Summer Blues ~ Thredbo Blues Festival: Kosciuszko NP, Australia

Portrait: Guitarist Jeff Lang playing a black Beltona, Thredbo Australia

Jeff Lang
Australian songwriter, singer and legendary guitarist Jeff Lang plays his Beltona against the backdrop of Thredbo‘s eucalyptus forests. (19January2014).

The little alpine village of Thredbo (pop. 477 in 2012), a winter ski resort and a summer access point for sublime walks in the High Country of Kosciuszko National Park, is always a delightful place to visit.

Every year in mid January, however, the village really comes to life. Blues and roots musicians from Australia and overseas fill the bars, restaurants, and public spaces to bursting with enthusiastic audiences and glorious sounds for a weekend of Thredbo Blues.

It  may be “the original blues festival” according to it’s own literature, but it is relatively small. This year’s lineup included 22 acts: some old and established performers of national and international renown; others, newcomers with small, but devoted, followings. Most play two or three times over the weekend, at different indoor and outdoor venues.

This was our third visit to the Thredbo Blues (e.g., The Blues in Colour). I always have one or two acts on my “must see” list, but mostly I love the laid-back feel of the festival and the excuse to get into the mountains. We always skip a few sets to take a walk through the alpine meadows or a hike up to Australia’s highest peak (e.g., Bookend on 2013; Snowy Mountain High).

Rather than trying to see all the groups, we pick a few favourites and work the rest out according to timing and the appeal and comfort of dinner venues. Like I said, pretty relaxed.

Here is a small selection of what this year had to offer. Enjoy!

Jimi Hocking’s Blues Machine playing in Thredbo Village Square sunshine, Australia

Jimi Hocking’s Blues Machine
Late Friday afternoon (17January2014) in Thredbo Village Square, Jimi Hocking warms up the crowd. Sample-sized beer and wine from festival sponsors add to the party the atmosphere.

Jimi Hocking  playing in Thredbo Village Square sunshine, Australia

Jimi Hocking

Drums for the Blues Machine playing in Thredbo Village Square sunshine, Australia

Rhythm for the Blues Machine

Harmonicas lined up on a white table cloth, Santé Restaurant, Thredbo, Australia

We move inside Santé Restaurant, where Doc Span‘s harmonicas are lined up and ready.

Blues musicians Nick Charles and Doc Span performing at the Santé Restaurant, Thredbo Australia

Nick Charles and Doc Span
Nick Charles and Doc Span perform their own original works and the classic blues and folk/blues songs of the great duo from the 1940s, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Simon Kinny-Lewis under coloured stage lights, Schuss Bar, Thredbo

Simon Kinny-Lewis
Some rocking country blues guitar in the Schuss Bar rounds the evening out for us – although the music kicks on into the wee hours.

Hat Fitz and Cara performing in the Eagle’s Nest Restaurant, Thredbo

Hat Fitz and Cara
Early Saturday (18January2014), we made our way up the Crackenback Chairlift to Eagle’s Nest Restaurant, where we – and the rest of the enthusiastic room – are entertained by crowd-pleasers, Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson.

Hat Fitz playing a National Steel Guitar at Eagle

Hat Fitz
Queenslander Hat, with his National steel guitar and gutsy gravel voice…

Cara Robinson on drums at Eagle

Cara Robinson
… is a perfect compliment to the percussion- and flute-playing Irish-born folksinger Cara.

Cara Robinson on Flute at Eagle

Cara on Flute
Cara has a powerful, soaring, effortless voice that fills a room with tears and goosebumps. She’s equally adept telling a story or joke, or playing flute or whistle.

Minnie Marks on guitar, Après Bar, Thredbo

Minnie Marks
After the ten kilometre walk down the mountain from Eagle’s Nest, we were ready for a drink at the Après Bar, and an introduction to Minnie Marks, the “…insane talent that’s out of control, playing what she calls dirty sweet rock & roll.

I have embedded the title track from the CD we bought: Voodoo and Honey. Check it out:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 Jimi Hocking telling a story, Terrace Restaurant, Thredbo

Jimi Hocking
Upstairs, in the Terrace Restaurant, Jimi Hocking tells stories, sings…

Jimi Hocking playing guitar, Terrace Restaurant

… and plays one of his many guitars …

Three people in a restaurant, behind a glass window,  Terrace Restaurant, Thredbo

The Audience…
… includes Minnie Marks and other musicians.

Portrait: Guitarist Jeff Lang playing a black Beltona, Thredbo Australia

Jeff Lang
The next day (19January2014), we planted ourselves in the sun, poolside at the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, for pizza, wine and more blues.

Close-up: neck of a Churchill Slide guitar; man

Jeff’s Churchill Slide Guitar

Musicians Bob Malone and Jeff Lang, Poolside, Thredbo.

Los Angeles based keyboard player Bob Malone joins Jeff …

Musicians Bob Malone and Jeff Lang, Poolside, Thredbo.

… with unbridled energy.

Jeff Lang with guitar, Poolside, Thredbo

Jeff Lang

Bob Malone giving the audience thumbs up, Poolside, Thredbo

Bob Malone

Cara gets Danny McKenna to looking at a drum.

A Visit to the Drum Doctor
During a break in the music, Cara gets Danny McKenna to look at one of her drums.

Wendy Matthews and backing guitarist, Thredbo

Wendy Matthews
Six-time ARIA winner and crowd favourite, Wendy Matthews rocks out with some old favourites and new songs.

Wet outdoor Umbrellas, Thredbo.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a music festival without rain!

Kevin Borich on guitar under blue stage lights, Kosciuszko Room

Kevin Borich
Out of the rain in the Kosciuszko Room, Kevin Borich wails his guitar…

Harry Brus playing bass under pink lights, Kosciuszko  Room, Thredbo

Harry Brus
… while Harry “The Doctor” Brus works the bass.

Man outside a window looking an a female musicians, Keller Bar, Thredbo

On the Outside
In the Keller Bar, festival-goers check out Jungal from Melbourne.

Rick Price on guitar under stage lights in the Lounge, Thredbo Alpine Hotel.

Rick Price
Meanwhile, to a packed house in the Alpine Hotel Lounge, Rick Price entertains with old hits and new material.

Portrait: Bob Malone and a microphone under dark stage light, Schuss Bar, Thredbo

Bob Malone
We round out the weekend on a musical high with Bob Malone on keyboard and vocals…

Bob Malone backup singers and band, Schuss Bar, Thredbo

Bob Malone
… complete with backup singers and band. “It’s a good thing I didn’t bring the horn section!” he quipped when he saw the size of the stage.

Text: Keep smilingShare the music ~

And keep smiling!

Pictures: 17-19January2014

  • […] Take Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson, for example. I first saw Hat Fitz perform at the 10th Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival, in 1999, many years before he met his current wife and musical partner Cara Robinson at (the story goes) a music festival in her native Ireland in 2008. He has a voice of gravel; she has a vocal range and power that often has me choked with tears. Together, they are captivating. My husband and I first saw them together at the 2012 Thredbo Blues Festival, and we made sure to introduce our friends to them at last year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest, and this year’s Thredbo Blues. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] 2015) make great excuses to get into Kosciuszko National Park. I’ve said it before: (Summer Blues; All that Jazz; Blues in Colour) I love music in the […]ReplyCancel

  • […] a small, unassuming, festival that is about much more than just world-class music (see: Summer Blues; Blues in Colour; Cool Blues – Hot Jazz). As usual, we also delighted in great company, […]ReplyCancel

  • […] 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 […]ReplyCancel

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