Bluesfest 2014, live review
Liana Gow-Killingbeck checked out legendary festival, Bluesfest:
Bluesfest 2014, what a delicious way to spend Easter! I was lucky enough to trot down to Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm (just a smidge north of Byron Bay) and spend a couple of days feasting my eyes and ears on the delights that the 25th Anniversary of the festival had to offer. With such a versatile line-up, a down-to-earth crowd, and the most perfect autumn weather imaginable, Bluesfest had all the right ingredients to really tickle my pickle.
Arriving in the early afternoon on Good Friday, I encountered the “kazoo technicians”, the Blue Skillet Rovers and had a bit of a giggle at their quirky, busking-style set before making my way to see the sultry minx, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Potter’s performance was dynamic, sexy and strong… something akin to Janis Joplin or Stevie Nicks. Her feisty presence demanded the crowd’s attention, particularly with her energetic dance moves, high-pitched squeals and suggestive sentences, “Get a little bit nasty, don’t be afraid”. Her set was a lot of fun, and to top it off, her and all her band members concluded by smashing the beejeebers out of the drum set in a let’s-fuck-shit-up kind of way.
Next up was the environmentally friendly group, Nahko and Medicine For The People, who spread the love around at Bluesfest with their heart-warming and meaningful songs. Personally, their music wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I found their passion, performance and the soulful messages they were sending to be impressive and uplifting.
Around dusk, Joss Stone took to the stage and boy, did she blow me away. Her charisma and girl-next-door beauty paired with that intensely powerful voice were a winning combination. We were all digging on her, really. Especially when she hopped off the stage and serenaded the older gentlemen in the front row. In a swirl of giggles, cute anecdotes and flirtatious remarks, she spoke to the crowd with a sincerity that was addictive – we all wanted more. Her hits such as the funky Super Duper Love and the angsty You Had Me were definite pleasers, yet her performance of Landlord was probably my favourite. The sexual tension that oozed through those lyrics was palpable. I found myself blushing! Stone’s trio of backup singers were also vibrant, their synchronized dance moves proved to be pretty darn tootin’ fun!
After dinner a friend had recommended that I go see Gary Clark Jnr. I had only really heard a little of his music beforehand, but I had read that Rolling Stone had dubbed him as the “Chosen One”, so I trotted along to his set with no clue really on what to expect. It wasn’t too long into his first song long before I realized that I wanted to marry this man and have his magical babies (sorry, Nicole).
Yep. This man. What a musician. I was dang impressed by the way his fingers moved so swiftly and intricately across the guitar as he played. His stage presence was mysterious, almost introverted, and he was mesmerizing without the need to over-perform. The music flying from his fingertips was fantastic. It was bluesy, moody…a little psychedelic too. It was mixture of Hendrix with The Black Keys, with a little sprinkle of RnB on top. He’s clearly a very versatile musician, which is all the more impressive.
Following Gary Clark Jnr, the teen wet dream Matt Corby emerged on the Mojo Stage. True, he is the epitome of hipster sexy, and his vocals were beautiful in that intense, Jeff Buckley kinda way. He’s obviously very gifted. But to be totally honest, his songs all pretty much sounded the same to me, and for someone so raved about, I was a tiny bit disappointed… though it may have been due to me being completely worn out, so I headed home to catch some sleep for the next day.
Once again the sun was shining and we were blessed with more dreamlike weather for Easter Saturday at Bluesfest. The afternoon’s line up in particular had me tingling. Devendra Banhart followed by Iron & Wine? Yum yum, what a treat!
Banhart had me up in no time, skipping about in merriment. With his chipper beats and quirky lyrics, his set was a definite favourite. It was pretty apparent that he and his band members were rather enjoying themselves, bantering about with the crowd and what not. Quite a few giggles were had. A highlight was when I found myself dancing around ‘in a salad way’ to the Spanish Carmensita.
The lovely Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine then played and was equally wonderful, bringing a touch of folky goodness to the stage. To see his intelligent and feeling songs being performed live in person was a truly special experience for me.
After dinner I managed to catch a little booty shaking action at Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80, the African style sounds livened up the audience in preparation for the most popular set of the day, the John Butler Trio. Butler’s guitar work had the crowd hypnotized… People were piling into the tent to immerse themselves in the electrifying vibe. Many were cheering in delight, particularly at Butler’s extended guitar solos.
Afterward, I needed to escape the crowd and I decided to swing by another tent. So happy I did, because I stumbled across the legendary Larry Graham (formerly of Sly & The Family Stone) and his band, Graham Central Station. My goodness, did they know how to party! Their funky, 70s sound had everyone up grooving… so much so, at one point several audience members were pulled up on stage to boogie down! All clad in white, Graham sparkled as his fingers devoured his base guitar like a panther on heat. Everyone was dancing. It was sensational, not to mention surprising considering over half of the audience was at least 45, and I wasn’t expecting them all to be so vivacious (sorry, mum).
Later, I made my way to see Morcheeba whose smooth and sensual songs were a relaxing way to spend the later hours of the night. Lead singer Skye Edwards was captivating in her feathery white dress, quite the sartorial reflection of her angelic vocals. The band played a variety of their well-known hits including my favourite, The Sea, yet they also took me completely by surprise by whipping out a Bowie cover! It was super enjoyable, and such a great way to wrap up my time at the festival.
Bluesfest really was one fantastic event. Though I only spent two days at the festival, being able to enjoy such a variety of musical talent was a blessing, as was the fact I wasn’t surround by hundreds of muscly, singlet-wearing men on pingers. That being said though, the amount of felt hats and bohemian inspired outfits bobbing around was a little over the top for my liking (Spell Designs must really be making a killing)… but oh well, what can ya do? Thank you for such a wonderful weekend Bluesfest, Happy 25th, and I do hope to see you again sometime in the future.
Review and pictures by Liana Gow-Killingbeck.