Like at any good festival, there’s always that one day full of clashes. At Bluesfest 2015, Easter Sunday was that day.
Despite all performing yesterday, we couldn’t see the likes of Ben Harper, Charles Bradley, Blue King Brown, Xavier Rudd, Mavis Staples, Gary Clark Jr or Beth Hart travelling together. So to bring Catalyst the picks of the day, we decided to split up soon after arriving to try and cover it all.
We reached Bluesfest HQ at 2pm, walking past the most concentrated area of rabbit ears we’ve ever seen on the way back through the entry gates. Each sludge-filled, squelchy step made us yearn for the pavement of the city, though considering there was just two more days left before we head back Melbourne way, it was the least of our concerns.
Emanating from a messy collection of memories, mud and mayhem, the following timeline represents everything we can recall from our whirlwind of a day.
Evan: Drifted around the smaller stages, repeatedly charmed by the lesser known talents on display. Phil Wiggins & Dom Turner shredded away like madmen on harmonicas and guitars, while Justin Townes Earle delivered some perfect afternoon Tennessee folk. I seriously regret not doing this sooner.
Tried to take some photos of the crowd too, but unfortunately I’m no Nathan Brown.
Nathan: Watching Rockwiz live achieved two things: reminding me of my absolute inadequacy in trivia of the music — and pretty much any topic— and put the chorus of “Like a Rolling Stone” in my head for hours to come. I then wandered around aimlessly for a while. The sun was out which seemed to disorientate me, I wasn’t sure what to do.
Evan: Spent at least 20 minutes fighting my way through copious amounts of crowd and mud to get to Gary Clark Jr. on the other side of the festival. I saw heaps of little kids playing the mire on the way, as well as one guy who though it was a good idea to roll around in it. Fuck that.
Gazza was worth the trek though, rockn’ ‘n’ rolln’ the dad-centric crowd into a guitar induced frenzy.
Nathan: Danced to my full glory. While watching Gary Clark Jr I had the realisation that I should probably get a felt hat or I’ll never fit in. Aside from his hat, experiencing him perform seemed like the closest I’ll get, to experiencing a Chuck Berry kind of vibe in my life.
Evan: Mavis Staples. What swagger. What a woman. And at 75 years old!
Transforming the Jambalaya tent into an old Chicago gospel-style church, she scatted and growled atop her band’s baby bottom smooth grooves. Despite needing accompaniment to and from the stage, she’s still got it; her enormous smile and stage presence supplying a real festival highlight. It wasn’t until the end I realized I had been dipping and shimmying back and forth like one of her backup singers the entire time.
Looking around I felt a little out of place, as the band had a collective age of roughly 350 years old and I was one of the only males in attendance yet to start balding (knock on wood).
Nathan: It was after Gary Clark Jr. I realised eating was a thing I’m supposed to do and have kept forgetting about each day. Please don’t tell Evan I got another chocolate filled Byron bay slab of organic donut. The line was about thirty metres long, and it began raining 15 minutes in. #noregrets.
Evan: Dinner- hands down the best part, but most challenging decision of any day (at least for me).
Despite looking forward to this moment since the morning, I still didn’t know what I wanted. I spent time conflictingly in line at each of the yum cha, pizza, potato and curry tents before finally settling on a Cajun chicken wrap. It was good enough, but considering the lengths I went to in my decision making process, I felt a little unsatisfied. More planning is needed today.
Nathan: I needed something to fill in the time before Xavier Rudd, so I went to the pits of Angelique Kidjo and took some snaps. She’s from the tiny African country of Benin and was the most impossible act at Blues so far to stand still at. The African rhythms were incredible and she wore a huge orange and yellow traditional dress which swirled around her at each dance interval. I distinctively remember the shiver I got when she sung her first notes.
Evan: My turtleneck-inclined, bass slinger of a high school music teacher plays in Melbourne Ska Orchestra, so as 7:30 rolled by I went to go check them out on a whim. And SHIT, am I glad I did. I don’t think I’ll see a better show of any kind this year, let alone at Bluesfest.
There were selfies, Spanish lessons and chair jugglers within the margins of various songs, though the most incredible thing was that just by name they actually made ska look cool. I could probably write a thesis on the show- it was that good and there was that much going on. But ill spare you for now. Just go see them when they’re back in town. You’ll see what I mean.
Nathan: Back in my youth I was quite the Xavier fan, it looked like I would be getting dreadlocks for a moment there. Naturally I had to go and see him.
I’d seen him twice before, but had not be blown out of the water like I had this time. Rudd preached a multicultural ‘one nation’ idea, believing in unity of all people. This was a stark contrast to all the articles I had read about the ‘reclaim Australia’ rallies the previous day. Rudd had on stage playing with him a German, several South Africans, a man from Papua New Guinea, and several indigenous Australians doing incredible traditional dances throughout the songs.
Evan: Still standing motionless trying to process the above.
Nathan: I came across a girl wearing a pirate costume, who would go up behind people and poor a little bit of glitter on their head. When I asked her what she was doing, she said in an out-of-it, euphoric voice “I just want to make everything sparkle.” Hours later, people would comment that the left side of my face was sparkly. I couldn’t be slightly annoyed by that.
Evan: Headed to hometown heroes Blue King Brown. I saw them last time I Bluesfested in 2010, and upon hearing the first notes of their equality championing Latin/reggae blend, I was straight back.
In light of recent planned aboriginal community closures, the band’s progressive lyrics and energies were especially poignant. Though one girl continued to poke me in the side with one of those rubbish grabbing sticks, she was easy to ignore considering what was going on in front of me.
Nathan: Haven’t seen Evan for a while, I’m assuming he’s run off to Europe with that girl from the chip stall, oh well. Might grab myself a couple of cheeky XXXX Gold’s.
Evan: Made best friends with someone wearing an identical Roots band tee. We didn’t have much time to bond beyond a truly vice grip of a cuddle unfortunately, because after BKB I had to pick up my bag from the media tent and hurry to catch Jurassic 5’s second appearance of the festival. I hadn’t heard any hip-hop since J5’s Thursday set, so with withdrawal symptoms kicking in fast, I had to make rapid, muddy tracks to go get me a slice.
Nathan: Went to watch Ben Harper, on squeezing my way into the crowd I found a half decent spot. The shirtless guy next to me suddenly exclaimed “fwoah, now that’s nice slide”, pointing right at my face. I was confused until he started stroking my moustache. And again “that right there is a solid upper lip coverage”, gesturing for his friend to have a quick look. What was most confusing about all this is how extraordinarily genuine the guy was being.
Ben Harper was alright too.
Evan: Returned to the auditory comfort of J5’s concrete streets, and it was good to be back. Just what I needed.
I chose to return over catching Charles Bradley in one of the weekend’s hardest decisions. He’s playing again tonight though, so in the end it was really more of a call of who I wanted to see twice. I was tiring quickly at this point, and in hindsight, I don’t think my mindset could have handled his incredibly stirring voice anyway. I’m looking forward to him tonight even more now.
Nathan: Grabbed a couple more XXXX Gold’s cos I’d been a good lad. Caught the second half of Jurassic 5. Bluesfest didn’t know what had hit it when I dropped my moves. I have decided I want to be a hip-hop artist. Where’s Evan at anyway?
Evan: Reunited with Nathan (at long last). I couldn’t have been happier.
Nathan: Reunited with Evan (at long last). I couldn’t have been happier.
Photo by Nathan Brown
You can read more of Nathan and Evan’s Bluesfest coveragehere.