Review: Falls Festival Byron Bay, Part 2 – The Main Event

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Falls Festival is increasingly trying to be everything to everyone, stretching across the East Coast and now hopping to the West, it’s a broad canvas to wash but we are still always delighted to spot some more folkier acts gracing the main line up. After checking out The Grove and finding some great local folk acts, it’s always nice to see what acts are gaining the attention of festival organisers and audiences alike. Falls Festival Byron Bay had a nice little selection to tide over the inner folky.

We’re going to start with the big guns. Not necessarily Folk, but the storytelling style and lyricism of Darryl Braithwaite’s glorious return certainly deserves a mention, as well as the sheer nostalgia of it all. We have to admit, when we first saw Braithwaite on the line up, we had to take a second look, then embraced the choice in all it’s glory. The veteran looked really happy on stage, and the crowd were going absolutely nuts, though we’re not sure how many of them were actually born in time for Braithwaite’s hey day. A true performer, he introduced his band with great humour and cracked open the set with an old favourite, “Rise”, with its rich with harmonica and the bulging crowd at front of stage clapped along enthusiastically. Braithwaite delivers a very different speed and sound to the rest of the festival but a joyful, rousing set, perfect for a celebration like New Years Eve.

Not pausing to breath, he and the band rolled straight in to “Not Too Late” then joked about doing ‘that song’ right then and being along with questioning the age of ever person in the audience.

It was a rollicking time as “Howzat”, “As The Days Go By” and “One Summer” made the most of their big synth moments, entire amphitheatre singalongs, rousing the crowd into a euphoric haze. And then those tell tale chords rang out across the crowd and sheer joy erupted for the entire amphitheatre to sing out every lyric of “The Horses”. A sentimental win, right there.

Continuing with the not-really-folk-but-we-want-to-include-them bandwagon are the wicked lyricists and activists Camp Cope. We couldn’t even get in to the tent it was so overflowing with eager punters before their set even began. But from their first syllables on stage, acknowledging the stolen land that the festival was on, imploring their audience to clean up and pick up after themselves, and calling out the atrocious behaviour and assaults at another Falls site, we knew Camp Cope were a whole other kind of band.

“Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams” lashed out in the hot afternoon and the crowd went crazy, begging for more from the rapidly rising outfit. Their spirited performance, strong vocals and confident engaging performance drew comparisons the likes of Courtney Barnett meets The Smith Street Band. Definitely an act worth catching live. They have also taken heat after their call for events like Fall Festival to have a more diverse line up. We noted similar inequalities at Bluesfest last year and look forward to watching the industry and scene continue to evolve to better represent all musicians.

We had to dash from Camp Cope’s set to catch Julia Jacklin. A significant change to catch her tranquil vocals, soft as caramel, oozing out from the stage, sweetening the audience up immediately with dreamy tones of “Lead Light”. The anthemic ballad “Cold Caller” filled the space with catchy riffs and made the audience move together.

From emotive choruses, to beautiful moments of quiet among the electricity of the band, Jacklin had it all going on. Her rendition of folk song “Wonderland” showcased the solace of her voice accompanied by only her electric guitar, and the vibrato timbre to her voice had an enchanting effect on the audience. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Jacklin soon.

The much anticipated set from Fleet Foxes delivered a mix of old and new tracks to an albeit smaller than anticipated crowd. The weather, the relentless humidity and the hangovers from the previous night probably all had a lot to do with it. But the crowd that did arrive, were happily ensconced in the all too familiar Indi folk twists and turns of Fleet Foxes.

The glorious harmonies of “Grown Ocean” washed forth from the stage as the digital back drop changed continuously, carrying their songs visually through sunrises, abstract colours, and emotive pulses. Flowing from one song in to the next, “White Winter Hymnal” transfixed the amphitheatre, followed swiftly with rich red, bright backdrop and emphatic calling opening of “Ragged Wood”. A mix of old and new was on the set list, and once the final notes of “Your Protector” rung across the field, the newer transidentel tracks moved over the crowd in an ocean of sounds, trills, and unbridled experimental cohesion.

In stark contrast to the inclement weather and oppressive grey skies, the monumental crowd for homegrown favourites Angus & Julia Stone were bright and cheerful in the Valley Stage’s amphitheatre, in spite of the gloom. Their set was a graceful mix of both new and old, with the familiar trumpet solo of “Private Lawns” to the cool, calming choruses of “Chateau” echoing across the grounds.

“My House Your House” had a mass, emphatic singalong in the amphitheatre only to be outshone by “Big Jet Plane”, the song everyone had been waiting for. The hit track, delivered in a relaxed and melodic fashion, had everyone is enraptured in spite of the steady rain. The enormous, spirit lifting cheers at it’s finish heralded the true love for our homegrown Angus & Julia Stone. To finish off a set, virtual flurries and soft white snowflakes overwhelmed the backdrop and the soothing, feminine refrains of current hit “Snow” were a perfect counterpoint to the humid, rainy northern NSW climate. A hallmark performance cementing the place of the folk, indie and alt genres at one Australia’s most loved music events, The Falls Festival.

You can check out all of our Falls Festival photos on our Facebook Page, and read Part 1 of our Falls Festival Review featuring great acts from The Grove stages.

Review: Falls Festival Byron Bay, Part 1 – The Grove

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Falls Festival is an annual institution for many, with people waiting with baited breath to see if they land a coveted ticket. Most of what we see is all about the Main Stage acts and tight scheduling to see all your favourites, or to toss up who the best act to see at Midnight in the 31st will be (for the record, we had Flume and he was most excellent).

But one of the things we’ve always noticed and made mention of is the other performance areas, often known as The Village in Lorne and Marion Bay, and The Grove in Byron Bay. So what happens when you deviate away from the main stages and check out the other options? You discover a trove of delightful, folky acts!

Here’s a selection of some of the great local acts we caught at the other Falls stages in The Grove, at the Cafe de Rude, and Lola’s Bar.

Let’s start with the Singer/Songwriters.

First on our radar was singer/songwriter Reilly Fitzalan. An unassuming and modest chap who shares intimate thoughts with the small crowd. The venue, a small cafe in the Grove surrounded by a Peep Show, a Japanese Cocktail Bar, and Lola’s Bar (another stage), has to battle with the neighbouring music which is disappointing but to be expected.

Unperturbed, Fitzalan introduced himself and moved straight in to a ballad. Lovely affected vocals layered over the acoustic guitar, not dissimilar to a young Xavier Rudd. He introduces a new song, about his Dad (“a little bit”) which had a solid construction and lyrics over a subtle and subdued guitar. Fitzalan gave us short tracks without any pretentious attitude. His versatility was on show as he switched to a lower register vocal alongside sentimental plucky opening that sounds simultaneously familiar and new. A truly intimate and private moment, shared with a hushed crowd.

