Live Review: All The Action From Bluesfest 2019 Day Two

20 April 2019 | 11:53 am | Lauren BaxterNicolas Huntington

"Iggy Pop is immortal."

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Well, there’s a whole new meaning to the term dirty thirty. 

The heavens are opening on and off all goddamn day, and as the old saying goes: when it rains, it pours. Campsites have flooded and we question whether we will ever be dry again.

Gumboots have become the failsafe footwear item of choice and there’s many a clear plastic poncho scattered around the grounds. We meet a seasoned Bluesfest veteran who tells us she has never seen it this bad, as we huddle together under an umbrella during one particularly bad onslaught. But truth be told the rain does serve a purpose; tents fill rapidly with those seeking shelter and we watch punters stumble across acts they may have otherwise missed.


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One such act is DOBBY, no not the house elf, but Sydney-based rapper/drummer/whizz kid who’s playing the JUKE JOINT stage as part of the mini Boomerang festival. With an impressive flow (nod to Eminem here), Rhyan Clapham is beaming from ear to ear. There’s flossing, classic hip hop call and response, bird facts and, at one point, he even punches his bracelet off. When it starts bucketing down outside, a leak in the tent means a bucket is needed on stage, but we like to think it’s because Clapham is literally making it rain up there. With a wholesome soundbite from his 13-year-old niece and a remix of Gladys Berejiklian’s “I never want to see this event held in Sydney or New South Wales ever again” speech to “I want to see this again”, we for sure want to see this again.

Melody Angel is a legend of the current blues movement. With her signature Stratocaster in tow, she hits the stage very early. Time didn't hold her or the audience back at all though, with her solos being the fresh cup of coffee we need.

The Marcus King Band get our blood pumping. Blending searing solos with a huge voice isn't a groundbreaking combination, but Marcus King and his band are onto something special. The biggest cheers come from tracks such as Homesick, which evolves into a ten-minute jam.

We then head to the church of St Paul & The Broken Bones for a retro-soul throwback. Frontman Paul Janeway comes out wearing a black, glittery cape and there’s a celestial backdrop. There’s an immediate sense that we are going to have a good time here. Janeway is a character. Flapping his cape about and at one point, actually eating his mic cable, he’s got the vocal chops to match a huge personality. The dude is soulful AF and boy can he SING. The band gets a chance to shine too though and there’s a trombone/saxophone duel at one point. Kudos to the sax player but it’s all about the trombone solo here.

Snarky Puppy deliver some of the best funk jams we've heard this year; some parts cinematic, other parts an all-out disco. The entire set is a master-stroke in making your audience move.

While Snarky Puppy are an energy explosion, Imelda May is the equivalent of sneaking through security undetected, delivering the smoothest rockabilly-flavoured set we are most likely going to see this weekend. Ending with the crowd-pleasing cover of Tainted Love ensures everyone, whether a new or old fan, remembers May for the rest of the weekend.

The CROSSROADS tent for Norah Jones is PACKED. Perhaps punters have learnt from Jones lamenting, “I don’t know why I didn’t come,” because everyone is here. We concede to a spot outside the tent stage left and peep Jones in all her glory through a plethora of heads and hats. It’s not ideal for an intimate, piano-driven set but hey, it’s Norah Jones so we just try to deal with the crowd chatter and bass wafting over from an adjacent stage (both at times drowning her out). It’s still a pretty magical set as we step into Jones’ more subdued dimension. Her voice is on point and she tells us the crowd’s rendition of Don’t Know Why is the “best singalong [she’s] ever had... actually maybe the only one”.

The award for the most intense cramming of people into one area this year goes to Hozier, whose luscious locks attract an absolutely insane number of people to the main stage. With plenty of mentions of, “Is this that church one?” throughout the set, maybe it wasn't the most diehard crowd. Yet Hozier and his band still put on an incredible show, belting out a solid 70 minutes of hits with earlier single Jackie & Wilson getting some of the most ecstatic reactions. His band switch up the sound on the majority of tracks either stripping the instrumentation back or rearranging the composition - a treat to see a unique take.

But now it’s time to be schooled by the one and only Gary Clark Jr. The whole set is sleek and just so damn cool, nothing more really needs to be said. Letting the music do the talking, his fingers walk across the strings like a man possessed. His talent is enough to place him on the classic guitar hero pedestal and it’s a privilege to watch the man play.

Tash Sultana overlaps with undeniably the biggest draw of the fest - Iggy Pop. Accordingly, the crowd for Sultana is mediocre, to say the least. The star power of Sultana producing intricate beats with just their mad laboratory of gadgets attracts a die-hard crowd. When Iggy Pop ends, the stragglers make their way to Sultana for a triumphant climax. Probably for the best as Sultana's set opens with the classic slow building of layers which finally morph into a song ten minutes later.

The burning guitar riff of Stooges classic I Wanna Be Your Dog blasts through the amps and the Godfather Of Punk Iggy Pop makes his way on stage, shirtless of course, right hip forever popped and locked to the side. He’s drinking from a goblet and waving excitedly at the crowd, like an excited schoolboy, as if to say, “Hi, I’m Iggy.” We spot Henry Rollins side of stage, headbanging and taking videos like a proud father - definite Mean Girls Christmas concert vibes, it’s the best. Little Steven is there too. The crowd is littered with smiles from boomers and young folk alike - you have to remember, the man on stage is 71 years old. This is an icon we are talking about.

It’s clear as he shared at his recent Sydney show, he has a proclivity for getting fucked up, aforementioned goblet and mic stand thrown about, but also for the word “fuck” as he saunters about muttering it again and again and again at one point. More than anything though, he clearly adores the crowd - at all times, smiling, waving, winking, working his way through the front row - and the crowd adores him right back. Radio-rock faves The Passenger and Real Wild Child (Wild One) get a huge response, but tunes from his Stooges days are huge: we have to pinch ourselves listening to Search & Destroy, Gimme Danger, 1969 and No Fun live.

Pop is a legend, there’s no doubt about it. This is a history lesson, punk show, nostalgia swoon fest all in one. A masterclass in rock’n’roll from frontman and band alike - definite props needed there. Also to the crew member who walks on stage to bring Pop a drink only to stand and visibly sigh before walking back off stage as Pop is in his own world.

James Newell Osterberg Jr might be 71 years old, but Iggy Pop is immortal.