This report was written by old mate Len following the Easter 2011 Bluesfest, well not immediately following, the gestation period was elephantine, in fact, it is a whopper of a report, replete with Len's finely tuned sense of humour, it is incisive, perceptive and well worth a geek. Enjoy!
Welcome to the Bluesfest 2011
The 2011 Bluesfest, Byron Bay, from Thursday 21st April to Monday 25th April 2011
- Five days and only one downpour.... and that during Elvis, the final act!
- Liqua-fraction …. according to Patrick the Mud was like the NZ earthquake ...
- Ferris Wheel gone after last years accident
We had a great weekend but did miss our ‘Old Mate’ Baz.
We were spoilt Friday morning with Yvonne’s cooking... Michelle
Michelle had me firmly tucked under her wings as we entered the grounds and decided - no - back to the car for the gumboots. Michelle - Oh Wise One!! ...Yvonne
- Lanterns, costumes,
- Floating animal
- The Bluesfest had a more cultural focus this year!
I was a Bluesfest Virgin and approached the night with an innocence of a child UNTIL - the preparation for the journey. Teenagers have nothing on you lot! Hip flasks filled, eskies in readiness - in case we get caught waiting in the car park! (a Porto Loo might come in handy next year) I salute you all ...Yvonne Jones
All went gone to plan; Michelle's accom was second to none. Plus every convenience within a few yards. There is a Woollies at the back, the Kingscliff pub next door and the beach across the road…we were all set for the Bluesfest 2011.
We headed down to Kingscliff Thursday afternoon to Michelle's Unit. With five of us camped there at any one time, it was comfort all-round. Michelle issued a room to Patrick and me; unfortunately for Patrick he couldn’t see the TV (cricket) directly from his bed but did have a bed build to suit the guy.
The digs were world class u living - a precedent has been set.....Yvonne
The boys as expected were good roomies and coped with being out numbered by us girls.... Michelle
The team for the weekend was made up by our accom host Michelle, Nikki, Yvonne, Toni, Patrick & I. We did get a visit from Michelle’s mother and daughter…just checking up on our behaviour.
Thursday Night Car Park Saga
(or the Curious Incident of the Drunks in the Night-Time)
Its looks like Len failed to mention the car park entertainment Niki and I experienced on Thursday night. It resulted in me acquiring a war injury but our flat mates didn’t think it was that entertaining. Thank god Lenny packed the Savlon. Clearly we peaked too early... Michelle
I was only a tad concerned at the end in the car park where I thought Niki and Michelle had fallen into a ditch filled with human waste products never to return. I insisted that Lennie get out of the car and look for them. They were eventually spotted returning in the opposite direction talking to random people in cars....Yvonne
The Maddening Crowd
The crew were all there...Baz, you were surely missed by all, but the Bluesfest rolled on regardless
I was a late entry to the Bluesfest (i.e. arrived Monday morning) to the boys tucked up in their little beds with Michelle entertaining them.... Lynelle was a Bluesfest Virgin and approached the night with an innocence of a child UNTIL - the preparation for the journey. Teenagers have nothing on you lot! Hip flasks filled, eskies in readiness - in case we get caught waiting in the carpers! (a Porto Loo might come in handy next year) I salute you all...Yvonne
The Main Act!
Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson
Hat & Cara wasted no time in getting as many songs out as they could in the short set. The highlights were Hard Times, his Blind Willie Johnson song, and John the Revelator.
Cara has taken her transformation into Hat’s rustic wife to a new level; by wearing her 1930’s dress and what I later understood to be a ‘snood’. Oedipus complex was Toni’s summing up of the situation. Rating: 10.
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
And more from our reviewer, "I cant believe a review of the highlight act of the festival has been missed...Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band...Obviously I was the only one of us there…I was front row with others my vintage all saying the same thing...I remember seeing them in the 1970s....They were very entertaining...in fact their "props" were the same as were their gags...loved it! Felt like I was in a time warp! Musically talented too!” ...Lynelle
Los Lobos, the alternate Tex-Mex; the boys last played for us in 2006. I remember them being a little flat back then. This time round we saw them apply themselves to their work with the systematic professionalism you would expect from 'the hardest working band in LA'. The band was tight, all supreme players, playing all their classics, together with some new ones.
