Live Review: Bluesfest Day Two (Friday, 7 April)

8 April 2023 | 10:29 pm | Jess Martyn

Day two of Bluesfest was another amazing celebration of music with highlights from Gang of Youths, Spinifex Gum and Yirrmal.

Credit: Evan Malcolm

Credit: Evan Malcolm (Credit: Evan Malcolm)

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The second day of Bluesfest kicked off with a hot sun and the promise of an afternoon storm, and yet, the crowds were out in force by mid afternoon, soaking up the full sound of Fools. Their full troupe of vocalists, brass and guitars was the perfect springboard for powerful vocals - a classic example of a band full of talent and charisma that lives and dies by its frontman, Luke O’Connor

Hussey Hicks took that charisma to the next level with a powerful song about the floods in Lismore, allowing their emotions to flow like the words of the powerful mid-song rap. Frontwomen Leesa Gentz and Julz Parker stole the show with grunts and screeches reminiscent of Tina Turner. 

Crowd - Credit: Joseph MyersThe same high energy carried over into Steve ‘N’ Seagulls set, characterised by flashes of colour, thick harmonies and fast paced plucking. They took a set full of classics, from Carry On My Wayward Son to My Sharona and Shook Me All Night Long, and turned them on their head, giving them a high class hillbilly edge with highly professional execution. With the banjo as a centrepiece of every song, the set carried an energy matched only by the frantic waving of the drummer’s arms between strokes.

For remarkable guitar riffs, Ray Beetle was second to none, a late stage success story written over twenty years. Dressed like a teacher in his blazer and tie, he schooled the crowd in the art of shredding on guitar, holding the guitar behind his head and pulling off a ten-minute solo. 

Over on the Juke Joint stage, Chain were emitting a funky blend of saxophone and blues guitar that sounded like an extended jam session. The instantly recognisable melody of The Strangeloves’ classic I Want Candy set the tone for a fun show, along with friendly crowd banter, and it took them seamlessly from one tune into the next. From the epic harmonica solos and sounds resembling an ambulance to the jaunty bass line, there was no weak link, and it all culminated in a brilliant cover of a 1936 Robert Johnson blues tune that hung in the air long after the set was over.  

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Spinifex Gum- Credit: Evan MalcolmThe journey to the next stage over was well worthwhile for Spinifex Gum, the Indigenous choir emitting a chorus of angelic harmonies that could be heard from across the grounds. Singing indigenous tunes that captured the ears as well as the soul, they drew a packed crowd who gave them a well-deserved a standing ovation at the end of their all-too-short performance. 

Yirrmal - Credit: Josephine CubisThe next unmissable feature of First Nations Friday, Yirrmal kicked off his second Bluesfest performance with a new single and impressive acapella notes. Backed only by delicate guitar melodies, his incredibly powerful high range made for a near-religious experience, easing the crowd into a more energetic second number and beyond. Brass and backing harmonies filled out the sound, buoyant with the energy of everyone else on stage. 

Gang Of Youths - Credit: Kurt PetersenWhen it came time for one of the day’s headliners, no one was more excited and energetic than Gang of Youths frontman Dave Le’aupepe. Always humble, he self-identified as a “smug twat and his fucking dumb friends” and indulged in playful banter with the packed out crowd throughout a growing list of hits including What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out, The Heart Is A Muscle and Let Me Down Easy. While the classic hits were hard to beat, the newer tracks from Angel of 8th Ave went down just as well, buoyed by Dave’s charismatic dance moves and soaring high notes and the band’s multi talented musicians. Even in the midst of a typically theatrical performance, the gang expertly wove in moments of reverence and memorable words from the main man himself. “I believe there’s not a single fucking thing in your life that’s so horrible that it can’t be overwhelmed by dancing”, he declared, and the crowd agreed.