Byron Bay Bluesfest, Day 4

Bluesfest

Day 4, Sunday 8th April, 2012

Standing with nothing but a kick drum, a guitar and a harmonica slung around his neck, Kim Churchill is slamming and slapping his way through a stomping blues set. He twists phasing, sea-like sounds over his ringing slide guitar and punchy, gravelly voice. A trilling, salty harmonica solo kicked in over a thumping double time kick drum, as he let loose with a belted note that melted the chocolate in people’s mouths.

Easter sunday at the Bluesfest. Children wander around with chocolate smeared faces, parents clutch beers to alleviate the searing heat.

Mama Kin took the stage in a sailor dress with flowers in her hair, spinning her bouncy vocals and quirky lyrics above a 30s jazz and flamenco backing.

At the Crossroads, Vusi Mahlasela’s cello-like voice sang the bloody past of Africa and the Apartheid over pleasant and bouncy African reggae.

It was nothing, however, compared to the shear, gritty, pumping funk unleashed by Maceo Parker. In the slickest performance this side of the Gulf of Mexico, Parker popped and screamed his way through a near constant hour of funk and jazz. Dressed in a three piece grey suit, Parker squealed his way through his solos, popping up high then sweeping down low over tap dancing drums in the back and a heavy, slapping bass. Chucking in P. Funk covers for good measure, he steered his razor sharp band through waves of high-production funk.

Wandering away after the gig, knees still bending and arms crumping, the Apra stage was reeling in the stragglers with Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges brand of satin-smooth, sultry blues. A voice like caramel, he rolled out “Stand by Me”, to a jumping crowd, then brought everybody down with an acapella tune belted by his youthful, strong voice. Finishing with the jittery “Jump the Joint”, the audience bounced and writhed.

Josh Pyke was in the Mojo, dolling out his pleasant tunes to a young, grateful audience. The John Butler Trio thumped their way through a set peppered with old favourites and new disappointments. Butler waahed his 12 string acoustic through blistering solos, whilst the backing thumped along behind.

Time to grab your Guinness’s and warm up your punching arm, because The Pogues were setting the Crossroads tent on fire with their rocking, Celtic ho-down tunes powered by squealing penny whistles and accordions. The raucous crowd spun in circles, stomped their feet and river-danced their way through 90 minutes of drunken, outrageous abandon. Shane McGowan gripped the mike stand for dear life, standing in darkness and clutching a cigarette for the entire set. A table set with his scotch and water (complete with straw) remained close by him. He powered his way through the vocal lines, although he speaking voice was totally indistinguishable. At one time he slurred “Where’s Brian?” before wandering off the stage and not returning for 3 numbers. It was a chaotic, Gaelic dance party of crashing guitars, accordions and penny-whistles.

After 4 encores and an interesting demonstration of plastic tray bashing (McGowan’s head couldn’t get any rougher, really…), the crowd were frenzied; even when the 4th encore finished they were screaming and jumping for more. Irish flags flew as the wild dancing continued even when the house-lights came off and the sober people wandered off to their cars. Security guards ushered the wig-wearing drunks towards the exit, under a glowing, yellow moon.

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