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Pierce Brothers

Photos and report by Jason Rosewarne. (*Photographer contract rant by Editor Greg Phillips)

Time to pack away the gumboots and raincoats and bring out the shorts and t-shirts once again. After around 50mm of rain on (Not-so) Good Friday, the sun dried out the festival site and it was back to regular programming.

The afternoon begun with the always entertaining Rockwiz Live on the Delta Stage, hosted by Raymond J and featuring guest artists Hayley Mary from the Jezabels and Matt Taylor from Chain.

We saw the uber-talented Taj Farrant once again wowing the masses on the big Mojo Stage. He seems to be the talk of this year’s festival as music fans discover the amazing talents of this 14 year old Australian blues rock master.

Dan Sultan was next on the agenda, joined on stage by his good mate Zeppelin Hamilton on guitar before quickly changing stages to play a set with his own psychedelic project Velvet Trip over at Jambalaya 45 minutes later.

After a quick view of Velvet Trip, we were off to the Mojo Stage to see an acoustic guitar masterclass from none other than our own Tommy Emmanuel (CGP), which was a welcome relief after a morning of nonstop electric rock. Our very own guitar hero hit the Bluesfest stage for the first time as a Grammy Award winner and received the applause he so rightly deserved. There is no better acoustic guitar performer in the world, he’s in a class all of his own.

After a short break, next up was the fabulous Blues Arcadia, three-time Australian Blues music award winners with the exuberant vocalist Alan Boyle out front, Chris Harvey, lead guitar, Jeremy Klysz on bass, Paula Girvan keys and Casper Hall, drums.

Ian Moss, Australian rock royalty played a set of his classic hits to his adoring fans under the Mojo Big Top, while Yirramal was treating the faithful over at Jambalaya to his final gig for the weekend.

Jack and Pat, the Pierce Brothers lit up the Delta stage with a vibrant performance, playing tracks from their 4th studio album Everything is Bigger, which was just released on Good Friday. Their Bluesfest appearance is the beginning of an extensive tour which sees them tour Australia through to the end of August.

The other Taj, 81 year old legendary Grammy award winning blues singer, songwriter and player of all instruments of the stringed variety Taj Mahal made his long awaited return to Bluesfest to a packed out Crossroad Stage taking us on a journey from the early country blues to the modern city blues and everything in between. One of the constants with Bluesfest is that they always offer up a legitimate blues legend and this year, that icon was Taj Mahal. While artists like this might be past their prime, they are still a must see. As Peter Noble told us in a pre-festival interview. Once you’re great, you’re always great. The music is sometimes simple, even primal but it’s the real deal. I defy anyone to be unaffected by the soulful performance of classic Taj tracks such as Corrina or Queen Bee. He plays another set on Easter Sunday and a must see for any blues purist enthusiasts.

A nice additional this year was the return of the Cruel Sea fronted by Tex Perkins, who dedicated their set to the late great James Cruikshank (Guitar and keyboards), who sadly left us back in 2015. Matt Walker has stepped up to fill the big shoes of James and does an incredible job at it. Ever since The Cruel Sea got back together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their milestone album The Honeymoon Is Over, the band has gone from strength to strength, blowing crowds away with their powerful shows. Featuring the mercurial Tex Perkins on vocals, Jim Elliot on drums, Ken Gormly (bass), Dan Rumour (guitar) and Matt Walker (keys and guitar), the band launched into ‘4’, the feel-good instrumental, taking the crowd on a Cruel Sea history lesson throughout the night. Crowd faves ‘Black Stick’, ‘Better Get A Lawyer, and ‘The Honeymoon is Over’ were all there, delivered with ragged flair, finishing up with the classic ‘This Is Not The Way Home’.

An ultra-funky night lay ahead of us with New Orleans based multi Grammy award winner PJ Morton, who reminded me of an early Stevie Wonder, so funky you could smell it, and a definite highlight on the Saturday schedule.

Snarky Puppy made their return this year also, playing their second and final show for the weekend with a plethora of talent filling up the huge Mojo Stage with their funky Jazz inspired sounds.

*Saturday night brought Welsh vocal legend Tom Jones to the Crossroads stage, where apparently he delivered an energetic set. However, AM wasn’t in attendance for this one as we weren’t willing to sign his ridiculous photo contract, which basically signed away the photographer’s rights. One point in the contract suggested that if the artist’s management desired, they could use the photos in any way they like without any compensation to the photographer. We also didn’t want to be waiting around forever for their pre-posting approval. This is an ever-increasing problem (particularly with older artists) with artist management wanting unfair control of gig photo shoots. In many cases, one of the conditions of these contracts is that we don’t make the conditions public. In other words, they don’t mind being unfair but don’t want the public to know about it.  Meanwhile joe public in the audience shoots whatever god awful photos and videos they like. The more photographers that turn their backs on these one-sided contracts, the better for all concerned.

While headliner Tom Jones did his thing with Crossroads audience, we headed next door to witness the magic of Grammy Award-winning 12-piece rock and soul powerhouse Tedeschi Trucks Band, led by husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Suzan Tedeschi and their finely tuned, word renowned live show. Tomorrow, we do it all once more, and we can’t wait.


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