Bluesfest 2016 – Day Two

Bluesfest 2016 – Day Two, Friday 25 March 

When a festival has 82 bands on its Schedule playing over 5 days, it is impossible to see them all. Schedule clashes will arise and hard decisions will need to be made. Ultimately, the measure of a truly great festival is the terrific acts you didn’t get to see. One small way of trying to maximise the range of music you get to experience is to move from stage to stage catching partial sets of many artists. It’s all about balance though. I decide that this afternoon would be an opportunity to do this.

Eugene Hideaway Bridges (Delta Stage)

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Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges and Kasey Chambers

Bridges is an American blues singer and guitarist in the mould of BB King (whom he supported on King’s final tour of Australia a few years ago). He has been a frequent visitor to Australia in the past and always puts on a great performance of authentic blues. Today’s performance is no exception and made special when Kasey Chambers comes on stage for a duet. Kasey is not scheduled to play this year’s Bluesfest and is only there as an attendee so its nice to see the spirit of collaboration which allows her to take the stage and bring an extra element to Bridges already solid set.

Lord Huron (Mojo Stage)

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Lord Huron

I don’t know much about Lord Huron when I walk in. First impressions: good looking, finely coiffed dark hair and beard,  caramel pants and blue jacket give him a slightly preppie look.

He stands in front of a backdrop panoramic of blue sky, clouds and scorched earth. His voice is effective, the songs are fine enough with the occasional nice atmospherics on some songs being the only distinctive touch keeping them from sliding towards bland.

I can see what makes people like Lord Huron (despite the awkward name) and why the record companies might think he’s got potential to sell big. But for me, he’s sort of like Ryan Adams if he really cleaned up. He makes you appreciate Ryan’s rough edges all the more. Stay cool Ryan. Stay prickly. Stay real.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (Jambalaya Stage)

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Lukas Nelson – Cinnamon Girl

I’m back for a few more tracks from Lukas this morning. A similar but shorter set which Nelson finishes off, like yesterday, with a couple of covers – Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes’ (a repeat from yesterday but played so well its good to hear it a second time) and Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’ which confirms the connection this band has to Young. Great cover. Worth catching another glimpse.

Frazey Ford (Delta Stage)

A former member of the well regarded folk trio ‘The Be Good Tanyas’ whose 2000 debut album ‘Blue Horse’ made a few ripples at the time. I didn’t know their music well but recalled it being pleasant harmony folk and a mate told me her solo stuff was worth checking out. Unfortunately her set was my first disappointment of the Festival. The songs were pretty but lacked distinction and Frazey’s performance was tentative and didn’t command the small Delta stage afternoon slot. Maybe in another setting her small folk portraits might hold subtle delights. Today on an outdoor festival stage they eluded me. Her attempt to spice up her performance with ludicrously bright pink top and mirrored skirt, then adding a bright blue gown over the top, did little to further endear her. I last only a few songs.

Archie Roach (Crossroads Tent)

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Archie Roach

Roach is an Australian legend. Coming to attention with his debut album courtesy of the deeply affecting, autobiographical ‘Took the Children Away’ Roach continued to release a string of high quality albums each containing consistently good songs and a few stellar tracks. Roach is not looking all that well these days and that reflects in long spoken word introductions to his songs which, while endearing, break the momentum and seem primarily designed to allow him to rest before launching into the next track. He’s ably supported by a fine Australian band featuring familiar faces including the haunting violin of Jen Anderson (Black Sorrows, Weddings Parties Anything) and Craig Pilkington on guitar.

Although I only stay for a few songs, having seen Roach many times previously, I enjoy the short set spanning both tracks both new (‘Not Too Well’ – from his latest EP) and the old (‘Took the Children Away’).

Songhoy Blues (Jambalaya Tent)

Midway through Day Two and battling with a flu which seemed to set in hours efter my arrival in Byron as my body relaxed from its usual adrenalized ‘corporate warrior’ state,  I take a seat on the ground inside the Jambalaya tent to relax and take in the cool rhythms of the Malian blues played by Songhoy Blues.

