An unexpected but welcome interview subject at Bluesfest 2017 was The Rolling Stones’ bass player Darryl Jones, who was at the festival as part of the Miles Electric Band. AM’s Greg Phillips spoke with Darryl backstage prior to the Miles Electric Band’s final Bluesfest appearance, where we discussed his love…
Alex West,B Mus, has a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Southern Cross University. With more than 25 years experience as an educator and 1nstrumental teacher, he has been a pioneer in music for education, health, well being and aged care. His educational work was honoured by the National Australia…
Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips was offered a last minute interview with Chicago-based singer, songwriter, guitarist and activist Melody Angel backstage at Bluesfest 2017. Racing against rapidly diminishing sunlight, we had a mighty fine chat about her roots politics and her Bluesfest weekend. Melody debuted her new album is In…
Report: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne
After four glorious days of musical excellence, punters may not have had much left in the tank but Bluesfest day 5 delivered again anyway. It was such a pleasure to enter the venue yesterday to be met with the sweet, soulful tones of UK singer-songwriter Laura Mvula. What a delightful performer with an incredible voice. Like most of the artists this weekend, Laura seemed genuinely sad to be leaving the festival. Meanwhile over on the north side of the venue The Wilson Pickers and audience were getting their jig on. Local singer songwriter Glenn Cardier was a sentimental favourite with many who recall his quality songcraft from the 70s. Glenn’s 2014 Bluesfest appearance was the inspiration for further recording and shows and it was great to see him back this year. It was also fantastic to see a procession of Australia’s finest blues guitarists on the Delta stage one after the other. Ray Beadle & the Silver Dollars motored through their set, followed by Lloyd Spiegel with his nimble fingerstylin’ and amiable stage patter. In his first Bluesfest appearance, I’m sure organisers saw enough to know he needs to be a regular from now on. Jeff Lang took to the Delta next and not surprisingly blew everyone away with his lightning guitar licks. On such a lazy Monday afternoon, Tony Joe White’s swamp rock worked a treat. Dynamic local hip hop artist Remi brought something a little different to Bluesfest this year and the crowd lapped up his vibrant beats and rhythms. The Miles Electric Band added a regal element to the day, paying tribute to ‘The Chief’, Miles Davis with a band featuring many musicians who played with Miles back in the day. Rolling Stones bass player Darryl Jones played some sublime bass notes to Funkadelic’s Blackbird McKnight’s intricate fretwork, while Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr was stunning on drums. Stay tuned for an Australian Musician interview with Darryl Jones soon.
Fresh from our video interview with Melody Angel, the Chicago singer, songwriter and activist rocked the socks off the Juke Joint stage. Angel told us she was having the time of her life and it showed in her on-stage energy. For many, St Paul and The Broken Bones were ‘Best in Show’ band for 2017. Following up on their 2016 Bluesfest shows, the expanded band delivered some wild and passionate performances. Also to be found in the wild and passionate category is Beth Hart, whose incredible lung capacity seems unlimited. The Record Company’s final Bluesfest performance occurred this time on the more intimate Delta stage. Recognising that the remaining day 5 crowd were the hardcore, true believers, lead singer Chris Vos promised to lay it all down for them, which they did.
Crossroads tent headliner for the final night was the much adored Neil Finn. On a balmy Bluesfest night, with so much global tension happening elsewhere, it was comforting to be part of Finn’s glorious Private Universe. Featuring a set list from all points of his career, Neil is not only a master songwriter but is also an incredibly engaging performer.
Well Bluesfest, you served us well. You delivered bonafide music icons, legends in the making and proved that it’s the music that matters, not the hype nor the accumulation of social media likes. It’s the real-time experience of seeing something thrilling happening before your eyes on stage, being engaged and in the moment … and my god … there were moments! See you same time next year.
Report: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne
On the penultimate day of Bluesfest 2017, things got off to a roaring start with local blues guitar musician and friend to Australian Musician magazine, Lloyd Spiegel. It’s hard to believe that it was Lloyd’s first Bluesfest appearance but judging by the crowd reaction it won’t be his last. Check out his Double Live album too! Blues and soul music is in good hands if young American Max Jury has anything to do with it. The authentic soul passion and conviction injected into his music defies his age.
