Monday, June 25, 2012

Bluesfest 2011

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!

Len’s Review



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

Street Entertainment 

  • Lanterns, costumes,
  • Floating animal
  • balloons:
  • 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

Michelle's Unit

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!

Then it's was onto the Thursday evening session; Anticipating was high for Thursday night with the Los Lobos, Ben Harper, ZZ Top, Neil Murray, Xavier Rudd. Thus the Bluesfest began…

Bob Dylan

Bob took to the stage for the most anticipated performance of the festival. Using water as a theme through his set list … ‘Change My Way of Thinking’; ‘Levee’s Gonna Break’; ‘High Water’; and even ‘Hard Rain’…(should have had him there the previous year); shades of Bob’s Theme Time Radio! With the audience straining for a glimpse of the legend who positioned himself at the back of the stage through most of act. However, he did appear to move effortlessly from guitar to harmonica and keyboard, just hearing Dylan’s poetry /distinctive vocals was all that was needed to satisfy most of us. Was it vanity, not wanting us to see the aging Bobness; close up shots on the big screen were strictly out! So only those up the front and centre could enjoy the full performance experience. I overheard someone’s alternative suggestion; said it was due to his ‘lip syncing’ .. If you’ve heard Bob’s usual grumpy vocals (gravel in a blender comes to mind), I don’t think so! His musicianship however was top-notch and first rate throughout his entire set. Despite being disengaged verbally with the crowd, it was clear Dylan had energy and he kept pumping out the tunes to much applause. Playing an array of songs from his recent albums, mixed with some classics, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, and his encore of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Bob efficiently worked his way through his set, as the Bluesfest crowd belted out the chorus.
Rating: 10




Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson

Hat was his usual self, and in reasonable humour for a 12 noon start at the Crossroads stage. We had to work hard to get there in time ourselves; being tempted by the Kingscliff Hotel does make an early start at the Bluesfest a distinct challenge…I wondered what hotel had tempted the Hatzman.
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

The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band came together, reached success and disbanded when I was just getting out of short pants. However, I have seen and enjoyed seeing Mic Conway before in Jim Conway’s Big Wheels at Woodforde about 3 years ago and at Bluesfest 2009 when Mic Conway’s National Junk Band entertained us in the Juke Joint. As a result I missed the show, but it was great to see that one of our troop forego other more popular acts and venture over to see CMWB…Lynelle reported back with great enthusiasm. Mic Conway taking the centre stage complete with his usual bag of tricks and rack of silly noise-makers and Jim Conway treating the crowd to his brilliant harmonica styling; the CMWB was apparently a sensation; Lynelle said the music was upbeat and happy, on stage gags from the good old days were still present with thought and speech bubbles being held over band member’s heads and the infamous megaphone making an appearance.

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 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

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.

Los Lobos - hip swaying cool dudes... Yvonne
David Hidalgo - vocals, guitar, accordion, fiddle
Louie PĂ©rez - 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

The Dingoes

- Missed a lot of their act, but what we heard was Great, 
-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.

Jeff Lang

- Usual professional JL performance
- New was the Melbourne Cup song in this set
- Rating: 10

Earnest Ranglin

-Astute professional, happy mood,
-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 

Little Feat

- the old guys Billy Payne, Paul Barrere put together a great sound ... Losing minimal from the early years
- Song highlights
Day 1: Church fall down; Dixie Chicken; Willin'
Day 2: Put on your favourite shoes
- Rating: 10

ZZ Top

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.
ZZ Top are undeniable legends for anyone with even a passing history with rock blues. For three rock gentlemen who might have retired in any other profession, they still pack a pretty solid punch. There’s a tremendous power that comes out of that three piece. They’re still lean and mean, despite the voices sometimes sounding a little on the feeble side on some songs.
- 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)
Rating: 10

Tim Robbins; The Rogues Gallery Band

The show was not what we expected, but turned out to be a nice surprise. Tim Robbins has a pretty good voice and great skill with the guitar. Unfortunately Niki didn’t agree…‘a disgraceful self indulgence’.  His band ‘The Rogues Gallery’ were a cross between  The Pogues and Johnny Cash. The latter was clarified when they covered ‘Folsom Prison’ with an accordion and saxophone, this rendition was well handled. Tim’s brother Dan was a member of the Band. Sons of the famous Marty Robbins; part of the show was a memorial to his father; Robbins sang a song that his mother used to sing him as a child and a vocal track of Tim’s father was played of Marty singing and the band provided the musical accompaniment. This was made all the more emotive as Tim explained that his parents died 12 days apart and he projected pictures of them onto the screen behind him. The saw player (string instrument) was really ‘whistling’.
- 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