I manage barely two songs before I receive a text from a mate informing me that Graham Nash is on stage in the Juke Joint. Hold on, Nash isn’t due on for another 45 minutes. Has there been a change in the program?

ABC Radio North Coast (Juke Joint)

I hotfoot it over to the Juke Joint to find Nash being interviewed on stage by ABC Radio North Coast. He is polite, gently humorous and affable. Apparently I’ve just missed two solo acoustic songs. Never mind, he’ll be hitting the stage in the Crossroads in just over half an hour. Just time enough to hang around in the Juke Joint to hear solo acoustic sets by, and short interviews with, Lukas Nelson and Javena Magnes (who I have pencilled in to see later in the Festival).

Nelson plays striking acoustic versions of ‘Forget Georgia’ and two new unrecorded songs ‘Music to My Eyes’ and a song introduced as being ‘about moonshine’ – both excellent and bode well for the next album. The interview which follows touches, unsurprisingly, upon Nelson’s relationships with Neil Young (who he calls ‘Captain Destroyer’ and says that he belongs to ‘part of the same soul cluster’) and his father Willie (‘He was always out on the road playing. I learnt to play guitar so that I could spend more time with him’).

Javena Magness has been recommended to me and I can see why. She’s blessed with a natural blues style and a strong melodious blues voice and is backed by a strong band. The short acoustic set ‘Everything is Alright’, ‘I Won’t Cry’ and Creedance’s ‘As Long As I Can See the Light’ whet’s my appetite to see her full blues set later in the Festival.

Having come across to see Graham Nash, I realise that I’ve become entranced by Javena and that Nash has now started over in the Crossroads tent. So I sprint back across the Festival site…

Graham Nash (Crossroads Tent)

I last saw Graham Nash a few years ago as part of a Crosby, Still & Nash show at the Royal Albert Hall. The first half of the show featured each of the members presenting a short selection of their solo material. The second part of the show was a straight run-through their classic self-titled debut. At the time, I noted that Nash was in fine voice and probably more so than the others during the solo part of the show (though the harmonies of all 3 remained superb in the second half of the show).

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Graham Nash

Nash stands on the stage accompanied only by the great Shane Fontaine on guitar. Together they create a sparse but pristine sound with Fontaine’s intricate guitar work providing the perfect foil for Nash’s still warm and generous vocals.

His set balances the present with the past. Classic songs from his past including CSN’s 1969 hit Marakesh Express, ‘I Use To Be A King’ (from his 1971 solo debut) and Immigration Man (Crosby & Nash 1972) are followed a selection of the songs from his new album ‘This Path Tonight’ which themselves contain elements of the past (Golden Days’ “I used to be in a band made up of my friends” and “What happened to ‘All You Need Is Love’”), the present (‘Myself At Last’ which celebrates Nash’s new love) and a combination of the two (the title track ‘This Path Tonight’ starts with the line “Where are we going?/ where have we been?” and buoyantly, but uncertainly, declares “I’m stumbling to my heart’s desire/ on this path tonight”). It must be said that the present looks pretty good with the new songs stacking up well in the set particularly ‘This Path Tonight’ which is the best of the new lot on show tonight.

P1020387Naturally, Nash then returns to his classic material – and to the grand piano occupying centre stage – for the final four songs of the set each of which are given an introduction to place them in their historical context: ‘Cathedral’ (a song about taking acid at Stonehenge and then tripping in the nearby Westminster Cathedral), Our House (about domestic bliss with Joni Mitchell), Chicago (in which a solo Nash entreats the other members of CSNY to travel to sing at a benefit for the ‘Chicago 7’ arrested for inciting a riot at the Democratic National Convention in 1968) and ‘Teach Your Children (which he dedicates to ‘all the teachers in the world’).

