Classic Rock Not Only for the Oldies
Big names shine at Byron’s
A brilliant full moon shone down on an enraptured crowd as John Fogerty belted out his signature 1968 hit Bad Moon Rising at the 23rd annual Byron Bay Bluesfest this Easter weekend.
People of all ages packed the Mojo marquee, the biggest venue at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, for the Saturday night finale.
Headliner Fogerty performed one Credence Clearwater Revival classic after another, including mega-hit Proud Mary and the album Cosmo's Factory from start to finish.
The singer-songwriter belied his 66 years and bridged generations as he leapt about the stage – dark hair flying – performing hits written well before many in the audience were born.
Fogerty wasn't the only performer to bring wisdom and wrinkles to Bluesfest.
He followed his folk-pop contemporary Donovan, who served up chartbusting ballads including Catch The Wind and Jennifer Juniper.
Backstage, Scottish-born Donovan said he toured purely “for the fun of it”.
“The buzz!” he said. “When I stepped onto the stage it was extraordinary.”
Music has made Donovan wealthy, and his comments may well bring a tear to the eye of many of the other 60 bands at Bluesfest, who sometimes struggle to make ends meet.
“We're blessed as songwriters. The money rolls in,” he said.
“Plenty of money,” he added.
Donovan also spoke candidly about his friendship with The Beatles, recalling how he taught John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney his finger-picking guitar style in 1968.
He says the style “is all over the White Album”.
He travelled with the group to India to study meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an experience that revolutionised the supergroup's music.
“We were there for six weeks and all they could bring were acoustic guitars. They watched me and asked me how was I playing.”Photo: Donovan performs at the 2012 Byron Bay Bluesfest at Byron Bay in northern New South Wales (Evan Malcom Photography)
Bluesfest and its host town Byron Bay are renowned for wet Easter weather. But this year the gumboot salesmen were kept at bay as the sun beat down on capacity crowds over five hot days, and the moon and the stars over balmy nights.
“I've been coming here for 15 years and I've never seen the weather so good,” said Sydney artist Sallie Portnoy.
“The music is amazing. So much choice.”
But she shared gripes held by other festival-goers – too many police, too many deckchairs and too much commercialisation.
“There was no seating this year, so people are bringing their own chairs and they get in the way of dancing and getting around,” she said.
“I miss the stalls full of handmade food, clothing and artefacts. And buskers, they've disappeared.”
Sound problems plagued the early part of the festival, especially in the giant Mojo tent, interfering with sets by Seasick Steve and Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot.
But the problems were rectified.
Sniffer dogs checked people queuing to enter the site, but the smell of marijuana still lingered – as synonymous with music festivals as the songs and the hats.
Perky trilby hats are now the go, putting baseball caps into the hat museum, at least for now.
On a clear Good Friday night, The Specials, an English ska revival band formed in 1977, brought back memories to long-term fans and won new ones with their punk energy and cute two-step dance moves.
“I remember seeing them for the first time in England in 1983,” recalled festivalgoer Tim Seres.
“It's great to see their music has transcended to a new generation,” he said.
The band revved up the crowd in time for the highly-polished '70s super funk group Earth, Wind And Fire.
White teeth flashing and long black tresses trailing, base guitarist Verdine White's tail-feather dance drew rapturous applause. He shook and boogied his way across the stage, blue cowboy chaps shimmering beneath the lights.
Across the way, Californian super-group Crosby, Still And Nash – with a combined age of 207 years – wowed the crowd at Bluesfest as part of an Australian tour.
There was more tail-feathering going on with African diva, the grammy-award winning Angelique Kidjo. A regular at Bluesfest, the Benin-born singer-songwriter with just a smattering of blonde hair atop her head, dazzled with her world fusion beat.Aussies centre stage
Australian bands stood toe to toe with international headliners this year.
Cold Chisel pleased old fans and won new hearts on opening night, performing from their new album No Plans with new songs and old favourites.
The John Butler Trio kept crowds up late into Easter Sunday night with a two-hour upbeat show.
The Melbourne Ska Orchestra, fronted by skilled showman Nicky Bomba, won the prize for most musos on stage.
At one stage 36 were visible, though officially the fun-loving big band has 26 players. They've gained a solid festival following, with the Bluefest crowd relishing the chance to dance.
Sydney outfit The Backsliders, regarded as the country's best acoustic blues band, brought Rob Hirst back to Byron.
The drummer first played at the festival 30 years ago as part of Midnight Oil and has been coming back and forth ever since. Two years ago he performed with the “surfing music meets sci-fi” band The Break.
“This kind of blues festival gives major veteran musicians the chance to turn on a new generation with their music,” Hirst said, clearly loving still feeling top of his game after more than three decades.
As the 2012 festival draws to a close, thousands of music lovers and onsite campers are preparing to pull out and return home.
Though many may be exhausted, feet are still tapping and voices humming.
Bluesfest is the largest roots music event in the southern hemisphere….More at Big names shine at Byron's Bluesfest
Great to see that the weather was as good as the music, but not so good for us on the other side of the country that so few of these acts made it across here. Seasick Steve was due to play at the Perth Arts Festival, but was cancelled and I never saw an explanation. Brian Setzers Rockabilly Riot would have gone down a storm here, if the last appearance of the Stray Cats was anything to go by. On that night Setzer looked genuinely surprised at the great reception they received. Well these are the things we suffer for living in the most isolated capital city on the world. As usual WA will Wait Awhile
Plenty of recorded material is available from these great old musos from the links below
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