Grace Jones

Again, according to Niki, “like a train crash it was hard not to look away”…this time she was ‘spot’ on. For us at the back, the show was a disaster, the video screens and the sound played up continuously. Just to add to that, Grace was 45 minutes late on stage before descending from the rafters in her signature headwear. However, at 62 years Grace is still going strong. An intriguing aspect of the show was the notable ‘crutch spot’ that Grace deliberately displaced on her costume (see pictures). Good old Grace she’s still got it! Unfortunately the show was spoilt for us; which gave us the opportunity to leave a little earlier. Considering we had a biggy on the night before, Friday was a much subdued affair. Song here 80’s hits ‘Love is the Drug’, ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ Rating: 7

Elvis Costello
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.

Maybe it was the sight of seeing George Harrison’s son on the stage (a spitting image!), but the set was hypnotising from start to finish. Their songs were strong with depth, 2 or 3 songs from each artist. Fistful played tribute to other headliner such as Dylan, performing a cover of his track “Bucket of Tears”. Harper’s own track “Please Me Like You Want To” made an appearance, as did Arthur’s “In The Sun”. The self-titled track “Fistful of Mercy” was another highlight.

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

Xavier Rudd

- Mr ‘Mother Earth’ himself
-The South African guys, Tio Moloantoa (bass), Andite Npubezelo (percussion), were excellent additions to his show.
- Guest appearance a Jamaican? Someone from Toots could have been Toots?
- 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 Murray

- Neil was Rockin'
- Song an aboriginal (language) song in set
- His drummer was the son of one of the original Warripee Band drummer.
- Midnight Oils lead guitar Jim Moginie 
- 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

John Legend

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.
His playing showed the audience why he has made such a great success, having come from playing piano for Kanye West and session vocals for Alicia Keys. This band consisted much of his new friends, The Roots, they were tight and his three lady backing vocalists were dressed as smokingly hot as they sounded. There was an air of arrogance about his manner however that comes with the territory when you change your name to ‘Legend’. However for me, a rating: 7; not my style, but for those in the audience who love the guy, they would have given him a 10

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls were pleasant enough. Not knowing much about this band, the female folk duet was an interesting mix, female country-folk version of Simon and Garfunkel… I say duet, however, the roadie appeared to be one of the girls. They could have dressed up a little though... The girls are not much for fashion. They had a lot of guitar changes between songs. Their harmonies were tight and their melodies diverse. They did precious little talking aside from saying “Thanks y’all”.
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
- Their stage presence was excellent.
- 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

The Zen master of the Coastal Blues set! Byron has a long ongoing history with Ben Harper – the festival was one of the key launching platforms for his career, so there was a feeling of ‘love’ in the crowd, as he opened with “With My Own Two Hands”, and followed that with “Diamonds on The Inside” – leading to some speculation about which band Ben had actually turned up with… In a surprise finale, Ben reunited the original line-up for the Innocent Criminals to close the show.

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

The Blind Boys of Alabama graced the stage, ‘stoking the spiritual fires’ once again with their opener Perfect Peace. I picked up the 2nd show on the Sunday, and it was sensational. Have seen the Blind Boys a few times and they always give their all; but this time they appeared to be not so much playing for us but this time they where play for themselves and loving it. The introduction of Aaron Neville on their version of Amazing Grace took the power of spiritual music to an even greater level… Neville’s unmistakable falsetto voice was the perfect addition for these ‘angels of heaven’. We were absolutely captivated, and before we realize it, we’re jumping up and down to the rousing Spirit in the Sky.

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.

B.B. King

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”.
He certainly doesn’t play the guitar like he used to, but when you hear those riffs you know that this is the man that made a festival like Bluesfest possible. At 85, BB is one of the last remaining members of the pioneers of blues music – so many of whom have graced the Bluesfest stage over the years, but have sadly passed on. To witness BB gracing the stage, in what will no doubt be his final Australian tour, was something special.
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

C.W. Stoneking

CW Stoneking, was his immaculate self, dressed in his all whites. However, didn’t enjoy CW as much as his show a couple of years ago; a highlight at the time. This time around he was a little down on his previous efforts and his set list was becoming a ‘wrist cutting affair’.
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.

Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty; if you like the ‘bone’ and brass this is your thing; this guy is your man.
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.

