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Day 2 Friday (Good Friday),  7 Apr 2023
Report: Colette Imison. Photos: Jason Rosewarne

It was day 2 at Bluesfest and as the crowds packed in, forward thinkers came prepared for the muggy but wet day ahead. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of festival goers one little bit. Notably today’s numbers grew as travellers have started to flock into Byron Bay and surrounds for what will be a huge weekend ahead.

The morning started with Memphis International Blues Challenge winner Frank Sultana before moving onto Daniel Champagne, Southern Avenue and Ray Beadle in the afternoon. The only dampener aside from the weather was that The Bros. Landreth had to pull out of the festival due to an injured band member which was disappointing for the many who had come to see them.

Ray Beadle

NSW band 19-Twenty returned this year and graced the Crossroads stage. Having won the People’s Choice Award at the Blues At Bridgetown Festival for two consecutive years, festival goers were treated to an energy packed set by these guys. Festival goers lapped up their set, whilst Dennelly’s humour shone through as he conversed with them, whilst playfully riling band members up between songs. Musically they were a blend of a multitude of genres, from Blues, Roots and Punk, that often found them bouncing off each others instruments. Hussy Hicks fans were treated when guitar extraordinaire and local girl Julz Parker jumped onto the stage to join them.

The highlight of my day happened early, and let me state clearly…If you haven’t got around to introducing yourselves to 24 year old Mississippi born Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, do yourselves a favour. Having debuted at Bluesfest in 2022, it was clear that word had got around and the MOJO tent was packed to see him perform. Often compared to BB King, Hendrix and Prince, after winning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album (2022) for 662, ‘Kingfish’ Ingram owned it today where he pulled out songs such as ‘Fresh Out’ from his ‘Kingfish’ album (that features legendary Buddy Guy), ‘Another Life Goes By’ and ‘Not Gonna Lie’ from ‘662’ to name a small few. With vocals that are beyond his years, his relationship with his guitar sucks you right in, throwing out skills that simply cannot be described. With some high end guitar sounds echoing out, he disappeared from the stage at one point only to come out the side gate and into the literal guts of the crowd where things got seriously funky. Ripping out George Clinton’s ‘We Want The Funk’ it didn’t stop there. If you want to see a how one plays guitar with his ‘teeth’ I suggest you drop what your doing and check this kid out next time he comes to town.

The man in the big hat Marcus King sure knows how to put on a spectacular show with some serious guitar playing. Kicking it off with ‘It’s Too Late’ from his most recent album release ‘Young Blood’, King eased the crowd into what can only be described as a memorable set. Taking full control of his band, King was tapped into everything on stage, ensuring that his outstanding band were always on point.  He had these guys work up a sweat and it wasn’t even the humidity in the air…they played hard and gave us everything they had.

Backed by a brilliant horn section, featuring the trombone, trumpet and sax, ‘Confessions’ from King’s 2018 Carolina Confessions album was a stand out, with a huge Sax Solo and some hard driven guitar playing. Encouraging crowd participation, a loud cheer screamed out when Marcus slid into Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers to Cross’. For those outside of Byron Bay, be sure to catch Marcus King and (Vintage Trouble) on Easter Monday at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, followed by the Northcote Theatre in Melbourne on 14/4.

One of the most memorable and emotional moments of the day featured ‘A Heartfelt Tribute to Uncle Archie’. After opening yesterday’s ‘Welcome To Country’, Delta Kay returned to the stage to welcome the mob. Honouring land and ancestors and all First Nations people and all that came to honour a great Bundjalung songman, Uncle Archie Roach. Singing in language Nicola Clarke dedicated a song to Uncle Archie accompanied by clapping sticks, where you could feel the heart and importance of this man to his people. Uncle Archie’s nephew Lionel then took to the stage to speak and honour his late uncle. Lionel gave acknowledgement to all the support given and shared words about the impact that Archie Roach had on indigenous people throughout the country.

The tribute came with many songs by Roach, such as ‘Down City Streets’ and ‘From Paradise’ and a reminder to support the Archie Roach Foundation. The Sugar Can Mama’s performed an amazing rendition of ‘Heal the People, Heal the Land, as did Doug from Koori Country who performed ‘Walking Into Doors’.