The Crossroads crowd sang along blissfully to the final songs and rightly gave Nash a standing ovation both in recognition of his contribution to musical history and the fact that he can still put on a great show and produce strong new material. I will certainly be rushing out to get the new album once it is officially released.

Tweedy (Crossroads Tent)

Generally I like to move between tents during band changeovers rather than spend 30 minutes in a silent tent knowing that there’s great music playing somewhere else onsite that I’m missing out on. But then there’s other times where getting a position front and centre for an artist takes precedence. Jeff Tweedy is one such artist.

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Jeff Tweedy

I became a fan on first listen to Uncle Tupelo’s The Long Cut I on a CD- Sampler from an import US magazine. That track, from Uncle Tupelo’s final album ‘Anodyne’ led me to their entire back Catalogue and, subsequently, to Jeff Tweedy’s band Witco and Jay Farrar’s Son Volt. However, it was eventually WiIco that won my heart with the trio of albums, ‘Summerteeth’, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ and ‘A Ghost is Born’ followed by a period (following the addition of Nels Cline and Pat Sansone in 2004) with a legitimate claim to being the best live band in the world. Unsurprisingly then, and despite the Tweedy album leaving me slightly underwhelmed when compared to the Wilco canon, I found my way to front and centre of the Crossroads Tent for Tweedy’s set.

Jeff Tweedy takes the stage first and begins to strum his guitar and is quickly joined by the rest of the Tweedy touring band, including Tweedy’s son Spencer Tweedy, on drums, Darin Gray on bass, Jim Elkington on guitar, Liam Cunningham on keyboard/guitars and Sima Cunningham on backing vocals. The latter two youthful band members are introduced by Jeff Tweedy as ‘school friends of Spencer who are there to keep him company and will be turned down in the mix anyway so you can’t hear them’. That, of course, is not true and the band arrangements of the songs fleshes out the songs giving them an extra dimension to the sometimes under-developed version on the album. During the first part of the set, the band works its way through the better tracks on the Sukierae album including ‘Summer Noon’, ‘High As Hello’ and ‘Low Key’ (which is ironically probably the least low key track on the album). It’s a pleasing, if not overwhelming first act.

Then the band abruptly exits leaving Jeff Tweedy alone on stage with just his acoustic guitar and a batch of stripped back solo re-workings of some of Wilco’s finest tracks. In this beguiling solo set we are treated to ‘Via Chicago’, ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’, ‘One Wing’, ‘Hummingbird’ (complete with whistling), ‘Passenger Side’ and ‘I’m The Man Who Loves You’. It would be hard to match this set for quiet intensity, songwriting brilliance and rarity (despite frequent visits to these shores over the last 15 years this is the first extended solo performance by Jeff Tweedy on these shores). It is worth bottling and one of the highlights of the Festival.

As the band files back on stage, I wonder where they can possibly go that won’t be an anti-climax after Jeff’s solo set. However, they pull it off with great style giving us two Uncle Tupelo era songs – a cover of Neil Young ‘Losing End’ and ‘Give Me Back The Key To My Heart’ and close out the performance with the jaunty ‘California Stars’ from the Mermaid Avenue project.

Steve Earle (Jambalaya Tent)

Steve Earle has been a frequent visitor to Australia in recent years frequently performing at this Festival, so when he shouts, mid-set, ‘This is the greatest music festival in the whole world’ it sounds more than just your typical keep-the-locals-happy lip service. And we’re glad to have him back.

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Steve Earle & The Dukes

When he was last out two years ago I found his performance strangely lacklustre – as if he was tired, depressed and just going through the motions. Sure it could have been jet lag, or just age, but given he had recently separated from wife number seven Allison Moorer, it seemed to be more than that. Then there was the desolate (but incisive) tone of the album he was touring at the time ‘The Low Highway’.

