiving a shot of adrenaline. Another truly ‘wow’ moment. Lang’s voice has been criticised by some as weak and not suiting the music he plays. Well I’m sorry but while he doesn’t have an authentic blues howl the man can more than hold a tune and if that isn’t his strength his skills on various guitars more than over compensate.
The night ended with the Music Maker Blues Revue, a collective of older musicians from the American south being sponsored to try and keep their musical heritage alive. I caught the Revue briefly last year and recognised a couple of the players and boy, could they show younger artists a thing or two about playing together and having fun. Throw in some of the best guitar soloing I’ve heard in blues format and no way could they be worried about their heritage dying. And no one could deny them the use of those chairs on stage that’s for sure.
So a full-on ‘wow’ sort of day. My Bluesfest had well and truly begun.
This day was going to prove interesting. Catching up with some acts seen the day before (BOS, Jake the uke man) and looking forward to some legends (John Mayall, Waterboys). And there were others too of course…
BOS and Jake were stunning again, particularly BOS who played a slightly different set and seemed over their jet lag from the day before. Just plain enjoyable. The rains well and truly came today although we were all prepared this time.
I caught the tail end of Skipping Girl Vinegar as I headed to the Mojo tent to catch Mariachi El Bronx. Unfortunately I left after only a few tunes partly due to not finding them that entertaining but also out of frustration at a group of younger people thinking that the seated area was a place to plonk themselves down and chat inanely – and loudly – throughout the show. This was not the first time this had happened (nor would it be the last) but it is sheer ignorance and people need to speak up and tell these idiots to clear off out of the tent to socialise. Point of notice to those who do this: no on has paid money to listen to you speak so piss off!
There…I feel better now…
Leaving El Bronx early let me see the last half hour of John Mayall’s set at the Crossroads tent (he was down as a must-see for Monday). And wow…this man looked ill but at 80 he still has a strong voice and displayed virtuoso blues playing steeped in history that brought to life all those old records I have. Can’t wait to hear the full set on Monday. Amazing.
The Waterboys were sensational. Thoroughly enjoyed their set which mixed older songs with newish ones although I’m not sure just how big an influence on other acts they have been (stage announcer stated they had influenced dozens…hmm). Anyway, while I always liked one or two songs I found this performance will stir me to listen to more.
If the Waterboys were good then Rodrigo y Gabriela were just stunning. To see and hear acoustic guitars played with such skill and passion will remain one of my all time festival highlights. The use of the guitar’s body for percussive effect is something I’ve seen many a time but not like this. The interplay between these two Mexican musicians is such that I’m sure when one breathes in the other breathes out. A real ‘wow’ moment indeed.
Day 3 was to finish on yet another high with the Celtic folk punk sounds of the Rumjacks. Yes, there’s more punk rock clichés in this lot to last a lifetime but their sheer energy and presence is something to witness. Piano accordion player Sarah-Marie is the highlight as she pogos and bounds around stage, rarely having time to catch a breath, black mascara and sweat running down her face. Doing that with a guitar is one thing but another thing entirely with a heavy instrument strapped to your chest. The whole band though fairly cranks things up and just exudes energy. What a way to end a night which we did after a quick stop at the excellent Burger Park and another encounter with rain. Back to home and beer and olives…
The 2nd last day was a bit of a slower one in terms of the festival with all of us enjoying a pleasant morning at the Beach Hotel. The ladies (and Kurt) spent some time at the markets while the lads spent some time with Coopers Ale…Kaylene bought me a cool paper feather made from sheet music…
The mud and smell from the festival were there well and truly today, begging the question why the once green areas hadn’t been hit with some form of gravel or road base. Quite a sight.
Musically I took in some of the world sounds of Angelique Kidjo (very cool) and Gary Clark Jr (first appearance of an SG) while Sandy’s and my ‘date’ at the cider tent was a fizzer after the cider ran out before we got there. Clark played solid electric blues but for me my focus was on seeing Frank Turner. Turner is someone I missed last time he appeared at Bluefest but after buying a couple of his albums on a whim and seeing DVDs of his live shows I was really keen to check him out. Together with his band the Sleeping Souls he put on one of the most enjoyable performances of the festival. He’s made a bit of a name for himself in the last few years with the result being the audience singing along to nearly every song (except for the new ones). A great gig and for me Turner is fast becoming the Elvis Costello of his generation. Even my tired body managed to get involved!
The night finished with the final performance of the Rumjacks in a sparsely attended Delta tent (most were off seeing Ben Harper). Again, a top and exciting performance from the band with a full on mosh that started to get a little too full on for some. We only lasted half the set ourselves, choosing to leave early to miss the mass exodus that would occur with the end of Harper’s set. Sarah-Marie’s makeup made it past the first song this time…
Tired and weary we trudged through the mud to the car and home. One more day and the Bluesfest shuffle is definitely on..
