By Brian Wise
Bluesfest – Tyagarah – March 29, 2018
When you wake up and it’s raining out at a music festival site it promises a degree of discomfort but a nightmare for a festival director. After a few hours you can understand why all the stages at Bluesfest are under cover! But this was nothing compared to the days at Red Devil Park or, even worse, Belongil Fields. Today wasn’t rain. Back in the old days it really rained! (Sounds like the Monty Python sketch where the old men are complaining about their tough childhood).
Yet, while the rain fell on and off for most of the day there was enough time to find shelter in the tents and even get something to eat (undercover, of course). Over the years we’ve become accustomed to Byron’s weather and we arrived at the gates with poncho, rain jacket, old shoes or gumboots and an optimistic attitude.
The festival began with a welcome to country at 3.00pm in the Mojo tent (the largest stage) and we got to hear a little of Holy Holy there, Steve Smyth on Jambalaya and then an impressive Citizen Cope on Crossroads (the second largest stage). Once settled, the rain made it difficult to rush around so we decided that being dry and seated at a couple of stages was a big bonus.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real followed on Crossroads and put in a fine show that included plenty of selections from their latest album, the highlight of which was the beautiful ‘Forget About Georgia,’ which could have been written by Lukas’s father Willie. The surprise inclusion, as it was in Sydney the other night, was Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes,’ which actually worked really well. Lukas has a fine voice (you can hear his father in it) and you get the feeling that he is one hit away from being a major star on the festival circuit worldwide. Someone had apparently not told Lukas that the set was supposed to be 90 minutes because he threw himself into an extended version of ‘Start To Go,’ playing guitar with his teeth and ending with a big flourish. Then he had to launch into ‘Find Yourself,’ which was a little anti-climactic. After playing ‘Run-in’ Shine,’ he finished early anyway saying, ‘I don’t know. We’re going to play on Saturday, so see you there.’ We’d seen enough to be impressed.
Warren Haynes is the undoubted star of Gov’t Mule and he impressed early on with a 12-string Les Paul. It only takes a few minutes to appreciate how well he fitted into the Allman Brothers Band. But the Mule is way heavier in most cases. The set list delved back to the second Mule album with ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ and ranged up to the most recent with its title track, ‘Revolution Come, Revolution Go.’ Towards the end of the set, Haynes invited Lukas Nelson on stage, as he has been doing on this tour, for a rousing version of Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man.’ There was no way the Mule was going to finish up in an hour and they went the full 90 minutes, no problem.
Having enjoyed a couple of guitar heavy hours, it was time for a change with Leon Bridges on the Mojo stage. The young soul singer has developed immensely since his debut album, Coming Home, in 2016. With another album out in a month he has plenty of material to fill his set with interesting songs, with the title track of that first album remaining a highlight. Bridges has a fantastic band behind him with some handy singers, and seems set for really big things, if he isn’t there already.
At the end of the night Tash Sultana was closing Mojo, The Wailers were on Jambalaya and Joe Louis Walker was on Delta while Dumpstaphunk was at the Juke Joint. But transport demanded an early exit tonight.
As we left, a search revealed the distressing discovery that the Byron Bay Gourmet Pies stall was nowhere to be seen! Further research is needed. At least the fish tacos are still there!