Bluesfest Day #4 – The Wrap


Photos by @yayastemp


Powering on for day four, the first set we caught were Indiana four piece, Houndmouth. On surprisingly early at 2pm, their southern flavour was being well received throughout the crowd, with more than a few singing along to hits from 2015 breakthrough record Little Neon Limelight.

At this point of the festival, we’d yet to see a band so effortlessly talented. They were taking turns at vocals, as well as each other instruments, at times playing musical chairs with the bass, keys, drums and lead guitar responsibilities.

Joking “Anyone else day drinking? It’s alright, we’re hungover also” the band were clearly here to have fun. Jumping around on stage, laughing mid track which occasionally meant missing lyrics didn’t seem to phase three quarters of the band, but keyboardist Katie Toupin was clearly not impressed. At front of stage her displeasure was being picked up by the audience, as all of a sudden we were concentrating on her death stares more than the music. After a rushed final track she gave an uninterested wave to the crowd before rushing off side stage.

Throughout the audience you heard rumbles of “Damn! She’s not happy!” and she certainly wasn’t. It’s a pity the second half of the set was overshadowed by the onstage drama, but on with the show!

Modest Mouse

With an arsenal of indie hits in tow – remember when they played ‘Float On’ on the OC? – Modest Mouse (AKA the mousey fellows) made their late afternoon Bluesfest debut on the Mojo Stage. Eight members strong (if you’re wondering, that’s two drummers, a percussionist, two guitarists, keys, bass and horns), the band ultimately disappointed with a cluttered, soupy and sloppy sound.

The finer moments and melodies in many of the band’s best songs (‘Float On’, ‘The World At Large’, ‘Lampshades on Fire’) were eclipsed by clumsy and (at times) cacophonous arrangements. We never got the sense that the band were all on the same page and firing as a whole.

To his credit, and sporting his signature Steve Buscemi-esque ‘crazy eyes’, frontman Isaac Brock gave a magnetic performance throughout. But his voice was too often lost in a mix that was mediocre at best. It was sad to see so many great songs go lost on a keen and thirsty crowd, but the proof was in the pudding: too many chefs certainly spoil the broth.

Jackson Browne

Rivalling Graham Nash as the best looking silver fox at Bluesfest 2016, the ever-handsome Jackson Browne gave a flawless performance that lit up the Crossroads stage. With an incredibly tight and featuring a handful of guest lead guitarists, Browne strolled through many of the finer and favourite moments in his endless catalogue. His voice is just as good as its always been, maybe even warmer and better. Huge high-fives are owed to Browne’s sound engineer, who delivered one of Bluesfests standout mixes.

While his own songs were a real treat, the set’s highlight was undoubtably Browne’s hat tilt to the late Eagles frontman Glen Fray, which came in the form of a beautiful rendition of ‘Take It Easy’. Browne co-wrote the song with his then neighbour, Frey, in 1972, and the song went on to become the Eagles first big hit. It was a proper ’Bluesfest moment’ if there ever was one, and one that momentarily distracted us from the thickening quagmire beneath or muddy boots.

The Cat Empire

In a moment of victory for Australian music at the festival, Melbourne partiers The Cat Empire drew one of the weekend’s biggest and most energetic crowds. With a mix of well-received new material from new release Rising With The Sun and certified festival favourites like ‘How to Explain?’, ‘Two Shoes’ and ‘The Wine Song’, the band got a serious party started in the moshpit. A few glances around the tent confirmed that no feet were still.

Credit to the band’s success, new material drew a surprisingly strong reception, particularly ‘Brighter than Gold’ and ‘Wolves’. Naturally, the biggest response came from closing track and fan-favourite ‘The Chariot’ which saw the entire crowd singing along to the song’s refrain “our weapons are our instruments, made from timber and steel”. The few uninitiated who didn’t know the lyrics quickly learnt and joined in.

Noel Gallagher

To cap off the night, we headed for the Mojo tent to get our eyes and ears on the notoriously grumpy and outspoken, Noel Gallagher. The ex-Oasis frontman’s set was a mixed bag, featuring a spread of his new and old solo songs with the High Flying Birds, as well as the Oasis hits we all know and love.

Punters repeatedly taunted the grouch by screaming out calls for “Oasis” throughout the set, and you could just about see the smoke coming out of Gallagher’s ears, giving us some of our biggest LOLs of the festival.

When he and the band finally gave in and played ‘Wonderwall’, (a song Triple J dubiously named the best song of the last 20 years. WTF?!!) Gallagher changed the phrasing of the song’s lead vocal, causing a painfully out of sync sing-a-long with the crowd. Fun for some, but a headache for the rest of us. We’ll take the studio version any day, thank you very much!

DAY #1 featuring Harts, the Cold War Kids, Kendrick Lamar and more.

DAY #2 featuring Graham Nash, Steve EarleThe National and more.

DAY #3 featuring Eagles of Death Metal, The Decemberists, D’Angelo and more.

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