27th Annual Bluesfest – Friday recap

It’s become somewhat of a family tradition of ours to travel from Sydney to Byron Bay each year for the annual Bluesfest. A festival for music, family, expression and the never dying smell of beer. Can you smell that? Smells like Australia.

But thanks to calendrical circumstances out of our control, I will only be present for the middle 3 days of the festival (it runs for 5). And for even sadder news that no one else will actually be effected by… all of the best acts are on the first and last day. The days I will be missing.

The incredibly reputable acts that I won’t be able to attend include;

-Tom Jones

-Brian Wilson (yes, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson)

-Russell Morris

-The Original Blues Brothers Band

-and KENDRICK LAMAR! AAARGAHAGGHRHGAHGGAH!

Despite not being able to see these incredible acts (KENDRICK LAMAR), I will be seeing an array of talented (I hope) and somewhat famous musicians over the 3 days that I will be present and since I’m not in the mood to upload a movie review I’ve already written, I’ll write about this instead.

Also because there are 7 different artists playing at 7 different places at any given time (and the fact that I have 1 body), I’m not able to see every single act. But these were the acts I did see…

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

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Until this morning, I had no idea who Lukas Nelson was and I also had no idea that Willie Nelson had a son. Yes. Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson AND IT SHOWS.

I showed up about 20 minutes late into his 1 hour setlist but I was still able to hear some great guitar sliding and some interesting covers. From the look of this guy (he looks like Jim Morrison by the way), you’d never expect that he’d cover Paul Simon and Neil Young but he did. He covered Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Soles Of Her Shoes and Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl which were very interesting choices indeed for the dominantly rock musician.

Although two slight problems I had with Nelson were that he wasn’t incredibly standout and that he teased the opening riffs of Beatles’ songs TWICE (Blackbird and I Want You) and didn’t ONCE have the guts to play one in full. But other than that, the act was fine. He’s a fine musician.

Elle King

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Also the spawn of a celebrity (this time of American comedian Rob Schneider), Elle King easily stole the day.

Elle King was the standout and definitely the best performer today (for me at least) as I wasn’t expecting much but I got a lot more. I had heard one song performed by King in an advertisement and that was it. And she just blew me away today.

Elle King presented a raspy voice that was built for rock & roll and a flare for using the F word as often as possible. Seriously. In between every song.

Elle performed 3 covers today that were just incredible. Them being The Beatles’ Oh Darling!, CCR’s Proud Mary and The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face which were very peculiar choices for a heavy rock singer but hey it sounded good. I plan on buying her debut album shortly if I can find it as her performance today was just great.

Grace Potter

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A couple of years ago, Grace Potter performed on RocKwiz Live (at the Bluesfest) showcasing a guitar hand and voice with great talent but we unfortunately missed her full setlist. So when we found out she was playing again this year, we thought we’d stick around for it and… she was alright.

Any other time, Grace would be considered incredible but following Elle King, she sounded alright.

Something that Elle presented as a good thing in her set was completely shut down by Grace in hers. Elle King proved that you don’t need to have an hourglass body to be a successful and respected woman in the music industry (she remarked to this by the way) but Grace Potter did the exact opposite of that by moving around the stage like she was at a strip club. Grace was over-sexualising (I think that’s a word) an act that would’ve been a lot better if it wasn’t.

But the setlist did have some good songs and the music in general was very listenable but Grace’s tendency to imagine a pole in front of her was quite annoying. Although there was one moment during a song (I can’t remember which) where every band member on stage began to play the same drum kit at the same time which was interesting.

Blackberry Smoke

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More unknown to me than King or Nelson, I had not heard of Blackberry Smoke until the midpoint of Grace Potter’s setlist. Blackberry Smoke were quite repetitive.

Their sound was good but it was the same sound over and over again. It’s not a bad thing per se but it isn’t exactly a good thing. Some would argue consistency and some would argue bland repetition but I would argue somewhere in between. The argument is really based on the quality of the sound and the sound itself was fine. It was fine country-rock but it just could’ve tried the spice of life (variety).

Steve Earle & The Dukes

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Very similar to the previous paragraph. Steve Earle & The Dukes had a good sound but it was the same sound repeated. Except for Copperhead Road which was a song I already knew and I think maybe that was the only song everyone else knew because half of the people left when that song finished (at the halfway point of the setlist).

Playing for Change

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Playing for Change were one of the highlights from last year because just like Elle King, they were unexpectedly brilliant. They had a rhythm and energy that was lacking from every other tent.

They brought everyone(who was listening)s heartbeat rates up by 20 points and put an unavoidable smile on everyone’s face with their covers of fast paced and light-hearted songs.

Last year’s Playing for Change however proved to be a little better than this years (from what I saw which was the first couple of songs). Playing for Change had a couple more singers last year and as a result of that, a lot more energy. This year still had a lot of energy (one of the singers looked like he was giving swimming lessons to the audience) just not as much. And unfortunately didn’t provide enough to keep me awake. But they sounded good.

Out of tomorrow’s lineup, I have decided that I’m going to see Steve Smyth, Eagles of Death Metal, Vintage Trouble, The Mick Fleetwood Band and Tedeschi Trucks Band. And I can’t wait.

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