Next, we fortuitously heard about Damien Cooper. He was walking from his campsite to The Grove singing and our friends followed him like the Pied Piper of Hamlin to the Cafe stage, we joined them and weren’t disappointed! Cooper had a laid back air, perfect for the suffocating heat of Byron Falls. His songs were straight from life, like his track inspired by his brother, who he loves but also pisses him off, appropriately named “Love You Anyway”. Strummy and sentimental, with a stomp box for emphasis, we couldn’t help but smile at a quintessential lyric, “Sometimes I get what I deserve, sometimes you just get on my nerves”.

“Pale Blue Dot” was a curious song about how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, complete with a beach indie pop vibe and Cooper beatboxing in the instrumental! At 24yrs old, Cooper is more thoughtful than his years. His track “Patience”, about knowing the right time to act, had tones of a travel or journey song with strong, driven vocals, supported by stripped back acoustic to focus on the tale. A troubadour in the making.

We trekked to the cafe on the final day to catch Maisy Taylor and arrived in the middle of her beautiful rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” followed swiftly by her enchanting vocals on “Sink or Swim”, her flowing melody not at odds with the drenching rain outside.

Knowing how to please a crowd, Taylor gave a fun, folky cover of “Blame it on the Boogie” in all its Acoustic glory, which become a songalong in the intimate enclosure of the cafe. Taylor took a moment to thank her Dad for introducing her to the music of Tristan Pettyman before launching in to his “In Bloom”. To finish we were treated with a strummy upbeat performance of “Little Birdy” – the epitome of happiness on a grey day, with mischievous tones on lilting notes.

While there were solid singer/ songwriters at The Grove, we can’t ignore the bands and groups who also squeezed on to tiny stages over the three days.

Over at Lola’s Bar, we came across 3-piece cum 4-piece, Banksia. Amongst the splendour of couches set both on stage and off for musician and listener alike to recline on, funky percussion and electric guitar with delicious vocals trickling over the chords, along with beautiful vocals in an indie singer/songwriter style was a welcome change from the maelstrom of Falls Festival humidity and crowds. They introduced their newest band member on what seemed to be almost every kind of instrument from keys and synth, to vocals and sax! Their diverse tastes were on display, first with their track “Vulnerable”, a light, lilting tune with a Kate Miller Heidke like vocal quality, haunting yet sweet and comforting, then moving in to another tune, a lackadaisical ballad with a bop to it

 

The Button Collective must be one of the hardest working bands on any festival line up. At Falls Byron they played multiple times, sometimes twice in one day! They squeezed on to the tiny Cafe de Rude stage, and ran rampant on the Lola’s Bar stage. In a tight formation on the Cafe stage, their plucky bluegrass merriment oozed joy, clustered around one mic, reminiscent of scenes in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Whether on a stage large, or small, every player had their part, from the flautist trilling gayly, to the cheeky violinists, or the plucky banjo player and the boisterous lead guitarist. They brought everything, from sea shanties with an Aussie twang, to trad pieces and original larrikin works. As a tight group, they rolled with the punches, whether a broken guitar string and shake up to the set list to facilitate a restring, or pouring rain, suffocating humidity, or just plain fitting in to the rough and tumble of the Falls line up. Whether more subdued than usual and cramped on a tiny stage, or rollicking with more space on Lola’s stage, they’re a thoroughly entertaining act not to be missed!

And our pick of the Falls Festival Byron Bay programming at The Grove was Ben Wilson – performing as a 3 piece act that had us hooked from from the first strum of a string. Between them, the outfit sported double bass, violin, acoustic guitar and harmonica, plus their fabulous harmonised vocals, crowded round a very vintage microphone, managing to capture their tunes before the breeze could. Their sweet lilting sound competed with the boisterous Lola’s Bar next door, but the trio were unperturbed. Wilson’s folk felt like it had a dash of country and a splash of old time style to keep things moving. Pitched on the tiny Cafe de Rude stage, it was like watching a delicate dance for them to all manoeuvre around the one mic that delivered such a sweet and true voice. Their harmonies were terrific, and they hit their stride in spite of challenging neighbours. Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married” was a true testament to Wilson’s love of 50s & 60s pop writing and a burning desire for some hearty folk, rolling along with an almost honky tonk sensibility. Choosing in difficult conditions to switch to trad covers for a bit of fun, we were treated to an upbeat gritty rendition of “Hesitation Blues”, a plucky and cheeky “Old Black Dog” and a delightful rendition of “Strawberry Fields”. To finish an entrancing set, Wilson and co finished with an original, “Big River” complete with beautiful a Capella refrains to end. Bonus props to Ben Wilson et al for also featuring in The Button Collective, we’re not sure if they actually stopped playing at all over the 3 days!

Check out our Photo Gallery on Facebook for more photos, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Falls Festival Byron Bay Review, coming soon!

Review: The Beautiful Girls

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Beautiful Girls, Animal Ventura & Mesmeriser
The Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 16th December, 2017

In the sweltering Sydney summer, the ice cool reprieve of The Metro Theatre’s ample air conditioning was a welcome starter to an evening that promised rays of Morning Sun.

To start the night off, the swaggering, lackadaisical tunes of Mesmeriser, the likes of which you’d expect to hear wafting across the sand dunes late on a summers day, set the tone early. Their chilled beach rock vibe with solid melodies with smooth vocals made them a natural match for The Beautiful Girls 15 Year Learn Yourself / Morning Sun Anniversary tour. A confident, solid set jam packed with tracks to warm up the growing crowd.

Taking a slight turn away from the beach feel, the funky vibe of Animal Ventura got the crowd moving. I love watching musicians use looping pedals well, and watching Aragones use one with a drum pad make a rich loop was nothing to sniff at. His vibrant guitar and vocals gave a contemporary feel to an indie singer songwriter sensibility. His musical treatment gives an uplifting feel to his sound, with vocal stylings reminiscent some of my favourite Jamie Callum tracks.

Just watching him build the loop for ‘Jungle’ was entrancing and then the delicate acoustic guitar danced over the basey loop giving it all a lightness and colourfulness. His vocals shifted to a more sultry tone trickling over the intricacies if the music below it. Transitioning again for the next song, in to a reggae beat demonstrating a stylistic breadth without skipping a beat, brought up comparisons to the likes Xavier Rudd’s rhythm heavy tracks.

So we know that back in 2012, The Beautiful Girls called it a day. Only it’s worth marking special anniversaries so seeing them for a 15th Anniversary was a fun affair for all.

