Day Two of the Bluesfest, just as Day One, I spent my time moving between tents discovering a handful of fantastic artists. Kat and I also took a break from the main stages to explore the rest of the festival, including the Original Musician Competition. We took a seat on the grass to watch the Mojo Bluesmen – two guys, one with a guitar, one with a loudspeaker as a microphone and harmonica. The harmonica player looked a bit like a plump sheepdog, but other than that they were pretty great. At the Avett Brothers performance we met two brothers, Danny and Ben who we hung out with the rest of our time at Bluesfest. They were Australians who spend most of their lives skiing and snowboarding around the world. Tough life. When we met them, they were back in their home country for the summer tour season including, of course, Byron Bay.
I was definitely getting used to festival life.
Chilean band, the Martinez Trio are a father and sons group led by Victor Martinez. I have to say I didn’t know that when I saw them performing on the Apra Stage at Bluesfest, but it makes a lot of sense. It was clear that they were purely loving their time together on stage, completely wrapped up in their music.
The three men seemed to be improvising the entire performance, although I can’t believe this was anything but a well rehearsed show. I’m not a musician, but even I understand that for three individuals to play together so seamlessly at the sheer pace that these guys were playing at is damn well difficult. Their hands blurred across the guitar strings as they played separately, then two at a time, and finally together. And apparently a guitar isn’t just a guitar… it’s the percussion too. Who knew… With ‘nothing’ but three guitars, close your eyes and you could have a full band in front of you. This was a family purely loving their time on stage together.
I’ve already alluded to this, but while the Bluesfest was brimming with jaw-dropping talented musicians, the actual ‘blues’ musicians seem to be the minority. but Joe Bonamassa is certainly one of them. This really seemed to be what a modern blues and rock band should be, with real ‘blues-y’ lyrics (about losing things mostly…) fantastic guitar solos and a man who has clearly spent a lifetime loving and mastering his talent. It’s great to see someone of such renown and experience still putting everything into each and every performance.
At times, Joe’s hands were up in the air, eyes closed, totally focused on belting out his songs. Perfect Bluesfest band. Plus he was pretty grateful to be there since apparently it was his first time in Australia. “Anyone who knows my name in this country is a miracle, so thank you” he said.
The Avett Brothers
The Avett Bros were yet another band I didn’t know about, but they were one of my favourite performances of the week. A total mix of bluegrass, country, rock, pop and a lot more, this was sheer rowdy, infectiously crazy music. The brothers (Scott and Seth) plus standup bass player Bob Crawford along with the rest of their band have an electric stage presence. This was their first ever weekend in Australia and I’m certainly happy they came. Their most popular song and their big single is ‘I and Love and You’ but there was plenty to love.
I briefly stopped by the Jambalaya Stage to see a few minutes of Imelda May – an Irish woman with a rich soul voice that probably belongs in a different era, but sounded damn good in this one. She rocked out in her stylish tight black and white outfit, while her guitarist enjoyed the show in a rather loud Hawaiian shirt. But hey, the clothes don’t make the music. Thank goodness.
I left Imelda May’s stage early because I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to see at least a few minutes of Jeff Beck live. You couldn’t help but feel a bit humbled and in awe listening to this guy. He has influenced and inspired some of the most famous musicians of the last five decades. Now I get to say I watched him play, including all the greats. Even a rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow.’
John Butler Trio
This was the big event of night. Australia’s most successful independent musician, John Butler Trio was the local hero of the day. His set was great and he definitely knew how to get the audience moving. Personally, I loved the improv (sort of) drum session. I knew this was one of the ‘tricks’ of their show, but it was still fantastic. As was John Butler’s acoustic solo songs – just him, his hat and his guitar in a spotlight.