So when Earle took the stage, I was hoping to see the Earle of old days stepping up to the plate with his full band behind him. Reports from friends who attended his Sydney show (and who had shared by 2014 reservations) were promising. However, initially I found him flat – not helped by (rare for Bluesfest) sound issues with his microphone for the first track and half. Songs from the new blues album ‘Terraplane’ made up the first part of the set and, while the band was in blistering early form, Earle himself seemed to be tossing off the vocals with less than full commitment – which is a shame with material as strong as the opening ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ and ‘You’re the Best Lover I’ve Ever Had’.

But Earle soon settles in and by the time he gets to the track ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ he’s fully engaged  giving a tender emotional undercurrent to this superior love-song to traditional blues. It’s that track which marks a turning point from which he and the band launch into  a blistering second half of the set featuring such Earle classics as ‘Someday’, ‘Copperhead Road’ – given a twist by the introduction of coda featuring Earle on mandolin (made for him by Steve Gilchrist in Victoria), Galway Girl, Johnny Come Lately, Tennessee Kid, King of The Blues and finishing up with Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ featuring a fine solo from Chris Masterton (though one which can’t compare to that of ‘Cool’ John Ferguson at last year’s Bluesfest – then who could?).

Despite the slightly distracted start (or was I still just reeling from the quiet intensity of Jeff Tweedy’s solo set?) Steve Earle and his Dukes/Duchesses ultimately deliver in spades. I suspect that the full set from his Sydney shows would have really been a sight to behold.

Dinner

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Festival staple

I’m starting to flag slightly by this stage having been hit by the onset of the flu shortly after my arrival at Byron and pushing through buoyed by the great music, the energy of the festival and some cold & flu tablets. So I take a bit of a breather with friends in the main food tent near the Jambalaya/Crossroads tents enjoying the traditional Festival mainstay of a Fish Taco – not only a fantastic tasting meal but the perfect way to observe my childhood upbringing which forbade meat on Good Friday. One Bluesfest I managed to take the record for 18 of these babies over the 5 days of Bluesfest, a record I have no intention of trying to beat this year. As we eat we take in the sounds of St Paul & the Broken Bones from the Crossroads Tent a band many are tipping to be a highlight and which I have pencilled in for Monday night.

Mick Fleetwood Band (Crossroads)

Earlier in the year I’d had tickets to see Fleetwood Mac but had to travel to London for business so missed those shows. So it was great when Bluesfest confirmed the Mick Fleetwood Band for Bluesfest particularly as I’d always been a bigger fan of the earlier bluesier Mac (the Peter Green Mac) than the later pop band that soared to popularity with Lyndsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

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Rick Vito and Mick Fleetwood

I move to the front of the seats in the Crossroads tent to watch the Mick Fleetwood Band.  Centre stage is guitarist and vocalist Rick Vito himself a bona fide blues legend in his own right having won a coveted W.C.Handy Blues Award. Vito took over Fleetwood Mac guitar duties when Lindsay Buckhingham left in the late 80’s and has played sessions or in the touring bands of such artists as John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Bob Seger (to name a few). With Fleetwood set behind a huge drum kit to the centre rear of the stage, the superb band is rounded out by Mark Johnston on keyboard and harmonica, and Lenny Castellanos on bass.

Mick Fleetwood makes a pleasing and avuncular MC and his drumming is, as expected, superb but he allows Vito to prowl the stage soloing and hollering through a series of blues numbers drawing predominantly from the band’s 2008 Blues Again life album (which itself incorporated early Fleetwood Mac numbers). Early highlights are Peter Green’s ‘Looking For Somebody’ and Vito’s ‘Fleetwood Boogie’.

About two thirds of the way through, I finally succumb to the flu and promise myself that I’ll catch the remainder of the set tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. It’s been another superb day but the Festival is a marathon not a sprint so if I’m going to shake this flu I’ll need to get a good ten hour sleep before tomorrow’s kick off.

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Bluesfest 2016 – Day One

 

DAY ONE: BLUESFEST 2016, Thursday 24 March 2016

An excellent Thursday line-up this year brought in bigger than usual first day crowds – at least for the later gigs. Predictably Kendrick Lamar was a big drawcard for the younger fans and plenty of curious old blues dogs (who’d, mostly, been urged by the children not to miss him).