Kicking off the set with title track ‘Morning Sun’ a more electric undertone to the indie acoustic sensibilities lifted the lyrics to a higher level of clarity and connection with the enraptured audience. From the outset, it was all confidence and cool, with the now large crowd rocking along and singing the choruses. Although it’s been a while between tours, their instrumentals lets them groove and connect with each other with subdued showmanship.

Upping the tempo with a heavy drum intro and setting the scene for a party vibe, ’10:10′ had the crowd going while showcasing their great indie rock solos. The rockier party sound continued with ‘Don’t Wait’ with the lyrics punctuated, rapping across The Metro in a fiery staccato. Even though the trio have been away from the stage for a while, they are still great at connecting with each other through their instruments, tone and staging, and translate that harmony to the crowd with gusto. So much so, that when it came to ‘#1 Style’, they had the crowd exploding with anticipation.

Of course, the crowd were there to hear some of their favourites how we remember them, so as McHugh switched to his acoustic, we knew some nostalgia was nigh. With a beautiful deep resonating riff the crowd recognised ‘Lose Yourself’ and the great showcase unleashed vocal styles reaching into higher registers, then rumbling along along below.

Familiar opening chords, to the crowds delight, announced a rousing rendition of ‘Dela’ and had a Paul Kelly-esque storytelling sensibility and the crowd eloquently singing along, and when ‘Periscopes’ arrived the crowd visibly swelled to greet an old favourite with crystal clarity to each lyric sung. To keep the momentum going, ‘Let’s Take The Long Way Home’ treated the audience to an impromptu harmonica replacement as McHugh had forgotten to bring his instrument and instead the crowd were urged to freestyle their own rendition of some jazz harmonica. Hilarity ensued.

And of course, and The Beautiful Girls gig could never be complete without ‘Music’ taking over the entire space, with the crowd singing word for word and McHugh hoping he can pull off some kind of 1980s hip hop over the eager audience singing.

It was clear they were delighted to be back on home turf, hailing from the northern beaches of Sydney. The production and planning for their show was evident, with striking lighting and great performances across the board. It was clear that even though the years have passed, they are still very comfortable and at home on stage. The Beautiful Girls continue to be a great band to see. The show demonstrated the great variety to their style, built out of years of experiences and recent space to grow their back catalogue to a new maturity. It was a night transporting us all to the tropics and a more reggae come Caribbean tone to their current musicality.

The whole show hangs together cohesively with common tones and styles echoing through all three acts, but with enough diversity between them to allow each act to feel fresh and different. For a bit of nostalgia, a guaranteed dance and every opportunity to sing along, you can still catch The Beautiful Girls on their 15th Anniversary Learn Yourself/ Morning Sun tour. If you’re looking for a fun, chilled vibe with a side serve of summer, this is the tour for you.

For more photos of the show, see Stuart Bucknell Photography‘s Timber and Steel Facebook Album.

You can catch The Beautiful Girls on tour at:

Thur 28 DecWoodford Folk Festival, Woodfordia QLD – TICKETS
Thur 4 JanMiami Marketta, Miami QLD – TICKETS
Fri 5 JanThe Northern, Byron Bay NSW – TICKETS
Sat 6 JanThe Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour NSW – TICKETS
Sun 7 JanCambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW – TICKETS
Thur 11 JanVilla Noosa, Sunshine Coast QLD – TICKETS
Fri 12 JanThe Zoo, Brisbane QLD – TICKETS
Fri 19 JanWesternport Hotel, San Remo  VIC – TICKETS RSVP
Sat 20 Jan – Corner Hotel, Richmond VIC – TICKETS
Sun 21 Jan – Grand Hotel, Mornington VIC – TICKETS

Review: First Annual Australian Americana Honours Night

Americana Honours
Image Courtesy of the Americana Music Association

Australian Americana Honours Night feat. Old Crow Medicine Show, Valerie June, Kevin Welch, Busby Marou, Kasey Chambers, Shane Howard, Yirrmal, Bernard Fanning, Catherine Britt, Henry Wagons, Emily Barker, Ruby Boots, Jordie Lane & The Sleepers
Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Monday 2nd October, 2017

Like many people I woke up Tuesday morning to the horrible news that an evil individual had killed dozens and injured hundreds of people in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. What’s really hit home about this latest atrocity is that it was committed at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival – a festival not unlike the festivals the Timber and Steel community attends all the time here in Australia. Words cannot describe the emotions I’m feeling right now. It’s senseless, just senseless.

As the events in Vegas were unfolding on Monday night night I was sitting in the warm confines of Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre for the first annual Australian Americana Honours Night. It was a coming together of the Australian Americana community and a celebration of a genre that has so much heart and soul behind it. As so often happens with these events I was overwhelmed with the community that’s been created around the music we love.

From the opening marching-band entrance of Old Crow Medicine Show’s live version of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” to the closing singalong of “May The Circle Be Unbroken” featuring Old Crow, Valerie June, Kasey Chambers and Kevin Welch, the Australian Americana Honours Night was pure joy from start to finish.

Americana Honours

It would be too easy to look at the events in Vegas and decide that you’re not going to music festivals anymore. Despite how irrational it is, despite the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of festivals are held around the world every year without incident, it would be easy to walk away from live music.

If it wasn’t for the Australian Americana Honours Night last night maybe I would have made the easy decision and walked away from live music festivals. At the very least maybe I would’ve reconsidered my bucket list of international festivals, striking all off the US-based events.

But when you’re listening to Kasey Chambers and Bernard Fanning duet on “Watch Over Me”, when you can feel the goosebumps from Yirrmal’s surprise performance with Shane Howard, when Henry Wagons literally owns the entire stage while performing “King Hit”, when artists you’ve been following and supporting for years like Ruby Boots, Emily Barker, Catherine Britt, Jordie Lane and Busby Marou get roaring applause from the gathered fans and industry folk, you know there’s no way you can give this up.

Americana Honours

Kasey Chambers and Brian “BT” Taranto were both honoured with vanguard awards on the night and both of them gave passionate speeches about how important Americana music is. How much the community means. To me it was almost a call to arms – a plea to keep the candle burning for good music. To keep going to festivals, to gigs, to keep buying records and to keep the passion alive.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, before I turned to my smart phone, before I knew the full extent of what had happened in Las Vegas, I was still buzzing from the Australian Americana Honours Night, and the 3+ hours of amazing music I’d witnessed the night before. And even as the world came crashing down around me as I scrolled through the news it wasn’t enough to extinguish the light that is burning for live music.

The best way to not let the bastards win? Keep going to live music. Keep going to festivals. Show your support, be part of the community of amazing people who keep this music alive, and enjoy every minute of it.

Thank you Australian Americana Honours.

