Summer Blues ~ Thredbo Blues Festival: Kosciuszko NP, Australia
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
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.
Rhythm for the Blues Machine
We move inside Santé Restaurant, where Doc Span‘s harmonicas are lined up and ready.
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.
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
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.
Queenslander Hat, with his National steel guitar and gutsy gravel voice…
… is a perfect compliment to the percussion- and flute-playing Irish-born folksinger Cara.
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.
I have embedded the title track from the CD we bought: Voodoo and Honey. Check it out:
Upstairs, in the Terrace Restaurant, Jimi Hocking tells stories, sings…
… includes Minnie Marks and other musicians.
The next day (19January2014), we planted ourselves in the sun, poolside at the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, for pizza, wine and more blues.
Jeff’s Churchill Slide Guitar
Los Angeles based keyboard player Bob Malone joins Jeff …
… with unbridled energy.
A Visit to the Drum Doctor
During a break in the music, Cara gets Danny McKenna to look at one of her drums.
Six-time ARIA winner and crowd favourite, Wendy Matthews rocks out with some old favourites and new songs.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a music festival without rain!
Out of the rain in the Kosciuszko Room, Kevin Borich wails his guitar…
… while Harry “The Doctor” Brus works the bass.
On the Outside
In the Keller Bar, festival-goers check out Jungal from Melbourne.
Meanwhile, to a packed house in the Alpine Hotel Lounge, Rick Price entertains with old hits and new material.
We round out the weekend on a musical high with Bob Malone on keyboard and vocals…
… 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.
Share the music ~
And keep smiling!