Word on the Tyagarah Tea Tree farm was that Day 3 of Bluesfest 2018 was going to be the least interesting. Having caught all the acts, I beg to differ. It was a day of reassurance that the seasoned acts have still got what it takes, and pleasant surprises from the least known acts. Here’s my picks of the day.
Yes we’ve written about these Gold Coast gals in our humble mag before, but man, Leesa Gentz and Julz Parker know how to belt out a folks and blues tune. No surprise they’ve been nominated for Gold Coast Music Awards Album of the Year for their album ‘On the Boundaries’.
In his black wide rimmed hat, red shirt and tight black pants, this guy looks more Nashville cowboy than son of travelling pentecostal preachers from NSW. His is a passionate, physical blues performance in all its hand shaking, knee jerking, body trembling glory. This is a man who loves entertaining.
One half of this alt country duo, Ashleigh Mannix, lives in Banora Point so we are claiming Little Georgia as a Gold Coast band. Mannix’s powerful vocals deliver the raw emotion of the songs’ lyrics straight into the hearts of the spellbound crowd: “I’m alone in a see of green, I’m a gypsy I’m a travelling soul. When I die I’ll find another road.” The performance was perhaps suited to a more intimate space than the MOJO tent but chilled none the less.
The grandson of Dr M Yunupingu, lead singer of Yothu Yindi who passed away in 2013, is carrying on the legacy of Indigenous activism through music in spectacular fashion. Yirrmal has a powerful stage presence as he plays pure rock and roll sung in English and Yolngu. English is actually his sixth language yet his message of reconciliation is communicated beautifully: “My songs are stories of justice for Aboriginal people and fighting for a better future for all Australians.” His catchy collaboration with hip hop artist Baker Boy, ‘Marryana’ , was played outside in the dancing circle before his set, but in the Juke Joint tent all his songs were from his new album aside from a powerful rendition of ‘Treaty’ at the end. This guy is a rock star.
Master of the melodic ballad in his acoustic solo performance of songs like ‘Salvation’, and meloncholic in the repetition of lyrics in his song ‘Creation’, Cope was perfect for the laid back crowd starting out the festival day. His voice is reminiscent of David Gray. Very easy listening.
There’s no mistaking this man’s unique ‘Mystissippi’ blues and Indian raga sound. His hoarse voice accompanying his signature Mohan Veena and myriad other instruments played to a packed to overflowing crowd in the Jambalaya tent. The quietly spoken, seated Canadian musician has a large loyal following in Australia who were happily singing along to songs from albums past. When the tunes are this good, there’s no need to be an extroverted performer on stage.
Soulful retro sounds from the 70s back to the 50s replete with backup singer, tamborine and synth drifted out to a mellow crowd in the Crossroads tent.
The California Honeydrops
This was the first daytime gig this band had ever done yet to them the crowd was more alive than the night before! You can’t sit still to their Detroit Motown meets New Orleans jazz sound with heavy brass section even if it is four o’clock in the afternoon.
Listening to David Bowie songs sung as ballads in Portugese with acoustic guitar is a little unsettling. It took me a while to recognise Rebel Rebel, and only then because Seu Jorge sang the words “Rebel Rebel” in English. This is the sort of unexpected act that you want to take you by surprise at Bluesfest.
Con Brio means ‘Do it with Energy” and the lead singer delivered with his Superman leap entrance and high energy performance that brings to mind Bruno Mars and Prince. The band kept up with strong sax and trumpet complimenting each song. The audience were on their feet from the first note.
What can I say. This multi-talented, multi-instrumental artist has the audience lusting after him with a stage strut that’s a cross between Michael Hutchence and Prince. Not to mention just brilliant indie, pop, funk, jazz, blues, you name it tunes.
The song ‘Remember When I was Young’ is a theme song of the audience’s miss-spent youth in filthy pubs where the constant smell of stale beer accompanied sticky carpet that was never cleaned …literally. The audience of over 50s soaked up the Aussie Blues legends like those carpets in the pubs years ago and lapped up lead singer Matt Taylor’s Aussie larrikin performance which included a 1936 song by Robert Johnson.
The Chain audience must have stuck around the Delta stage for American Blues legends and Woodstock veterans Canned Heat. Opening with ‘On the Road Again’, all they had to do was play the familiar riffs and harmonica and the audience was pumping. Alan Wilson passed away in 1970 so the distinctive ‘Kermit the frog’ voice in “Going up the Country’ and ‘On the Road Again’ is gone. Dale Spalding has ably carried the torch and had no trouble getting the audience to sing along.
The voice of the man at the piano (who started five minutes early) was instantly recognisable as the legendary Browne, and his backup band un-mistakable as the California sound of the 70s and 80s; the soundtrack of my youth. The twanging guitars and his poetic lyrics are still as easy to listen to today. Browne’s music has been political since around the time of the release of ‘Lawyers in Love’ and he maintains the soft rage that spoke to the huge crowd at the Crossroads tent. He performed new politically charged songs such as ‘Wrong Way Around’ about gun legislation in the US, as well as old faves like “You Love the Thunder’, ‘Lives in the Balance’ and of course, ‘Running on Empty’ and ‘Stay’. We all knew the words and obliged with a sing-a-long.
Michael Franti and Spearhead
The high energy dread-locked one gets the crowd jumping and singing along not just by telling the crowd to wave their hands in the air to his reggae beats; he gets out into the crowd and does it with them! The sound of frenetic strumming on his worn out guitar has the audience joining Franti as he hops around the stage. He knows how to engage with his audience. Despite political references peppered throughout, Michael Franti and Spearhead are a good fun band.
IMAGES (C) JD Garrahy and Danny Santangelo