The crowd had doubled in size and the rain was back at Bluesfest 2018, but there was good reason for Sunday to be the busiest day of this mega-festival. Here’s a bit of what we saw.
John Butler Trio
The roots of John Butler’s music have always been firmly planted in activism, his singing, the voice of protest. John Butler trio get first mention here not just because of Butler’s brilliant guitar playing and rousing dynamic performance, but because he is passionate about social justice and has the guts to use his fame to do something about it. Last night toward the end of his set, Butler brought out a massive banner with the #StopAdani stop sign and the words “Coral not Coal” splayed across it. The banner was carried onstage by Michael Franti, Hussy Hicks, Teskey Brothers, Mia Dyson, William and Jules Crighton, Ziggy Alberts, and Tay Oskee. Traditional owner Adrian Burragubba’s voice was almost drowned out by cheers as he spoke to the crowd about the disastrous Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin. If you want to know more, go to www.greenmusicaustralia.org
Saw them again today in the Juke Joint, this time coz I just can’t get enough of these Gold Coast muso’s rockin’ style. Leesa and Julz had to patiently wait for the Boomerang Festival to wrap up in front of the tent so they could finish a sound check. They hit it off with a bang with Leesa’s booming voice announcing they had arrived. Oh, did I mention they helped carry the banner onto the stage with John Butler later?
Afro Celt Sound Sound System
Probably the most entertaining acts of the day for me. Not to mention unique. Afro Celt Sound System is a blend of African and Irish sounds incorporating instruments such as flute, fiddle, djembe and dhol drums, and kora. Johnny Kalsi enthusiastically leads the unlikely group all the while beating on his Indian dhol drum. When N’Faly Kouyate, resplendent in gorgeous orange robes, gets up to sing (unfortunately encountering microphone problems), he and Johnny dance together as if they are one, kinetic bouncing ball. You simply cannot stop your body from moving when you’re in the prescence of these Afro-Irish fusion beats.
First Aid Kit
Johanna and Klara Soderberg are the Swedish sisters that make up this Indie Folk-Pop duo. They packed out the MOJO tent and didn’t disappoint the fans from the moment a pulsating heart on the backdrop appeared to let their audience know that an emotional rendition of ‘Rebel Heart’ was on it’s way. The country feel to their voices belie First Aid Kit’s Swedish roots. The sister’s can both hit the high notes perfectly and harmonise as one on songs such as their cover of ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.’
William Crichton gets around in a #StopAdani t-shirt and his bassist has a cracker mullet. Aside from looking cool, these guys play punchy bushman blues. Crichton’s voice even had the power to carry to the back of the Delta tent as he steps away from the microphone.
This was the last Australian gig before this Melbourne band head off overseas. The songs were from their new album ‘Half Mile Harvest’ and it kicked off with lead singer Josh Teskey channelling Otis Redding to sing ‘Pain and Misery’. Josh has previously said he doesn’t think he sounds like Redding, but he does. Teskey Brother’s laid back old school blues and soul sound like their playing in a seedy, smoke-filled New Orleans whiskey bar in the wee hours of the morning and I loved it.
You should have seen the long line of young women and men waiting at the signing tent to get their CDs signed by Ziggy Alberts. There’s no denying this guy’s physical appeal but it’s his music that has the long queue and overflowing MOJO tent spellbound. Alberts is the quintessential surfer guy with a guitar just playing beautiful easy listening tunes. A new-gen Xavier Rudd but looking more like Jack Johnson now he’s shaved his locks off.
The immaculately presented veteran performer presented his hits and covers with gusto. From a cover of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Luck be a Lady’ to his own ‘Kiss from a Rose’, the die hard fans loved him. Fittingly it started bucketing down with rain as soon as he started singing ‘Crazy’!
The Bluesfest frequent flyer delivered again with her soulful, husky voice. Etheridge performed a nearly two hour set, the longest of any artist this year. Somebody bring Melissa some water!
Crow had her first ever swim at an Australian beach on this visit and she sang it’s praises as well as a solid set of her music true to their original forms. I’ve noticed a lot of the US artists playing at Bluesfest 2018 aren’t too happy about the state of affairs in their country and Crow was no different stating “You don’t wanna go back to the US and to be honest neither do I.” I guess all she wants to do is have some fun (sorry I couldn’t help myself).
Rag n Bone Man
Yes we saw him on Thursday night but I have to mention this humble bear of a man again. The unassuming Rory Graham AKA Rag n Bone Man thanks everyone for coming to listen to him, sings his song ‘Human’, and apologises for his dance moves. He needn’t have been concerned. His mammoth voice and beautifully written soulful songs carry the whole performance.
Another artist we saw before but the strength of Tash Sultana’s performances just can’t be ignored. You couldn’t get within 500m of the queen of the loop on the MOJO stage. Alone on stage with her guitar, trumpet and loop, Sultana didn’t need backup to be one of the most entertaining and popular acts at Bluesfest 2018.
A special mention needs to go to the winner of the Bluesfest 2018 busking competition, Sametime.
The winner of the grommet busking comp is Neon Inferno. Congratulations!
IMAGES (C) JD Garrahy