In past year’s I’ve noticed the trends that seem to move through Bluesfest from ever present trombones one year, then a few years ago, every band seemed to have the wooden organ. More recently it was ubiquitous banjos one year and mandolins the next. While each of those instruments show up in a number of acts this year, based on what I saw on Day One, 2016 will be the year of the ‘double drummers’.

Bros Landreth (Jambalaya Stage)

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The day starts with Bros Landreth, the eponomous band of David and Joey Landreth, who play with their father Willie Landreth. These Canadian brothers produced a polished performance of slide and blues guitar which tips its hat to the traditions of the American South but land much closer East Coast blues. Its solid, fluid and impressive throughout. While none of the songs really stand out on first listen, there’s more than enough here in their sound to suggest a big future ahead.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (Jambalaya Stage)

Up next is Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. Not only is Lukas the son of the legendary Willie Nelson but his band were selected by Neil Young to support him on his most recent album ‘The Monsanto Years’. In those two references you can hear most of what is good about this band. They are a loose and loping in much the same way as Crazy Horse but a little less raw and ragged than that comparison would suggest. And Willie’s influence is equally apparent. It’s there in the frequent stoner lyrics, the deft use of covers and the fact that, while Lukas’ vocals are decidedly more rock than Willie, you can’t escape the frequent glimpses of his father’s voice and phrasings.

The band features both Anthony LoGerfo on standard drum kit and Tato Melgar on percussion including bongos which together with Corey McCormick’s bass provide a strong percussive groove out of   which Lukas weaves his tasteful, and surprisingly understated, guitar lines. Impressive technique is on show for sure, but Lukas wisely avoids overindulgence opting for a more supple sound that pushes towards that line but never crosses it.

P1190091The set starts strongly and really gains momentum in the second half of the extended 90 minute slot with tracks such as ‘Four Letter Word’, which starts off all Roy Orbison swoon before locking onto a solid rhythm punctuated by Nelson’s solos and ‘Don’t Take Me Home’. Nelson introduces ‘Forget About Georgia’ as a song about breaking up with a girl named Georgia and having to play through his father’s frequent live performances of the Ray Charles classic Georgia.

Then there are the choice covers of Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes’ (featuring a pretty neat drum and bongo solo) and the closing duo of John Phillip’s ‘San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair’ and the Door’s ‘LA Woman’ which lets loose like the set has been promising and is all the more powerful for the earlier restraint, then pulls back to a more languid ‘Lizard King’ groove before taking off again with Nelson even launching into a guitar solo played with his mouth. Even then his soloing remains tasteful (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Kamasi Washington (Mojo Stage)

I venture across to the main Mojo Stage for the first time this year to see Kamasi Washington. Washington’s triple album ‘The Epic’, an appropriately titled fusion of jazz, soul, hip hop and, occasionally new age, was my pick for album of the year in 2015. Washington however probably took less encouragement from that than he did from the fact that it received the same accolade from The New York Times.

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So it was with great expectations that I came to this performance – an opportunity to see the way the sounds built, multi-layered, from each member of the member of the band. Early on it becomes apparent that we are not going to get a faithful reproduction of the album. Washington has set the performance for maximum Festival impact. Disappointingly, this means lots of extended soloing as each instrument takes its turn to step into the spotlight – an  approach which reaches its nadir in a 10 minute+ double drum solo (which, in the context of a 75 minute show, seems somewhat unnecessary).

When Washington introduces the band part way through as ‘all childhood friends’ one suspects that more than Festival convention has shaped the set structure. Washington seems a genuinely nice band leader who wants to give his friends their chance to shine often, disappointingly, taking a back seat himself. Ultimately it’s all too democratic and makes you wish Washington would play a stronger leader’s hand.

