The overnight rain may have dampened the ground, but not my enthusiasm! Into Byron early to see my mate Jono at Legend Pizza for a couple of great bacon & egg rolls and some excellent coffee. The campground at the festival does have a general store where you can get breaky, but the wait time is always longer than the 20 minute trip into Byron.
Entering Bluesfest 2015 early in the day before the crowds come gives you the opportunity to wander around unimpeded and the chance to stumble on an artist that you didn’t have earmarked. And so it was when passing by the Delta tent, I was drawn in by the lilting, soulful voice of Alabama songstress, Kristy Lee. With her all girl lineup, their harmonies were a thing of beauty. I was hypnotised!
But I soon shook that off and made my way back to Mojo to hear the final few songs of Nikki Hill. Her shredded rock voice could cut through heavy denim! And so it was they finished their set with AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds and Rocker. When I saw her last year, she played in the smallest stage and tore the place down. This year she plays every day including today’s effort in the big tent. If you like rock chicks, check her out.
From there I skipped over to Jambalaya to check out Rockwiz. This the 6th year that Rockwiz are recording at Bluesfest…same as what they do at the Espy, only in front of a few thousand people. Really good fun.
Bluesfest has a real family vibe, especially during the day with the smaller crowds. A lot of children playing and dancing, there is also some activities for the kids in the afternoon with jugglers,clowns, acrobats and pirates!
I didn’t have time for that though, as I had to race over to Mojo to catch the Southampton power trio Band Of Skulls. And although a little subdued early, they turned in a sterling & heavy performance. Finishing with a couple of their older tracks, Light Of The Morning and Death By Diamonds And Pearls, they had the big crowd baying for more.
The beauty of this festival is that you are so spoilt for choices with both the music and the food. The amount of food outlets is amazing…Brazillian, Greek, Mexican, German, Dutch, Asian, Middle Eastern, Cajun…potatoes, donuts, kebabs, burgers, noodles, rice, sushi…OMG, where does one begin. Seriously over priced but the quality is first class. I opted for a Burrito from Guzman Y Gomez because I love those guys and because they were positioned right next to the Crossroads tent where I could watch bluesman, Keb Mo while I demolished that bad boy!
An interesting thing about Bluesfest, is that it attracts a lot of hippy types and a lot more that become hippies for the weekend. Normally clean cut guys and girls dressing in tye dye and Apache headwear. But that’s cool, Bluesfest is an escape and you can be who you want to be. If you love people watching though, then this is ground zero.
I arrived back at Jambalaya to see the set from JJ Grey & Mofro. They are good old southern boys playing a funky mix of soul and blues. With a 7 piece band including a 3 pronged horn attack, JJ Grey is a great showman and possesses one of those powerful gravelly voices that you just wished you had! Fantastic performance!
I had a bit of a break in my schedule so that allowed me to go back to my tent to refuel and start putting together this blog piece. The tent motels are literally 3 minutes walk from the southern entrance, so it is easy to come and go.
On my return, the Jambalaya tent was absolutely overflowing. A quick stop inside revealed G.Love jamming out with special guests Jack Johnson (now a Byron local), Donavon Frankenreiter and ukulele maestro Jake Shimabukuro. That was very cool. Again, this is another beauty of Bluesfest, artists often just bob up on someone else’s stage and jam. Cross-pollination of a musical kind.
I knew I had a bit more time, so making my way though the huge crowds, I ended up in the Delta tent and caught the last half hour of Declan Kelly’s Diesel & Dub. An indigenous Australian collective performing the songs of Midnight Oil reggae style…and yes, it was as cool as it sounds!!
My next appointment was with Texas blues and soul diva, Ruthie Foster. Her voice is like golden syrup. Highlights included her stripping down Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ into a smoky ballad and then getting the crowd jamming to her song Real Love which incorporates Stevie Wonder’s ‘Master Blaster’…her voice reached the outer limits!
I decided to stick around in Jambalaya as I had to see the CRB play one more time…what can I say? Blessed are the trip takers…
And then a quick dart over to Mojo to catch the final few songs of Scottish pin up boy Paulo Nutini. The Mojo tent was packed so standing on the edge looking in, I could appreciate his smoky vocals and great band. But tiredness was setting in and I was lacking focus.
My choice was hang around for another gig or head on back to my tent for a well earned rest!
Damn! This is Bluesfest people!! So off to the Crossroads tent I mud-hopped!
And I’m glad I did. The closing set of the evening by country rock heavyweights, the Zac Brown Band was possibly the highlight of the day. These guys put the R.O.C.K into country rock. A great mixture of new and old tracks and tied together with some amazing cover tunes, the big crowd lapped it up. One of the many high points included a note perfect cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. You know the bit in Wayne’s World when they are in the car and the heavy end part of the song comes on…imagine five or six thousand people going ‘sick’ in unison. Awesome! And when Jack Johnson and G.Love joined the band onstage for a rousing rendition of I Shall Be Released, the big crowd was delirious!
What a day. It was a very good Friday at Bluesfest 2015! Tomorrow beckons.