David Hidalgo - vocals, guitar, accordion, fiddle
Louie Pérez - vocals, guitar, drums
Cesar Rosas - vocals, guitar, Banjo
Conrad Lozano - vocals, bass, Guitar
Steve Berlin - keyboards, horns
However, the ‘Wolves’ are aging; looking at the band, if you didn't now them better, you might have mistaken them for cabaret band who wouldn’t look out of place at Southport RSL. David Hidalgo has gone grey since last here. Rating: 10
-Sound was strong/powerful, the boys have lost nothing over the years.
-Broderick was in good form, Patrick tells me this isn't always the case
- Peter Bennett from the Flood was part of band
- Smith looking very much looking like Baz…in fact after seeing Broderick Smith, we saw Baz ‘look-alikes’ everywhere. It made up for his absence.
- Broderick was happy to be in Byron Bay "where the Bong was invented"
- while we didn't witness it all, it was a great show with Broderick at the top of his game, rating: 10.
- New was the Melbourne Cup song in this set
- Rating: 10
-Appreciated being asked back
-Different from the Monty show…better
-Backing band excellent, they drove out the baseline & amp; Dr Ernest did his thing, mon
- Ernest Ranglin’s precise, jazz-infused reggae set covered much of his incredible Below The Baseline material, Rating: 10, again for the purists
- Song highlights
Day 1: Church fall down; Dixie Chicken; Willin'
Day 2: Put on your favourite shoes
- Rating: 10
ZZ Top only had the one appearance, being on Thursday night. Patrick and Niki attended the ZZ show, while the rest of us sat back and lapped up Ben Harper
Pat and Niki were very excited about the boys' performance and reported back in the most glowing terms.
- Patrick loved the lined drawn through the ‘beards’ Billy, Dusty, Frank "front" Beard (no beard)
- ‘You could not do ‘legs’ without the fur guitars’ ...
-Billy single pickin' guitar .. digit work
-Billy played a 1930 blues track
- according to Patrick, the quote from the show: "we been going for 4 decades with the same 3 chords’
(I think John Lee Hooker went for 80 years on less)
(I think John Lee Hooker went for 80 years on less)
Tim Robbins; The Rogues Gallery Band
- Song highlights: the song following his father’s song was great?...Shorty Trombone played this one; the Billy Holliday song. ‘Oh Mary don't you weep No More, Pharaohs Army Got Drowned’ was a standout. A great set from a surprisingly talented performer. Rating: 9
My highlights were Elvis, (great dance music)....Michelle
Elvis Costello set list
Pump It Up Mystery Dance Uncomplicated Either Side of the Same Town Everyday I Write the Book Turpentine Watching the Detectives Good Year for the Roses Slow Drag with Josephine Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)? (Hank Williams cover) Bedlam Shipbuilding (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea Less Than Zero Beyond Belief Clubland Alison / Suspicious Minds / Somewhere Over the Rainbow / There's a Place For Us Oliver's Army (What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love & Understanding? (Brinsley Schwarz cover)
Fistful of Mercy
With Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison making music together, would have to be great (along with violinist Jessy Greene) – but just how good was definitely a surprise.
The three members, accompanied by the excellent violin of Greene, worked tremendously well together, great harmonies. At the end of the day, you can tell that these are musicians who simply enjoy making music together, holding a great respect for each other’s craft. This feeling is infectious – you can’t help but admire them all – but most importantly, they simply make impressive music at the same time.
A real find… Rating: 8.5
- Mr ‘Mother Earth’ himself
-The South African guys, Tio Moloantoa (bass), Andite Npubezelo (percussion), were excellent additions to his show.
- His best song ... new, need to check out name
- Xavier is all love & heart, and fighting for ‘Mother Earth’, and in it for the long haul…but I do senses some frustration coming through. Rating: 9,
- Neil was Rockin'
- Song an aboriginal (language) song in set
- His drummer was the son of one of the original Warripee Band drummer.
- Lots of protest ... and calls for reconciliation
- I'm a Neil fan, and on both his shows he worked his 'bush' craft well. Rating: 9
Then came the Legend, John Legend that is. Mr Smooth indeed; the Legend swaggered and swooned through 90 minutes of modern soul music with most of the audience in rapturous. Legend arranged his night’s activities early in the set...selecting a girl out of crowd & then sent her off back stage…In waiting, I thought.
These ladies appeared to have a swathe of dedicated fans in the crowd who sung every word. Rating, again for me a 7
- Poor sound according to Niki, who is an expert on the ‘mothers’.
