Blog 16b: Byron Bay Bluesfest, Day 2
Just after lunch we moseyed on over to the festival grounds to pick up where we left off – enjoying some excellent tunes.
We started off checking out the much hyped Citizen Cope. I don’t know if it was the early set time, the sound not quite being dialed in or my unfamiliarity with his music, but his stuff didn’t really engage me. A theme for day two was that things were a bit hit and miss. I guess you can’t expect every artist to be brain meltingly awesome.
From there we wandered over to check out the country/folk/rock stylings of Little Georgia. Imagine a young Keith Urban got together with Dolly Parton and formed Fleetwood Mac. But only choose all the best bits of that sentence. They were really, really, really good. Slick country blues rock guitar licks and the power of Ashleigh Mannix voice undiminished by her pregnancy. They even threw in a dirty delta bluesy cover of House of the Rising Sun. A great band we had never heard of before Bluesfest.
From Little Georgia we caught a couple of songs from The Tesky Brothers set (not enough to form a meaningful opinion) before going to get up front and excited for one of the acts Adam was most keen to see – Harts.
Blistering guitar, cheeky posturing, heavy funk and tight, crowd working dance moves defined his set. You can see elements of the time he spent being mentored by Prince and can’t help but feel a little of Prince's paisley soul stayed with this young man as he departed earth. ‘Smoke, Fire, Hope, Desire,’ ‘Red and Blue’ and the closing track ‘Power’ were highlights of the set as well as a cheeky vocator breakdown nod to California Love and Around the World. The very end of the set got a bit weird with Harts signalling the end of touring and making music in this incarnation (even though he has two new albums out this year), throwing a couple of poor guitars around (damaging an instrument is never cool) and generally becoming a bit morose. He is playing again today, so it will be interesting to see if there is any further fallout. A little sour note at the end of an otherwise awesome set.
A trip back to camp for sustenance and then we swung by Newton Faulkners second set for a half a song on our way to check out the tail end of Asgeir. A talented musician, but I have never really been able to get into his stuff. The crowd seemed to be having a good time though.
Next up was the second set from Gomez. They played stuff from all their albums (but not the very famous song, surprisingly) and were just as good as the day before. ‘Rhythm and Blues Alibi’ and ‘Get Myself Arrested’ and ‘We Haven’t Turned Around’ were all awesome set highlights. So lucky to see this band.
The New Power Generation (Prince’s Backing Band from 1990 – 2013, and on his final album) were up next. We saw the first few songs with a couple of different singers, then they played ‘Cream’ and my opinion solidified. It just isn’t the same without the man himself. Yes, the band are great musicians, the singers were competent… but they just aren’t Prince. Like INXS without Michael Hutchence, ACDC without Bon Scott or Queen without Freddie Mercury it just isn’t the same with a stand in. Prince had a special kind of magic that is impossible to emulate. Others seemed to be having a good time, but it wasn’t for me. Harts has a bit of the same magic, but I would think he has too much respect for the memory of Prince to try and emulate him.
A late supper (hooray for vegan friendly festival fare!) and we wandered over to see Jimmy Cliff. As an icon of culture, influence, musical activism and all around excellent song writer, I have only respect for the legacy of Jimmy Cliff as a musical legend. Sadly, Cliff (who turns 70 today) seemed to be struggling to hold down the lyrics and melodies of the songs and was generally outperformed by his backup band. He had moments of clarity, and seemed twenty years younger when he performed ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ flawlessly. Apart from that stand out moment however, the rest of the set was tinged with a bit of sadness that the years have not been kind to the man.
We ended up meeting and sharing stories with a very friendly Indian gentleman between (hi Ray!) by way of Dubai between the sets who shouted us a beer and was an avid Bluesfest regular. Super nice guy.
The final act for the night was Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. We saw them play five years ago at the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival and they were awesome then. Five years on at age 69, Robert Plant has still got it. On pitch, on time, on his game and surrounded with exceptional musicians, Plant delivered tunes from all across his musical career. A great way to end the day.
Thought of the day: When you have a soldering iron in your toolkit, everyone is your friend.