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: 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

Listen to the New Four In The Morning Single “Terrified”

Four In The Morning
Image Courtesy of Four In The Morning

Melbourne based alt-folk trio Four In The Morning have just released their new single “Terrified”.

The raw, raspy track is the first taster of Four In The Morning’s debut EP Half Asleep, due for release on the 19th November. Take a listen to it here:

Four In The Morning have a bunch of Melbourne shows coming up in the coming months – the full list of dates are below:

Thursday 2nd November – The Drunken Poet, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 17th November – The Yarra Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 19th November – The Gasometer Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 30th November – Club Voltaire, Melbourne, VIC

Sufjan Stevens Announces The Greatest Gift Mixtape

Sufjan Stevens
Image Courtesy of Sufjan Stevens

On the 24th November Sufjan Stevens has announced plans to release The Greatest Gift.

The release is a mixtape of outtakes, remixes and demos of Stevens’ 2015 album Carrie & Lowell.

One of the never heard before tracks from the mixtape is “Wallowa Lake Monster” which you can listen to here:

The full track listing for The Greatest Gift is below:

1. Wallowa Lake Monster
2. Drawn to the Blood (Sufjan Stevens Remix)
3. Death with Dignity (Helado Negro Remix)
4. John My Beloved (iPhone Demo)
5. Drawn to the Blood (Fingerpicking Remix)
6. The Greatest Gift
7. Exploding Whale (Doveman Remix)
8. All of Me Wants All of You (Helado Negro Remix)
9. Fourth of July (900X Remix)
10. The Hidden River of My Life
11. City of Roses

Listen to the New Phia Single “Oxide”

Image Courtesy of Phia

Melbourne based singer-songwriter Phia debuted her new sound this month with the release of her new single “Oxide”. Gone are the looped mbira tracks, replaced with distorted drums and intergalactic juno synths.

The track is inspired by an interview Phia read with Björk late last year.

“Late last year Björk released a viral Facebook post about the criticism she and other female artists face when their subject matter departs from boyfriends and love songs, and encompasses atoms, galaxies or activism,” Phia explained. “I was enraged but also inspired, and the songs just started to come.”

Take a listen to “Oxide” below:

“Oxide” is taken from Phia’s upcoming EP The Woman Who Counted The Stars which is due on the 29th September. Phia is also heading out on tour from the end of November – the full list of dates are here:

Thursday 30th November – The Old Bar, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 2nd December – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 3rd December – The Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA
Friday 8th December – The Flying Cock, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 9th December – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT

Watch the New Vance Joy Video “Lay It On Me”

Vance Joy
Image Courtesy of Vance Joy

Indie singer-songwriter Vance Joy has unveiled his brand new single and video “Lay It On Me” right before his appearance at Splendour in the Grass over the weekend. The track is Vance Joy’s first new music single his 2014 album Dream Your Life Away

Check out the video for “Lay It On Me” here:

As well as the new single Vance Joy has also announced headline shows in Sydney and Melbourne this November plus an appearance at Split Milk Festival in Canberra. The full list of dates are below:

Wednesday 22nd November – Forum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 23rd November – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 25th November – Spilt Milk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Husky Announces National Tour and Releases New Video “Ghost”

Image Courtesy of Husky

Following the announcement of their upcoming album Punchbuzz indie duo Husky have announced plans for a national tour this June and July.

Husky have also given us a taster of Punchbuzz with their new single and video “Ghost”. Check out the full list of tour dates and the video for “Ghost” below:

Saturday 17th June – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Friday 23rd June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 24th June – Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 29th June – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Friday 30th June – 48 Watt St, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 6th July – Bello Winter Music Festival, Bellingen, NSW
Friday 7th July – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 8th July – Sol Bar, Maroochydore, QLD
Saturday 15th July – Grand Poobah, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 22nd July – Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Sunday 23rd July – The Rosemount, Perth, WA

Lisa Mitchell and Dustin Tebbutt Announce Distant Call Joint National Tour

Dustin and Lisa
Image Courtesy of Dustin Tebbutt

This June two of our favourite indie artists – Lisa Mitchell and Dustin Tebbutt – are joining forces for a national tour. Mitchell and Tebbutt will be sharing the same band and combining their performance for a carefully curated, hour and a half set.

“Lisa and I have know each other for a few years, and we’d started looking at doing a tour together,” Dustin Tebbutt explained. “I was in Amsterdam doing some shows and happened to be talking through it all with my keys player who also plays for Lisa. I think at one point we were joking that they could just stay on stage for both of our sets, and then the Idea to share a band started making more sense. It kind of grew from there. What we’re looking at now is a really collaborative show, where we share the stage, songs, and musicians; weaving our songs together. I’ll be playing some of Lisa’s music with her and she’ll be adding her magic to some of my songs. I think its going to be a really special run of shows.”

