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Allison Russell

Report: Colette Imison Photos: Jason Rosewarne

I can’t believe we’re nearing the end of what to date has been an experience like no other. The weather on Day 4 was amazing, the atmosphere was celebratory, and people were excited to be here.

Given it was Easter the afternoon kicked off slowly to allow people to celebrate. The stages started pumping out music by early afternoon kicking it off with Round Mountain Girls. Hussy Hicks returned to the festival today, this time on the Mojo Stage.  The girls are certainly working overtime having played several sets yesterday and returning for more today.

Julia Zemero hosted ‘RocKwiz Live’ on Delta joined by Brian Nankervis. Trivia fans thoroughly enjoyed relaxing back and enjoying this popular TV Show live on stage. Given that I’m slightly trivia obsessed and a massive fan of the show, I started my day here.

Positioned next to a lovely lady from Britain, we casually found ourselves competing with each other. It was a fun moment for us where we danced around each other when we scored our own personal points and gave each other arm slaps when the other scored points that had us in tears our laughter. Moments like these really sum up the sense of unity and the many friendships formed during the festival.

2023 Grommet Semi-Finalists Bryon Bay’s own ‘Band Called Stereo’ were up on the Busking Stage just after lunch, as were another Semi-Finalist Cody Leender. The 2023 Busking (Adult) Comp crown was given to a band from Queensland. Pop-Rock band Perry Street Park basked in their glory having been given the opportunity to perform on the Juke Joint Stage this afternoon as part of their prize.

A band who possesses the authentic sounds Australian Rock, Perry Street Rock are certainly a band to keep your eye out in the near future. Performing at Bluesfest would’ve most definitely been an honour for them.

Whilst Steve N Seagulls performed and Allison Russell returned today. I was fortunate enough to find some time to catch Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist and comedian Steve Poltz. This bloke is one of the funniest men I’ve ever seen. Personally, I’m not a massive fan of comedy and song being combined, but Poltz was a master at it and he totally won me over. Standing on stage with his acoustic guitar this multi-faceted talent, was an amazing musician to boot.

Of course, given that we’re at a massive music festival, on my way to catch Ash Grunwald, I had to walk past the Delta Tent where artist Roshani was playing. And there I found myself dancing up a storm with a gorgeous hula hooping woman. Artist ‘Roshani’ set up an electro-fused, harmonica-incorporated version of Chaka Khan’s hit song “Ain’t Nobody”. As I sauntered off not wanting to leave, she grabbed her electric guitar and it was clear that this multi-instrumental artist was packed with some super talent and I can’t wait to catch more of her tomorrow.

Straight on the dot of 4pm Grunwald, an Australian favourite took to the stage with his electric guitar and gave us a serving of ‘Ain’t My Problem’. Making his guitar vibrate through the amp, the next on the menu was ‘Madhouse’.  Making sure the crowd got the words and tune correct, he made us all practice the chorus of his next song ‘Born With a Hammer in My Hand’ before jumping into it.

I personally thought we did alright, and he didn’t complain….So I guess we passed the test. With his recently released album doing well, he played the title track to it called ‘Shout Into the Noise’.

Amongst all the great international acts, I personally feel that it’s vital that we recognise the huge amount of talent we have in this country of ours and Ash Grunwald is absolutely a talent we should be proud of.

Zooming back to the Crossroads Stage to catch Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, Nigerian lead man Femi Kuti (the son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti) introduced himself as the Captain for everyone’s flight tonight and ask everyone to jump onboard for his Afrobeat spectacular. Songs promoting peace and the pain we see around the world; As an activist, particularly around matters such as social justice, this set had everything.

A powerhouse performance featuring three spectacular girls in traditional dance attire who doubled as back up singers, showcased some blowing, hip-shaking, afrobeating moves throughout the set.

Backed by a stand out musical ensemble forming the Positive Force, Femi bounced between dancing and singing, whilst playing keys and sax. With songs with strong messages such as ‘ You Can’t Fight Corruption with Corruption’ and ‘Look Around’, Kuti utilised the stage to speak about corruption, particularly in his motherland of Nigeria, where corrupt governments fail their people, providing no healthcare or security for the country. Not disregarding our own situation in Australia, Femi preached that it’s time for change.  Stating that Australia is finally starting to recognise the true owners of this land. Enforcing that we are all humans, who need to unify, hitting home that true love should always reign.

Bluesfest regular Michael Franti and The Spearheads had a heartfelt video intro, where he talked about lockdown and the struggles he faced as an artist. He honed in of us now being position to recognise the importance of loving each each.  Asking us to remember that time and love is the key. In it he thanked his for supporting him and his family during what was without a doubt a difficult time for all.

