Words by Victoria Bihun
Photos by Josh Groom and Damien Stacey
Sunday 9th April - Day 4
Day 4 began under the Crossroads tent with the multi-talented musician, and Bluesfest first-timer, Allison Russell. Soulful and thought-provoking, her versatile voice had a raw, emotive quality that brought to life her honest and introspective lyrics. Her instrumental skills were impressive and she seamlessly blended elements of folk, blues, and jazz to create a blissful sound world. Her all female team brought so much joy to the Crossroads stage and her music is a must-listen for anyone looking for a fresh and authentic voice in contemporary folk and Americana.
It was a sprint to the opposite end of the festival grounds to catch the talented, charismatic artist, Bobby Alu, as he tore up the Juke Joint stage. Bobby’s energy and stage presence were simply infectious, making it impossible not to dance along to his catchy rhythms. And speaking of rhythms, they were capital ‘t’ Tight. There was absolutely no room for error in those beats and his smooth fusion of reggae, roots, and world music elements created a joyous and uplifting experience. A highlight of his set was when he invited his delightful mother, Foloi, on stage with him where he performed a beautiful song from his childhood as she demonstrated a traditional Samoan dance. It was an enchanting moment to bear witness to and something so emblematic of the character of Bluesfest.
We made our way to the Delta tent to see the band with my new favourite name ever, Steve 'n' Seagulls. These guys were serving blues grass, heavy metal larrikin-chic and I was immediately obsessed. Hailing from the “fast banjo” area of Finland, these banter kings were instant crowd favourites. They brought us quirky, toe tapping covers of classic heavy metal songs, performed with banjos and mandolins all the while providing a full comedy show with a danceability level of 1000. Their performance was high-energy and entertaining and a perfect example of how unexpected combinations can yield the most interesting results. Shoutouts go to the sassy mandolin/accordion/keyboardist performing in a fur hat in this heat and the bass player who was able to lift and play his double bass above his head.
Next up were Michael Franti and Spearhead on the Crossroads stage. This dynamic group of musicians brought a unique blend of hip-hop, funk, and reggae to their high-energy performance. Their ability to combine meaningful lyrics with catchy melodies is unparalleled. Franti's vocals were both soulful and powerful, and the band's tight rhythm section and infectious horn lines created a sound that was both danceable and thought-provoking.
We were very curious to head back to the Juke Joint to catch a band not just new to us, but to Bluesfest. Electric Cadillac is an Indonesian blues-rock band whose music seamlessly blends elements of rock, electronic and alternative genres. From the moment they entered the stage their infectious energy and impeccable musicianship shined through. Lush textures, pulsating beats, and layers of intricate melodies kept the crowd engaged from start to finish. These guys were electrifyingly captivating and I hope we get to see them back at Bluesfest next year.
We legged it back to the Crossroads tent to catch the remarkably talented and versatile looping wizard that is Tash Sultana. Her unique style blended various genres seamlessly, resulting in an utterly fascinating sound. Her soulful vocals, intricate guitar riffs, and totally mesmerising loop pedal techniques created an immersive experience that transcends genres. Her raw talent and passion shined through in every note she played and spoke volumes about her creativity and dedication to the craft. The crowd was completely enraptured with her performance with many in the crowd totally agape.
We ended this epic Sunday at the Delta tent with the blues master, Eugene 'Hideaway' Bridges. Bridges’ rich and soulful voice was steeped in the traditions of the blues, and he infused it with a contemporary twist that kept it fresh and exciting. His guitar playing was intricate and tasteful, and his incredibly talented group of musicians in his band brought out the best in his music. He always delivers an authentic and powerful performance and tonight was no exception and the perfect way to end an epic Bluesfest day 4.