Wow, where do we start! Day 2 of Bluesfest took things to a totally new level. Crowd size, discovery, and legendary performances. Let’s get stuck in.
Dan started off his day catching Craig’s favourite act of day one, The Strumbellas. The Canadian 6 piece took to the Delta Stage to chants of, “we love (keyboardist) Dave”.
If you’re looking for good vibes, positive messages and some highly danceable pop with an alternative edge you’ve come to the right place.
These guys will surely pick up a legion of Aussie fans this tour. Catch them if you can.
Now it was time to head into the Cross Roads tent to grab a good spot for headliner, Patti Smith.
Her Friday afternoon slot was billed as an “acoustic set”, and while there was 1 acoustic guitar involved the performance could be better described as a spoken word/musical journey through the life and times of one of the most influential artists ever.
Taking to the stage to adoring applause, Patti approached the microphone with an A4 sheet of paper and told us she wanted to read something from Allen Ginsberg…
“Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel!” She read.
“The bum’s as holy as the seraphim! the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!”
It was a pretty powerful way to start her second performance of the festival, and it set the tone for what was to come over the next hour.
After scrunching up the paper and throwing it into the crowd, she urged her band to come on stage and returned to the mic with her book, Just Kids in hand. She then read an excerpt about her love and being young.
Although this is stuff you rarely see from an artist at a festival (and the fans were eating it up), you could tell the crowd were eager to hear some tunes.
Gently rolling into her song Wing, Smith showed no signs of the throat infection she had apologised for the previous night.Then is was time for a quick bible verse, the Sermon on the mount. Well, it was good Friday after all.
The hour-long set rolled like this for its entirety and included a cover of Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, and a stellar version of Ghost Dance.
Right before the last song, Smith took to the mic once again to urge the crowd to take back their power to change the world. A refrain that had occurred throughout the set.
“Feel your blood” she urged.
“Feel your fucking freedom” before spitting onto the ground and ripping into the next song.
It was memorable and profound and the crowd hung on every moment.
Rickie Lee Jones
After grabbing a bite to eat (Nasi Goreng $15 – Did we mention how good the food is here?) it was time to make our way over to see another living legend, Rickie Lee Jones.
The highlight of the set for us was a stripped back version of Chuck E.’s In Love, but the special moment it has to be said was a performance of Jones’ song, The Horses.
In Australia, Daryl Braithwaite has made The Horses an alternative national anthem. In the hands of Jones, the song captures a totally different feel. Written for her daughter before she was born, the vibe was more “we’re in this together and I will never let you down” rather than the “she’ll be right mate” feel it takes on when sung by 50 blokes in the front bar of The Kent on a Friday night.
Finishing her set with a cover of Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, it’s obvious why Rickie Lee Jones is one of the festival’s biggest drawcords.
Buffet told us that he sailed here… Yes Sailed. And his face shows the proof.
With a set dripping in covers and a guest spot from ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, Buffet’s time on the Crossroads stage was one of the feel-good moments of the festival. And it easily drew the biggest crowd we’ve seen in and around a tent so far too.
The Soul Rebels
The Delta stage has proved to be the stage of discovery for us. While waiting in line for another bite to eat (this time from The Smokehouse – did we mention how good the food is here?) we were drawn to the sound coming from the stage adjacent.
That’s where we found The Soul Rebels leading the crowd in a call and response of “504”!
Think horns, multiple percussionists, MC’s and plenty of crowd participation. These guys won’t be far from the playlist when we get back to town.
The California Honeydrops
One of Craig’s festival favourites, The California Honeydrops drip in style and charisma. And lead singer Lech Wierzynski has one of the most amazing blues voices we’ve ever heard.
It would be hard not to say they are the headlining band to catch if you’ve only got 1-day festival pass for Saturday.
Ok, let’s just say that The Suffers know how to whip up a sexy vibe. And we think Dan has a new crush on lead singer Kam Franklin.
Oozing in appeal and soul, the Houston Texas band describe their sound as “Gulf Coast Soul”. And whatever you want to call it, it’s working for them.
Playing For Change!
Yesterday we told you how amazing it was to watch 14 members of Snarky Puppy make precise and emotive music. Imagine that, but with buskers. That’s Playing For Change.
Kicking off with Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, the set took positive vibes to a new level.
Playing For Change was born in 2002 as a shared vision between co-founders, Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke, to hit the streets of America with a mobile recording studio and cameras in search of inspiration and the heartbeat of the people (you would have seen the Youtube Videos). Now they take it on the road, and the results are nothing short of magical.
Mary J Blige
Opening up with Love Yourself and ploughing through the hits one after the other, Mary had her fans right where she wanted them.
A sleek stage production and tight unfaltering backing band (including 3 amazing backing vocalist) were the perfect canvas for Blige to paint her message of power and solidarity over the top of.
The set was dotted with plenty of breakdowns for Mary to chat to “her ladies” and “the fellas”.
“90’s was the best time for music,” she told us. And “Just because we’ve got things going on for ourselves doesn’t mean we don’t want you to do nice things for us,” she urged the guys.
It’s easy to see why Mary J Blige is still a drawcard.
Before we headed home to rest our weary feet (Seriously we don’t know how Craig does it with all that camera gear, the site is the size of a small city, and he’s walking from one end to the other strapped with kilos of gear. We dip our hate to you mate.), it was time to catch festival favourites, The Lumineers.
The band appeared energetic and on point, ripping through tracks from their latest release Cleopatra and hits like “Ho Hey”.
The American folk rock band, based in Denver, Colorado have worldwide appeal and from their performance last night it’s easy to see why.
We really do want to thank Craig for all his work over Bluesfest. As we mentioned above, it’s no small task to carry a shit tonne of gear from stage to stage over a festival site that is literally the size of a small city. We salute you Mr Wilson!