When the whole band comes together on the tracks where Washington takes the lead with strong saxophone lines, the material dazzles, the band expertly combining to provide a multi-layered fabric out of which Washington’s saxophone emerges, retreats and emerges again creating a sublime and transcendental whole.

One of the set highlights is ‘Henrietta’, a song written by Washington about his grandmother, which combines all of these elements with the assured and beguiling vocals of Patrice Quinn and a deft flute solo by Kamasi’s father Ricky Washington.

The set closer promises to be a highpoint as the band launches into ‘The Rhythm Changes’ (the standout track on the Epic) and it all melds perfectly for a while before it breaks into a farewell cycle of band solos in the established Festival spirit. Over the course of the set we’ve glimpsed the wonder of which this band is capable as an ensemble but frustratingly that has been all too infrequent. While the performance is never less than very good, it should and could have been great but all we got were glimpses of that. The measure of a good player is ultimately how well they integrate into the overall band sound to create something greater than the individual parts. On ‘The Epic’ that is abundantly clear, by deconstructing that to showcase the individual components, Washington has frustratingly given us something less.

Emma Donovan & the Putbacks (Delta Stage)

I catch only the last 4 songs of Emma Donovan’s set having previously heard bits and piece on Koori Radio and her terrific duet with Archie Roach on his ‘Down City Streets’. Live she is astonishing, a big soulful voice and warm personality which reminds me of a younger Mavis Staples. Like Staples, Donovan melds strong themes of female and black empowerment  with overt spirituality. However. Donovan’s spirituality is very much that of her ancestors. I enjoy the tail end of her set and start rearranging my schedule for Saturday to fit her full set in.

Rhiannon Giddens (Delta Stage)

Rhiannon Giddens is a startling talent as she made quite obvious with her stylistically diverse debut, T-Bone Burnett produced, solo album released in 2015 and her contributions to the New Basement Tapes project which left a number of more established/famous contributors in her wake.

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I take my place in the Delta tent, front and centre on the rail, in the space vacated by Emma Donovan’s mother at the close of her set. I am soon joined by friends and a throng of others who have heard the good reviews from Rhiannon’s recent sideshows.

Rhiannon takes the stage dressed in a sweet circa 1930’s rag-doll spotted dress and grey felt hat. But its her sassy  range of facial expressions which indicate that we’re dealing with an independent, powerful, assertive and fun personality. It’s when she opens her mouth to let the first perfect notes effortless spill out that we remember why we’re here and know that we won’t be disappointed.

The set starts with the killer triple whammy of Spanish Mary (words by Bob Dylan Music by Rhianon Giddens), Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind (Dolly Parton) and She’s Got You (written by Hank Cochran first performed by Patsy Cline). We’re only three songs in and she most definitely has got us – even the official photographers give her a respectful ovation as they’re ushered from the front pit.

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Rhiannon is supported by her regular touring band which includes Hubby Jenkins (from Rhiannon’s other band the Carolina Chocolate Drops) on banjo, mandolin and guitar, Malcolm Parson (cello), Rowan Corbett (guitar), Jason Sypher (bass) and Jamie Dick (drums) together with Chance McCoy (from Old Crow Medicine Show). Together they present an intricate set of old time blues which draws upon bluegrass, country, soul, Celtic, Cajun,  jazz. Indeed, the set covers a stylistically diverse range from country love songs (the aforementioned She’s Got You), period balladry (the beguiling Tomorrow is My Turn), working songs (Waterboy), spirituals (Sister Rosetta Thorpe’s Up Above My Head) and even a feverishly paced  Scottish traditional sung by Giddens in Gaelic and featuring Rowan Corbett playing the bones (Mouth Music).

While Rhiannon has the undeniable star power and to-die-for vocals, she has wisely assembled this talented band and given it room to shine creating a unique whole which is more than the sum of its (illustrious) parts. The whole band inhabits these sounds, these styles, these times completely and transports us with them. Even relatively early on day one, this is likely to be the set of the Festival for many.

