It’s been three days and the post-blues blues are sort of beginning to fade. The 2009 East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival was my first Bluesfest, and proved to be a superb way to pop the cherry and chill out in Byron Bay for a few days.
What was awesome?
1. Blue King Brown – I’ve never seen BKB live before but the energy and mood of their whole set was simply joyous. Natalie Pa’apa’a was smoking in some short-shorts and a leetle black singlet. I chugged two Smirnoff Ice’s and danced the whole way through.
2. Seasick Steve – what a fascinating man. The 68 year old guitarist still looks like the hobo he used to be (and took frequent swigs of whisky from a bottle under his chair in between songs) but his sound is superb and his stories are humbling. Easily the crowd favourite among the smaller Bluesfest acts.
3. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – I’m not a huge swing fan, but these guys were fantastic. Immaculately dressed, smooth and charming. If anybody wasn’t dancing, it’s because they were too stoned.
4. Ayo – another new discovery for me. After helping out Michael Franti with his Friday night set, Ayo played her own show on the Saturday. Delightfully unpredictable, and incredibly passionate, she was a pleasure to see.
5. Dallas Frasca – a big lady with hair and a voice to match. Anybody who can get 1,000 people to sing “TAKE A FUCKING LOOK” repeatedly is a winner in my book.
6. John Butler Trio – easily the highlight of the festival. JBT were perfect – engaging and charismatic. They wanted to be there and we wanted to love them. A nice mix of straight songs and random percussion interludes, as well as all our favourite tracks. Would gladly have John Butler’s babies.
What was shit?
1. Ben Harper – what a crap set. To be honest, Harper seemed a bit out of it. He sat on stage and jammed some unfamiliar tunes (I assume tracks from his new album, which I haven’t listened to) while we stood cramped inside the hot tent, wearing various people’s sweat and pining for Diamonds on the Inside. After 50 minutes and not so much as a “Hi, Byron Bay! Thanks for coming and busting your arses through the mud to see me!” we left to buy kebabs and beat the bus rush.
2. Resin Dogs – I think they’ve just had it. They dress badly and didn’t really get the crowd going. I yawned.
3. Terrance Simien – a fairly average folk artist with a hundred-piece band. Honestly, how can you compete with That 1 Guy when you have a band member who just plays the washboard? That’s not an instrument, it’s ridiculous. Easy on the ears, but not too interesting for this Bluesfester.
4. Tinariwen – an 8-member Tuareg group who have an incredibly unique Middle Eastern type sound. At first this was kind of cool and you could get a little lost inside the music. Then towards the last half hour of the set, every song began to sound the same. Perhaps your ability to appreciate this depends on how many different substances you’ve consumed. I’d had 2 beers and I wasn’t really feeling it.
5. The mud – good God, it was everywhere. After the first day (when it briefly rained) the 500m odd pathway into the grounds was fucked. Inside it wasn’t much better, and walking between tents was something of a challenge. The mud sucked you in up to your ankles and splashed up onto your shoulders. If you didn’t have gum boots, you were royally screwed.
6. The sniffer dogs – come on, really? It’s Blues Fest. What do you expect?
All in all, I’m going to go again next year. Just so I can call people again and shout BLUESFEST MOTHERFUCKERS into my phone.
To read my live and exclusive twitter stream from the festival, click here.