Track By Track: The Ahern Brothers – The Ahern Brothers

The Ahern Brothers
Image Courtesy of The Ahern Brothers

The Ahern Brothers is the new duo project from Josh Rennie-Hynes and Steve Grady which has been garnering all sorts of praise since they emerged on the scene earlier this year.

Last week The Ahern Brothers released their self-titled debut album and we sat down with the boys to get a run down on each of the tracks, with Rennie-Hynes and Grady taking a side each:

Side A by Josh Rennie-Hynes

1. “Comb That River” – This is the first song Steve and I ever wrote together. We’d played a lot together in the past few years on our own solo stuff but for some reason never sat down to write something. We flew into San Francisco from Melbourne at around midday, jet lagged as hell. Our friend Moose’s apartment is in the Castro district and out of his windows you can see San Francisco; it’s a beautiful view. That afternoon we pulled out our guitars and started jamming. This song idea came and within a few hours we pretty much had the whole thing down. It’s loosely based around the show ‘Stranger Things’ and the story of a child who’s friend has disappeared. This song sets the tone for the rest of the record and once we’d written it we both realised we’d stumbled onto something cool.

2. “When the Rains” When The Rains was written directly after “Comb That River” that same afternoon, somewhere in the midst of the jetlag and the euphoria of waking up and being in another country. I don’t know where this song came from. Again, we just started jamming on ideas and an hour or two later we had a gospel song. When you listen to the recording you can hear my voice get croakier as it goes on. It was late at night when we recorded it and I was a little tired but it ended up being our favourite performance. That’s what I love about this album; it wasn’t about perfection or polish first and foremost. It was about capturing a true performance of the songs.

3. “Today’s The First Time” – After a few days in San Francisco we headed north to the stay at our friend’s lodge in a place called the Russian River. It is nestled in the hills among the giant redwoods and is just beautiful. We’d sit on the deck most days and write. Steve had a rough verse melody for this song buzzing around in his head for the previous few weeks but no lyrics. So it was just a matter of nutting it out. It’s one of those songs that almost feels like it’s already been written; you just need to sit down with it, pay attention and let it tell you what it wants to say. For me it’s about being in the present; experiencing things and travelling while also missing a loved one. Steve had earlier said to me that day something along the lines of “This is the first time I’ve truly missed someone” and the chorus came from that.

4. “Bury Me Here” – There was a meadow just below the lodge that we’d often go to. One morning we woke up and wanted a change of scenery and perspective for the day so we grabbed our guitars and headed down. I was messing around with this chord progression and we jammed on ideas until the song started to come. There was a dog buried in the meadow clearing and a grave marked with stones. Some turkey vultures circled high overhead. We were sitting there playing with ideas when this old cat suddenly slinked across right in front of us, stopped to take a look then continue on about it’s day. Steve immediately turned to me and said ‘We should write this song from the cat’s perspective’ and so it was. It’s got a darkness and eeriness to it that gets under your skin and the melody doesn’t stop moving. It’s written about an old cat and it’s close friend, death.

Side B by Steve Grady

5. “8 Years On The Run” – This is definitely the oddball song of the album. It’s the most Australian and country of the lot. We had just written four songs that were heavily influenced by our surroundings and time in California, therefore we were probably searching for a new perspective. I’d heard this story of Australian father and son fugitives – sort of modern day bushrangers – Gino and Mark Stocco. For eight years they went on the run, changed their names, stole and burnt down farms, even killed an innocent man, all the while hiding from the law. It’s a pretty amazing story especially in this age of technology and surveillance. In saying that, we certainly don’t want to glorify their actions. They were eventually caught and thrown in jail, but we thought it’s a crazy enough story and worth writing about.

6. “Call, My Lover” – We wanted to bring it back a notch with this song and get back to something a little more honest and closer to home. The structure and mood of the song began sitting around a campfire with our guitars in a forest somewhere near Portland, Oregon. It’s definitely the most straightforward and conversational type of song on the album. We purposely didn’t add any tricks or metaphors, nor did we try to pretty it up with harmonies. It has a great jam out section and a mood of loneliness and longing to hear the voice of the person you love and miss back home. In my eyes it’s like ‘Today’s The First Time’ part two.

7. “Your Name” – We had just arrived back in San Francisco, a little weary, and again found ourselves on the roof trying to come up with ideas for a song. We had a melody but no substance. We really wanted to say something important. This was when our dear friend who we were staying with shared a story about his younger brother and the tragedy that unfolded when they were kids. Without going into any more detail, we knew this was a song that needed to be written. The words came fast, and what I love about it is Josh and I share the lead vocals from each brothers perspective, only joining together for the second half of the song. The recording is perfect and it’s definitely my favourite song on the album. Songs like Your Name is why I do this.

8. “Our Last Day” – The title says it all. We had packed in so much within our three weeks of America – the heights of San Francisco, lodging in the redwoods, Yosemite, road trips, hanging in Portland, writing a bunch of songs. So we thought it would be fitting to sum it all up in one song. It’s light and fun. We wanted it campfire style, with the two of us singing in unison together for the whole thing. I hardly even knew the words when we recorded it, so you’ll notice I’m always just a millisecond behind Josh. It’s a great documentation of the trip and the perfect way to end the album.

The Ahern Brothers is available now – check it out in iTunes here

The full list of upcoming tour dates for The Ahern Brothers are below:

Thursday 29th June – Treehouse, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 30th June – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Saturday 1st July – Royal Mail Hotel, Ipswich, QLD
Friday 7th July – Woodford Open Space, Woodford, QLD
Friday 14th July – Flow Bar, Old Bar, NSW
Thursday 20th July – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 22nd July – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 28th July – Green Door Wines, Ferguson Valley, WA
Saturday 29th July – The Church, Donnybrook, WA
Sunday 30th July – The Pottery-Restaurant, Bridgetown, WA
Thursday 3rd August – Secret Show, Mandurah, WA
Friday 4th August – Wild Vinegar, Bunbury, WA
Saturday 5th August – Secret Show, Fremantle, WA
Sunday 6th August – Secret Show, Perth, WA

Track By Track: Bloom – Timothy James Bowen

Bloom
Image Courtesy of Timothy James Bowen

A couple of weeks ago Sydney based singer-songwriter Timothy James Bowen highly anticipated new EP Bloom. Bowen describes the EP as bookending everything that’s happened to him in the last year – much of which he spent fighting a type of blood cancer.

We asked Timothy James Bowen to take us through Bloom track by track.

