Okay, so I’m back! The weekend before last I had my amazing trip up to Byron Bay to experience Bluesfest music festival. And it was nothing short of spectacular. I’ll throw in some stories/highlights along the way, but I figured what I could do is list my top ten favourite performances of the festival in commemoration of the wicked good time I had. And I’ve included a couple photos I took for the top two! Here goes!
10. Kate Miller-Heidke
Morcheeba almost took spot #10, but essentially, they were great but pretty stock. Kate Miller-Heidke was something really different, and is such an amazing live performer. She’s also really funny and endearing and interacts brilliantly with the crowd during and in-between songs. She’s a good egg, and an amazing singer.
9. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
I’ve long been a huge fan of Seun’s father, Fela Kuti, who basically invented Afrobeat, that really funky music genre. Fela has passed away, but Seun continues his legacy with Egypt 80 and some of the members from his father’s original band. They’re really funky and fun and have a lot of bustling, positive energy. And it’s also a lot of fun to watch Seun dance. He just does his own thing, and the result is all good vibes. It’s such a treat to see some of the original masters of one of my favourite genres have at it on the stage.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from India Arie. She turned up telling us all how she was rushed and stuck in traffic and all these things and she wasn’t settled. Though she was on stage on time, so she did well, but she was clearly rushed. As someone whose pet hate is being rushed, I can understand how she felt and it was nice to see her being so real up there in front of us. So, instead of the set she had planned, she decided she was going to do her own thing. She was going to have a ‘songversation’ with us, instead of a concert, and she was going to play the songs she needed to play to feel right about the day. So she just changed her setlist as she went. She knocked it out of the park. It felt like quite an intimate songversation, despite there being so many people there. But I was up the front, so I guess that helped.
7. The Beards
I thought they’d be kinda funny, so I went. They were hilarious! And they actually really rocked. The gig was so good. They were on one of the smaller stages/tents and they really needed one of the bigger ones. We packed that sucker. And they rocked it.
6. KT Tunstall
I’ve liked KT Tunstall for a long time. I have fond memories of chilling by the lake near my grandparents’ holiday house as a kid being kept company only by my discman and two albums – one being ‘Everyday’ by Dave Matthews Band, and the other, ‘Eye to the Telescope’ the debut album of KT Tunstall. I was keen to see her live, and saw both of her appearances at Bluesfest. She was fantastic. Really funny and engaging and so good live. And one of the few who performed solo with no band or accompaniment whatsoever.
5. John Butler Trio
I knew going in that JBT would be one of the best live performances I had ever seen. I have most of their albums, even live ones, and have been a fan since forever. I was so pumped to finally see them live. They were awesome. I guess they didn’t crack the top four maybe because they didn’t surprise me. They were awesome, but they were what I expected. Expectations are dangerous like that. The next four artists really surprised me. Blew me away, really. JBT didn’t quite blow me away, but they were no less absolutely awesome.
4. Nahko and Medicine for the People
These guys were the surprise of the festival for me. I have an album of theirs. It’s mellow and beautiful. It’s really chill. I expected that vibe live. Then they started playing. Man, they blew the roof off the sucker. They absolutely rocked. I could not believe the energy they had. Perhaps the biggest energy of a performance I saw there. They were epic. It actually blew me away. I was up near the front, so I was involved in the stage dive from Nahko, the lead guitarist/vocalist, and then after the gig the bassist came down to greet some folks, so I met him and he was really cool. Just full of positive energy. I reached out for the handshake and he said “nah give me some love brother” and basically leaped at me with a hug. We had a bit of a chat after that and like I said, just so positive. His energy, and really the energy of the whole band, was one of my favourite things of my trip. I want to source that energy myself. It’s all good things.
3. Michael Franti and Spearhead
Michael Franti and Spearhead win the award for “most energy required to attend the gig of”. Seriously, I almost had a heart attack. At least two or three times a song, every song, you’ll hear Michael say “put your hands in the air. Now, I wanna see you all JUMPING!” SO much energy. But his energy is so infectious. And somehow you actually find yourself jumping again and again. And having an absolute blast. He also has a tendency to move through the crowd and loves getting everyone involved. It’s party central. I also met Michael Franti after the gig, so that was pretty awesome. There’s another guy with such a positive vibe.
2. Joss Stone
Oh my. The only performance that remotely rivalled what we all know will be my #1 favourite. I was aware Joss was gorgeous, and I was aware Joss can sing, but in actuality, I had nooooo idea. She was phenomenal. And I was lucky enough to be right up the front. I was also lucky enough to have her point my way during one of her sing-to-the-audience-members bits. And then I died.
1. Dave Matthews Band
Okay, so this surprises no-one. Interestingly, the only band on this list I have seen live before. Despite being a huge fan of a few of those. But DMB had basically won before I even got to the festival. Both their shows were epic, and the Saturday (1st) show was probably my favourite show of theirs ever. Although in the second show, I was up the front with four other fanatics and there’s a part where he sings “Love you, you, you, you, you, you, YOU!!!!” and at that part we were accentuating each word by pointing violently at Dave and the band, and in one verse he did the same back to us! So we flipped. That was like the greatest thing ever. We were totally fangirling. And we’re all blokes.