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Report: Colette Imison  Photos: Jason Rosewarne
(Except above pic of Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, Joe Bonamassa, Marcus King and Eric Gales by Alexander Hallag – The Music Is Talking.

Day 3 out here on the old Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm site and it’s hard to imagine that after the wet weather yesterday that we would wake up to a stunning 30°C today. Skipping through the tents there was so much to catch with today’s massive line up of artists. The day started off with local band ‘Loose Content’, who were super excited to be attending Bluesfest after winning the Mullum Music Festival Youth Mentorship program back in 2018, which has since has offered the band many opportunities here and abroad, finding them today at one of the biggest music festivals in the country.

Bud Rokesky took on the Mojo Tent and the Clarence Bekker Band who were also joined by Chicago singer and pianist Eric Stang took to Crossroads. After winning the 2022 Bluesfest Busking Comp, Gold Coast band ‘Buttered’ had secured their spot on on the Juke Joint Stage.

I personally had a bit of a Round 2 day with a few stand out artists that I just had to see again. It briefly started with a quick fix of  Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, because once you’ve witnessed the sheer talent this young man possesses, you realise that you are not only witnessing something beyond special but he’s also one of the most respected guitarists in the business, with many others wanting to play with him.

On my way to catch Daniel Champagne on the Juke Joint Stage, as I walked past Delta Stage the familiar music of another local band Hussy Hicks pulled me in. After seeing the girls recently at the Melbourne Guitar Show I was fortunate to catch their last song. It was a whole different scene and vibe watching the girls in festival mode.

Lead vocalist Leesa Gentz belted out ‘Whole Lotta’, her husky sound and out of this world range are truly remarkable.  Needless to say the supreme guitar skills of Julz Parker are off the chart. It’s no wonder she’s been coined as one of Australia’s best guitarists.

Finally making to the Juke Joint Stage, a reasonable crowd gathered to catch Aussie artist Daniel Champagne. Champagne displayed some proficient percussive style guitar playing, partnered by brilliant fingerstyle skills, whilst scratching the base of his Cole Clarke with his pick he offered us a multitude of playing tricks. Performing ‘Trying to Hold the Setting Sun’ title track from his 2020 album, showcased the striking and sometimes personal writing skills of Champagne. The song is about chasing things that you love, only to find that you struggle to reach it…But when you do, you get a feeling that you can’t quite describe.

Next on my agenda was catching L.A ensemble Vintage Trouble in the Mojo Tent. Word was getting around that this was a band not to miss and given I have never seen them live, I had lined them on my must see list. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the wild ride I was was about to go on and it was without a doubt one of the highlights of my day.

Back at Bluesfest after performing here back in 2019, the quartet comprising of Ty Taylor on lead vocals, Nalle Colt on guitar, Rick Barrio Dill on bass guitar and Richard Danielson on drums, percussion, found all instrumentalists play their part on backing vocals, compounding what a tight unit this band is.

Tagged as an R ‘n’ B unit, the band gave us a blend of rock, reggae, soul and gospel throughout a set, that no human could’ve sat still throughout. Almost resembling a preacher in his white suit, lead vocalist Ty Taylor coordinated it with a piece that looked remarkably like a priests cassock where he delivered a sermon to remember.  He was an absolute showman, who knew how to work the crowd, almost into a frenzy at many points.

Playing many numbers that were fans favourites, they performed tracks like ‘Run Like the River’ from their 3rd studio album ‘1 Hopeful Rd’, which gave revellers a chance to warm their voices up for the beyond high energy show that the band bestowed upon us. Ty brought some soul to the tent with ‘Doin What You were Doin’, where Ty stood at the edge of the stage throughout parts of his performance giving front row fans a chance to interact with him.

I don’t know where the man gets his energy from, but it only duplicated as the show went on. Ty at one point requested that festival management allow photographers stay for as long as they want, as he was just warming up for a set that was only gonna get better. And he wasn’t lying!

The band sourced a First Nations song woman as a backing vocalist, who given this amazing opportunity will be touring with the band on the Aussie leg of their tour. Marlinja woman from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory found Eleanor Dixon having some stand out moments, where Taylor stood back and allowed her to rule the stage. With strikingly strong vocals, there was no doubt that Dixon is making her community proud. Ending with a Gospel sounding track called ‘Run Outta You’ was obviously personal to the lead vocalist, as he paused and wiped the tears off his face mid song .

