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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Woody Pitney Announces June Residency

Image Courtesy of Woody Pitney

Melbourne singer-songwriter Woody Pitney has been making huge waves in Europe recently off the back of his hit song “You Can Stay” and now he’s coming home.

In June Woody Pitney will be making Wednesday’s his own with a residency at Melbourne venue The Worker’s Club. Pitney will be joined by his full band and will some amazing artists in support each week including Royal East (1st June), Oliver’s Army & Lachie Ranford (8th June), Ariela Jacobs & Angie McMahon (15th June), Dal Santo (22nd June) and Rowena Wise & Lachie Ranford (29th June).

Check out the full list of dates below:

Wednesday 1st June – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 8th June – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 15th June – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 22nd June – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 29th June – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Listen to the New Sahara Beck Single “Here It Comes”

Sahara Beck
Image Courtesy of Sahara Beck

Brisbane based singer-songwriter Sahara Beck has just released her latest single “Here It Comes”, revealing a brand new sound thanks to co-producer Jeff Lovejoy.

“The song talks to the pressure, vulnerability and anxiety many of us feel dealing with day-to-day life,” Sahara Beck explains. “Looking a universal theme from a personal angle, the song is an exercise in pressure and release”.

Take a listen to “Here It Comes” below:

Sahara Beck has a bunch of dates coming up including an appearance at Bluesfest – check out the full list of shows here:

Sunday 20th March – Bleach Festival, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 27th to Monday 28th March – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 2nd April- Port Macquarie Blues and BBQ Festival, Port Macquarie, NSW

Watch the New Tim Guy Video “St Petersburg”

Tim Guy
Image Courtesy of Tim Guy

Melbourne singer-songwriter Tim Guy returns this month with his brand new single and video “St Petersburg”. This is the first new music we’ve heard from Tim Guy in a while and we’re pretty impressed – the track’s poppy melody and quirky video are incredibly catchy.

Check out the video for “St Petersburg” below:

Phia Releases New Single “Do You Ever?”

Image Courtesy of Phia
Image Courtesy of Phia

When Australian-born, Berlin-based folk-pop singer Phia sent me through her latest single “Do You Ever?” she warned me that it wasn’t as folky as much of her other material. But from the moment I heard it’s catchy, rhythmic melody there was no way I couldn’t share. Part Regina Spektor, part Feist, “Do You Ever?” is worth a listen – check it out below:

Imogen Bel Releases Debut Single “Snow Covered Hill”

Imogen Bel
Image Courtesy of Imogen Bel

Imogen Bel is the moniker of Newcastle based singer-songwriter Chelsea Reed. Her music is equal parts folk and pop and it’s easy to see influences like Regina Spektor in her songs.

The debut single from Imogen Bel is “Snow Covered” which features backing vocals, accordion and indie-folk cred from Timber and Steel favourite Elana Stone. Take a listen below:

Pretty sweet right? We’re really excited to see what else Imogen Bel has to offer.

Spotlight On: Paper Aeroplanes

Paper AeroplanesPhoto courtesy of Paper Aeroplanes

I have a confession to make, I’ve had the Paper Aeroplanes on my radar for a while (no pun intended) but I’m only just realising just what a tragedy it is to not have shared them with you earlier! This is some serious ear candy. But let me start at the beginning.

As with all good heart-rending, deep and emotionally layered music, the story begins with vocalist Sarah Howells experiencing a great personal loss and her subsequent journey leading her to meet guitarist Richard Lewellyn leading them to begin working together from as early as 2005. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Paper Aeroplanes actually formed as their musical journey brought them into the folk-tinged spectrum and since then, they have released 2 albums and 3 EPs. However their third album Little Letters just came out on both iTunes and Amazon – so something tells me I have a whole lot of back catalog to track down.

Cue their live performances. They are currently wrapping up a tour of the UK and I managed to catch them in London last week (review to come) but I can share that they have a repertoire that will create an engaging and at times theatrical experience for any audience member. They can move from the familiarity of the folk-pop end through sometimes country-esque sounds and in to true ballads and laments and back out the other side to an indie-folk crescendo. Their maturity of sound shows evidence that they’re inspired by the likes of Laura Veirs, Bjork, Jeff Buckley, Gillian Welch, Everything but the Girl and Lucinda Williams.

With their evident evolution through each recording, the Paper Aeroplanes are are duo (currently touring with band) that should definitely be watched. They are the kind of act that would be at home in an intimate venue as well as on a main stage of a large summer festival.

