Sunday, May 10, 2015

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Chilled, easy to get around, great music discoveries across each of the days, good food - Bluesfest in Byron Bay this year was everything you want in a music festival.

We bought tickets on a bit of a whim, really, months ago, and then several of the bands we had been swayed to see pulled out. Yet when the Easter long weekend approached, and Jess and I met at Brisbane airport for a roadtrip down to Byron, we were petty excited about the musical experience ahead.

After settling in to our digs for the weekend, we navigated the bus transport to get us into Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, and made our way straight to see the second half of Wagons' set in the Jambalaya tent. Always fun, the band played many of the punchy live tracks that win over new listeners, and thus, our music feast began.

We switched to the big Mojo tent, and took in the sounds and moves of Jurassic 5's hip hop tunes, along with a decent crowd.

I then ducked back to the Jambalaya tent for one of my much loved Aussie bands, Boy & Bear. Tracks from both their albums, they impressed as always live, with Lordy May, Feeding Line, and rhythmic Milk & Sticks.
Part Time Believer was in there, with Three-Headed Women, plus the emotionally charged Back Down The Black shone. A little return to their EP days with Rabbit Song, before big tracks of Golden Jubilee and Southern Sun rounding out their big and popular set. Always amazing live.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue brought big band blues jazz funk to Mojo, which was seriously fun to a very dancy crowded tent.

Still on Mojo, I finally got to see Counting Crows, who I have never seen live, despite having their album on high play back at college. Opening with Round Here, the crowd took over the signing straight away, which set the scene for the set. Crowd favourites like Omaha and Mr Jones created mass tent sized singalongs, which were incredible. Lead singer Adam was engaging, but didn't really need to exert his voice too much with such eager crowd participation.

Color Blind was a stand out, and the set ended with an encore of Rain King.

Checking out some of the live RocKwiz music and quiz session first on the next day, I then jumped across to the Delta tent for Declan Kelly presents Diesel 'n Dub.
Alex Lloyd featured, with Emma Donovan and Frank Yamma doing a collection of Midnight Oil songs - each a strong political voice, for the rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters across Australia. The set opened with our PM's recent grab of hideousness, talking about his idea that living in remote communities are about 'lifestyle choices', which set the scene for the set, speaking out against the proposed closure of these communities. Thus, Beds Are Burning, especially resonated.

A sudden and heavy rain shower had us seeking shelter up at the Juke Joint tent after this - where in the process, we discovered the country blues storytelling tunes of Matt Anderson - one of our finds of the festival, and the most by chance. Engaging and witty lyrics, he had the whole pretty-full crowd, hanging on every word.

After catching up with a friend over dinner between sets, I then rejoined Jess for a bit of Gray Clark Jr funk, before we called it a night just before music's end.

Day three we arrived for the start of the music of the day, and took in Luluc and their sweet melodies in the Juke Joint. A packed RocKwiz was next on the bill for us, as we watched them get the quiz started, before I then ducked over to Crossroads tent for Nikki Hill. I had read good reviews of her first set for the festival, and enjoyed her energy and girl power of this set.

Mariachi El Bronx delivered some fun Mexicana funk in Mojo next for us, before I returned to Juke Joint to see the full Wagons set. Beer Barrell Bar was a stand out, as was Drive All Night Till Dawn, with crowd favourite Willie Nelson featuring the usual encouraged participation to end the set.

I got back to Mojo and worked my way into the crammed tent for Hozier - who killed it! We had seperated for this because of which act we had each seen before, and when we met back up for Alabama Shakes just after we wowed that we had just seen a packed tent full of people singing song we had never heard before. Turned out they were Someone New and Take Me To Church. We know who he is now!

Alabama Shakes was another amazing musical discovery for me, who rocked that full tent also. Then we changed to Crossroads for a slightly more mellow David Gray, who played loads of favourites like Babylon, Sail Away, and This Year's Love, mingled with new tracks from his new album, and ended with Say Hello Wave Goodbye.

Wanting to cut off both my feet by this bus ride home that night, we rested up ready to do it all again for the next day.

Easter Sunday at Bluesfest was marked with organic chocolate-filled doughnuts and coffee to start our festival going, whilst admiring the mud patches around most of the bigger tents. Our gumboots were a welcome fashion piece, with so many versions seen across the weekend.

The Beautiful Girls is what got us out of bed to get there for their set on this day, and watching them play their chilled tunes was well worth it. Their set also featured Matt's son on stage, who played along on his mini-guitar and showered the front crowd with Easter eggs on cue. Cute!

I watched a little of Ash Grunwald next, and then a little more of Gary Clark Jr, before talking a walk around and catching a couple of Diesel's songs in a packed Delta tent.

But the set of the festival for me was next, and we both made our way into the big tent for Xavier Rudd And The United Nations. Such great multicultural tunes, with a message, and such stage presence. Xavier was powerful in delivery and politics, and they showcased their new album across the set, and really impressed. Again, another act I have not seen live before, and was so blown away by here at Bluesfest.

We sat at sidestage seating for some dinner and Rodrigo y Gabriela instrumental brilliance. Wow!

The eventual headliner of the Festival was next on Mojo, and we got into position expecting a massive crowd and set from Ben Harper And The Innocent Criminals. Opening with Glory & Consequence, and adding Amen Omen, the two hour set started very low key and flat, before Burn One Down got some crowd attention again.

Excuse Me Mr brought some energy back, but he had lost a bit of the crowd by then. Several new tracks were sprinkled in, with Steal My Kisses a standout of the set. A shame that the final act for my festival lacked the punch we had anticipated, but it only highlighted how very good local Rudd was just two sets prior.

An incredible long weekend away, with epic music hours, catching up with friends, some great food, and some very sore, tired and muddy feet! Worth every leg ache, for sure!

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