Red Devil Park (Byron: the bands)
Judging by his performance at the Festival, Ash Grunwald would have to be one of the most talented solo artists in Australia. His guitar playing is exemplary, whether playing by himself or with a guest, and his voice is in command. We'd just seen some guy declaring himself a Tom Waits fan before playing a safe, boring version of 'Jersey Girl', it was thus with undisguised delight we witnessed Ash making some comment about 'Christian hypocrisy' before standing up, putting his guitar down and doing a totally unaccompanied - but powerful as fuck- rendition of 'Jesus Gonna Be Here Soon'. It ranks among the best performances I've seen (and as regular readers know that's a lot)
Janis Ian was a little more sedate but she was wryly humorous and engaging the whole way through and worth seeing.
Angelique Kidjo is a must-see and I've resolved to catch her every time she's in town. She may sing everything in French but that doesn't mean she doesn't connect - far from it. This is wonderful swirling danceable music and she herself is a fantastic dancer.
A break while I stood outside the tent listening to John Lee Hooker Jr who, as I remarked to friends, is none too shabby: better than Zak Starkey and waaaaay better than Paul McCartney's son! (OK now I feel stupid - apparently I'm informed that he's not Paul's son. That, strangely, is a relief) Then we moved swiftly into position for Bo Diddley. Now this was the classic moment I'd been anticipating and we were very close indeed to the great man (which is just as well as it turns out as he didn't end up signing autographs)and stomping for real to the Bo Diddley beat. I mean, I don't want to make you jealous but when was the last time you were able to roar out the call and response "Heeeey, Bo Diddley" when he's right there in front of you.
We then queued in the rain at the signing tents for Bo but he had signed fifteen programs and was no way turning up. It wasn't wasted though as my daughter had an Eric Bibb CD ready to be signed.
Daughter dear was weary and didn't want to get there too early but somehow we found ourselves on the shuttle bus out to the site before it opened and this meant that we got to see That 1 Guy. If ever there was an act designed for the festival circuit, he's it. The novelty is in his magic pipe, which synthesizes sounds. He designed it himself and really is very entertaining.
Joel Turner and the Modern Poets were a revealation. Neither of us were that interested in seeing them - me because I'm not a big fan of the hip hop and she because of that song they do with Anthony Mundine. People, they're good and worth a look-see. Particularly liked the beatbox version of the Prodigy!
The Waifs and the Whitlams are in the mould of Aussie bands that you just have to see live at some point. All the songs are familiar but it's just good to be able to cross them off the list. I hadn't seen Tim Freedman in the flesh - apart from in his natural environment of Newtown - since the Penguins On Safari days. We're talking eighties. Waifs are interesting as representing the vast crop of talent currently emanating from my home state of Western Australia.
Representing the old time blues feeling was Guy Davis and he was great. We didn't catch his whole act, which was a shame, but he did this one narrative piece about a prison escape and used his harmonica to signify train whistles, barking dogs and so forth. He also captured the spirit of the festival by having both Canadian Michael Jerome Browne and Eric Bibb guesting on different songs. The encore he did with Bibb of the old standard "He's A Mighty Good Leader" came as close as anything ever did of converting me on the spot! (I'm pretty sure if I went to one of those old gospel services in a black southern church I'd have to plunge straight into a pool of satanic decadence afterwards or I'd never return!!)
The final W band was The Wailers and the substitute Bob Marley was really very good but, unfortunately, we were stuffed and had to leave before they'd finished their set.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable time was had and I'd probably go along with others' pronouncement about this festival being one of the best of its kind.