“I’m so looking forward to these shows with Dustin!” Lisa Mitchell added. “I’ve never done anything like this. It already feels like the show is going to be something totally different! I’ve been a fan of Dustin’s music for a long time. We seem to inhabit the edges of a similar world, both musically and in our visual worlds. When Dustin and I were brainstorming the name of the tour, I suggested, ‘New Phone, Who Dis?’ Don’t know why he didn’t go for it [laughs].”

Joining them in the support slot will be up and coming folktronica artist Alex the Astronaut. Check out the full list of dates below:

Saturday 10th June – Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 11th June – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 15th June – The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 16th June – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 17th June – Solbar, Maroochydore, QLD
Friday 23rd June – Newport Hotel, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 24th June – Badlands, Perth, WA
Friday 30th June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 1st July – The Gov, Adelaide, SA

Watch the New Oh Pep! Video “Crazy Feels”

Oh Pep
Image Courtesy of Oh Pep!

Australian indie-folk duo Oh Pep! continue to take the world by storm with the release of their new single and vieo “Crazy Feels”.

The video is the latest from Oh Pep!’s excellent album Stadium Cake – check it out below:

Review: 5 things we learned at Bluesfest

Kale plays at Bluesfest 2016Kaleo playing Bluesfest
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

Year after year, Bluesfest manages to bring the big names and the impressive acts to Byron Bay for the annual Easter pilgrimage. Heading to Bluesfest this year, we really didn’t know many of the acts listed on the bill and wondered just what was in store for us, Timber and Steel wise. So here’s 5 things we learned at this year’s wildly successful, ultimate music sampler opportunity that is, Bluesfest.

#1 – Peter Noble knows how to program…

One thing is for sure, Peter Noble knows how to curate an inclusive, diverse and engaging festival. The big names drew enormous crowds to all their sets. City and Colour had the crowd from the first note and Dallas Green was on form all night.  The Decemberists gave their usual charming set delving in to a fabulous back catalogue of favourites. Not to go without a bit of political comment, they also played a song they thought to offer Donald Trump as his new campaign tune, ‘The Calamity Song’. The Cat Empire delivered a solid hour and a half set jam packed with both new tracks and past hits and favourites to wow the crowd. The biggest coup was probably The Original Blues Brothers Band closing out the weekend with a stellar set of their signature blues.

The festival was dappled with big names throughout the program. Archie Roach was in fine form, weaving his musical spell over the crowd and telling the tales of the land with strength and beauty, and a focus on songs from Charcoal Lane, the title track being a particular stand out moment of the set. Jason Isbell had his one an only set up against The Original Blues Brothers Band, so splitting our time between the two was challenging but rewarding as Isbell’s enigmatic style caught watchers in it’s thrall delivering a contemporary counterpoint to the old school blues on the other stage.

Kim Churchill plays BluesfestBut one of the most notable names for me, still playing midday sets, was Kim Churchill. Getting his big break on the Bluesfest Buskers stage all those years ago, Churchill has been a staple name on the line up ever since. His absence in 2015 was noted and the crowds that gathered for this sets this year spoke strongly of his popularity for the Bluesfest crowd. Watching him command the stage, with the occasional accompaniment of a fiddle player or percussionists, was a joy to witness and testament to the following he has. It felt like he had come home, and in the process had evolved from a keen boy with a guitar to a passionate man with a solid musical career stretching before him.

#2 – It’s never just about the Blues. Folk, Country, and Americana all strongly represented in 2016

Strolling from stage to stage, the peeling licks and plucky chords of the more folky persuasion were both notable and popular with punters, letting us stumble across all kinds of gems.  LA based Lord Huron made quite the entrance with a tension building soundscape and crescendo, an upbeat strummy and infectious style, inventive percussion beneath the acoustic lead and an ability to morph between styles, from the old school feel reminiscent of the 50s and 60s summer soundtracks, through alt country and indie folk rock vibes. A particular highlight from the four-piece was ‘Hurricane’, billed as a song about “getting in trouble”, turns out it was aptly named.

Described as an Icelandic Indie pop/rock/folk band, Kaleo was a light and lyrical delight. Building from their delicate opening style to gutsy, rhythm driven choruses, through alt-country sensibilities to deep southern style blues, and a soulful cover of Bang Bang, Kaleo didn’t hesitate to transcend styles and genres to sign off with a blues rock riff and howling vocals when warranted.

