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.

Bluesfest 2014 #3: Magic from Grandmothers

…and we’re here.

The morning was spent in slow anticipation and with building excitement as we went about our various ways of preparing for our first afternoon at Bluesfest. A decent breakfast and then packing the snacks was an essential part of my day. Tom and I went in search of a record fair which we learnt later didn’t start until Good Friday. Collectively we all shared a wholesome Silverside lunch with the elder Koivunens and Suters (thanks Bill!) before heading out to the festival mid afternoon. We weren’t in any rush as the entertainment didn’t start til 4 on the first day.

Upon arrival at the grounds and after making our way through the fast filling car parks, we qucikly notice a few things different to last time.

No Berocca tent, no CD tent, no round stage, a couple of new stages, plastic chars in the larger tents and the hideous ‘VIP’ Sunset Lounge. We also notice lots of people already, with line-ups at the bars numbering in their hundreds. At $8 for one full strength beer you can only imagine the money being made. There’s free water too, my drink of choice for the day, but there’s also several tents selling water that look free until you get to the serving area. Not a good look Bluesfest…

We take a look around and decide a meeting place for later when it’s clear we have different ‘must sees’.

I wonder around taking in the atmosphere. I love festivals and the real buzz you get from a collective group of people all out to enjoy themselves. This festival is special and although it’s only me second time here I love the fact that there’s people of all ages and backgrounds here. It really does appeal and cater to a broad spectrum of people. This year’s lineup does pale somewhat to last years but there’s still much to look forward too.

At the back of the Crossroads tent I manage to catch the local Indigenous group’s welcome ceremony which was tasteful, interesting and well received. I stayed and caught some of singer Beth Hart’s set on the recommendation of festival director Peter Noble. Hart opened with Nutbush City Limits which in many ways was such a strange choice but it did get the crowd going. Most of them anyway. The song showed off Hart’s vocal range which is amazing but after four more songs that strangely sounded the same I was bored and left. Hart’s performance looked promising as she took to the stage chuffing what looked like a huge cigar and regularly took swigs of beer but it all looked a little ‘try hard’ for me.

The night was coming in and it was turning cool but at least the rain was staying away.

I headed to the Cavanbah stage (sounds eerily like a venue once cherished back home) which is one of the smaller venues at the festival. Here I wanted to see two acts that I was really looking forward to seeing, the Magic Band and the Grandmothers of Invention.

The Magic Band play the music of Captain Beefheart while the Grandmothers feature two of the original Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa’s band. Let me just say that these two acts may well end up being the highlight of my festival!

After being part of the Soul Rebels funky jazz tinged set (Beth Hart note: these guys played a cover as an opener two, Sweet Dreams by the Eurhythmics but they really made it their own), I was able to get to the front of the stage barrier for the Magic Band’s set. And there I stayed for the Mothers’ set too.

Boy, what the main guitarist  of the Magic Band (I don’t remember most people’s names) did with a simple 3 pedal set-up was just amazing to hear. He kept coming over to right in front of me as he soloed, playing off someone in the crowd as I know only too well.

A great set and they promise to play a different one for the next two sets they are doing at the festival!

Then there was the GOI: the Grandmothers of Invention. What a show. I must admit to not knowing much of the material as my knowledge of Zappa’s vast oeuvre is limited. But the whole show was entertaining, musically amazing (and the guitarist here was simply astounding!) and just great to witness.

It wasn’t blues, it wasn’t roots, hell it wasn’t really rock either but it was definitely one of the nest sets I’ve ever witnessed. And that’s just ’cause they wear wigs either!

As I left to meet with Tom and Sandy I caught the end of Buddy Guy’s set as he played up to the crowd playing Hendrix and Cream licks and biting his strings, playing behind his back and throwing picks into the crowd.

Bodes well for tomorrow’s session.

We left the grounds discussing our respective evening’s all agreeing we were well satisfied with our first Bluesfest experience for 2014.

Something else new: quick car park exit!

Once home, we indulged in some cheese, olives and ales before crashing in bed.

A top start to my Bluesfest. Looking forward to the remaining days ahead.

 

Bluesfest 2014 #2: Tom, lunch and the Copa Del Rey

Our 2nd day and first full day at Byron was spent casually, shopping for a few food items, stocking up on after-show late night drinks and catching up with Tom and Sandy’s parents, both sets of which are staying at a place just down the way from us.

I gave young Kurt a crochet Easter bunny that Kaylene made for him and he  absolutely loved it.

Tom and I did the shopping and on our way spotted a record shop. Not just a music shop, an actual record shop! We of course had to spend some quality time checking it out and though the stock levels weren’t high, there was still a nice variety of brand new vinyl to immerse ourselves in! Tom bought a Sonic Youth book and wiped my drivel from the floor… the place also dealt in new and second hand guitars with several classic Fenders and Gibsons decorating the walls. There were a couple of classic amps too for trying them out but I resisted the urge to pollute Byron’s late summer laid back air waves with badly played Ramones tunes…

With Sandy away dealing with some family issues and young Kurt off with Tom’s parents, Tom and I, a little pooped from our shopping escapade, recharged our batteries back at our apartment with some decidedly unwholesome lunch, although the nutritional value of Guinness is not something that should be ignored.

A visit to the Beach Hotel for what was supposed to be a solid lunch turned into more of a liquid session and so following a family dinner and much chatting we called it a night. The next stage of our visit lays close ahead.

And what better way to start that stage with a win to Real Madrid over Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey. It should be a good day ahead indeed…

Bluesfest 2014: #1 – Bogan Survival

Well, here I am at my second ever Bluesfest in beautiful Byron Bay. Today is the first morning of what looks like being a top weekend for the 25th anniversary of this now iconic music festival. I’m staying with friends Tom and Sandy in a small but comfortable apartment not far from downtown Byron and the traffic noise is silencing the sounds of waves.

To get here yesterday I had to survive the Bogan ride, stuck in a minibus with mostly good people but with a couple of female bogan types who thought the entire bus wanted to know the ins and outs of their respective love lives and ‘taste’ in music. Needless to say I have another reason to hate Jack Johnson…but survive I did and after jettisoning that ragged pair the rest of the week is sure to be wonderful. Sadly I learned they are from my hometown, a fact I had no wish to share with the good people in our minibus….

And we’re off…

Our local football (soccer) season is nearly under-way with most of our Bluebirds (www.bluebirdsufc.com.au) teams training. It was my turn yesterday, taking on two teams for the first time. The younger age group (Squirts 3-5year olds) was first up and with a dozen kids there it was pretty hectic. I thought I had things well planned but as usual, things didn’t quite work out exactly as I’d hoped. Ah well…the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Then I trained the U15/16 girls and that was a session I wasn’t sure how would go but it went really well. Great help from our manager and the girls certainly have the potential to do well. A couple of characters to keep an eye on on but that’s fine; don’t mind a bit of cheekiness as long as it doesn’t adversely affect training or the team. It was a top session and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead…

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