Bluesfest 2023 Day Two

Michelle East
10th Apr 2023

34th Byron Bay Bluesfest Day Two 07.04.2023

Good Friday traditions: hot cross buns, rain, waiting, mud, and blues. Hot cross buns from Sustainable Bakery, the best. Rain, plenty. Wait for the shuttle, 10 mins. Festival grounds, dry as. Could gumboots at Bluesfest be on the edge of extinction? Props to the engineers.

LP gave another knock out performance at Crossroads.  Such effortless control of her remarkable vocal chords. So much charisma, it was very hard to break away and check out some other acts. So I didn’t and I don’t regret it for one moment. 

Marcus King had an overflowing Mojo enthralled. Judging by the ear to ear grins, King delivered the kind of legendary performance he is renowned for. I only caught the last two songs of the set, The Well and a blistering cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs so I’ll head back Saturday to see the rest.

Crossroads jam packed with fans for Beck's acoustic romp through his back catalogue. Interspersed with stories of mishaps during trips to Australia, we are lucky Beck keeps coming back.  Old favourites, a new song Thinking About You and a cover of Neil Young's Old Man. A laugh at an AI attempt to craft a Beck song. Ask a better question and the results could be more sobering. Never predictable, nothing artificial about Beck’s intelligent songwriting and if that was the point, the message was received loud and clear. All songs stood up without their lush production. Shout out to Sean and Shayne on double bass, slide guitar, guitar and mandolin. That slide on The Golden Age. One hour was never going to be enough. 

Time to revisit the bands I marked yesterday as must return. Greensky Bluegrass, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. Greensky Bluegrass are far more progressive and contemporary than their name suggests. Impressive musicianship. Got themselves a new fan to join the group next to me who had flown from New Zealand just to catch this show. Will be diving into their albums post festival. 

Steve Earle is such a frequent performer it's hard to imagine a Bluesfest without him. This year just Steve, a guitar and a lifetime of stories. Songs written in his 20s to 60s and beyond. Bringing hard won wisdom and more than a touch of acceptance. Hard to pick standouts in a very solid set. God is God, Transcendental Blues and a song written by his son Justin, Harlem River Blues. One of his best performances.

Sheltering from a downpour,  I caught Keb’ Mo’. No stranger to Bluesfest and such an esteemed blues guitarist he has two guitars named after him (Gibson and Martin). Is there anything to beat Keb’ Mo’ and a margarita in the summer rain? Ageless, always a class act. Good call Bluesfest to position bars within listening range of all of the tents.

I confess I only saw Lucinda Wiliams for you. We’ve had our ups and downs. Last time I promised was the last time I’d see her. Don't get me wrong, her albums hold their own in my collection and I wouldn’t be without them. Happily promises are meant to be broken for this was the show of the day. Williams has had a stroke, no longer plays guitar and is unsteady on her feet but could not be any more rock’n’roll. By god, if her voice and performance isn’t better than before, then strike me down. Supported by great musicians and her great friend Steve Earle on for two songs. In a set full of highlights, Stolen Moments about her friendship with Tom Petty, new song Let’s Get Band Together, scorcher You Can’t Rule Me, and closer of Neil Young's Rockin’ in the Free World. Took me by surprise how strongly I feel about this show. 

Larkin Poe are two sisters who play loud, dynamic blues rock.  Playing heavy lead guitar and slide guitar, they kick some serious arse. All guns blazing opener Strike Gold, Kick the Blues, a cover of Son House classic Preachin’ Blues. Had to leave to check in on other acts. Drawn back by their energy which didn’t let up including AC/DC cover Wanted Women.  Melbournians should not miss their shows at The Croxton and Corner Hotel this week. 

Sorry Gang of Youths, catch you next time. In the wake of your leave playing as I walked past and straight onto a bus. Another killer day.