Arriving on stage Franti and The Spearheads started with ‘I’m Alive (Alice Sounds Like)’ from his 2013 album ‘All People’. Next off the stage was a track that festival goers got right onto ‘Better’ from his latest 2022 album  ‘Follow Your Heart’. An artist who truly takes time out to embrace his fans, Franti jumped over the barrier and into the crowd singing and handing the mic to fans who were happy to join in. Ensuring everyone was part of the moment he asked the crowd to raise their arms where it was simply a moment where we all gathered as one.

With everyone’s spirits lifted the band belted out ‘ The Sound of Sunshine’.  Even though the sun had set, the warm night and sensational energy indeed made the space light up. Ending his set and once again treating his fans like family, Franti invited kids onto the stage to join him and his own family to sing ‘Say Hey’ (I love you), where one kid stole Franti’s thunder by literally breaking out some serious breakdance moves, cater-pillaring across the stage like an ol’skool pro.

Not wanting to miss Mavis Staples I rushed out of Crossroads and made my way to MOJO to see an icon. At 83 years of age and having forged her career over 70 years, nobody comes as polished as Ms Staples. I was met with Staples performing ‘I’m just Another Soldier’ where her gospel up bringing shone in this song. With her screaming “I’M A SOLDIER” in full gospel high pitch, she concreted that age simply enhances her. ‘Take Us Back’ had fans up a singing, showcasing moments where she sang at the back of her throat, which gave off a gravely tone.

Belting out ‘Handwriting on the Wall’ some beautiful guitar moments chimed out, whilst the audience absorbed the moment of witnessing a legend work her magic.

Letting the crowd know she’s come all the way from the Windy City in Illinois, she informed everyone that she came here to have a good time. As a woman who at 83 has seen a lot of going on’s in the world, and holds the wisdom of life experience, she told her fans that the best thing we could do for yourself is ‘what you do for yourself’.

Next, she leapt into ‘Who Told you That’, followed by ‘Can You Get That’, where her backing vocalists delivered beautifully however Ms Staples voice still managed to supersede the two vocalists.

Slamming the hits out we received ‘City in The Sky’ and wonder hit ‘Respect Yourself’ which Staples emphasised we all should do. Yesterday when sharing my Gales, Bonamassa, Kingfish, King experience to the media crew, I was left disappointed (as I needed to leave Staples set before she finished), that she invited both Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt to share the stage with her. Sadly that’s how things go here at Bluesfest…You win some, and you also lose some.

Tash Sultana’s stage was set up with with several guitars, drum machines, keys and horns, only to name a few instruments available to her for tonight.  Behind these sat a table with a neon cactus, flamingo and rainbow. With incense burning into the air, it all set the ambience of the space for this special Australian artist.

Looping music has become such prominent part of so much music these days, and Tash is a definitely a looper extraordinaire. Witnessing Tash is beyond watching, beyond listening. Tash is an experience.

The first track Tash performed was ‘Big Smoke’ which first appeared on her first EP ‘Notion’ as a live version and was later re-released on Tash’s first album ‘Flow State’.  In pure Tash style, the artist exceeds the recorded version when performing live, extending the song to nearly 11 minutes. There was a wonderful gathering of joyous dancing during ‘Big Smoke’ when electro tunes chimed out, turning the tent into somewhat of an electro dance party…That was until Tash grabbed their electric guitar and blasted a massive solo that practically had us all levitating.

It must be said, that seeing Tash live is the only way you will experience the phenomenon that she is, no recording compares to witnessing the way Tash works on stage. During ‘Cigarettes’ from Tash’s second album ‘Terra Firma’ (which was primarily recorded during some serious lockdowns), Tash played some dreamy native flute, which she’s also managed to master.

Tonight,  Tash introduced a new band that comprises of a drummer, bass guitarist and pianist. ‘Notion’ found Tash juggling a variety of vocal pitches, that made the hairs on your arm stand up, as did the electric guitar solo that found Tash kneeling down backwards as she played.

Tash’s last song was the one that truly put her in the spotlight.  ‘Jungle’ was uploaded onto YouTube and went viral before Tash released it on her ‘Notion’ EP.  Given its popularity, practically everyone in the tent lost their minds when it commenced.  Tash had us in the palm of her hand. Between bouncing off pedals, guitar and drum machine, Tash literally bounced off the stage and into the audience during this part of the set. Leaning back in the midst of the crowd onto the barricade that separated us from them, Tash grinded her axe and sliced the place apart with a mind-altering display of how to play electric guitar.

What a way to end Day 3. It’s unbelievable that this ride will be ending at the stroke of midnight tomorrow.


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