Australian Guitars and Strings : Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia
Chris Eaton and Chris Brooker
Billed as “5 Musicians + lots of different instruments = Great music!”, the Round Mountain Girls are local crowd-pleasers.
Support your local musicians!
In Australia, this is easy, for in the world of music – as with just about every other creative endeavour – the country is extraordinarily well represented, per capita, with talented individuals who work hard at their craft.
Although I love getting to see the international “big names” whenever I attend the annual Easter-weekend Byron Bay Bluesfest, I also enjoy indulging in the wealth of local talent – whether that be from old favourites, or from performers who are new to me. One of the many beauties of Bluesfest is the consistent quality of the music – wherever it hails from and whatever the style.
And so it was at this year’s festival last April. We studied our schedules with highlighters in hand, marking the people we had to see and groups we wanted to catch, and then filled in any gaps with whomever else was playing.
Not once were we disappointed!
Whether they were performers I’d listened to many times before, or new (to me) discoveries, the local musicians that I managed to hear were in fine form. This year, it just happened that every local performance I attended was centred on guitars and strings.
For me, it is almost as much fun trying to capture some kind of “essence” of the performers in digital portraits taken from the crowded audience spaces in dark tents – usually with the ISO turned up high on my “noisy” old Canon 5D Mark II to cope with the lack of light, and my second-hand 2.8 70-200mm lens (without image stabilisation) to deal with the distance.
Enjoy some of our local talent!
Australian singer/songwriter Jeff Lang is known for his guitar skills. He has played at Bluesfest before, and we’ve seen him there – and at the Thredbo Blues Festival (see: Summer Blues and The Blues in Colour) – and enjoyed him every time.
Jeff started out playing clarinet at a young age, and now plays slide and standard guitars, banjo, mandolin, Chumbush and drums.
On this occasion, however, Jeff left the drumming to one of Australia’s finest percussionists: Greg Sheehan.
Award-winning Australian blues guitarist Ray Beadle was in fine, toe-tapping form.
He’s played at Bluesfest before – he’s also spent time playing at B.B King’s Club in Memphis and Buddy Guy’s Club in Chicago. Impressive!
Emily Wurramara, the infectiously cheerful singer, songwriter and musician from Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, was one of the local performers at the Boomerang Indigenous Arts Festival, which ran concurrently for three of the five festival days. Her sweet voice and sunny disposition was an absolute treat (see: Blues Women Rock).
There is always plenty of entertainment and activity outside the tents.
Mother and Daughter Dancing
The gypsy dancers start young!
Young Girl Dancing
With her feet moving and her skirts swirling, …
… it is clear that this youngster was born to perform!
Chris Eaton – Round Mountain Girls
The band is known for their wonderfully frenetic live performances, but their recorded music is also a joy.
Chris Brooker – Round Mountain Girls
Chris Willoughby – Round Mountain Girls
Rabbit Robinson – Round Mountain Girls
Leaping around the stage like a leprechaun, award-winning fiddle player Rabbit Robinson is a joy to watch and listen to.
Lucas Proudfoot – Didgeridoo
Lucas Proudfoot, a member of the Tweed Coast Aboriginal and Islander Community, brought his extraordinary talents on the didgeridoo to part of the Round Mountain Girls’ set.
The sounds of a classic bluesy guitar enticed me into the Jambalaya tent on the second-last day of the festival when I was on my way to hear someone else. I stayed to listen to a couple of original songs and some story-telling before vowing to check Lloyd Spiegel out further the next day.
I absolutely loved him! And not just his guitar style: his stories about working in Japan demonstrating guitars, about his personal life, and about life as a musician, were all self-depreciating and very funny. “The only thing worse [for a guitarist] than playing after Ray Beadle,” Lloyd told us, “is playing before Jeff Lang!” There he was on the program, wedged between two of Australia’s great guitarists. “Jeff’s never heard another guitarist play at their best,” he continued. “As soon as they find out that Jeff is in the building, they sh#t themselves!”
Jeff Lang Back Stage
And sure enough, there was Jeff, checking his equipment before his set. As far as I could tell, however, Lloyd didn’t miss a finger-picking beat.
Mojo Tent at Sundown
As the sun lowered over the tents on the last day, we became aware that another festival was soon coming to a close.
We still had the last of the international big names to take in, but we were already dancing and singing, well “warmed up” by our excellent local performers.
Until next time,