Live Review: Bluesfest Byron Bay 2023 – Day 2

Review by Wanda Hill
Photos by Ant Ritz Photography/Rock Shots

Good Friday in the fields of Tyagarah had all the feels. An emotional tribute show to Archie Roach was a highlight. Bringing together First Nations artists from around Australia and even Tibet to celebrate this wonderful man who has been moving people to tears at many Bluesfest’s over the years. You know a show is going to be good when festival director Peter Noble comes out to watch it. So great to hear Uncle Archie’s songs living on and well cared for by artists such as Shellie Morris, Tenzin Choegyal, Radical Son and Deline Briscoe who brought us all to our core with her heartfelt version of A Child Was Born Here.

Quirky and energetic Round Mountain Girls got things pumping early in the day with their mandolin and violin weaving in and out of genres creating dynamic tempos and intricate melodies. All five band members had the biggest smiles on their faces, clearly having fun. Hard not to be infected by their good vibes and vibrant music.

Coolest cat at the festival Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram brought contemporary Delta Blues to the Mojo, causing patrons to go ‘off script’ ignoring their festival planners directing them to other venues having been captured and enraptured by this man’s talent with a guitar and impassioned vocals. Backed by a smooth Mississippi rhythm section, Christone had a solid bed on which to cast his riff spells out into the receptive audience.

Raucous local band Hussy Hicks brought their family and friends to create a rollicking set of powerful tunes complete with a mic’d up tool box that sounded like thunder. Always a lot of fun the Hussy Hicks are another bonus consolation prize for Bluesfest this year as more previously scheduled acts are unable to attend. Daniel Champagne played his whole guitar, not just the strings between the frets, but every piece of wood and the strings in the places that aren’t usually played. Creating unique compositions that are a joy to listen to. He confessed to destroying many a guitar till one was built especially for him by Cole Clark in Melbourne, that could with stand his percussive rigor.

Beck’s set was a bit weird. I’m not quite sure where he was going with it, and there was way too much talking in between songs. There were some nice crowd sing-along moments with his much loved back catalogue, and a beautiful cover of Neil Young’s Old Man, but it was a hard to get past the drum machine filler at a festival of this caliber.

A full house full of appreciation gathered for Keb Mo at the Delta, with yeeoos and whistles ringing out during his songs. Paolo Nutini was in full force at the Crossroads winning hearts with his incredible presence and talent combining all the elements needed for a mind blowing festival experience. Captivating his audience with lyrics to live by, delivered with such genuine love and conviction it was impossible not to fall completely in love with this magnificent man.

Spirits soared as Gang of Youths played their first, of hopefully many shows at Bluesfest. Each song played to perfection illustrating the brilliance of this band and depth of David Le’aupepe’s lyricism. Moments of Dave dancing wildly all over the stage, larger than life, were contrast with his precise conducting of the crowd’s participation. A beautiful high note to end day two. Still three days to go! Don’t miss the opportunity to see Femi Kuti and the Positive Force from Nigeria tonight at the Delta 10.30pm.