By Kerrie Hickin
(Photos by Christina Jasmine)
Bluesfest – Friday March 30,2018
The Teskey Brothers – Jambalaya Stage
It’s not often an act gets a round of applause before they even take the stage, but that’s what Josh Teskey elicited while doing warm-up-scales backstage, his powerful unamplified voice carrying out to the gathering crowd.
Considered a bit of an overnight sensation in Melbourne, The Teskey Brothers band has actually had a long history working on their chops before blazing onto the ‘overground’ scene, winning new fans and awards, like The Age Music Victoria’s gongs for Best Emerging Act and Best Soul, Funk, R&B or Gospel Album (for their debut Half Mile Harvest). It’s definitely an exciting time for the group, and the zeitgeist gathers force. They attract fans of rock bands such as Powderfinger and the Kings Of Leon, and certainly have scruffy-cool visual appeal, yet they dig deep into the roots of rock to where the soul and the rhythm and the blues reside close to music’s heart.
Brothers Josh and Sam hail from Warrandyte on the city’s fringe where environmental natural beauty still reigns holding back the suburban sprawl, and creative types congregate and draw strength from the topography bisected by a particularly beautiful stretch of the Yarra river.
Josh’s accomplished voice has a warm honey edge yet containing enough stings to keep it excitingly vital. Despite the music absorbing a raft of classic influences such as Sam Cook, the Nevilles, Stevie Ray Vaughan or even Creedence, the Australian-ness is somehow undeniable (remember how Diesel and the Badloves added a casual easy-going attitude and accent to the form), without losing hold of the basic elemental root.
Bassist Brendon Love was somehow delayed en route to the show, but his lack on this occasion was ably compensated for by the keyboards stepping up. A super-tight brass section locked right in to the songs, giving an authentic flavour, and a ‘clap-along’ was encouraged, keeping the rhythm going behind Sam’s elegant, understated guitar work.
“Who’s here from Melbourne?” called Josh early in the set, to a not inconsiderable response. Hopefully those not from the hometown will take the opportunity of Bluesfest to embrace the Teskey’s music as their reputation continues to grow internationally (actor Chris Hemsworth is a vocal fan, apparently).
Gomez – Mojo Stage
This year marks the 20th anniversary of British band Gomez’s incandescent genre-defying debut album Bring It On. Having grown up in a regional area, rather than the trend-conscious London, the nascent band could evolve to do precisely what they wanted musically, and for once the notoriously fickle British music media fell in, awarding the album a Mercury Prize accolade.
With three very distinct vocalists, the diverse yet cohesive sound has evolved to encompass organic and electronic sonics, the eclecticism of loping slacker beats multi-layered with guitars so clear you can almost hear the strings vibrate against the wood – it’s trippy and gritty and playful, and when slick never engulfing the candidness.
Trading lead vocals and instruments, gruff Ben Ottewell’s smokey voice balances Ian Ball’s smoother lilt, such as on Whippin’ Piccadilly (wherein there’s ‘not enough hours in a day’) and Get Myself Arrested which still bring a smile, and Tom Gray’s assuredness, particularly on the exotic and hypnotically lush Blue Moon Rising with its subtle unexpected flourishes of instrumentation.
Rhythm section Paul Blackburn (bass) and Olly Peacock (drums) somehow make it sound so easy you forget the hard work that’s going on behinds the frontline instruments.
Ottewell’s ‘Hangover’ (‘be my hangover girl’) is another winner, and he introduces the beautiful and heartfelt We Haven’t Turned Around by saying it’s as close as they get to a big ballad.
The band concludes their set with the anthemic title track from Bring It On. Having somehow slipped the ring of becoming Britpop pantheon members, whatever they do next will be entirely on their own terms, and will make very interesting listening.
Gov’t Mule – Jambalaya Stage
The hard-working stage crew conspicuously overcame a few last-minute technical issues, but the sounds were all there in the right places when the band made their low-key entrance and started their second Bluesfest set.
Warren Haynes‘ guitar is definitely the star here, taking the willing listener on a ride out from the proverbial third rock to distant stars to deep underwater to dancing in the air just overhead. This was best illustrated in a brilliant medley of some of the more mindbendingly cosmic of the Beatles compositions, starting with an overhauled ‘She Said, She Said,’ before slipping into a sublime ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’, the lighting echoing the otherworldly immersion into a magical headspace. Of their own songs, evocative words and music work together, such as in ‘Which Way To Run’ (‘time fades slowly across the plains, dreams so real you can reach right out and touch them’) and Blind Man In The Dark (‘do not look to the sky, it will not rain for you’).
The conscious and ambiguous open-to-interpretation lyrics give way to instrumental sections, every member’s virtuoso-level playing and the introduction of interesting time signatures compounding the effect. Keyboardist Danny Louis’ Leslie organ cabinet sings with a retro yet timeless voice itself, trading with ripping guitar solos and slinky bass. It’s easy to comprehend why this band is held in such high regard by serious musos.
Haynes introduces the title track of the new album, Revolution Come, Revolution Go, as being the relationship between what’s happening now and what came before, a very prescient insight in a turbulent world looking for balance.
The irrefutable Allmans connection can’t be denied, but Gov’t Mule is definitely its own distinct animal.
CHRISTINA JASMINE’S PHOTO GALLERY – FRIDAY