From Classic Blues to Funky Beats – Bluesfest 2017, Byron Bay AU
Talent runs deep in some families! Ian Neville, one of the guitars with Dumpstaphunk, and his cousin Ivan Neville, the group’s founder, represent the next generation of The Neville Brothers, the soul, funk and R&B group formed in 1977.
One of the many joys of Byron Bay Bluesfest, that annual Easter long-weekend festival of blues, roots, and just about every other kind of music, is – for me – the very range of styles packed into five days, and the depth of talent offered up on the five+ stages.
Although Americans tended to dominate the “imported” acts I saw this year, they themselves represented such divergent backgrounds and styles that the international flavour was maintained.
I’ve said before (Women Rock!) that it is a photographic challenge for me to process the photos I take under these low light settings. I was a long way back most of the time, so all the pictures included here are taken with the ISO cranked right up on my “noisy” old Canon 5D Mark II, using a 2.8 70-200mm lens without image stabilisation.
Still, I hope you enjoy!
Eric Gales (aka Raw Dawg)
Hailed as a child prodigy, blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales started playing at age four, learning an unconventional left-handed style from his older brother.
Videoing the California Honeydrops
These days, thanks to smart phones, anyone can make a recording. I came by the attached sound track legitimately!
The California Honeydrops
Laying a New Orleans style over their roots, blues, R&B and soul music, The California Honeydrops are big, bold and brassy.
Band leader and front man, Warsaw born Lech Wierzynski is an accomplished trumpeter, singer, …
… and guitarist.
Larry “Mud” Morganfield
Eldest son of legendary Muddy Waters, Mud Morganfield performs his own original Chicago blues songs …
… and reprises some of his father’s best-known numbers.
The Mountain Goats
I was intrigued by the write-up on John Darnielle, who until recently was the sum total of The Mountain Goats. Rolling Stone has called him the “Best Storyteller in Rock”: Darnielle has over 600 detail-rich songs that tell stories about the human condition. The mostly-male audience around me knew all the words to the songs from a recent concept album about wrestling; I’ll need to give them another try under clearer sound conditions.
I often marvel how wonderful it would be to make a living playing music – especially joyful music.
Ian Neville (Dumpstaphunk) looks positively transported as he plays under lights.
St Paul and the Broken Bones
Paul Janeway is the voice and face of this American six-piece soul band which took Bluesfest by storm last year. Once again, he had the crowd breathless.
… and of course, there are whole teams of people ‘behind the scenes’, making sure they all look and sound great.
The Boomerang Festival of Indigenous Performing Arts ran along-side Bluesfest for three of the five days this year. One of the invited artists was Anishinaabe poet, singer/songwriter and MC Leonard Sumner from Canada’s Little Saskatchewan First Nation. His raps about the troubled history and current difficulties faced by Canada’s indigenous people were heartbreaking and confronting.
Trevor Hall’s feel-good mix of acoustic rock, roots, folk, reggae and Sanskrit chanting cheered me up again, …
… as did watching his bass player strum.
Percussion with a Twist
Shells, prayer beads, Tibetan bells, plastic caps, chimes and a wooden box: the percussionist with Trevor Hall was a true sound-artist.
One of the many beauties of music festivals is the spontaneous combining of musical talents. Nahko Bear, from Nahko and Medicine for the People, joined Trevor Hall on stage.
We go back to retro rhythm & blues with the high-octane Vintage Trouble.
Nalle Colt with Vintage Trouble
The USA can be a true ‘melting pot’ and ‘land of opportunity’: Nalle Colt, born in Sweden, was a professional skateboarder before he picked up a guitar at age 13!
Ty Taylor and Vintage Trouble
Ty Taylor was a gospel singer from New Jersey before he formed Vintage Trouble in 2010 in Hollywood, California, with guitarist Nalle Colt.
This wasn’t Hawaiian Jake Shimabukuro’s first visit to the Byron Bay Bluesfest, but it was the first time I’d seen the boundary-crossing ukulele virtuoso. I have seen some of his re-worked classics on Youtube. His instrumental compilation including Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and Franz Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ had me in tears.
Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton
The music of “Blind Boy” Paxton builds on classic American roots and blues traditions. A multi-instrumentalist, Paxton sings old and original songs, plays banjo, guitar, piano, keyboard, fiddle, harmonica, Cajun accordion, and the bones.
Blind Boy Paxton
Paxton has a wicked sense of humour, which comes through in his patter and his original songs.
Zac Brown Band
If you want to close out your five days of music on a high, the Zac Brown Band is not a bad ways to go.
Zac Brown Band
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, and billed as American (Southern) Country-Rock, the Zac Brown Band reminded me of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Ozark Mountain Daredevels, and made us all want to dance.
And so, after five days of musical breadth and high energy beats, we danced our way out of the festival grounds and back to the car for the long drive home.
Rest assured, we bought our tickets for next year first!
Bluesfest is too good to miss.
Until next Easter,