Bluesfest 2019: Day 2 Highlights

Day 2 of Bluesfest’s 30th Anniversary celebrations held much to celebrate, indeed.

Baker Boy

What an entertainer. Baker Boy is the complete package. From the moment of his cheeky bound out onto the stage, this Indigenous Australian rapper held the Juke Joint (home to the mini Boomerang Festival within the main event) in the palm of his hands. The non-stop flow of his tracks, including ‘Black Magic’ with Dallas Woods, and ‘Cloud Nine’ complete with crowd call-and-response, created an energetic flow within the room that saw all arms bouncing in unison, all voices screaming as one. It brought people together, which really, is the heart of music.

The Marcus King Band

Hailing from South Carolina, Marcus King delivered a ‘southern fried’ brand of blues and psychedelic rock, with funky grooves and some incredible lead guitar. With a smoky voice that was kind of like a cross between Janis Joplin and Eddie Vedder, Marcus and the equally talented band captured audiences with songs about heartbreak, loss and sorrow. ‘Goodbye Carolina’, ‘How Long’ and ‘Confessions’, to name a few, were accompanied by an energy-driven set and a few epic jam sessions (kudos to the drummer for his solo) which left audiences speechless and thinking they were in Carolina eating fried chicken with a bourbon chaser.

Deva Mahal

What a diva, indeed. With a soul-shaking voice, the daughter of Taj Mahal brought every drop of her soulful R&B sensibilities to the Delta stage. Quite simply, she glowed. Backed ably by a wonderfully diverse band (and a sultry backup singer we couldn’t take our eyes off), Deva played plenty of tracks from her album ‘Run Deep’ as well as some energetic covers. It was perfectly clear to all in attendance that this urban goddess has been performing since she could walk.

St Paul and The Broken Bones

This eight piece funk band from Alabama sure know how to get the crowd up and dancing. The minute the charismatic Paul, lead singer, took to the stage decked out in a long, black sequined robe and started hitting those high notes, the tent was pulsating and the crowd were captivated. And when I say high notes, I mean HIGH. This man can sing and although he isn’t actually performing a sermon, you definitely feel as though you are watching one hell of a church choir. With trombone and trumpet players, an organist, guitars and drums, St Paul and the Broken Bones delivered a retro soul set that it had its roots firmly set in the deep south. Given his incredible talent and ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy, I was left feeling that the world would be a better place if ‘St Paul’ was the pope.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy is a wide-ranging and ever-changing assembly of musicians from all over America, and even the world, in the case of their Japanese drummer at the Jambalaya gig. The self described ‘fusion-influenced jam band’ (don’t worry we don’t know what that means, either) brings contemporary vibes to an old school big band layout, with screaming horns, wailing jazz keys and thumping bass guitar the signature sonic template. Think jazz-meets-rock-meets-funk-meets-big-band, and you’ll have some idea of what they sound like. Better yet, check them out.

Shakey Graves

Rose-Garcia is one of those performers that leaves you quietly reflecting on life and lost love. With his gravelly, raw voice and moody guitar, Garcia puts his heart on a plate and serves it up with a side of angst and anguish. From the emotionally stirring ‘Loop’ to ‘Pay the Road’, Shakey Graves’ set was captivating and left the normally chatty crowd, silent. ‘Excuses’ and ‘Counting Sheep’ demonstrated Rose-Garcia’s incredible songwriting expertise, with a highlight of his performance being the final song, ‘Roll the Bones’, which although was performed solo, filled the Crossroads tent with his memorably haunting voice, leaving the crowd wondering what just happened.

Imelda May

Imelda May may be petite in size, yet this sassy female from Dublin has a huge, soulful voice that filled every inch of the Mojo tent. Giving her first Bluesfest performance in ten years, Imelda breathed life into her show, namely titled ‘Life, Love, Flesh and Blood’. With an organist and some bold and brassy guitars, Imelda transported the audience to a smoky-filled blues club in downtown Ireland, proving that ten years between sets is too long. ‘Should’ve Been You’, ‘The Girl I Used to Be’ and ‘It’s My Time’ were just some highlights from a show that showcased Imelda’s rich, soulful voice and ravenous vocals. All that was missing was the smoky air and intimate velvet couches one associates this kind of music with.

Hussy Hicks

Returning for yet another Bluesfest, Hussy Hicks are back with new tunes and even more stage presence than ever. Consisting of four femmes fatales, so to speak, the ladies were in fine form, with Julz shredding on the guitar (as always) and Leesa’s incredible vocal range. Playing both old favourites and new tracks, such as ‘The Pirate Song’, ‘Drummer Boy’ and ‘Take a Look‘ the Juke Joint tent was alive with everyone dancing, clapping and singing along. Hussy Hicks have an indescribably euphoric stage presence and the friendship and strong connection between the band members is what makes their music what it is. One of their new songs, ‘Get Ready’, about forgetting all the bullshit that happens in our lives and just focusing on getting along with one another, is definitely a mantra we should all follow and a song that should be on everyone’s playlist.

Trevor Hall

Somehow we’d never heard of indie-folkster Trevor Hall, but that certainly wasn’t the case for the hundreds of fans that crammed into Jambalaya during his incredible set, singing back every gut-wrenching lyric to the humble star. Looking like he’d be more at home playing acoustic guitar by a fire in a log cabin, the clearly beloved musician brought a spiritual lyrical sense to his melodic tunes. Guest guitarists and violinists beautifully complimented the musical prowess being demonstrated. A top pick for Natalie, for the day.

Hozier

You know you’re about to see a headline act at the Bluesfest when the Crossroads tent is spilling over and an excited crowd are jostling to find an inch of space, one preferably where they can see the stage. Hozier, hailing from Ireland has quite the following, and after watching his confident, bold and energetic stage performance, it’s easy to see why. With a tight eight piece band, Hozier showed no signs of holding back and dived straight into the performance, his soulful, rich voice instantly warming many of the rain-drenched crowd. With impressive lighting, loud drums and rocking guitars, Hozier belted out tracks from his latest album, ‘Wasteland’, such as ‘Dinner and Diatribes’, ‘Shrike’ and ‘Almost (Sweet Music)’ and had the crowd eating out of his hand. It was impressive to see such a talented young man perform with humility and despite the success of his first single, ‘Take Me to Church’ (which closed to the show to deafening applause) , Hozier has strayed from the pop music path and has taken on a musical challenge, one that exemplifies the significant mark he has made on the music industry.

Iggy Pop

The Godfather of Punk is 72 tomorrow (21 April) and, yeah, he’s still got it. Iggy Pop still struts around the stage shirtless, and despite his obviously advancing scoliosis and the start of a pot-belly, he still has the energy to get down into the pit to connect with the fans in the front row as well as dance around the stage in an electrified performance that juxtaposed the stoic band behind him. In perfect rock star fashion, his band built the suspense before he exploded onto the stage. He launched into favourites ‘Passenger’ and ‘Lust for Life’ early on in the set and his unmistakeable baritone sound and kept up the pace throughout. Too often stalwart legends of music deliver lack-lustre performances in their advancing years. Not this one. Happy Birthday Iggy.

IMAGES (c) JD Punisher Photography and Danny Santangelo

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