Peter Rowan

These good old boys have been around for awhile, Peter and Keith Little are clearly old time vets.
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

Put on a great show with Susan Tedeschi’s vocals as a real stand out. Great band and combination and epic songs
Sue has a great voice/guitar and gels well with Derek
Rating: 10





Warren Haynes

Warren Haynes & His Allstar Band was a good pick up. Warren’s music is pretty much about the music, not so much the vocals. This guy is a very professional and experienced muso. The crowd seemed to well aware of Warren’s work. Haynes mentioned that he hadn’t been to Australia since 2000 and was enjoying his return. We enjoyed it too. Rating: 10

Lisa Miller

- 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)
Ken Gornley
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





Claire Bowditch

-Her music sounds good live, a pleasant communicator who was at ease with her audience. Her voice is jazz infused and sultry but the folk overtones delight the ears. She doesn’t sing pop songs, she tells stories and not the conventional way. Bowditch’s music is not something that can be judged after one listen. So perhaps she is an acquired taste, but one befitting of this festival. It’s music to enjoy over a bottle of wine.
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"

Mavis Staples

Looks like the Doctor out of Grey's Anatomy
Big highlights came from the soul/gospel contingent. When Mavis Staples cried out “I wanna get through to you. You’re not alone!” heartfelt and loaded with emotion, I felt the shivers and really believed her. In the presence of this woman, 72 years old, who was right there with Martin Luther King Jr in the beginning of the civil rights days, you can only be in awe of her resilience and her unabated passion to the cause. She reminded us of passed prejudices and the need for racial tolerance. She speaks of her family’s dedication to the movement, and I wonder if she could have ever imagined being in a place called Byron Bay singing to us. She breaks into Freedom Highway, her voice charged with power and conviction. “I’m determined to keep on walkin’. I’m still on that highway, and I won’t stop until we reach freedom. Hallelujah!” The song was written by Pa Staples, she informs us, and the crowd goes nuts, hands waving in the air, shouting out as if we are in Sunday morning service. Rating: 10

Irma Thomas

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

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.
- Leaving his band on stage, Franti wove his way through the crowd, singing Hey Hey Hey, to a platform in the centre of the tent, as the band watched on from the stage.
- 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 to us
  • Looked older and has put on a little belly on
Rating: 10

Buffy Saint Marie

-in her 60's and still going strong. like Grace Jones she's looking remarkably good for her age
-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.

Michelle Shocked

-another who is still in good order after all these years
-another protester; big business ripping off the little guy, i.e. the right to collective bargaining ... under threat in USA
- Unaccompanied 
- 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

Kasey Chambers

Patrick's feedback from Kasey Chambers show; a quote from Kasey, speaking of her Banjo player:
"You have too many teeth to play the banjo". Kasey delivered an entertaining show for her die-hard fans. Full credit to her and her band for their playing talents. Her father Bill was there, looking every bit the ‘Willy Nelson’. As you know Kasey likes to talk, one story she told us was of her friendship with her roadie “Worm” who she had known and been friends with since high school (she was best man at his wedding and he was ‘mate’ of honour at hers). Worm actually co-wrote the track “barricades and brick walls” off the album that launched her career so she unashamedly says she might just owe her success to her roadie.

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

Shane Nicholson

-Top backing band ... Same as Kasey's but change of fiddler/mandolin player who was voted top in both instruments at CMA
Rating: 8.5



 Other Artists

“Kate Heike Miller (voice of an angel); Irma and the chubby guy from blind boys. Ash Grunwald was great but I slept through the lot despite the loudness”. ...Michelle
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.

The Last Say!

22nd annual Byron Bay Bluesfest; the line up was stellar and will never be repeated. Seeing Ben Harper with his original band, Bob Dylan, BB King, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Los Lobos, Blind Boys of Alabama with Aaron Neville, Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, ZZ Top, Kasey Chambers, Warren Haynes, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Cat Empire, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Fistful of Mercy, Mavis Staples, Tony Joe White, Indigo Girls, Kate Miller-Heike, Washington, Jethro Tull, ZZ Top, John Legend , Grace Jones, Gurrumul, Toots & Maytals, Wolfmother, Irma Thomas, Buffy Sainte-Marie, George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic, Luciano and the Jah Messenjah Band, Ernest Ranglin, Fishbone, Tim Robbins & The Rogues Gallery Band and Michelle Shocked. possibly the best musical line-up in Australian festival history, a brilliant community atmosphere and terrific weather (for the most part). Bluesfest 2011 was without a doubt a resounding success, the year will be very hard to beat!

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