The Bros Landreth, hailing from Canada, brought their alt-country and folk laden cover of Wings’ ‘Let ‘Em In’ to break the ice and then let the Americana tinged goodness flow forth. A family affair, big brother David couldn’t attend so father Wally came in his place and whipped the crowd in to a cheering craze.

The Mastersons were touring with Steve Earle & The Dukes, and made appearances both on Earle’s sets and one of their own solo shows for Bluesfest. Their lyrical country styling, featuring voices working together in diverse melodic harmony gave their day opening set a contemplative mood, transporting the crowd to simpler days. Earle’s set was one great big treat of blues soaked tunes with toe-tapping jivey bluegrass edge, all with the sweet country counterpoint of The Mastersons.

Hound mouth playing Bluesfest 2016

It seemed to be a fatherly affair this Bluesfest, with Hussy Hicks welcoming Julz’s dad Greg to their set to deliver some blistering harmonica to their upbeat tempo and at times Joplin-esque wails and passion. Indiana’s Houndmouth however had no dad’s on their line up but did have plenty of twangy blues and American drawl to open their show and unravel your soul where you stood.

#3 – Word of Mouth is King

You know when you look at a line up and you’re not really sure what acts to check out? Well Bluesfest was that way inclined for many but within the first 8 hours, gossip was abuzz with recommendations and wild tales of phenomenal shows and must see acts to catch. So here’s what we checked out based purely on word of mouth.

Steve Smyth plays at Bluesfest 2016

OK, so Steve Smyth isn’t exactly news to us, but the stir on site had his name on the tips of peoples tongues and boy did he live up to the hype. Sheer genius stood on that stage in the form of master lyricist and vibrant stage presence. Smyth’s beautiful voice and stunning vibrato was just powerful solo as with the support backing instrumentalists. His performance of ‘Southland’ blew socks off across the festival.

Shooglenifty, also known as ‘that band I can’t pronounce’, was not what you expect when you read “Celtic” on the program, but a glorious blend of traditional highland derived tunes that were heavy on the fiddle and a mandolin at the ready, intricately twined with modern rhythms, a few electric guitars and a toe tapping beat, drew punters in before they could saunter too far past the heaving tent.

Blind Boy Paxton plays at Bluesfest 2016

The was no way to walk through the site without hearing the name, Blind Boy Paxton. Listening to his set was like a walk through time, from a fiddle calling a country dance and bransles, to a lightning speed banjo frenzy, a soothing guitar tune and even a lone harmonica telling you it’s tale. All this from one man on stage – simply astonishing.

#4 – The Ladies are out in force! And you should catch all of them live

There was a lot of talk about various acts, and word of mouth certainly got us to see some great performers, but thanks to emphatic and multiple recommendations from all kinds of punters, we discovered some of the most phenomenal women who stamped their mark and left as some of the powerhouses of Bluesfest.

We caught Sahara Beck for her last set and were immediately struck by her stage presence, the smooth set up with band and back up singers added the pizazz to her swag and gave her sultry vibe a ‘pop’ on stage.

Elle King had tongues wagging as word spread that after her first, expletive laden set, her set list had to be ‘revised’. However her husky, growling vocal licks were well and truly flowing when we caught her set in a heaving tent overflowing in to the customary Bluesfest rain. Sass and attitude would be the plainest way of describing King, her vibrancy comes from her musical versatility and ability to weave country vibes and bluegrassy panache throughout her ballsy bluesy set. A chameleon of style, King bowled over crowds with big notes, fiery wit and feisty repartee.

Elle King plays at Bluesfest 2016

Hailing from Ireland, via Canada, Irish Mythen is a modern troubadour equipped with a powerhouse voice and emphatic lyrics. Mythen might have been the grittiest, most real musician seen at Bluesfest this year, armed only with her guitar and her stories, she held hundreds of people spellbound, hanging on her every word any time she took to the stage. We caught her multiple times, and laughed, cried, cheered and sung along to songs we had only heard the first time days before. She regularly had the crowd in stitches with her sense of humour and story telling capers, and woe betide any punter brave enough to heckle her! Four stand out moments stayed with me, even though I saw them all more than once. Her performance of ‘Tullamore Blues’ almost defies description, except that the crowd was with her, in that space, singing every word and feeling every sentiment. Jesus is an experience to behold, hilarious in it’s explanation and empowering in it’s performance, I sincerely hope every person gets to experience it live. Her a Capella rendition of ‘The Auld Triangle’ gives me chills and is simply astounding.  And finally ’55 Years’ had me (and most in the crowd) in tears for the beauty it captures in it’s tale. A truly moving experience. Irish Mythen is awe inspiring and we’re excited she’ll be visiting Australia again soon.