1. “Magnolia Tree” – I wrote “Magnolia Tree” with my sister, Clare Bowen, in the middle of 2015. It was the first single off the Bloom EP. This song is a simple love song about marrying the one you love. We wrote it one night at Clare’s farm just outside of Nashville. I had been circling a melody for six months prior and hadn’t been able to find the right lyrics to go with the tune – all I knew was that I loved the melody. I played it for Clare and after one pass, she sat up, with eyes widening and excitedly said while running into the other room, “Keep playing! I think I have something for that!!!”. What she came back with after a bit of rummaging was a yellow post-it note with most of the chorus scribbled down in black ink. We went on to play it for the first time later that week to 5,500 people at the Grand Ole Opry.

2. “The Last Time” – I wrote this song with two friends of mine, Andrew Alberts and Stephanie Lambring, who are both exceedingly talented, Nashville based songwriters. We based this song on a cyclic relationship that too many people are familiar with – one that you know is bad for you, but for whatever reason, you keep circling back to that person again and again, regardless of the inevitable anguish that comes along with being with them. The main chorus tag “For the first time, it’s the last time…” is about the ultimate realisation and acknowledgement of the need to break the cycle in order to be free.

3. “Let’s Not Talk About Today” – This was one of the hardest songs I’ve ever had to write, purely because of its content. At the end of 2015, I was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer. Days before Christmas, I was given two weeks to live and urgently started an intense chemotherapy regime. I was one of the lucky ones, and the chemotherapy put my cancer into remission. This song begins at my quarterly specialist check up, when after progress scans, I was told that there was a 95% chance that my lymphoma had returned. I was going to need to have several operations and months more of intensive therapy in an effort to beat it. We left the hospital that day completely deflated. We went back to my family home to sit in front of the fire with my parents to try and digest the unimaginable. My Dad, forever the optimist, was trying to make what light he could of the situation and the only words that came to mind were “… Can we just not talk about today, please?”. From then on, the title and a few scattered diary entries stayed with me until I made my first trip back to Nashville in October of 2016 after being given the all clear for the second time. I finished the song over many cups of tea and through many tears with my sister, Clare, and her fiancé, Brandon Young. Writing this song has been the most cathartic experience I’ve ever had as a songwriter.

4. “The Greatest Love” – “The Greatest Love” is about the woman that literally saved my life, Christina Mullany. Before I even thought about going to see a doctor when I started to get sick, my guardian of a girlfriend, now fiancé Christina, saw all the red flags and raised the alarm well before anyone else could even think the thought. She brought me (and dragged me, in some cases) to the doctors office on multiple occasions to be checked out and she was there by my side through the entirety of this journey so far. Christina wrangled doctors when they needed wrangling, explained medical jargon to my family, stayed with me in hospital for a month when I began my treatment and was, quite simply, my greatest support during one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever endured. I literally owe her my life and after 8 years of the most beautiful relationship I could ever imagine, to me, this truly is the greatest love I have ever witnessed.

5. “Hold My Heart” – I wrote “Hold My Heart” with my guitarist, Paul Mason. Paul is one of the most talented guitar players I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, let alone sharing a stage with. His knowledge and use of complex harmony and chord structures is what really brought this song to life. We wrote this song about his struggle of being able to find balance in his relationships and learning at what point you have to let your guard down and just go with it. People tend to put up so many walls when they get burnt that it can jeopardise any new relationships that might begin because of pretences set by those that are now long gone. This song is about acknowledging everything you’ve been through and realising that each beginning is a new one and should be treated just as that. This song also has the added bonus of being the only song I’ve ever written where both writers were wearing animal onesies at the time of creation. I was a puma. Paul was a tiger. We both had tails. It was a great day.

Bloom is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes here.

Timothy James Bowen will be joining Clare Bowen on her East Coast tour this July. Check out the full list of dates below:

Monday 3rd July – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Tuesday 4th July – Hamer Hall, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 5th July – Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra, ACT
Friday 7th July – Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul, NSW
Sunday 9th July – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Monday 10th July – Civic Theatre, Newcastle, NSW
Tuesday 11th July – Blazes at Wests, Tamworth, NSW
Thursday 13th July – Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, QLD
Friday 14th July – The Star, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 15th July – Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton, QLD

Bluesfest Review: Monday Monday

St Paul & the Broken Bones at Bluesfest. Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

It’s the final day of Bluesfest and emotions are a mixed bag of excitement for what ahead, sadness that it’s ending and a bit of relief from the continual stimulation and inspiration from so many amazing artists.

We have to see Blind Boy Paxton again after last year’s show, so we’re here at 1:30pm at the Delta stage as Paxton starts on the keyboard with a sound sentimental to the golden age of Hollywood, a delightful dash of honky tonk and and old times blues sensation. With a dextrous trill of the keys, he has us all enthralled. Paxton says he’s starting off easy “as you all partied to hardy at the festival” last night, and we all laugh, evidence of how he easily builds rapport with the crowd with delightfully timed jokes and comments. He quips “Y’all let me sit off centre [of the stage] and not tell me. Is there anything on my face!?” and breaks in to a huge grin, we chuckle and settle in to enjoy his acoustic guitar dripping in old time blues. The twinkle of his eye matches the twinkle of the guitar strings before he pulls out the harmonica for a spirited performance with rhythm sticks, which keep the momentum going as he sings the refrains.

As fans of early 2000s rockers, Jet, we thought we’d better check in at Crossroads stage to see where the band’s Nic Chester is at these days, and for a 2:15pm chill out, we’re not disappointed. A delicious blend of indie rock and blues soaked riffs greets. His signature vocals hammer home his comfort and familiarity on stage, bringing the crowd in to the fold of his stories.

At 3pm we wander to the Jambalaya stage for Tony Joe White and the crowd erupts in applause as the legend takes to the stage. It seems appropriate at Easter to have a voice as deep and smooth as chocolate smother you in blues, and we all revel in its seductive tones. White rumbles along like percolating coffee, earthy, enticing and altogether satisfying with tones and tales.

After yesterday’s teaser, we decide to head to Delta stage at 4:30pm to see more of Lloyd Spiegel than a passing glimpse. It’s clear pretty quickly that Spiegel is a tongue in cheek wit as he jests that he “might as well tune my guitar on stage” before showing off fingers moving so fast there we half expect to see smoke rising from the fast finger friction! Clearly this set should have come with a warning sign! Amazing sounds stream out of one guitar, the likes equivalent of multiple guitars, and a stomp box the stamp out a hectic beat. Just as we think it’s reached it’s peak, Spiegel unleashes a laconic voice that dances with his guitar string. Ever the comedian, stories are told between songs making us all laugh. Did you know “the Queen thinks he world smells like fresh paint? Because everywhere she goes has been freshly painted!” And blues isn’t safe as he declares “Jeff Lang has never seen a guitarist play to their full capacity because they all shit themselves when he walks in!” His infectious sense of humour has the crowd in stitches and his ferocious fret work has us all in awe. If you want a real laugh, ask his about the guy who “won” the guitar in the raffle – the story is a corker!