Country of Origin: Wales, UK
File Under: Indie-Folk or Folk-pop
Sounds Like: The Verses meets Lisa Mitchell and the Cranberries

New Tigertown Single “Lions and Witches” and Tour Dates

Image Courtesy of Tigertown

Our love for folk-pop six-piece Tigertown is well documented. So well documented in fact that we glimpsed a Timber and Steel quote in the band’s press release today announcing their new single and tour – and that’s definitely given us the warm and fuzzies.

Having recently signed with a new management team of Rowan Brand and Catherine Haridy and off the back of support slots with Husky, Matt Corby, Founds, Charlie Mayfair and Emma Louise, Tigertown have unleashed their brand new single “Lions and Witches”. Definitely leaning more on the “pop” part of their sound “Lions and Witches” is from a forthcoming EP and is available on iTunes as we speak. The video for the song is an unsurprisingly Narnian inspired affair which you can watch below:

To celebrate the release of the single Tigertown have announced a handful of dates as part of their Age of Winter Tour. The full list of dates are below:

Sunday 10th June – The Queen’s Wharf, Newcastle
Thursday 14th June – Ed Castle, Adelaide
Saturday 16th June – Pure Pop Records, St Kilda
Sunday 17th June – The Workers Club, Melbourne
Thursday 21st June – Hibernian House, Sydney
Sunday 1st July – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane

Spotlight On: Phia

Image Courtesy of Phia

I feel as though Australia has been searching for a quirky folk-pop songstress for some time now to match the likes of Emmy the Great, Regina Spektor and Joanna Newsom. Kate Miller-Heidke comes close but her music strays too far into pop territory to keep our folky hearts satisfied. Well it appears our search may be over because we’ve just discovered Melbourne’s Phia.

The brainchild of singer-songwriter Sophia Exiner, Phia is self described as an “entrancing DIY-art-pop music project”. Together with collaborators Joshua Teicher (VideoDay), Bethany Exiner and Clio Renner (among others) Exiner has crafted some exquisite music that incorporates folk, country, pop, jazz, rock, acoustic and more but is never a slave to any genre. Each song produced by Phia is an individual masterpiece, not just a part of a repertoire or set list, yet despite their differences each song in undeniably the work of a singular creative vision.

Phia’s debut EP Garden Of Youth (below) is an absolute joyful exercise in quirk. Originally trained as a jazz pianist Exiner is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer with the entire construction of Garden Of Youth down to her considerable talent. Exiner truly is an outstanding talent and Phia deserves to be widely acclaimed by the music loving community.

Phia is currently heading to Iceland on behalf of the Melodica Festival with collaborator VideoDay and Timber and Steel alumni Owls of the Swamp for a national tour there. Fingers crossed we’ll see her return to Australia soon so that audiences here can enjoy her brand of quirky pop-folk – we have been waiting for Phia for some time, after all.

Country of Origin: Australia (Melbourne)
File Under: Folk-Pop
Sounds Like: Emmy The Great meets Regina Spektor
triple j Unearthed:
Official Site:

Spotlight On: Ruby For Lucy

Ruby For Lucy
Image Courtesy of Ruby For Lucy

Ruby For Lucy have been hovering on my radar for some time now thanks to recent performances at the Illawarra Folk and Nannup Music Festivals. But it wasn’t until the serendipitous combination of their debut CD Catching Bream crossing my desk and the Sydney duo performing at my local pub within the same week that I thought it was about time I checked them out properly.

And I’m glad I did. Ruby For Lucy produce the kind of quirky folk-pop I am immediately drawn to and inspires so much of my music collection. Made up of Julie Stenton and Kat Borghetti and featuring little more than guitars, vocals and the occasional stomp-box, Ruby For Lucy’s brand of folk is all about beautiful melodies, sweet harmonies and lyrics the evoke a sense place and purpose.

Everything I’ve read about Ruby For Lucy mentions that the duo grew out of the friendship between Stenton and Borghetti and, after seeing them live, it’s obvious that this friendship is what makes them work as a band. Their stage presence is relaxed and familiar and their banter is refreshing and honest – a dynamic that not every group has (or displays).

Ruby For Lucy released their debut album Catching Bream last year and it holds some absolute gems. “Dear, My Dear” is by far my favourite track (along with it’s half-song introduction “Before The Gardener”) with its soulful melody and beautiful fingerpicking guitar. “Grandma’s House” and “One Day” demonstrate the duo’s diverse range with the former proving that not every song has to be romantic in nature and the latter seeing them flex their quirky muscles.

Catching Bream is available from Half A Cow Records. Ruby For Lucy play regularly around Sydney (including a number of busking gigs) and are definitely making a name for themselves on the folk/music festival circuit – we’ll be sure to keep you up to date with news on the band as we hear about it.

Country of Origin: Australia (Sydney)
File Under: Folk Pop
Sounds Like: Quirky, harmony-filled acoustic loveliness

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