Rhiannon Giddens plays at Bluesfest 2016

And finally, probably the all-singing, all-dancing highlight of the ladies was Rhiannon Giddens. Establishing herself originally as a part of Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens’ solo work is a sight to behold and a treat to hear. Her stunning vocals are soulful yet soar high in beautiful arcs and trills of an almost Celtic style. The skill of her band melds electric with acoustic in wonderful instrumental breaks, bouncing off one another jamming to a crescendo and returning the spotlight to her lead when the time was right. Her banjo crept through tunes to pounce on you unawares, yet could alternate and become the hero of the song. Old Bob Dylan lyrics never previously turned in to songs until Giddens got her hands on them offered a treasure trove to discover. Doing a Dolly Parton cover can be tough, but Giddens’ rendition of ‘Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind’ saw her own the song completely, from every element of style through to her emotive connection with both lyrics and sentiment. From start to finish and for each and every set, she wowed the crowd with fiddle, banjo, modern takes on traditional style, soul stirring lyrics and even a step back in time to the 1920s. Her fancy footwork went down a treat and her ability to connect with the audience and tether them to her tale as the most exquisite experience to behold. She could chat to the crowd but make you feel like she spoke to you and you alone, and yet at all times Rhiannon Giddens continued to exist as her own ineffable self.

#5 – Soul is in, along with BIG bands

Now strictly speaking, Timber and Steel doesn’t really cover Soul, but the prevalence of the big band style soul injections at Bluesfest is worthy of admiration and appreciation, so it gets a gong here.

Emma Donovan & The Putbacks were a sight to behold as Donovan put her own stamp on soul, with earthy tones and a voice that rolled over the crowd, calling to them, beckoning them to hear her story. The combination of her stories and passionate, soulful delivery made for a tight set and profound performance.

I wrote down 4 words when seeing The Word, and two of them were expletives… “holy f***ing sh*t wow.” The couple of songs we caught were incredible, full of funky groves and some sweet slide guitar, all topped off with an electric organ. Very smooth and cool indeed.

Ash Grunwald plays at Bluesfest 2016Ash Grunwald hasn’t moved in to soul, but his Bluesfet setup did resemble the big backing bands of the soul acts and boy did it compliment his wailing blues. Never conforming to just one genre, Grunwald drew on bluegrass vibes, some indie rock to his blues and of course his signature commentary on Australian life. Playing River from his new album, Grunwald spoke about the anti-CSG message prevalent throughout his most recent recordings and confirmed he was among friends int he Bluesfest crowd. His set was punctuated with old favourites as highlights, crowds rollicking in his passionate performance and joining in to sing along on choruses, and the utter delight when Kasey Chambers joined him on stage for a brand new song was palpable.

Another of the tongue wagging recommendations was for Vintage Trouble, and my first impression was that lead singer Ty Taylor was sex on legs, with enough swagger stuffed in to a cravat and suit to fell an army. And when the full band kicked in, it blew the show off the Richter scale. A set full of southern blues, call and response, screaming and wailing blues breaks and enough on stage antics to warrant a lie down after watching. This was my kind of place, 1950s style jazzy blues, complete with energy and onstage charisma!

Vintage Trouble plays Bluesfest 2016

Now, if you haven’t yet heard of the phenomenal popularity and praise for Bluesfest debutants St. Paul and The Broken Bones, then you haven’t been doing the internet properly. Of all the word of mouth recommendations, St Paul and The Broken Bones was THE most talked about act at Bluesfest, and not without good reason. A big band blues-laden soul outfit, oozing funk, with a big personality for a front man in Paul Janeway. Opening with an almighty wail and sliding in to a crooning style track, the crowd knew exactly where they stood and were rooted to the spot to witness the explosive show by one of the most engaging acts we’ve seen in years. Janeway, on behalf of the entire band, exclaimed that Bluesfest was the best experience they had ever had and they would definitely be coming back to Australia, to which the crowd erupted with delight. A set filled with rumbling soul, emotive ballads and big, ballsy blues, St Paul and The Broken Bones is sure to be a high rotation favourite on many punters playlists for some time to come.

St Paul and The Broken Bones plays Bluesfest 2016

Without a doubt, Bluesfest’s skillfully curated 2016 lineup was a smash hit success, sure to be spoken of for years to come. Can’t wait to see what Peter Noble comes up with for 2017!

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