Tedeschi Trucks Band (Crossroads Stage)

Sandwiched between the unmissable Rhiannon Giddens and the ‘man of the moment’ Kendrick Lamar, I manage to catch 45 minutes of Tedeschi Trucks Band’s massive 2 hour set at the Crossroads tent. I’ve heard reports from their Sydney sideshow which suggest they are in career best form and am not disappointed.

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Already 30 minutes into their set the band are locked into a solid groove when I arrive and make my way, with surprising ease, towards the front of the tent. The extended jam, featuring some typically pristine slide solos from Trucks, immediately showcases the full range and intuitive interplay between this incredible band.

From there, they launch into extended versions of ‘Midnight in Harlem’ written and with lead vocals from backing singer Mike Mattison (formerly the lead singer of the Derek Trucks Band), ‘Get what You Deserve’, ‘A Kind of Feeling’ and Bobby Bland’s “I Play the Fool’. Each continues the blues masterclass of how a well oiled band should play as a single unit unobtrusively integrating its various elements while letting it’s stars shine. While Tedeschi’s powerful melodious vocals and Trucks’ fluid slide guitar are the stars here, they effortlessly fit within the wider band dynamic and are deployed only in service of the very fine songs.

Only once does the jamming seem to overwhelm the song, during a seven minute double drum solo, thankfully livened somewhat by being highlighted by Trucks’ guitar lines played unobtrusively in the background.

The advance word is on the mark, this band is on fire right now. Frequent visitors to these shores, and Bluefest, in the past, I have never seen then better. I am primed for Sunday’s full set.

Kendrick Lamar (Mojo Stage)

Tearing myself away from Tedeschi Trucks Band was difficult but worth it to catch a glimpse of the zeitgeist at Kendrick Lamar. My timing is impeccable as I enter the large Mojo tent in full swing. Standing just behind the mixing desk on the left hand side I am able to take in the full glory of a Blvesfest major act wh clearly has the crowd enraptured. The front of the tent is a sing writhing mass of hands in the air intensity hanging off every word on ds movement of Lamar who commands the stage in front of a full backing band and giant backdrop bearing the provocative ‘WHAT DID THE ______MAN SAY’ quote attributed to ‘Cornrow Kenny’.

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While I wouldn’t count myself as any type of authority on hip-hop (indeed other than some older Del La Soul, Tricky and Massive Attack, I am largely clueless when it comes to this form), I have enjoyed Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ album as much for its elaborate jazzy musical backing as for Lamar’s more-literate-than-usual rapping.

Coming in late, I may have missed a guest spot by Kamasi Washington (?) but am disappointed not to see him on stage. What doesn’t disappoint is the three tracks I catch, ‘Jump’, ‘u’ and ‘King Kuta’ all expertly delivered by Lamar and his strong live backing band and lapped up by the exuberant crowd. Indeed, so exuberant has the crowd become that security threatens to shut the show down over safety concerns after two patrons scale the 20m tent poles – a warning relayed via Lamar himself. Not sure where he is going after King Kuta in any event, sensing at least a short wait before proceedings restart and feeling fairly satisfied by the trio of big hits, I make a bee-line for the Jambalaya tent right beside the Southern gate to catch the end of the Wailers’ set.

The Wailers (Jambalaya Stage)

The first of the Wailers’ four slots at this years’ festival, the band, featuring original member Aston “Family Man” Barrett described in the press kit as ‘Bob Marley’s right hand man’, are performing the albums Exodus, Survival, Uprising & Legend respectively. I enter the tent towards the start of One Love and join the crowd dancing and singing. As it ends I see the huge crowd coming from Lamar’s gig (was it shutdown ten minutes early?) and heading for the exit. Just then the Wailers strike the opening chords of Exodus which seems like an invocation. So I duly dive into the river of happy festival goers flowing out the gates as Exodus continues to play in the background – a fitting way to finish up Day One of Bluesfest 2016.