Three-time Grammy Award nominated artist Allison Russell took over Mojo stage with her gorgeous soulful vocals. Her set was something beyond music. As a poet and an activist, Russell shared personal stories throughout her set and spoke about societal issues that were of concern; Where the need for freedom, unity and peace was emphasised. Surrounded by an all-female band, the band featured keys, conga drums an electric guitar and a bucket load of others in waiting.

An outspoken woman of strength, Russell had the confidence to share life experiences with us that impacted the lyrics of her writing.  During her set she told of being in foster care with a white supremacist family. One day she got out of the house and attended a free music festival, where at only 15 years old she made a choice to get out of her situation. She then went on to meet a girl, who she eventually fell in love with, who saved her life. Russell sang a track called Persephone in honour of her.

It was clear that Russell uses her music to heal and tell stories in the true tradition of blues music. With a banjo in hand Allison held court with a track called ‘All of the Women’ where her performance was flawless and  the outro exhibited her prowess on the clarinet. Russell delivered a set that hit hearts and truly found everyone in the moment.

At sun fall the legendary Jackson Browne and his band took to the Mojo Tent, which was in full Saturday Bluesfest swing and packed right out. Downhill from Everywhere’ was the first track that he brought to the people which received a raucous roar from the fans. Browne delivered many hits throughout the evening, where we were all treated to hits such as ‘Doctor My Eyes’ and ‘Fountain of Sorrow’’. He played everything from acoustic, electric and lap steel guitars throughout his set, taking true fans down memory lane. Ending with the popular ‘Running on Empty’ it was a truly honour to watch a true master perform this evening.

For my second round of seconds, I must admit that after my last experience of the sensational Eric Gales I couldn’t help my desire to catch him again. He is seriously an artist whose music and guitar skills I had to eat more of and I tell you what, I’m so darn happy I did… because his set created the most magical moment in Bluesfest history and it will no doubt be one of those ‘I was there’ moments in time to come.

As he did last set he delivered more songs from his latest album ‘Crown’ which earned him his first Grammy Nomination this year as well as his popular hits. Having been able to catch other artist at the festival, he saluted Marcus King during his set referring to him as ‘Bad’ as in fantastic. Those who caught King’s set cheered in agreement.

At one point Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram physically ran onto the stage and stood back watching Gales play, nodding as if to say ‘YES’ with a cheeky grin upon his face. This moment found the crowd roar and screaming ‘Play’ to Kingfish.

In a teasing mood, Kingfish then reappeared with Marcus King. Which caused the crowd to get even louder, again…they simply stood back and watched the maestro play. This found Gales claiming how good it felt to have two of the baddest arsed guitar players on stage with him as he walked up and down the stage in awe of the moment.

But things were just about to get out of control, when Gales announces that Joe Bonamassa is backstage watching his set. Gales yells out to production, get me 3 amps and the crowd then started chanting “FOUR, FOUR, FOUR, FOUR” in hope that the four greatest guitarist in the world would do them the honour of playing together. It was wishful thinking…but that said, ‘What Eric Gales wants, Eric Gales gets’. Production proceeded to roll three amps onto the stage. Once in place and set up out came Marcus King with guitar in hand, followed by Kingfish also with guitar, finally the man himself Joe Bonamassa walks on stage and the place became hysterical.

Lead by Gales, the FOUR KINGS jammed for about 4 minutes together. Vibing off each other they ‘PLAYED’ and played hard.  Each of whom were given an opportunity to showcase their skills where each of them threw out a solo each. It truly was an unbelievable moment that was so overwhelming that found me walking out of the tent in tears.  Never have I experienced a guitar moment like it in my life.

As if the Gales experience tonight wasn’t enough, Crossroads Stage was totally lit tonight. Blues legend Buddy Guy was next on the stage where he performed part of what is his last tour of Australia. Dressed in his standard denim overalls and a white polka dot shirt and cap the legendary man showed the tent what music is all about. 

Kicking off with ‘Damn right I’ve got the Blues’ he welcomed himself to loud cheers. Using his guitar as his vehicle to converse, Buddy Guy informs the audience that his ‘been to places so funky that it sounds like this’…. Where he pulled out some funky techniques and simply chatted to us via his guitar.

He then launched into ‘(I’m your) Hoochie Coochie Man’ claiming amongst his lyrics that he came to Australia to f&@k with you. The colourful language didn’t stop there, where at one point I thought to myself ‘Mr Guy sure would’ve been a wild one in his youth’. The band certainly has the ultimate leader in Buddy Guy and it was plan to see and hear that he hand picked the best he could find.

