Hot and humid with intermittent rain. Thick mud and moist crevices!! That was the outlook for today.
I took the 20 minute bus trip back into Byron to catch up with my mate Jono at Legend Pizza. Not only do they make the best pizza in Byron Bay, their bacon & egg rolls and excellent coffee more than fuel the inner beast!
Back at the campground, I took a nice cold shower, and hats off to the campground staff, despite the ‘ordinary’ conditions, they have managed to keep the toilets and showers clean and useable.
I entered the Bluesfest site a little later today. I was determined to take a more leisurely pace. Not long after getting my bottle of water refilled, I was semi-accosted by an American surfer type who proceeded to advise me about the perils of having an iPhone in my shirt pocket so close to my heart. And before I could say “well, I best be moving on” he proceeded to regale me with his life story of the last 10 years. Going by the handle of “Swordy”, I presumed this being short for swordfish, he told me that after the breakdown of his marriage, he left his home in Ventura, California and has been following coastlines and festivals around the world uninterrupted for 10 years!!
“How do you financially survive” I asked. “You don’t want know man” …which of course he was right! He didn’t want his photo taken either…he may or may not be on a wanted list!
So I asked this obvious festival expert where he rates Bluesfest in the whole scheme of things. “The very best!”he exclaimed. “Oh, apart from that one in Costa Rica.” And with that I bid Swordy adieu, and headed off to see the Beautiful Girls in the Mojo tent.
Sydney siders, The Beautiful Girls play a very chilled and infectious brand of white reggae. A big crowd was in Mojo and happy vibes filled the air. Perfect for a sultry afternoon. Present on stage for most of their set was a little blonde kid about 4 years old strumming away on his acoustic guitar. He kept the happy crowd smiling.
Once again it was a day for the Wellingtons. It made me laugh every time I saw the mud suck the thongs right off the feet of some rookie!
Wearing my CRB t-shirt garnered the occasional comment from like-minded revellers. “Keep the brotherhood alive” quipped one. “The CRB will set you free” I retorted!
Beth Hart is the most pure singer at this festival. There I said it! Her voice goes to places that no one else goes. Whether it be red hot barn busters or soulful ballads, Beth Hart does it in her stride. She has an awesome band that effortlessly switches tempo and rhythm. From rock, to blues to country to soul…Beth Hart does it all.
But as good as Beth was, I had to leave just before the end of her set so I could take up my position in Crossroads for Gary Clark Jr. I saw Gary close Jambalaya on the Monday of last year. And even though today was a 4:00 time slot, I knew what to expect. I’m sure a few in the crowd had no idea!
For those of you who don’t know of Gary Clark Jr, you may have seen him as the gun for hire guitarist on many American awards shows over the last few years. Sharing stages with Beyoncé and the like.
But when he is with his band, it is something different…an aural assault on all of your senses!
The Hendrix comparisons are obvious. He is lythe and lean like a black mamba. Probably the coolest looking fellow on the planet! He plays mainly slow to mid tempo blues, giving a nod to the blues greats of the past, and taking it somewhere dark and sinister like all blues should. His voice can be raw and bluesy or sweet and soulful. I expect because of the time slot, he was quite playful, with his tight 3 piece band offering him plenty of light and shade…they can swing and be groovy if the moment needs it. They give him plenty of space to take his guitar into the outer reaches.
At other times they are heavy and powerful, like on ‘Bright Lights Big City’ and the highlight of the show, ‘When My Train Pulls In’. And when I say powerful, I mean like a Panzer Division coming down your street under the protection of sustained canon fire!! It is unrelenting!
At the end of his set the huge crowd was spent. I had to regroup and count the casualties.
And the ankle deep mud outside of Crossroads looked like the Western Front circa 1915. “Was that because of Gary?” I thought.
Now feeling completely drained, I retire to my quarters to recharge.
Back in the swing, I seize an opportunity to grab one of the legendary foods of Bluesfest…the Byron Bay Organic donut. I’ve been coming here for a few years now and have never had one…mainly because the lineup is always so long. But not this time. I tucked into that bad boy like I’ve never been fed. So worth it!
Jon Cleary & the Monster Gentlemen play traditional New Orleans R&B. With Jon ripping it up on boogie woogie piano, his band The Monster Gentlemen are some of the funkiest cats at Bluesfest. With a set drawing on originals and covers, such as Professor Longhair’s ‘Tipitina’, Jon Cleary takes the Delta crowd on a journey to the streets and bars of New Orleans. Wonderful!
And so off to Jambalaya for the last set of the day.
“Can I go back to a time when music was music!” So asketh Modern soul legend, Charles Bradley towards the end of his outstanding set.
Well let me tell you Charles, you already did! And what a performance! Charles (AKA ‘The Black Swan’) fronting his wonderful band The Extraordinaire’s, made up of the Daptone label’s finest, put on an old school soul revue in the vein of the great soul and R&B masters of the past.
With entrances and exits, costume changes, the falling to his knees in the most passionate of moments, Bradley’s influences are obvious…Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, complete with a scream that would wake James Brown.
The band are hot, hot, hot. With brass, two guitars, the Hammond organ and a fuzz bass, the sound is chock full of funky soul circa 1967.
Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaire’s take us all back to a time when music was music!
Day 4 is over…can I get through my one man crusade! Tomorrow never knows!