Billy Bragg kicked off Day 3 with a typically Bluesfest set, just him and a guitar, telling stories and playing songs. With a little introduction and story accompanying most songs, it felt like an intimate performance (despite playing to a packed tent) and gave a nice insight into the reasoning behind the songs. A particular highlight came in the form of ‘The Times They Are A-Changin Back’, a reworked cover of the Dylan classic, altered to to reflect the Trump administration and all the social groups still facing persecution. Each lyric change was met with a big cheer and raised fist.
YouTube ukulele sensation Jake Shimabukuro was up next, playing to a crowd which quickly grew bigger and bigger as curious passer-bys were drawn in. Regarded as one of the world’s best ukulele players, he played a fun, instrumental mix of classic and reworked covers like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ with a few originals for good measure. Each song was transformed to perfectly suit the ukulele and show off his impressive skill set. A cover of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was a definite highlight, and featured the whole crowd singing along.
As the sun went down, the lights went up, and Vintage Trouble proved why they’re quickly becoming a Bluesfest mainstay. The Californian band are known for their energetic and upbeat performances, and this was evident right from opening song ‘Total Strangers’ which had the crowd quickly singing along with its “na na na na naaa” refrain.
Lead singer Ty Taylor is a great performer to watch, always bringing his infectious dance moves and signature jumps to the stage. By the third song, he was already out in the crowd, and singing to the front-row faithful. ‘Another Man’s Words’ scored the biggest singalong of the set, especially after Taylor dedicated the song to “anyone who’s been hurt by love”. Crowd favourites ‘Run Like The River’ and ‘Knock Me Out’ closed out the set, and featured Ty Taylor working his way to the back of the tent, before crowd surfing back to the front.
With his classic blues and folk style, Blind Boy Paxton took us back in time to the 1920s, swapping between banjo, piano, fiddle, acoustic guitar and harmonica. Toe-tapping was an essential.
If you wanted to find someone who watched Buddy Guy‘s set, then just search for someone who looks like they’d just opened the Ark of the Covenant. Seriously, anyone who even walked past this set would’ve had their face melted right off. Buddy Guy is regarded as one of the world’s greatest and most influential guitarists, and it’s easy to see (and hear) why. Even at age 80, he’s an incredible performer, casually strolling across the stage whilst shredding like a maniac. He truly knows how to work his guitar, adding complexities to solos by changing volumes and styles throughout, rather than just playing faster and faster. The last third of the set was particularly enjoyable, as Buddy Guy gave an impromptu lesson in music history, by demonstrating the musical styles and iconic riffs of his favourite guitar peers like B.B. King and Eric Clapton.
For those not at The Doobie Brothers, St Paul and The Broken Bones closed off the night with a strong set sure to win them many new fans. Admittedly, the majority of the crowd didn’t seem familiar with their material, but were quickly won over by frontman Paul Janeway’s impressive vocal range and unique, dance moves…the dude knows how to boogie down, and somehow not look like a flailing mess whilst doing it. The band had a fun, soul-sound, perfectly complemented by a backing brass section.