Dishing out some fan favourites Buddy Guy delivered  ‘She’s Nineteen Years Old’ followed by ‘I Just Wanna make Love to You’. Acknowledging the downpour yesterday, Buddy said he wrote a song just for it, before leaping into ‘Feels like Rain’. The crowd embraced it singing the chorus where chants of ‘It feels like rain’ filled the tent. Requesting that the lights turn off him and be placed onto the crowd, Mr Guy claimed that he wanted to see our faces.  He then asked the crowd to repeat in song…. ‘And Feels like Rain’. The choir moments at Bluesfest thus far brings a sense of bringing us together, which for many is something we’ve all longed for the last few years.

You sensed that Guy wanted to farewell his fans appropriately given this will most likely be the last time we see him.  He announced to his fans that he loves us from the bottom of his heart and that he meant it, which was received with a loud roar. Then he sung a stunning cover of Eddie Cooley’s ‘Fever’ which was beyond a dreamy rendition.

The gems kept on coming where he played somewhat of a medley of covers meshed in together.  Festival goers cheered loudly when he kicked it off with the intro to Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’, and then Cream’s ‘Strange Brew’ where he briefly chatted about Clapton. Johnny Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’ had Buddy singing in some deep tones, ending the medley with Jimmy Reed’s ‘You Don’t Have to Go’.

Ending his set with ‘Someone else is Steppin’ In (Slippin Out, Slippin In) already standing, Buddy Guy was given the greatest standing ovation by the crowd, who raised their hands clapping for a man who without a doubt, has laid his footprint in the history of blues music as we know it.

Mojo was all prepped up and ready for the Counting Crows. Opening with hit ‘Round Here’ certainly pleased the tent who joined in. With Duritz distinct vocals pooling out into the crowd, the atmosphere was simply inexplicable in honour of this popular band from The Bay.

Following it up with ‘Hard Candy’, David Bryson on guitar and Millard Powers on bass stood forward where the intro was instantly recognised by all. The hits kept coming throughout the set, but it was most certainly the bands super hit that kicked it off for them ‘Mr Jones’ that got everyone singing and dancing.

Bringing it down a little Duritz sang Colourblind in such a beautiful manner, that it caused an instantaneous hush in the tent. Charles Thomas Gillingham (referred to as Charlie by Duritz) was introduced, having stand out front with his accordion in tow lead us all into ‘Omaha’.  During which Duritz sat at the edge of the stage with his mic aimed at the us all where he handed the chorus over to his fans. Not quite Blues, the Counting Crows brought some fantastic rock music to the festival and were most definitely a crowd pleaser.

Given that Bluesfest has such a hectic line up, it is virtually impossible to catch everyone you want to see, sadly I only managed to personally catch a couple songs from Joe Bonamassa’s set.  Luckily for readers a huge Bonamassa fan and no stranger to Australian Musician, Melbourne musician and friend Joshua Batten happens to also be at the festival.  With much appreciation Joshua was kind enough to share his insight on the Bonamassa set.

“It has been eleven years since I first saw Joe Bonamassa headlining at the Palais Theatre, and it has been such a joy to see him continue to grow his cult fanbase to the level where he can headline festivals on the same level as many of his blues peers. The 90 minute set included fan favourite “Dust Bowl”, a handful of tunes from 2018’s “Redemption” album, one song each from his latest releases “Royal Tea” and “Time Clocks”, a new song “Shout about It”, and a cover of Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble” to please the blues purists. As usual, Joe maintained total control over his instrument, with his fast blues licks and tremolo bends in full force, and he also allowed opportunities for members of his band to shine, including rhythm guitarist Josh Smith, keyboardist Reese Wynans, and Aussie backing vocalists Dannielle DeAndrea and Jade McRae.

As call time drew nearer and nearer, the extra guitar amp off to the side of the stage became more conspicuous, and it became a matter of if there would indeed be time for a special guest. Fortunately, there was enough time for one more big song, and Joe called out his buddy Eric Gales to jam on Joe’s signature song “The Ballad of John Henry”. Eric and Joe traded licks back and forth in an epic battle, and even though this was Joe’s show, Eric certainly held his own!”

Well, what an epic day it was, there was absolutely so many artists today and sets to catch. My muscles and feet are most definitely starting to feel it. Tomorrow brings us Easter Sunday, and I’m certain it gonna bring us some treats sweeter than chocolate.

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