Appearing for the third time, we just had to revisit The Suffers, our new favourite band. Frontwoman Kam Franklin has a commanding stage presence and her fellow band members are so obviously having fun up there every night. The Record Company graduated to the Crossroads stage and delivered another gritty set. Bluesfest faves Jethro Tull were up next and while Ian Anderson’s voice doesn’t soar as it used to, his flute playing and energy levels were top shelf. Buddy Guy was back too and it doesn’t get any bluesier than when this man is dishing’ it out. It was guitar legend overload on day 4 with the great Carlos Santana and band playing to the festival’s biggest crowd. Soul Sacrifice set the tone for a massive set of latin gold.
Zac Brown was back to the festival again this year after impressing many in 2015 with the band’s hardcore alt country rock. A blistering version of Metallica’s Enter Sandman had the Crossroads tent pumping. On a more mellow note Michael Kiwanuka was playing his hypnotic brand of blues under the Mojo bigtop. A particularly moving version of Prince, ’Sometimes It Snows In April’ left the crowd gasping. Madness equals fun, it’s as simple as that. Beginning their set with two of their biggest hits, One Step Beyond and Embarrassment, the crowd had no choice but to dance. Over on the Jambalaya stage Hammond organ legend Booker T presented his Stax Review to a packed tent. It doesn’t get any better. One day to go!
South African born, Grammy award winning world music flute player Wouter Kellerman chats to Australian Musician editor about his Bluesfest appearance, his beginnings and future.
Bluesfest is thrilled to announce that Patti Smith has kindly donated $10,000 AUD to local charity Rise Above The Flood a local organisation working on a ground roots level to help those impacted by the recent flooding. Volunteers from the charity were invited by Bluesfest to collect money at the festival and patrons have also been giving generously as they enter the festival. All the proceeds from ‘Rise above the Flood’ will be donated to these local community groups:
– Murwillumbah Council – Mayor Appeal Fund for Flooding
– Helping Hands Lismore – A community run organisation with flood assistance packages
– Northern Rivers Community Gateway – Direct Flood Assistance.
– Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre – Direct Flood Assistance.
Rise Above The Flood are all volunteers who are working with community groups to make sure that monies raised will go directly to the community and not to administration of a national body.
Bluesfest Director Peter Noble OAM comments on the generous donation:
As you are entering the gates you will see volunteers collecting for those impacted by the recent flooding in our region. Being here at the festival it’s easy to think everything is fine. The truth is, it isn’t. There has been perhaps one billion dollars in damages to homes and property with many people unable to pay expensive insurance premiums. Saddest of all is that people have lost their lives. It’s not hard to give a little, it will mean a lot.
Patti Smith has graciously donated $10,000 to Rise Above The Flood. Her performances at Bluesfest are among the greatest ever and we can now see what a wonderful human being she is as well. People including our staff have lost their possession, property and friends so we find her generosity extremely touching.
With a career spanning five decades and with album sales over 4o million, The Doobie Brothers are one of the most loved bands on the planet. Just prior to the band hitting the stage at Bluesfest Byron Bay on Saturday April 15th, Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips sat down with…
Report: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne
The weather gods blessed Bluesfest day 3 with even more sunshine and consequently much punter delight. What better way to begin the day than with local guitar powerhouse Jeff Lang. Currently on tour promoting his brilliant new album Alone In Bad Company, Jeff never disappoints. The ukulele is not usually the coolest instrument at a music festival but in the hands of Jake Shimabukuro, it transforms into an exhilarating tool, capable of expressing immense joy and poignancy.
