Review by Wanda Hill
Bluesfest Byron Bay 2018 – Thursday 29th March – Day 1
Rain cannot keep away the dedicated amphibious Bluesfest patron happy to withstand a bit of discomfort for the annual feast of music, artfully curated by Bluesfest director Peter Noble each year. The festival opened along with the sky, as the fertile fields of Tyagarah became the scene of another epic gathering of masters of sound from around the globe.
The headline act for the night in the Mojo was home grown Tash Sultana who has gone from busking in Melbourne to sold out tours around the world. Her recent return from touring South American was visible in the alter she had set up behind her with a Guatemalan rug and Mexican Day of the Dead skulls. Using about 20 different pedals, synthesizes, drum machines, guitars and a trumpet, Tash delivers a vibrant, powerful sound that ranges from smooth trance like reggae sounds to absolute shredding on the guitar that a group like G3 would be proud of. Tash looked to be having a brilliant time on stage, not at all phased by the multitude of loops and sounds she was controlling through her impressive pedal array. Creating at times an orchestral sound on which to float her trumpet, this woman needs no help to create a full sound and energetic stage show. She returns to the Mojo on Sunday the 1st of April at 8:15pm.
The opening act at the Mojo was Holy Holy, another Australian act enjoying international success and popularity at home. Their sound was a perfect way to start the festival as their vibe is atmospheric and uplifting. Their diversity was showcased as many of their songs bear no similarity to their well known radio hit ‘True Lovers’. Unfortunately, that was their only slot for Bluesfest this year but the quality of their song crafting will ensure that they make more appearances in future years.
Back stage the visiting performers are made to feel welcome in a stunningly decorated area where local artist Mandy Peters works magic with fabric, flowers and foliage to create a lush tropical environment for the performers to relax in and prepare for their shows. The walls of the area are covered in brilliant paintings by emerging artists from indigenous community’s all over Australia. Amanda and John from Indij-n-art are on hand to talk to the performers about the art works, artists and facilitate cultural exchange.
The most excited audience of the night would have to have been the crowd at Jambalaya with The New Power Generation. Seeing Prince’s songs live on through four extremely talented singers and Prince’s backing band was pure joy. Celebrating Prince’s life and his contribution to music is the goal of The New Power Generation as they tour the world giving fans another opportunity enjoy Prince’s seminal songs. It was hard not to cry as the crowd sang Purple Rain together. The emotion was balanced by plenty of deep funk to get the body moving and grooving. If you love Prince don’t miss your chance to see the New Power Generation Friday 30th March at the Mojo 8pm and again at the Mojo on Saturday 31st March 8:15pm.
Another highlight of the day was Gov’t Mule playing the sunset set at the Crossroads. Their sound is the kind of music Bluesfest was built on. With an impressive discography spanning over 20 years the band moved through songs musically inspired by blues, rock, jazz and soul with lyrics pertinent to now and the state of affairs in the USA. Sublime guitar riffs sung out from Warren Haynes guitar well supported by walking bass lines from Jorgen Carlsson, funky keyboard and organ sounds by Danny Louis and versatile drumming by Matt Abts. Join them at the Jambalaya for their last show at Bluesfest Friday March 30th at 8:30pm.
Over all it was a great start to the event and tonight is set to be huge with Robert Plant, Ms Lauren Hill, The Wailers, Eric Gales and the California Honey Drops all closing out the night at different stages. Boomerang Festival starts today with the mind blowing bamboo orchestra from the Solomon Islands – Narasirato – starting the festival within a festival at 3:30pm Friday 30th March. Pack your gumboots, you might need them but so far things are all sunshine.
Bluesfest Byron Bay 2018 – www.bluesfest.com.au