It’s their third year covering Bluesfest for Blank GC, so we asked Christie Ots and Gina Martin to tell us what might slip under the radar for Bluesfest newbies. And joining them in those recommendations is Jodie Bellchambers. No stranger to Bluesfest (she’s been to every single one), but certainly a stranger to the back-of-house media tents, she’ll be joining Gina and Christie to bring our readers all of the Bluesfest action. Of course, our editor Samantha Morris and her big mouth had to have her say too.
Here’s what the ladies recommend you catch…
Having caught the captivating Pierce Brothers in the act previously, they cannot come with a higher recommendation! Not only is their folksy blues music packing a rock punch, the duo is entertaining as hell. The combination is intoxicating, and it doesn’t hurt that they are easy on the eyes to boot! They incorporate a range of instruments into their set, including an impressive display with the didgeridoo, and their quick-witted banter keeps the set flowing fast. They are lightning caught in a musical act on stage, with their stomp box beating out a steady beat as guitars duel and harmonies ring out across the crowd.
Saturday 26 March – Juke Joint
Monday 28 March – Crossroads
Steve Smyth is one of those rare and beautiful musicians who can switch between grunty blues and elegant folk within a beat. He stands in a spotlight generated from his own heat, as he musically mourns the rollercoaster of love one moment and stomps out a hip shaking beat the next. Having spent 2015 touring Australia to promote his album Exits, Smyth knows how to have the crowd in raucous uproar one moment, and standing in a silent hush the next as he slides from songs like Get On to Paris.
Thursday 24 March – Juke Joint
Saturday 26 March – Delta
What started as a solo project for Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy has become a father-son duo with his drummer son, Spencer. The debut record, 2014’s Sukirae, directly followed the Mavis Staples sessions that Jeff produced and Spencer drummed on, making this the second project they have worked on together. Sukirae definitely has that signature Jeff Tweedy sound – raw, almost uncertain vocals and that sweet blend of alternate country/rock. The drum phrasing is phenomenal and you can see a Wilco influence in Spencer’s playing, which is to be expected. Easily one of the most exciting acts for me this year!
Thursday March 24 – Crossroads
Friday March 25 – Crossroads
With a unique blend of blues, disco, funk and shredding guitar, Darren Hart or Harts is definitely an act not to miss this year at Bluesfest. Harts’ debut full-length album 2014’s Daydreamer was completely written, produced and recorded in his Melbourne bedroom studio. Although he is not the bluesiest artist on this year’s lineup, don’t hesitate for one second! He will have you on your feet and grooving to funky tunes quick smart. Don’t just take it from me – take it from the growing list of top musicians worldwide raving about his shows: Prince, Quincy Jones and Questlove just to name a few.
Thursday 24 March, Crossroads
Saturday 26 March, Mojo
Kaleo, a four piece Icelandic indie pop rock group will showcase their impressive vocal ranges and amazing rock and roll guitars at Bluesfest. They’ve had five number one singles in Iceland and their 2014 track All The Pretty Girls has led to global attention including a record deal with Atlantic Records and a relocation to Austin, Texas. They’ve supported Vance Joy and were featured on the FIFA16 soundtrack. What strikes me about Kaleo is that they don’t really sound Icelandic. Maybe it’s their classic rock influences? Whatever it is, go see them, try and work it out for yourself.
Thursday 24 March, Delta
Friday 25 March, Mojo
Also out of Austin, Texas is 28 year old multi-instrumentalist Alejandro Rose-Garcia, otherwise known as Shakey Graves. Shakey is so well loved, that the city of Austin proclaimed 9 February Shakey Graves’ day. An excellent musician, he writes dreamy heartfelt songs with vocals both strained and angelic and his talent for guitar picking is immense. Four albums, three EPs and a live album make up his discography and his sound is kind of alternative country/folk- foot stomping rock and roll with his live shows, by all reports are not to be missed.
Sunday 27 March, Jambalaya
Monday 28 March, Jambalaya
Hailing from the sandy shores of the Gold Coast, but spending much time in the swampy delta of southern USA, Hussy Hicks are a powerful combination of soaring vocals and deft guitar work like you’ve never heard. Certainly not in these parts, anyway. Julz Parker and Leesa Gentz and their band are regulars on the Gold Coast gigging circuit but are possibly better known for their regular inclusion on European festival bills. They’ve previously won a Bluesfest busking competition and have graced the Bluesfest stage performing with other artists, but never before in their own right. If you like foot-stomping blues, mixed with angelic but powerful vocals and catchy melodies, or even if you just love women kicking arse on big festival stages, you will love Hussy Hicks.
Friday 25 March, Juke Joint
Sunday 27 March, Delta
Hailing from NE Arnhem Land but with global tendrils already emerging, East Journey are what you might call a Northern Territory desert rock super-group. Their ten-track The Genesis Project saw material they’d previously created rewritten and rearranged by original Yothu Yindi members Ben Hakalitz, Buruka Tau and Stu Kellaway and they’ve been invited to perform as far afield as Los Angeles. Their sound could be described as contemporary rock, but with obvious Indigenous elements and they often sing in traditional Yolgnu language. Their 2012 album Guwak, which is named after their totem, the nightbird received five monimations at the National Indigenous Music Awards and Rolling Stone magazine has described their live performance as “explosive.” (Immediately after East Journey perform, you can catch one of Australia’s most awarded and celebrated Indigenous musicians when Archie Roach takes the stage).
Friday 25 March, Crossroads