Rain Hits Bluesfest Day 3 But EODM Make 'The Bad Shit Go Away'

28 March 2016 | 12:39 pm | Mick Radojkovic

...aaaaand, here's the mud

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Waking on the third day of the festival, you flick through the set times and realise that there is a solid 12 hours of music ahead of you. It’s the day to really pace yourself and for this reviewer, a day to lay off the beers for the sake of my energy and my wallet.

As I trek across the carpark to the gate, I am reminded that this festival resides in bushland as a baby red-bellied black snake slithers past. Perhaps she knew something we didn’t as the midday sun belted down on what felt like it would be the hottest day yet.

A smattering of ‘early’ risers have made their way in already and most are headed straight to the Mojo tent where we are rewarded with the second set from Harts for the festival. His repeated attempts to perform at the festival have come to fruition and we’re glad they have as he kicks straight into Lovers in Bloom

The young guitar virtuoso with the mop hair is a future super-star. His laid-back demeanour flicks from chilled banter to wild guitar licks and poses. There is not one song where we don’t see an arched back squeal, a crouching solo or even, the behind the head trick. Harts has all the moves and the chops to back it up. The crowd swelled in the tent as word has surely spread that Darren Hart is someone to look out for. His finale of Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze proves that this is definitely the first of many trips to Byron at this time of year, we are sure.

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Some of the major chirp around the site had been the first-up performance of St Paul & The Broken Bones on day two and it was by chance that we happened upon the Radio National Live Set tent just in time to watch an intimate performance of the Alabama blues outfit. Lead sing, Paul Janeway, regaled us with stories of the band’s inception in between three stripped-back versions of their banging blues sound. It’s amazing what you can find.

We venture out to the site again and hunt for some sustenance for the long day ahead. The huge array of food options mean that making a decision is tough, be we were pleased we settled for the ‘loaded’ sweet potato fries, doused in bacon, onion and cheese sauce.

The Crossroads stage was the venue for the unlikely looking soulful croon of Allen Stone. If ‘hipster-soul’ is a thing, then Stone and his band have nailed the genre. An AC/DC shirt, long hair and beards make us wonder if they are barbers in their spare time. 

The music is solid soul though, through and through with a chilled vibe that suited the hot afternoon sun. Mr Stone is all about the love, instructing the crowd to ask for “free love” in all sorts of ways. A cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know didn’t really hit the mark with all of his off-tempo crooning, but the set turned higher tempo and the largish crowd lapped it up.

Again, we found ourselves exploring the site. There are stores of all sorts; offering massages, thongs made from old truck tires and flower braids, to name a few. You get to wondering what sort of business they do, but they all just seem happy to be there.

“It’s great to be alive!”

“It’s great to be alive!” We’re back at the Mojo stage for the solitary set from the Eagles Of Death Metal. Having already spied Jesse Hughes and his swagger placating punters with selfies and handshakes, it seemed that the front man was in good spirits and form as they hit the Bluesfest stage for the first time. 

Their style may be a bit jarring for the blues, roots and country tinged crowd as there was plenty of room down the front when they kicked off with I Only Want You. Hughes was playful throughout, declaring that he’s had no sleep for four days as he downs another Coke mixed drink and performs skip-rope with the microphone lead. 

The band seem to be enjoying themselves as each member gets their chance to solo, including bass player, Matt McJunkins ‘Mario Brothers’ solo which even he seemed surprised to be playing.

Hughes declares that “…you motherfuckers make the bad shit go away..”, and maybe we do, but the intenseness of the situation the band was caught up in, just months ago, is certainly in the back of everyone’s mind. It’s a loose, sometimes chaotic set in which Hughes’ voice struggles with the chorus in Cherry Cola, but we forgive him and cheer wildly to help keep the shit at bay.

It’s about this time that clouds start to form for the first time over a festival well renowned for temperamental weather. However, no clouds are going to stop us witnessing the return of Grace Potter to the Bluesfest stage. 

Potter’s music is hard to pigeon-hole. She moves from pop-rock, to country, to folk in the twinkling of an eye. What is certain though is that she has the strut, the sass and an almighty vocal range to pull a huge crowd into the Jambalaya tent.

Sporting a Flying V guitar for a number of songs, she wasn’t afraid to belt out numbers from her debut solo album of last year. Impressively confident and expressive on stage and multi-talented to boot, there’s a lot to like about Potter, which made it even more disappointing that the crowd just didn’t quite know how to take her at times. 

Her performance of Stars from her time with her former band, The Nocturnals, was a highlight in a set that people may still be trying to work out.

… the first drops of rain were felt.

It’s about this time that the feet start to protest, so grabbing a corn on the cob and sitting down to catch the end of The Decemberists’ set was a commendable idea, especially with the marathon sets to come. The short teaser of their set suggests that efforts should be made to catch them in full tomorrow.

By then, the first drops of rain were felt.

Anticipation was high for the next act. Kamasi Washington has not only propelled jazz back into the mainstream with his collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, but he has attracted a huge crowd into the Mojo tent for his second and longest set of the festival

The set was 90 minutes of hypnotic jazz as we were “..taken on a journey..” through the life of Washington, his father Ricky and his childhood friend that have turned into his ultra-talented band. It was fantastic to be part of an audience that were as entranced as each other. Despite the jazz category  being absent on the menu of the festival, perhaps it should become a regular fixture.

You turn around and look back to see a pulsing and moving Mojo tent.

Washington instructed that we stay for the next act, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote, and we obeyed. Their own jazz-infused trippy melodies followed and again we couldn’t stop moving, even if we didn’t know what time signature it was in. Nai Palm holds the crowd in her hand as she either plays guitar, keys or sways and smiles to the irrepressible groove of Borderline With My Atoms or the understated groove of Breathing Underwater

Like the previous act, watching this band in full swing, or a huge stage, makes you wish you could watch them in full swing in a small club. You can feel like you’re in your own world until you turn around and look back to see a pulsing and moving Mojo tent. It’s a wonder to behold.

Venturing out of the Mojo tent for the first time in 3 and a half hours, we came to realise that it’d been pouring with rain and the mud has finally come to Bluesfest. We dodge puddles and mud bogs as we go searching for dinner and some more relaxing music to wind out the day.

Whilst chowing down on a brisket burger, we absorbed a bit of Lukas Nelson playing some old tunes, including a classic from his father Willie. 

Intending to stay for 20 minutes to catch a few tracks of The Word, we ended up only hearing only one and half tunes as the improvised gospel-blues of the group extends their songs to considerable length. The pedal-steel guitar work of Robert Randolph was worth watching though, as the crowd grew from a mere thirty to a few hundred in a matter of minutes, enticed by the raw talent of the band.

We were keen to round out our day with reggae however, so we hot-footed it over to the Jambalaya stage to witness the legacy of Bob Marley as The Wailers, who are performing a different album in full over four days, tonight delivered us Survival. The vibe, the aroma and the dancing of the tent made it easy to think the band were singing about love and happiness, when in fact this album is one of protest and awareness around Africa’s struggles in the late 70’s.

The older members of the Wailers were there to play a few songs, including Aston ‘Fams’ Barrett on bass, but singer Dwayne Anglin held down vocals solidly as we grooved and moved our tired bodies to the beat. 

It was a suitable way to round out an epic 12 hours of Bluesfest for Day 3 including blues, roots, pop-rock, jazz, gospel and reggae. We dragged our tired bodies back to bed wondering how on earth we are going to do this all again tomorrow…