- Lead guitar has great potential
- One old guy we were standing next to, suggested “these guys are a lot like Led Zepplin”
- Demonstrated their unique ability to sing one verse and play 7.5 minutes of improvised guitar.
- Dear Prudence (Beatles cover) sounds great
- ‘Joker’ ‘Woman’ and ‘Mind’s Eye’ were played but I’m not sure they were three separate songs. Rating: 7
Ben Harper - Relentless 7
Harper has recorded an album with THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA and written some songs for them. There was an expectation that they would perform together. Sadly this did not come to fruition.
Ben Harper set list
Mutt Lifeline Don't Give Up On Me Now I Will Not Be Broken She's Only Happy In The Sun Rock N' Roll Is Free Fell Love Pray That Our Love Waiting On A Sign Dirty Little Lover Skin Thin Another Lonely Day Amen Omen Diamonds On The Inside Number With No Name
Ben Harper - I wanted to take him home, maybe next time...Yvonne; Rating: 10
Blind Boys of Alabama
A sensation was the big guy of the group, Bishop Billy Bower; they were battling to keep him in his seat; Michelle was concerned that he would tumble off the front of the stage on a couple of occasions; the ‘minder’ was kept busy restraining him.
Founding member Jimmy Carter, singing lead vocals, continues to be the mainstay of the group; his enthusiasm is infectious, and like his good mate, Clarence Fountain, the group's former long-time lead vocalist and founding member (limited his touring for health reasons), Jimmy is doing an outstanding job. Rating 10.
Surprisingly allocated the Crossroads stage, it was near impossible to get anywhere near the stage, though BB’s purple shirt could have possibly seen from outer space. We did hold our ground and landed in front of the sound cage and a good spot to view the show. It was an honour to see the legend in action, performing snippets of his well known tracks such as “Rock Me Baby”.
The band were solid and tight. We had the whole ‘big band’ grace the stage. BB is understandably getting old and a bit weary. BB at 85, what do you get? A cranky old bluesman; which resulted in a lot of tension in the band. This was evident in his performance as his ability is not what it used to be and the fingers don’t find the notes like they used to. There majority of BB’s angst was targeted at the poor ‘blameless’ drummer (to the relief of the other band members), who tried to the best of his ability to anticipate the great man but to only to receive his wroth and likely sacking or as BB threatened, stabbing (‘I carry a knife’)…(the picture above tells a thousand words). With King it’s about being in his presence though and that’s something that will never happen again so in that respect it was nice to witness the legend.
BB King set list included, See That My Grave is Kept Clean Every; Day I Have the Blues; When Love Comes to Town; Rock Me Baby; The Thrill Is Gone When; The Saints Go Marchin' In. Rating: 10, for the real legend’s live show
The song highlight for me was ‘Handyman Blues’
I thought CW has lost a little too much weight; getting a bit too thin.
The band went off for a break during the show but didn’t come back on queue, which brought the reprimanding comment from the CW; ‘beer is more important to the boys than playin’. Rating: 8.5, all the usual great elements that are CW, but little flat this time.
ROCKWIZ was the usual entertaining show; the difficulty must be in getting a live studio vibe to gel well in a festival environment. They managed to do it well. The format was similar to last year, each group of contestants was allowed one round on stage and there were musical breaks and crowd participation moments interspersed with witty one-liners from the ROCKWIZ MC (what’s her name?) that kept up the pace.
Shorty was dynamic, with a red hot backing band that; gave a sensational performance. A highlight was Louis Armstrong's Sunny side of the Street.
Like the HBO TV series Treme, this was New Orleans sound with lead by Shorty and plenty of brass.
Rating: 10, you had to like a lot of brass action, but this guy is the complete package.
Singing Bill Monroe songs as their stock standard; the traditional bluegrass could not be heard any better.
The Ralph Stanley song by Keith was a highlight
Rating: 9 (for the purest, 10).
