Bluesfest is now over.
Eyes bleed red after the euphoria of five eternal days, an immeasurable number of clothes and livers are in desperate need of cleansing and lived sensations can now only be revisited via hazy memories and social media accounts.
There’s no doubt the festival got better and better with each day, with a strangely underpopulated, straight-up awesome Easter Monday giving us some of our favourite moments.
We participated in a mass yoga session with Michael Franti, witnessed a soul-sucking set of P-Funk facemelters, while a flu-suffering Charles Bradley provided almost enough raw emotion with his Extraordinaires to make us believe James Brown and Otis Reading had risen from the grave.
We’re exhausted and you’re lazy, so to appease both of our temperaments at the end of a massive week, we finish our festival coverage with some nice, easy clickbait. Presenting, the 2015 Catalyst Bluesfest awards:
Best Australian act
After recent indications the government will cease to fiscally support various remote indigenous communities (and as well as the Reclaim Australia rally over the weekend), race relations in Australia are not at an all-time high. This was clearly ostensible around the Bluesfest grounds, with indigenous rights and anti-government rhetoric plastered across personal signs, stalls and shirts. Where this emotion was perhaps most palpable however was at the Blue King Brown stage, as the local egalitarian roots group gave us two incredibly relevant, groove-tastic shows. Classic tracks ‘Treaty’, ‘Water’ and ‘Rize Up’ proved even better in current context, helping facilitate public disdain by far more enjoyable means. Special mention to Xavier Rudd & The United Nations, who proudly performed alongside a full-mast Aboriginal flag, and prefaced tracks with dedications to those affected by funding withdrawals.
Best old school act
We were truly blessed to have so many musical legends in the one place over the weekend. With countless Grammys and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations between them, these trailblazing guys and gals inspired Bluesfest’s younger megastars to pursue their own careers in music. Jimmy Cliff, Mavis Staples and George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic all blew us all away down memory lane, but being Bluesfest it’s hard to go past John Mayall. He first gave Eric Clapton a chance back in the 60’s as part of his Bluesbreakers band, he’s still one of the very best in the business.
Most attractive performer
Paolo Nutini, duh. Not that we here like to objectify people…. but…. Paolo is a very, very good looking fellow. With his low cut top revealing a forest of beautiful, well placed chest hairs, this Scottish hunk is hard to ignore. Even covered in sweat, when he looks out into the crowd and vaguely points in your direction with half closed eyes, you’re sure to blush.
Best cover version
That rush of unexpected excitement when you hear your favourite artist cover another one of your favourite songs…. It’s pretty hard to top in the live music realm. This year, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue gave us some ‘American Woman’, Blue King Brown surprised with ‘Killing in the Name Of’ and Paolo Nutini took on ‘Time to Pretend’. But it was Jimmy Cliff’s always killer version of Cat Stevens ‘Wild World’ which takes this one out. We’ll always remember it with a smile, girl.
Hardest name to pronounce
This one comes in at a draw with Donavon Frankenreiter and Jake Shimabukuro. Too often someone would awkwardly suggest going to see ‘Donovan …’, followed by a large pause as people wait for the sentence to be finished. And don’t let Jake’s first name fool you, he’s ready to surprise you with a doozy of a last name.
Most popular piece of fashion/clothing
The fashion stakes are always high at music festivals, and this one is no different. Over 100, 000 people scoured their various wardrobes this year for Bluesfest, culminating in some very eccentric, eclectic choices. Due to relentlessly wet weather, gumboots and spray jackets were a must, though that didn’t explain the literal sea of cargo shorts. We get there were a lot of dads and techies around, but come on guys.
This will come as absolutely zero surprise to anyone who has ever been to Bluesfest, and obviously, the Byron Bay organic donuts taste sweet, sweet victory in this category. Causing many a food baby throughout the event, these bad boys will blow any festival goers puny little mind with their punch of flavour. We will warn you though, that you may never enjoy donuts as much again… well at least until the next Bluesfest that is.
Best onstage dance
There were several contenders for this category. Though after carefully considering Jurassic 5’s synched pop & lock, Blue King Brown frontwoman Nat Pa‘apa’a’s hypnotising sway and Charles Bradley’s splits and tender, slow pelvic thrusts, we thought Angélique Kidjo deserved it the most. Shaking, moving -and what we think was some kind of twerking- beyond belief, she left us overjoyed, open-mouthed and outright awestruck.
Biggest regret of our weekend
The bigger names playing the Mojo and Crossroads stages took up most of our time, and thus, we regret not checking out the smaller stages more often. Though lesser known, they are equally as deserving of festival attention and acclaim -Peter Noble really does do an incredible job curating and organising the festival. These extremely impressive lesser lights were mostly young up-and-comers, which leads us to our next award….
Keep an eye out for…
North Carolina firecracker Nikki Hill. A teenage punk, tangible ferocities permeate her blues/R&B/gospel stylings, creating an array of stirring, full-bodied live tunes. As we found out over the weekend, she’s not getting tags like “The Southern Fireball” or “the new Queen of Rock n’ Roll” for nothing. Playing the role of support act this time around, after some great Bluesfest shows and the imminent release of her debut full length album, there’s no doubt in our minds next time she’ll be one of the main attractions.
Evan’s best moment
After a performance littered with beautiful messages of affection and amity, following his Monday set Charles Bradley went one better. After being helped down to ground level by a member of staff, he proceeded to walk into the crowd to give us all a hug. What a sweetie.
Nathan’s best moment
Despite being a ball of sarcasm and an endless scepticist when it comes to yoga and spiritualism, doing it for the first time at Blues, was honestly the most incredible experience. I can’t bend, flex or extend as well as a lot of the participants, but boy did I try. Being in a pavilion with hundreds of others and having to ‘touch the heart’ of people you don’t know while Michael Franti plucked melodies in the background, was anything but tacky. I learnt that yoga is about love and connectivity, and walking away, it was impossible not to be feeling both.
Thanks Bluesfest -hopefully we’ll meet again someday. And thank YOU Catalyst, for giving us a very memorable, free weekend.
Evan and Nathan
Photos by Nathan Brown
You can read more of Nathan and Evan’s Bluesfest coverage here.