Kerrie Hickin & Brian Wise Report from Bluesfest

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Sunday April 27, 2016

Brian Wise: We arrived late afternoon just in time to catch the full set by Kamasi Washington on the Mojo stage. By pure chance, rather than brilliant planning, we arrived at the tent a few minutes before the heavens opened and we watched a lake gradually surround us.

However, an hour later when the rain stopped, the waters subsided so quickly that I decided that someone had spent some seriously big money on drainage here. I recall standing ankle-deep in water when the festival was at Belongil Fields all those years ago.

Enjoyed Kamasi’s set immensely. It was a little too challenging for some members of the audience but I thought it was always interesting. Nice that he has his Dad in the group too!

The Tedeschi Trucks Band did an impassioned version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends,’ with Susan belting it out, reminding us that they recently diid a tribute to the Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour.

Later, D’Angelo played one of the best first songs to a set I have ever heard at Bluesfest! It was funky and rocking: and he looked and played like a cross between Prince, Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix!

Kerrie Hickin reports that despite the rain on Saturday she still got to see full sets by Eagles Of Death Metal and Jeff Martin and ‘rested’ on the lawn within earshot of Decemberists’, and caught Fabulous Negrito and others.

Thursday & Friday

Here are Kerrie’s thoughts on the acts she saw on the first two days.

“It’s impossible to see full sets of everyone you’d like to or who generates some passing interest,” she writes. “But you can give it a red-hot go.”

Lukas Nelson & The Promise

Playing when we got there, doing a jam-band version of The Doors’ ‘LA Woman,’ didn’t really get a handle on him at this point.

 Kaleo – reminded me a bit of the rockin’ rumpus of the Black Keys!

 Kamasi Washington – saw him in passing but noted the prominent keytar use!

Chain – endorsed by Muddy Waters, particularly Australian take on the blues (inc a rambling tale of a formidable lady named Joyce). Phil Manning’s guitar playing was notable!

Emma Donovan – Scintillating voice on  ‘I just want to be your lover.’ Made call-outs to family and extended family members (her mother in front row), covered a Ruby Hunter song sung in Ngarrindjeri language, which drew whoops of recognition from some in the crowd.

D’Angelo – Wearing eyeliner and a vest made out of what looked to be black feathers, very much a rock star.

The Word – A number of vintage keyboards played by John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood) and cosmic pedal steel slide guitar workouts. Band included (late producer) Jim Dickinson’s sons also in North Mississippi All Stars. Enjoyable.

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Big band including a 3-piece brass section and three backing vocalists who came to the front spotlight for a gospel number. The cover over of The Box Tops’ ‘The Letter’ and unexpected Beatles’ ‘Within You Without You’ including Derek Trucks’ Eastern-sounding slide guitar. They also covered ‘Bird On A Wire’.

Songhoy Blues – From Mali, combining rock music with African rhythms, all musicians working hard. Sometimes it sounded almost Cajun. Singer smiled a lot, danced energetically to a good crowd response, incorporating moves reminiscent of Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and James Brown. I enjoyed their set at Golden Plains the previous week, so was glad to see them again.

The Wailers – I must confess I’m not a fan, after seeing them previously (last Bluesfest I attended way back when) and thinking them a covers band with a young faith-no-more-big-shorts singer, and all looked like they resented being on stage: “They look sad because maybe they’re missing Bob”, I recall hearing someone in the crowd say. This time they had even fewer members who could pass as being original but seemed a bit cheerier – it’s a nice idea for a closing act, playing a different album in the same time slot every night of the festival, at the stage closest to the main exit.

Rhiannon Giddens – Very strong, capable folky voice with vibrato (some band members dressed in old-timey garb – overalls, waistcoats, hats etc) banjos, double bass. Covers lesser-known Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline etc & Dylan’s ‘Spanish Mary’.

Steve Earle – With the Mastersons prominent in the lineup, a few booming sound issues, big crowd, cheering for ‘Guitar Town’ and the still-potent tale of outlaw commerce ‘Copperhead Road.’

St Paul & the Broken Bones – Good-time R&B revue style, singer revving up the crowd (looked a bit like Alan Carr), cover ‘Shake’ by Sam Cooke. Will definitely try to see more of them.

City And Colour – probably the least ‘blues’ act I’ve seen on the lineup so far. Pensive focussed singer with a clear high voice over atmospheric layered music. Think Jeff Buckley over later period Pink Floyd. Lighting was dark and moody making it look like the band was playing under water.

Con Brio – From San Francisco. Saw in passing then stayed for the set, definitely a highlight so far. Initially the band looked a bit ‘daggy’ but the singer was dynamic and attractive, at first wearing a light-catching sequined shirt, then a jacket embossed with the American flag (leading in to a song encompassing the themes ‘are you brave enough to be free, are you free enough to be brave’, ‘put down that gun’ and other social issues) then shirtless showing off his well-muscled physique with amazing dance moves. All of this would mean nothing if not for his outstanding voice and presentation, recalling Michael Jackson or Prince in the upper register with a virtuoso edge. The music itself was broadly soul-based groove pop with some slight jazzy overtones and retro instrumentation touches (a very 80s sounding keyboard at times), a la Roachford or Jamiroquai (if that’s not a slur). “We are Con Brio. What does that mean? With vigour, with spirit, with brilliance…”

The National – The difference was felt with The National’s singer’s very measured and economic interactions, like he was channelling his performance through intensity. The two guitarists interplayed, swapping leads and chiming drones into a soundscape with occasional piercing moments rising out (think U2’s The Edge or Radiohead for a loose comparison) There were some interesting rhythms eg in one that seemed to be called Deanna. They also preferred the darker moody lighting set-up.

Mick Fleetwood Blues Band with Rick Vito – Saw an extended version of ‘World Turning’ with its chunky rhythm, showcasing Vito’s superb guitar playing. He left the stage for a bit, so Fleetwood between playing his MASSIVE kit was doing this sort of call-and-response thing with somewhat unintelligible (to me) vocalisation lost in the sound (sounded at times a bit like ‘toasting’ but it was really hard to tell what it was from where I was standing).

Tex Perkins & The Ape – (last act for the night, after another brief sweep past The Wailers) The first thing I heard was the tail end of a song, a heavy psych drone wig-out like Loop or The Warlocks – checked the band line-up and saw it was Raoul from Magic Dirt on guitar and Pat Bourke from Dallas Crane on bass, perhaps indicating eclectic Perkins’s return to an alternative rock platform or maybe that it was a pick-up band to do these shows… I dunno. I didn’t see the rest of the set, but the following final two songs were covers, Them’s ‘I Can Only Give You Everything’ and The Stooges’s ‘Real Cool Time’

. Perkins himself is always a reliable prospect in whatever incarnation he manifests in, but for a ‘headline’ show at this sort of festival I thought some more Dark Horses type material would be appropriate (although admittedly I generally love the rock). I know he likes provoking/stirring as part of his persona, so maybe it was a deliberately contrary move.

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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