One particular moment found the tent in absolute silence, where we were guided to focus on our breathing and were given an opportunity to connect back to ourselves. You could hear a pin drop when the vocal humming of the Tibetan man on stage held us all, whilst we took in the poetic words spoken by a young lady. Sadly we did not catch their names as it was truly was a moment to behold that found strangers hugging, holding hands and tears flowing.

I walked away from the tent and looked up to the full moon shining a glorious light on us all and in that moment thought to myself, how fortunate am I to be here experiencing this.

Whilst other stages brought the likes of Hussy Hicks, Steve ‘Na’ Seagulls, Southern Avenue and the return of Daniel Champagne, Kaleo, LP and Steve Earle to various stages it was the Crossroads Tent that filled up to the brim and overflowed for major headliner Beck.

Loud cheers erupted when the lights dimmed and faded to red. The cheers couldn’t have got any louder when Beck came out with harmonica and guitar in tow and rolled into the stunning and soothing song ‘The Golden Age’, an old favourite from his 2002 album ‘Sea Change’. Not long after he introduced ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime’ that featured in the flick ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’ which was beautifully delivered accompanied by his acoustic guitar. Starting off playing a funky little ditty on his guitar, Beck joked about slowing ‘Lost Cause’ down to a Goth like tone.

With some wonderful banter with the massive crowd, he got us all involved and found the entire tent sing the entirety of his title track ‘Old Man’ from his recent album release.  Finishing the track Beck stated that it’s good to know he has a choir in Byron Bay. Belting out popular songs through his set as the Double Bass was plucked heavily and the slide guitar being a stand out, Beck treated us to a stunning version of ‘Thinking of You’ with his acoustic in hand and a harmonica in place, held up by a spring loaded clamp. His multi-instrumental talent didn’t stop there, when he jumped onto the piano diving into ‘I Got Two Turntables and a Microphone’ where he rhymed and funked it up. Of course he couldn’t complete the set without delivering the track that catapulted his popularity worldwide ‘Loser’, which had you acknowledging that Beck has come a long way musically from his earlier days as an artist, ever evolving and finding music that has without a doubt made him a staple name in the industry. (No Beck photos unfortunately due to some odd photo policies from a few artists this year)

A hard act to follow, one of the current and finest vocalists to come out of the U.K, Scotsman Paolo Nutini took charge of the Crossroad stage, returning to Australia after touring back in 2015. Stationed at his keyboard, Nutini drew you straight in with ‘Take Me Take Mine’ from his 2022 release ‘Last Night in the Bittersweet’. A blend of electronica, hardcore rock and a splash of psychedelica, Nutini displayed an intense array of vocals where he lead his band like a pure Rock Star. Throw in a bit of funk and turning it on it’s head, he got everyone onboard when he lit up the stage with Scream (Funk Up my Life), which is exactly what the hordes did. We were treated to plenty of fan favourites such as ‘Acid Eyes’, ‘Heart Filled Up’ and ‘Sunny Side Up. But amongst all the fire and energy, it was ‘ Through the Echoes’ (also from his latest release album), that found fans singing in unison and was certainly where Nutini’s vocals were an absolute stand out.

With the crowd on a complete high, things got crazy when popular Aussie favourites ‘Gang Of Youths’ took to the stage and it was hands down an electric way to end a spectacular Day 2 of the festival. Lead by the sublime and charismatic Dave Le’ Aupepe, he fronted the band with a stage presence that found many female hearts sent into a flutter. The band kicked it off with ‘What Can I do When the Fire Goes Out?’ after which the now UK based band found Le’ Aupepe convey that it’s great to be back in this sun kissed country, compounding that it’s great to be back home. Informing the crowd that the next track is about the most important organ in our body, the band then belted out ‘The Heart is a Muscle’ from their 2017 album ‘Go Farther in Lightness’ album. Personally the highlight song of the night was Gang Of Youths one of their most popular releases from their second album ‘Let Me Down Easy’ which found the the entire tent dancing along to this catchy tune.

By the end of the Gang of Youths set this Byron festival debutante was truly in total Bluesfest mode. My gumboots slathered in mud, sweat drenched hair from the humidity and dancing, many new friends made and the biggest smile on my dial. It’s unbelievable that there’s three more days of non-stop music as the Easter Long Weekend truly kicks off at the festival tomorrow for Day 3.

Joshua Batten and his dad with our reporter Colette Imison with David Harris in background


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