In a world overcome by hype and ‘alternative facts’, it’s always reassuring to experience Billy Bragg in concert. One man, one guitar and real life songs which resonate with everyday people. At the Crossroads stage, late in his set, the crowd were witnessing one of those Bluesfest moments they’ll never forget … Billy Bragg performing a heartfelt version of Levi Stubbs’ Tears. Out from LA for this year’s festival, The Record Company add a little punk grit to their Mississippi influenced blues rock, with spellbinding effects. As the set went on, the crowd grew and so did their reputation. The godfather of neo soul, Roy Ayers had something special going on at the Delta stage. Between his vibraphone playing and the pulsating rhythms he conjures, it was nothin’ short of voodoo we were dancin’ to I’m sure. The Crossroads stage was getting quite the workout with Vintage Trouble putting in yet another supercharged show, followed by intoxicating voice of Bluesfest regular Beth Hart, singing tunes from her new record, Fire On The Floor. As magical as both of those acts were, they haven’t reached the legendary status of the next guy just yet. Buddy Guy personifies Chicago style blues. With that no bullshit Chicago demeanour, Buddy and band had the crowd in the palm of his hands. It doesn’t get any better than tunes such as Hooch Coochie Man or Damn Right I Got The Blues performed live by an authentic blues icon. You could smell the history in the air … well I could smell something potent anyway!
With a career spanning five decades and with album sales over 4o million, The Doobie Brothers never rest on their laurels. In fact so keen was the band to play at Bluesfest that they hit the stage early. Announcing that Bluesfest is the best music festival in the world didn’t harm their audience acceptance either. Featuring the legendary Billy Payne (Little Feat, James Taylor) on keyboards, the band’s sound somehow seems to get better with age rather than diminish. With The Doobies, you always gets exactly what’s stated on the packaging, perfect vocal harmonies, an extraordinary level of musicianship and hit after hit after hit. Those attempting to leave the venue via the south gate may have been enticed to stay a little longer and witness the punchy, punk-reggae rhythms of Slightly Stoopid on the Jambalaya stage. The beauty of Bluesfest of course is that if you miss an act one day, chances are there will be one or two more opportunities to catch that band on another stage on another day. Bless this Bluesfest!
Report: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne
Before Bluesfest day 2 stage proceedings took place, festival head honcho Peter Noble held court at a press conference, taking questions and talking up the weekend. Not holding back, Noble expressed disappointment at cancelled headliner Neil Young’s lack of respect in not informing him of an excuse for pulling out of his festival appearance. However, rather than dwell on who wasn’t here, Noble was more intent on showcasing those who were and brought along a couple of festival artists for a short acoustic spot, a taste of what’s in store for the rest of the weekend. Lucy Gallant sat with guitar and demonstrated why she’s become such an in demand artist worldwide and one not to miss at Bluesfest. African born, Grammy award-winning flautist Wouter Kellerman also impressed the gathered media with a mesmerising performance on flute.
Back on the stage proper, Nikki Hill was powering through her second performance of the festival and adding more punters to her ever-increasing fanbase. Chicago-based guitarist, vocalist Melody Angel delivered thumping’ rock versions of classic rock tunes amid her energetic originals from her debut album In The Fire. Joan Osborne used her second Bluesfest spot to perform acoustic versions of Bob Dylan songs from her soon to be released Dylan covers album. The Strumbellas brand of folk rock is infectious and the large crowd at the Delta stage warmed to their amiable personalities and good vibes. Wouter Kellerman presented an eclectic set featuring vibrant African rhythms blended with ambient world music themes. Backstage was a flutter with appearances at the Gibson tent by Game Of Thrones hunk Jason Momoa and word was getting round that Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth were also in the house. Patti Smith and band were back, this time in acoustic mode featuring a soaring version of Beneath The Southern Cross. Jimmy Buffet drew an enormous crowd to the Crossroads stage for his laconic brand of cocktail rock. I’ve never seen so many Hawaiin shirts at a concert before. He didn’t disappoint with his tight, powerful band, delivering Buffet classics mixed with covers such as Brown Eyed Girl and Weather With You. Bonnie Raitt eased into a magical set. The multi-award winning rock blues legend seems to get better with age. Mary J Blige offered a slicker form of RnB with a highly polished set, leaving The Lumineers and Mountain Goats to end the day with their contagious rhythms. Two days down and three to go!