Tag Archives: Bluesfest

Bluesfest 2015: we love you Dr Funkenstein or, what a way to end day 5!

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.

CYA in 2016.

Bluesfest 2014 #8: An Open Letter to Peter Noble and Bluesfest attendees

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?

Audience observations:
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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Bluesfest 2014 #5: Careful with that axe Eugene; it brings on spontaneous hula dancing

Good day dear reader. A little late with this morning’s post. Late rise and washing to do…

Welcome again to the daily summary of my Bluesfest. And it is mine. That is the beauty of such a festival. Everyone has their own experience and few will be the same.

This was the day I fulfilled some ‘gotta-sees’, saw some ‘wanna-bes’, encountered some ‘may-bes’, and cheerfully revisted what feels like old friends (after sharing three gigs together surely that means something?) I also felt let down by others.

But first, some quotes overheard from deep within the maddening crowd….

‘So really? They search you for weed?
Yeah. Sniffing dogs and everything. You get caught you get thrown out.
Wow. And no booze in the campsite either?
That’s right. Wouldn’t happen in Austria.
Good thing we’re not in Queensland!’

‘Last year’s line-up was so much better. There are no big names this year.’ [heard at the Buddy Guy gig]

‘MAAAAATE! I’m going for a burger.’ [yelled in my face by a very stoned complete stranger]

Anyway, on with the show….

We started our day with a visit to a Record Fair on the way to the festival. I only made it through 2 milk crates of records before we had to leave but oh my goodness…thousands of things to see and go through! Tom picked up a couple of things but I resisted. Oh for more time (and money).

Coming to the festival, my ‘gotta-sees’ for the day included Scottish singer KT Tunstall, the Paladins, War, Jeff Beck and Robben Ford. I did manage four out of five, foregoing Mr Beck to see one on my list, War. Maybe should have thought that through more…

The day started with Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges, someone I knew nothing about but was a ‘may-be’ as he was on before Ms Tunstall. At my friend Tom’s suggestion we all went to see Eugene from the start of his set and boy, what a surprise. His set was lots of fun and emotion, his guitar playing exceptional and his band very tight and dance friendly. So much so that sections of the crowd took to spontaneous hula hoop dancing, joined by people in various North American Indian garb and small children. Almost as much fun as the musical performance that inspired it. Even the ignorant behaviour of some yobs in the crowd who thought the place their own ‘private backyard party’ (thanks for that quote Tom) couldn’t take away from what for me was an unexpected joyful experience.

I had much anticipated KT Tunstall’s performance being the owner of several of her albums. I enjoy her smart pop songs and observations on relationships. That enjoyment was enhanced by seeing her on stage as she performed solo but with clever use of looping technology that she employed as she played, accompanying herself with beats and vocal harmonies as well as various percussion instruments. It was quite something to see and hear. She was witty, engaging and a fresh sound to the performances I’d seen to date. Did I also mention she’s Scottish?

I stayed in the dusty Delta stage area to see Robben Ford so stood through Devon Allman’s set. The band played typical Southern USA rock and they are great players, Allman’s heritage being obvious. But it was all a little cliché and ‘wanna-be’ for my taste. What killed their performance was one song that went for nearly 15 minutes and included a bass solo and a drum solo as the two guitarists left the stage. I felt like leaving too…please, one bass solo in a lifetime is more than enough. I’ve witnessed at least 4 in two days. Over it well and truly.

I then found a grassy spot to rest and wait for Robben Ford, a blues guitarist of some reputation. My first ‘gotta-see’ let down of the festival. He was plain boring. I lasted 3 songs before I couldn’t take one more lyrical cliché and nursery rhyme.

I’d arranged to meet Tom and Sandy for dinner following the Grandmothers of Invention (GOI) set, what would be my third experince of them at the festival, so I headed off to see the Paladins in the tiny Juke Joint stage. It was packed, with people spilling out on the sides and rear of the stage. I did manage to get well inside and thoroughly enjoyed this ‘gotta-see’ performance. They played fierce rockabilly and old style rock and roll, with the double bass playing alone something to experince. Jolly good fun right round.

I joined Tom and Sandy for the the final GOI performance of the festival as the tale end of Nikki Hill’s set ended with a raucous version of AC/DCs Whole Lotta Rosie. To say the crowd went off is an understatement! Another ‘gotta-see’?

The GOI performance was exceptional and once again a joy to be part of. They are truly inspirational and guitarist ‘Mad’ Max Kutner plays with a mix of ferocity and subtly that defines description. Just amazing.

Following a welcome dinner break in the fabulous burger stand, Tom, Sandy and I went our separate ways as they headed to see Morcheeba while I caught up with one more of my ‘gotta-sees’, War. I have enjoyed much of War’s take on funk over the years, collecting records and cassettes anywhere I found them. While they have had many world wide hits (most people will know Spill the Wine, Low Rider and Why Can’t We Be Friends?), they did lose me during their disco years. They are one funky outfit however and I was looking forward to seeing them.

First up I had to wait for Ozomatli to finish and they had the entire Delta Stage area bouncing with their mix of world music and dance. I found myself enjoying their performance; it was infectious to say the least. However, they played well over time (as a performer who has experienced this type of thing myself at festivals it is extremely rude) so as a result, War went on about 20 minutes later than scheduled. I’m not sure if it was this fact or the growing cold night air but this performance was my second let down of the day. They were simply boring, as much as I wanted to enjoy it. Ah well, there’s always Monday’s performnce to judge them on…

I headed off to meet Tom and Sandy at our designated spot near the Jambalaya stage, and after short wait for the end of Morcheeba’s set and as Jeff Beck blazed away at the Crossroads stage in the distance, Tom and I headed off to join Sandy who had already gone to the car as the night air and tiredness caught up with her.

It had been a mixed but still very satisfying day. Again we managed a quick exit, despite their being many more people attending the Saturday night’s performances than to date. On the way out we picked up a couple of girls looking for a lift into Byron. That they were both Finnish was quite an accidental coincidence (Tom is a Finn by heritage, being born in Australia to Finnish parents) and it sparked a colourful conversation on the short trip back into Byron.

We were quite exhausted but again indulged on olives, cheese and crackers into the wee hours with the sobering realisation that we were now over half way through our festival experience.

A special shout out to buskers band Waxhead. Nice to hear the spirit of Radio Birdman alive and well amongst younger performers!

Looking forward to the Sunday performances in what is more of a mixed, lazy day. I might even catch KT Tunstall’s second performance. Did I mention she is Scottish?

 

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.