“Well I hope your hair grows back”. The above ‘insult’ aimed at me for half joking with an Irish patron the reason Tom, Steve and I weren’t hanging around to see Hozier was because he was Irish was the highlight of our first day at Bluesfest 2015. Sad but true. Musically, to be fair, my getting to see Augi March for the first time was pretty darn cool too although the couple behind me did their best to damage that bit of enjoyment by talking and laughing all through their set. I hope their friend ‘Jimmy’ never forgives them for forgetting his birthday! That aside, Augi were majestic. They’ve not toured for sometime but to me at least that never showed. I was a little worried the subtleties that highlight their music might be lost in the vast expanse of the Crossroads tent but they managed to convince and played superbly. But blues? Hmmm. Stretching things a little there and more so on the numerous other acts on Thursday’s bill. I was excited to see Sticky Fingers having read a bit about them recently. But what a let down. You’d think a band named after one of the toughest albums of the Rolling Stones’ career would have some balls but they were as boring as bats piss. A massive rip off of every English pop band of the 1990s with a bare chested keyboard player who looked like a cross between Frank Zappa and a member of Toto their only highlight. A huge let down but the JJJ raised youth dominated crowd loved them! I walked out after 4 songs (Tom and Steve lasted 30 seconds). God I hate getting old…. But a nice day overall. My wife Kaylene made the trip down for the first time and we enjoyed a morning walk around central Byron capped off with a magic lunch at Twisted Sista (and what a top name for a café). Any place that has a poster staying ‘No we don’t have Wi-Fi…talk to each other’ is worth going back to! Unlike Sticky Fingers….might have to check out Hozier and see if my hair grows back…
Hmmm. Sitting here in the peacefulness of a Sunshine Coast morning listening to the falling rain….bliss…except I am on my way to Byron Bay and its annual Buesfest music festival! Why oh why dear reader didn’t I check the weather before I left? Just because my home town of Rockhampton is like dry gulch I shouldn’t assume the rest of the country doesn’t occasionally enjoy the benefits of precipitation.
Ah well…time to find some durable wellies as the show will go on!
Hello dear reader and thank-you for following along with my Bluesfest rambles. As I mentioned first up, this has been about my Bluesfest experience; you will have your own which no doubt will have many differences to mine although I’ll be surprised if we don’t share some commonalities.
And that is the purpose of this final Bluesfest post for 2014. This is my very own Suggestion Box with a small collection of observations about some of the not so pleasant experiences that maybe many of us shared during the festival’s five days. Or even one if that’s what you attended. And like my Bluesfest experience, I’m sure you’ll have your own similar list. Feel free to comment if you must. And no apologies if you recognise yourself here. If you do, suck it up.
Things to improve from an organisational POV:
1. Artists signing point: surely there is a better way to organise the way people line-up to get CDs or merch signed by their favourite artist? A long line that reaches out into the general walking area is just plain asking for trouble. How about something that snakes along the fence line at right angles to the merch tent? Directing people this way would avoid pissing people off, both those lining up and those simply trying to walk passed. Or put the whole thing somewhere else.
2. Artists CDs: similar to above but it was almost impossible to look through CDs this year due to the small stand at the merch tent. Not sure what happened but this year’s set up was very poor compared with last year’s.
3. Misleading signs: after not being able to bring water filled water bottles (something I have no issue with), many people seemed relieved to see tents with large writing stating WATER on them. However, it was only on approaching the counter that it was clear there was a cost involved, despite no prices being clearly displayed. There was free water of course, but it wasn’t obvious where it was.
4. Alcohol costs: really? $6.50 for a light beer? By the way, Four-Ex Gold is not a Premium Beer. I could certainly afford to drink more if things were cheaper. Oh wait….
5. Paying $3 for a programme to then get it offered free a day or so later does not seem entirely fair to me; does it to you?
1. If you wish to have loud conversations with friends that’s fine; just don’t keep having them while a performer is playing. Others around you might actually like to enjoy the performance. I for one am not interested in stories about your drinking abilities or sexual conquests. Go outside the tent and let others enjoy what they (and you, let’s face it) have paid for.
2. Wide brimmed hats do not keep the sun off your head while you are under cover of a tent. Take them off, particularly in smaller venues with large crowds. It will feel better and not only that, others, not as tall as you, might just be able to catch their favourite performer a little clearer. Or at all.
3. People taller than 163cms: it really is not cool to simply plonk yourself in front of people cutting off their view. Look behind you and you might find a place where you can stand and see the performance over the head of the shorter person whose view you just blocked. And if you get asked to move by such a person, don’t be a prat and just do so. We’re all trying to enjoy the experience of the festival and that means seeing most of it too.
4. Smoking in tents. I don’t give a crap about whether you have a nicotine (or some other) addiction; I choose not to smoke and I certainly have no intention of joining your ill-disciplined ranks. I also don’t wish to have my brand new Bluesfest shirt burned. Butt out of my space (bad pun intended).
5. If you must insist on ‘putting your hands in the air like you just don’t care’, then please wash.
6. I like my mobile ‘phone’s capabilities to take pictures and so on but having you stick yours up every time I try to take a quick snap shot, and for you to leave it up there for entire songs and performances is just plain ignorant. Do you really think the world wants to view your crappy YouTube video with shit sound? Take a quick snap and put it down. You are invading my space enough without you preventing me from enjoying a show.
This all said, I have to say I love Bluesfest. These few minor comments or criticisms aside, it is one of the most enjoyable festivals I’ve attended. It is clear that the volunteers work really hard to keep things clean over the whole event and hats off to them (especially wide brimmed ones) and their supervisors . I enjoyed the variety of acts at this year’s festival; it might be a cliché but to me there was definitely something for everyone.
See you in 2015. Hopefully our tired feet will have recovered by then.
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.
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.