As 5pm rolls around we dash to see St Paul & The Broken Bones at the Mojo stage. Their set flawed us last year and this year they’re up there as a must see! With a pre-recorded intro like something out of old Hollywood, but overtaken by old soul, the melody acts like siren song luring people in to join the crowds eagerly anticipating their show. After their 2016 roustabout style performance, this year they deliver a much more soulful and serene performance. The crowds are absorbed, transfixed and transported to another time through the multilayer musings, the sultry, emotive dalliances, and the standing ovation inspiring instrumentals. As we’re all lulled in to their rhythm, they segue in to an upbeat and energetic full band piece laden with funk, just to wake up all of our senses and have us all moving to the beat!

Noticing a name we recognise, Ashleigh Mannix, as part of the folk-grunge duo line up for Little Georgia, we head to Juke Joint to catch their 6pm set. We’re greeted with “This Old House” in sublime harmonised vocals and one-two combination of an acoustic and an electric guitar working together like the best sweet and sour you’ve ever tasted. Delivering an electrified indie vibe with a side of dirty grunge, the duo still trips lightly along the line between acoustic sensibilities and a fully electric sound. The instruments sonically dance together rather than battling for supremacy and a gutsy, punchy opening cements them within the minds of the crowd. Mannix’s vocals offer a depth of tone and nuance, highlighted by Carter’s higher pitched twang. Together they have an intimacy on stage that connects the two yet invites the crowd in to fully experience the counterpoints of lyrical progression. As they both switch to acoustic guitars, the difference has a significant change to their sound and vibe creating a very upbeat and organic sound. Their set wanders deeply in to the folk and indie realms, revels in its joyousness, crosses in to mournful lament, a sentimental melancholy with the sweetest treatment musically, and dives back in to the grunge element seamlessly. Definitely an act to keep an eye on!

We decide to venture to the Craft Beer Bar and grab a stool out the front to catch some of Kasey Chambers‘ 6:45pm set at Crossroads stage. She has everyone singing, even the guy in the crowd sporting a full beard and passionate rendition of “Not Pretty Enough”. Chambers charms the crowd with her deliciously harmonised songs where country meets blues and spell binding rendition of crowd favourites.

Since it’s the last night, and we saw Sir Rosevelt the other night, we figure we should go and catch Zac Brown Band at 8:15pm on the Mojo stage. Our first reaction? “Holy shit!” That rumbling guitar opening and a whole bunch of country style toe tapping, hand clapping, clear plucking, good-time hoe-down style cacophony hits us like a wave, picking us up and taking us on a wild ride. There is wild fiddle tearing the house down with an electric boost smashing “Whiskey’s Gone” in to the ether. Lead singer Brown has the crowd in palm of hand, we’re cheering at the intro and singing along in a heartbeat, whether we know the words or not. A full spectrum performance where we traverse the upbeat, the solemn, the optimistic, heartfelt and the lamentful touch points of life. And to top it off, for the second time this festival, we are treated to a spirited cover of Bohemian Rhapsody.

To finish the night, and bring our festival to an end, we swing by the Delta stage at 9pm to witness The Record Company. Reminiscent of Ash Grunwald’s vigor with harmonica, distorted mic but with a kicking bass guitar and hefty drums backing up. As a delectable counterpoint, the fine harmonica trills are the main instrument when lead singer Vos is not singing. A powerful rock crescendo to finish our Bluesfest experience.

If you think you’d like to head to Bluesfest 2018, early bird tickets are now available to buy at heavily discounted prices. Essentially, every time we’ve ever been, it’s guaranteed a great line up and festival. If you’ve never been, do what you can to make it one year!

Trip back over our full weekend at Bluesfest:

5 Things We Learned at Bluesfest 2017
Bluesfest Review: Good Friday is a fine day!
Bluesfest Review: Saturday Celebration
Bluesfest Review: Sweet Sunday

Head to our Facebook Page to see our full collection of photos from the festival

Highlights from Monday at Bluesfest

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Bluesfest Review: Sweet Sunday

Buddy Guy at Bluesfest. Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

It’s chocolate day! And as we enter through the Southern gates the sounds of Lloyd Spiegel making the crowd laugh with his tales welcomes us to another glorious day of Blues, before we can hear Spiegel breaking in to a blistering rendition of “Lucille”. It’s his last tune, so maybe we’ll catch him again tomorrow.

Our main aim is to grab lunch and make haste to see Glenn Cardier and the Sideshow, at 1:30pm on the Delta stage. It’s a modest but keen crowd as Cardier’s moody blues kicks off the day. The Sideshow delivers a tight meld of consummate musicians, producing a slick sound and emotive melody from the album ‘Stranger Than Fiction’. A high energy and animated performance of “Rust in my Tail Fin” has us all going, and you’ve got to love a piano accordion in the mix with electric guitar, acoustic drums and a double bass!

Heading to the Mojo stage for a 2pm grin-fest Jake Shimabukuro and his wicked ukulele. Touting his new album recorded in Nashville, Shimabukuro is accompanied only by an electric bass. The strummy sound of a ukulele can brighten the most melancholy tune and the Beatle’s “Eleanor Rigby” does just that as an opening, a delicate and haunting treatment of a favourite that turns up the energy with smooth bass underpinning. Shimabukuro’s sense of humour and light banter is perfect for the sunny afternoon and he introduces a song inspired by his favourite show growing up. The song is called “Ukelele-5-0” and we all laugh along with the joke as high energy and spirited number traverses tempo and vibe, delivering a sense of emotion, through a journey that awakens the mind and heart of us all. His epic dexterity and speed builds to crescendo and then lulls in to a beautifully entwined and intricate plucked wonder. After a decadent medley of some favourite pop tunes, and something with a Spanish flair, he finishes the set with a crowd sing-a-long to Bohemian Rhapsody!

We make our way to catch Mud Morganfield at 3pm on the Delta stage. With a honky tonk style sound filled with riffing beats, twanging electric guitar, jiving keys and a whole lot of sass pouring forth from the stage, we’re all bopping along before we even know it. A wicked harmonica solo herald the entrance of the man himself, the son of legend Muddy Waters, Mud Morganfield steps out on stage. This is real old school blues, where you can’t help but sway along. The entire crowd is tapping, bopping or swaying to the old time jive sensibilities transporting us to another time.

