Day 4. Slip Slidin’ Away
One of my favourite newbies were the King Cannons. With a raw and edgy sound and a style reminiscent of early Bruce Springsteen, they were the perfect way to start our Sunday. Lead singer Luke Yeoward kept the crowd enthralled for over an hour with soulful stories of hardship, interspersed with a little fun and frivolity. Backed up by a brilliant ensemble of musicians, the King Cannons were one of my favourite bands at Bluesfest.
Grey Ghost kept the vibe alive with his unique sound. A fusion of Aussie hip-hop, blues and rock, Grey Ghost was fresh and inspiring.
Next we parked our butts at the Crossroads stage to catch three highly recommended artists in a row. Firstly we mellowed out with Allen Toussaint and his special brand of R&B. According to his bio Allen Toussaint has worked with legendary musician such as Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul Simon – the list goes on. After listening to him singing and playing the piano for half an hour I could see why.
Following Allen was Jon Anderson, the former front man from the band Yes. Unfortunately he was awful. A large stage such as Crossroads deserved more than a high voice and acoustic guitar. Bacon and egg gossip the following day centered on how bad his performance was to use the words of one ex-fan,
“How dare he show up at a venue like this and not bring a band!”
Fortunately Roger Hodgson from Supertramp managed to rescue the evening. With classics such as ‘Give a Little Bit’, ‘Breakfast in America’, ‘Dreamer’ and ‘The Logical Song’ part of his repertoire Roger was always bound to please. However, it was the opening track of ‘Take The Long Way Home’ that caused my eyes to well up.
I was standing around the shower block the next day with a bunch of guys waiting to wash and we were discussing the bands we had seen. One fellow with a Chopper Read mustache, the scarred and battered body of a street brawler, and a huge collection of skull tattoos, admitted to everyone there that he had tears streaming down his cheeks when Roger Hodgson played. One by one the rest of the men that saw the show confessed to the same feelings. It was truly a sublime performance and a touching tale of male bonding 😉
The Bamboos entertained us over dinner but it was Xavier Rudd’s didgeridoo that got us back in the groove. The Lumineers had everyone singing ‘Ho Hey’ by the end of their performance and The Australian band, Cat Empire sent us to bed hyped for the final day.
Day 5. Right Next Door
One of the best things about this particular festival is that the stages are within such a close proximity to each other and the campsite is right outside the entrance. So when it rains, which it inevitably does in a part of Australia with an average April precipitation of 188.5mm, its nice to be able to move around with getting permanently soaked. Our transparent plastic ponchos also aided in maintaining dryness, until the sun came out and you started to sweat, then it was like wearing your own personal sauna.
One thing no one could avoid though was the mud. It’s amazing how much muck can be made from the incessant trampling of over 208,000 feet. In the paddocks you could hear the sucking vacuum of people desperately trying to extricate their limbs from the tar pit. On the road kids with gumboots splashed in the dirty puddles, spraying bemused passers by in diluted sludge. With a thick, pungent aroma of livestock and farmland, the sticky black glop coated fellow festivalians from the soles of their feet to the tip of their dreadlocks.
After a quick shower and a breakfast of locally grown fruit we hit the festival for our final hurrah. The Mason Rack Band set the Apra Stage on fire with driving guitar, energetic rock and a percussion piece performed by three band members with drum sticks and beer kegs, we could tell that Bluesfest was not going go quietly into the night.
The Royal Southern Brotherhood raised the tempo several notches with some savage slide guitar. Soldiers of Jah Army, SOJA for short, introduced us to a bluesy form of reggae that was as unique as it was impressive but the best was yet to come.
Headline act Paul Simon strolled onto the stage at 8:15pm to rapturous applause. It had been twenty-five years since I first heard the album Graceland but when Paul sang ‘Diamonds on the Soles if Her Shoes’ it felt like only yesterday. For almost two hours he entertained us with hit after hit that not only saw Julio go back to school, but also discussed his mother’s kleptomania when she decided to steal his Kodachrome away. Even ‘The Boxer’ made an appearance, bringing sniffles from the crowd. My only disappointment was that Chevy Chase didn’t reprise his role as Betty and call Paul Simon Al 😉
It was late in the evening when Paul Simon finished his set and we were now on the downward slide. Time for one last band so we selected the Melbourne Ska Orchestra to finish the festival. These guys were epic! Horns, keyboards, bongos, double bass, and a stage with about a million musicians on it, sent the crowd home on the right note.
It was over. We were exhausted! And we were very, very happy.
Day 6. Big Yellow Taxi
Actually it was a rickety old bus with squeaky breaks and spongy suspension that drove us to the airport on Tuesday morning. We were tired and the post Bluesfest blues were just beginning, so I was thankful that we managed to fold the tent up and fit it in its miniscule carry bag in only four attempts.
Unfortunately the cloning of human beings is still banned in Australia otherwise I would have had three of me at the festival. You see, for every great band we saw there were one or two we missed. Counting Crows, Jason Mraz, Jimmy Cliff, Bonnie Raitt, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Mark Seymour and the Undertows – to name but a few.
I had forgotten to shave for the duration of the festival and had a face full of fuzz to contend with. With black, grey, red, brown and ginger whiskers I looked like I had sucked on a sticky sweet and kissed a molting tabby cat. But as the Beards always say, if your dad doesn’t have a beard, you’ve got two mums.
It’s been three weeks now since my first Bluesfest experience and my feet are still dirty. Some mornings I wake up wondering whether the sparseness of the foliage on my face means I should keep my goatee or go back to baby smooth. I guess that’s what they call a first world problem 😉
Oh well, peace, love and mungbeans gang.