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band
Sue has a great voice/guitar and gels well with Derek
- just released her second set of covers, Car Tapes vol. 2
- super Aust sessions band: Shane O'Mara lots of time in PK's bands (Coloured Girls)
Lisa has strong vocal presence and provides good interpretations of the cover songs + her own songs are excellent in there own right
Rating: 8.5, goes ok, will check her CDs out
-I sensed a biting wit
- a highlight…had the runner decked out in his 80's running gear (note short shorts, head band), who ran a couple of circuits of the tent while she played her song called "runner"
Looks like the Doctor out of Grey's Anatomy
Irma Thomas, undisputed queen of soul and the embodiment of all that New Orleans’ music is loved for, had the Crossroads audience completely entranced with her golden classics and personal stories of surviving Hurricane Katrina. Her voice was flawless and as perfect as on her first recordings, which she revisited in a set that played like a catalogue of the golden era of soul and r n’b. Rating: 10
Michael Franti set list highlights: Love Don't Want Hello Bonjour Shake It Anytime You Need Me Sweet Little Lies The Sound of Sunshine I'll Be Waiting Say Hey (I Love You)
- Franti then told the crowd of the plight of Sarah Gapp, a fan who had suffered a stroke and become a victim of locked-in syndrome. After a meaningful and heartfelt appeal, he brought Sarah and her mother on to the stage, again to wild applause.
- As he began to close the show with its sing-along chorus, the crowd bellowing along, the band produced a birthday cake – turns out that it was Michael’s birthday. The crowd sung a resounding, boozy, exhausted and loud “Happy Birthday” as Michael blew out the candles on what was one of the most incredible shows.
Straight into Michael Franti - fantastic - dancing and jumping around. Love him.
- ‘I’m going to downloaded his music when I got home’….Yvonne
- ‘My highlights were Elvis, (great dance music), Michael Franti (could replace Jack Johnson)’....Michelle
- Birthday cake, locked in syndrome, marriage proposal
- Coming up in crowd...next to us
- Looked older and has put on a little belly on
Buffy Saint Marie
-from her songs and attitude she is a very strong advocate for her causes and all minority groups being ravaged by big business -pretty angry about it all
-gives us a song called "bury my heart at wounded knee" .. Protest, protest, protest
-this is a smart lady with a lot of kick in her
-her songs were vg and she and her (North American) Indian band performed well
Rating: 9, different, constructive protest with subdued anger. Has good history to boot.
-another protester; big business ripping off the little guy, i.e. the right to collective bargaining ... under threat in USA
- ok but not outstanding
Michelle Shocked is celebrating 25 years since her first album release.
- handful of stories about politics and rebellion and running away from home, to backfill her tunes. There was more talking than singing but her set was pleasant. The voice was strong and whimsical and well worth a listen or two. ‘The Campfire Girl’ as she is apparently known, can certainly use her guitar and has a lot of heart behind her words.
- long biographical stories: how she ran away from home in East Texas at 16, her bad acid trip in San Francisco that put her in a mental hospital; her life in New York as a "skateboarding punk-rocker" and feeling homesick in Amsterdam. Shocked also told the story about her long, long fight in the European courts to regain the copyright and royalties to her "first album" Texas Campfire Tapes, originally released in 1986 as a bootleg recording, something Shocked was completely unaware of until a friend complimented her on her album. Hence, Shocked won't allow anyone to record her performing. In a nod to the YouTube era, she told the audience that if anyone did post her performance on the video-sharing website, then they should put up the solidarity song, Hope in Hard Times, which she dedicated to the workers of Madison, in the US state of Wisconsin, who were fighting to keep their benefits. The frankness and passion in her Bluesfest performance is what has marked Michelle Shocked out for special mention. She may have only performed five songs but when Shocked hopped off stage in the final minutes of her set and perched on the top of the security barrier between the stage and crowd, the crowd took a sharp intake of its collective breath. "Bear with me", Shocked said as she started playing Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind. After the first verse, she began passing the microphone around punters at the front and each sang a few lyrics from the song. Now that's how you do a Dylan song. A rare moment. Rating: 8
Patrick's feedback from Kasey Chambers show; a quote from Kasey, speaking of her Banjo player:
Her husband Shane Nicholson joined her for a song as expected and the two sounded great together. She paid homage to Bluegrass as a kind of encore and performed ‘not pretty enough’ and the Bee Gees ‘Stayin’ Alive’ in said fashion. The straight version of Pretty had the audience singing in full voice and her commentary on how the record industry wanted her to change but she resisted, another story…rating 8
Gurrumul warmed his vocals with SALTWATER band earlier but took to the stage for a solo set. His music is soothing and being blind and playing the guitar as well as he does…he is fantastic. Being the son of one of the members of YOTHU YINDI put him in the spotlight, being blind focussed our attention…
Niki was supposed to report on the Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Cat Empire, etc…all the bands she loves; but didn’t come through.