After grabbing a quick drink and bite to eat, we settle in to witness Buddy Guy take over Bluesfest in his 5:30pm set on the Crossroads stage. His performance is so highly anticipated that the crowd not only packs out the tent and overflows behind, but is also overflowing to the sides, all the way to the big screen and back to the craft beer bar. And Buddy didn’t disappoint. Starting big and only going bigger, he may be 80 but he gives the rest of his band a run for their money. Resplendent in polka dots, Buddy commands the stage with both his presence and his swaggering guitar riffs. His voice shackled the high notes and melted all the way down through every blues note with such passion and showmanship. The extremely talented members of his musical collective frame his iconic style perfectly, as he brings it right down and plays with the audience, teasing us right up to the punchy, powerhouse moments. When an Octogenarian plays the guitar with his goddamn elbow, followed by his “belt buckle” you know this is the cheekiest 80-year-old we’ll ever see.

We pop up to the Juke Joint at 6:30pm to check out Max Jury. Opening with a chilled vibe with just Jury on keyboard and singing a solemn love song, it’s a great stepping stone to the full ensemble as the 5-piece band joins him on stage, complete with two female backing singers. We’re treated to “Numb”, a soul filled tune with glorious backing vocal harmonies and followed by “Little Jean Jacket” a tender melancholy, with sweet backing vocals building a soft cocoon around the sentimentality of the song, as the mellow bass and drums slide in underneath and lift the music to flow out over the crowd. As Jury moves from the keys to strings, glorious uplifting backing vocals presents “Ella’s Moonshine”, a more upbeat tempo shifts the whole vibe to more of a troubadour or journeyman style.

After some delicious dinner, we visit the Mojo stage for Michael Kiwanuka’s 8:30pm set and are greeted with an epic intro full of synth, and eventually Kiwanuka joins the stage with a guitar that sings its way through the crowd, calling us together to join the night. A smooth, soulful “Cold Little Heart” rolls forth with velvet like vocals and the crowd flocks to him, drawn by the enigmatic quality of his music.

We move along, wearied by the days of music to experience, and make one last stop for the day at 9pm to Jambalaya for legend Mavis Staples. We saw her last year and could not miss her this year, even if just for a glimpse. Staples walks on stage oozing style and panache, and gives a cheeky knowing look as she and her retinue blasts out  a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” as a statement opening number with signature beautiful harmonised backing and an edge of funk to the whole delivery. The entire performance demonstrates Staples’ professionalism, working with the backing vocalists and delivering a slick production that is rehearsed and wonderfully collaborative in its style. Opportunities to showcase each vocalist and their contribution or specialty are plentiful and it’s clear that time was taken to plan the set to highlight different members of the ensemble. Staples addresses the crowd, telling us that “at Bluesfest, the people are so warm and beautiful, we are welcomed, hospitality plus, personality plus. It’s our family! We bring you greetings from the Windy City. We’ve come this evening to bring you some joy, some happiness, some inspiration” as the most glorious rendition of “The Weight” then carries us in to the night.

It may have been traditionally a day filled with chocolate, but we’ve filled our senses with spectacular performances and astounding music, and very excited for the last day of Bluesfest still to come.

Catch up on all the action:
Good Friday Review
Easter Saturday Review

View our full Bluesfest photo gallery on our Facebook Page.

Highlights from Sunday at Bluesfest

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Bluesfest Review: Saturday Celebration


Vintage Trouble at Bluesfest. Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

It’s Saturday and celebration day! Yes, we’re marking a birthday so today includes a sleep in and much frivolity throughout the day.

After arriving via the southern car park and gate, you stroll straight to The Wilson Pickers’ 2pm set at Jambalaya to be greeted by a decadent, slow building guitar intro coupled with the howling harmonica and sublime close harmonies of “Man of Misery.” It’s a striking and beautiful balance between the full sound of 5 part harmonies and 5 stringed instruments all having their moment to shine and lead the way. Through you’re treated to their playful interaction with the audience and every opportunity to clap along. In particular, they give a real gift with a stunning, spine tingling rendition of Jolene!

After stopping to grab a doughnut (who needs birthday cake when you can have a hot, chocolate filled doughnut!?) you’re ready to kick back and take in the sparkling wit and cheek of Billy Bragg. It’s 4:30pm and the Crossroads stage is already overflowing for this sure fire favourite. Sitting outside, we’re bathed in afternoon sun with an enormous Bragg on screen in front of us. He’s jovial, tongue firmly in cheek, and you would hardly even notice he’s performing solo, his sheer personality and presence fills the stage. Irreverent and political as always, he’s not shy of poking fun at himself, especially when he gets his own songs wrong. His sarcastic wit is razor sharp as he quips “thank goodness it’s not one of those gigs with great big screens either side of stage that show the worried look on your face!” to which we all laugh heartily.

We all expect a Dylan cover, but Bragg’s signature mischief makes it current, changing lyrics to become “But the times, they are a changing BACK!” much to the glee of the audience. Bragg continues to make every piece of his set relevant to right now. One of the more pertinent moments is when he claims “Sexuality rules do not apply to me. There is a crisis in masculinity. This weekend, men all over will be pressurised in to doing things they don’t want to. For many, many years our sisters have rightly fought against the pressure to be a domestic goddess. Now it’s our turn to resist the pressure to be a DIY demon. Admit we’re never going to be as good at shit as our Dad’s were. To a man with a hammer in their hand, everything looks like a nail. That nail will never go in straight no matter how many times we bang it in. There are other ways to express your innate masculine creativity.” He has personality in spades and it’s the first time we’ve seen him live. It’s not his musicality hat commands attention, but his personality and attitude of inclusion and solidarity. He even gets a rarity at festivals, an encore, with the entire crowd singing along to “A New England”.

With our stomachs and cheeks hurting from laughing, we head back to the Crossroads stage at 6pm to catch Vintage Trouble’s guaranteed wowser of a show. They astounded us last year and this year is no different. Blasting on to the stage, they are full of energy and aim to please. A non-stop soul overload, with a cherry on top as Beth Hart joins the extravaganza on stage for “Run Baby, Run”.

We pop over to the neighbouring Jambalaya stage to catch the end of feisty Irish Mythen’s set, whom we lost our minds over last year. The atmosphere is thick with joy and the jovial feel only increases as we step inside, just in time for a stirring, completely a Capella rendition of Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”, with every voice joining and all hands clapping. Mythen delivers a powerhouse, gut wrenching finale to  such a well known and loved song, complete with huge notes and a deserved enormous crowd response. In a delightful surprise finish, Mythen is joined on stage by an adorable toddler, Lois, the daughter of Cass Eager (who also joins them on stage). Mythen comments that “Four walls are very special to me. If the people around you are happy and healthy and you’ve got a roof over your head, you’re too goddamn rich” to introduce Eager giving a stunning a Capella performance of “None of that Matters” and to finish the set, Mythen tears the house down and fires up the crowd with her signature “Jesus Be Reasonable”.

We swing by the Crossroads stage to catch Beth Hart’s 7.30pm set and are met with a sassy, powerful, soulful performance with a delicate balance between the power and energy of the full band and the intimacy of her solo moments. The soul soaked blues wrap us all in familiarity while the funky piano riffs as Hart takes to the keyboard picks us all up in mood and energy for “Spirit of God”. The way Hart strikes a harmony between solemn piano interludes and the visceral, earthy backing from the band is mesmerising.

At 9pm we stop in at the Mojo stage and watch curiously as Sir Rosevelt’s video intro sets the scene, complete with moody tones and high production values. The crowd welcomes the band to the stage, the dapper gents and their instant impact of powerful, punctuated lyrics from lead singer Zac Brown energises the crowd and takes us in a direction we really didn’t anticipate! Some really divine slide guitar has their sound soaked in strings and attitude. Here we were thinking this was going to be an electrified pop-folk showcase, but then they bring on the dance! The instant reaction from us all is, “Woah!!” as a full scale dance track, complete with choreographed dancers smashes expectations and takes over the stage. We can hardly believe the combination of the funk laden dance with acoustic guitars! It’s a crazy, weird but funky meld of the two genres, pop-folk and dance, but we like it as we groove into the night.

To finish the night, we indulge in a quick stop to see Nahko and Medicine for the People at 9.30pm at the Jambalaya stage. We caught glimpses of them last year so make an effort to take in some of their set before departing for home. Filling the stage with energy and the vibe of fully intertwined workings of a 6-piece ensemble, the diversity is all encompassing with lots of influences and sounds melding together to create musical medicine for the people. They pack a punch with a very upbeat and full sound, enveloping us with their combination of rock and horns and strings. It feels like Power-folk!

After another huge day, we head for home and look forward to what is still to come over the next two days.

Missed Friday? Come for a walk with us through Bluesfest on Good Friday.
View our full Bluesfest photo gallery on our Facebook Page.

Highlights from Saturday at Bluesfest

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Bluesfest Review: Good Friday is a fine day!

Busby Marou at Bluesfest. Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

This year, we thought we’d take you on a walking tour, dropping in to different stages across four days of Bluesfest – for those who might have missed an act, or couldn’t make it.

Welcome to Bluesfest, It’s Good Friday and the weather is glorious. Entering from Northern entrance, you’re greeted by an avenue of stalls and people with a vast and exciting line up ahead of you. It’s 12.30pm, the sun is overhead, you’ve got money on your RFID wrist band and the bars are plentiful! Taking a tour through the entire site, past the Juke Joint and Boomerang Stage, Delta Stage, past the enormous Mojo and Crossroad stages, all the way to the far end to find respite in the shade at the Jambalaya stage.

Busby Marou are already commanding an enormous crowd in spite of the early time slot and their upbeat vibes are well received with the crowd still flowing in, toe tapping and bopping along. Stories about meeting Paul Kelly at an Awards night and the advice given on the monumental difference between incredible international gigs and starting out in Mittagong in 1979 are the jovial introduction to “Drink the World Dry.” An emphatic cover of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” has us all singing along and indulging in a bit of air guitar. A final cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” carries us all the way to the bar for a cheeky bevy and through the food hall for a bite to eat.

Rhiannon Giddens Bluesfest 2017 by Stuart Bucknell PhotographyAt 2:15pm you find yourself at the Crossroads to catch Bluesfest sweetheart, Rhiannon Giddens in a banjo laden opening number. Showing off her range, a bit of scat treats the crowd to the power behind her vocals, as her diverse and all-encompassing set rolls out to very happy ears complete with some honky tonk blues, soulful a Capella and a hint of bayou country panache. The passion from Giddens is palpable as a hush settles over the crowd, “At the Purchasers Option” haunts the audience with it’s 18th Century sensibilities. With the crowd in the palm of her hand, Giddens delivers an emotive one-two with her signature style. “We Could Fly” tells us a folk tale of old the people who could once fly but have since forgotten how, in a tender yet compelling lyrical journey. To round out a set jam packed with plucky old time reminiscence, gutsy powerful vocals and vulnerable trilling notes, title track “Freedom Highway” brings everyone together for a final huge response.

Wandering up to Boomerang stage, in front of Juke Joint, 3:45pm strikes and Yirrmal takes to the stage with a stirring indigenous opening. Between the two acoustic guitars and the stunning clarity of storytelling, a beautiful blend of English and indigenous language delivers a delicious cross over of both the expectations of an indigenous performance and an acclaimed acoustic act. His language punctuates the story and connects it back to earth and people in a way that is felt rather than heard.

The Strumbellas hit the Delta stage at 4:30pm with a first impression reminiscent of an early Boy and Bear folk-rock vibe, complete with sweet violin that carries the melody out above the full band sound. Around us, the crowd gets involved in the call and response, calling “Hey” to the world and joining in the easy to pick up lyrics and chorus. They deliver feel good happiness, wrapped up in a song. Graduating from the indie folk feel in to the heavier rock influenced folk, we all still erupt in cheers for the violin solo!

After a break and recharge over hearty fare and a drink tapped on the wristband, the much anticipated Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue bust on to the Mojo stage like we’ve partied all night long, not like it’s 7pm on a Friday! With a cataclysmic trombone leading an all guns blazing repertoire, we take some time away from the folk to appreciate the funk. The high energy hypnotises the crowd and Trombone Shorty’s dexterity playing both trombone and the most amazing, long trumpet trill that would put even the best Circular breathers to shame has us all dancing. The sheer joy on stage, evident thank to the bands on stage dancing antics creates a kind of intimacy, like we’ve been invited to a private party or club. The jazz trips over the funk and falls amongst the RnB that pulls itself together and gives us the show of a lifetime, every time. A powerhouse performance.

After a bite and a breather, it’s time for what many have been heralding as the Folktastic headliner, The Lumineers at 10:45pm on the Crossroads stage. Their opening builds anticipation and when you realise their recordings sound the same as their live performance, you know you’re in for a great show. Such a genuine and authentic sound, true to what we are so used to, has the crowd besides themselves as “Classy Girls” bursts forward with a real fervour and speed yet haunting cello punctuation. We’re surprised with

“Ho Hey” very early on and, unsurprisingly we all respond with wild abandon. Darling of the set, “Cleopatra” follows soon after with all of us in fine voice while “Dead Sea” has an earthy, grounded tone, like a low cloud or fog on the crowd to hush and sooth us. While we know and love every offering from their back catalogue, there’s a particularly special air as an upbeat rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” delivers a great vibe through a combination of strings, piano and thumping bass to mesh the band and crowd together.

The late night and huge traffic queue to leave the car park is worth it as we’re buzzing from head to toe with the first day’s Bluesfest blast.

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Highlights from Friday at Bluesfest

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