Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bluesfest Day One Review

(Matt Costa. Photo: Stereodan)
Since touring to Australia as part of an arts, film and music festival called The Happening, three of the more recent additions to Jack Johnson's Brushfire label took to the Mojo Stage. 

Zee Avi came to fame via YouTube when she uploaded a video for friends to watch after they missed her performing live. The video become popular and a viral snowball effect followed. Avi’s song was noticed by Patrick Keeler of The Raconteurs, who passed the link on to his manager with the video eventually meeting the eyes of Emmet Malloy, Film Maker and co owner of Brushfire who signed her immediately.

As the 23 year-old Malaysian beauty took to the stage I was intrigued her sound. This acoustic set belonged more to a 50’s singer in southern U.S that the small Asian girl before me. Vocally, music from the 1920s has a large impact on how Avi writes, while blues and jazz were also evident as inspiration for her musical style.

Honey Bee and Bitter Heart were the most well known by the audience although no one replied to her request to “sing if you know the words”.

Avi’s set was delicately beautiful and ended with a Manglish (Malaysian/English) track titled Busted. Apparently the translations on YouTube are spot on so while you are checking out how this little lass made her mark as an internet sensation have a look at that one too.

(Niel Halstead. Photo: Stereodan)

Next up,
Niel Halstead. Jumping from song to song with no introduction or friendly banter the audience did not warm to Halstead as much as they had to Avi.

Finally, professional skater turned musician, Matt Costa. Trading in his board in for a guitar after a serious accident Costa was the one most people were here for. Performing solo Costa serenaded us with crowd favorites Cigarette Eyes, Mr Pitiful and Miss Magnolia among others.

(Dan and Zee Avi. Photo: Stereodan)

The next act on my agenda was Galactic featuring Cyril Neville of The Neville Brothers fame. Galactic are a funk/blues/brass act that have been around for years. Their most recent album sees them collaborate with a new artist for each track. Neville performed songs from the RnB scale of the album and even pleased legitimate fans by throwing in his own tracks from the 60’s and 70’s.

Heading over to the
Caba Caba Ray stage I caught a small part of Poor Man’s Whiskey. Initially, taken aback by the sight of lead singer Simon dressed as Dorothy from the Wizzard of Oz I quickly caught on after hearing what sounded like a cover of Pink Floyd’s Money. Ever hear the famous rumour that if you cue up Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz the tracks are meant to sync and appear as if one was written for the other? Personally I wasn’t blown away by the synchronicity but give it a try for your self. Playing on this conspiracy comes Dark side of the Moonshine. Dressed as everyone from the witches to the tin man, the lion to the scarecrow, their set was an entertaining hillbilly-esque performance. To be honest this style of music was the type of thing I wanted to avoid coming to Bluesfest but I have to say I was pretty impressed.

I headed over to check out Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) and was drawn in to the APRA stage by the monstrous applause and overflowing crowd. Daniel Champagne quickly became one the highlights of my festival due to his sheer musical talent and quirky style of guitar playing.
(Daniel Champagne. Footage: Reebajeeb)

(Food Markets. Photo: Stereodan)

The first few songs of ALO that I caught were a little too country for me so I bailed and kicked back with some festival food and a stroll around the markets until Ozomatli at 9pm.

These guys are a sick seven (to ten) piece out of L.A who stick to the mantra “[their music] will take you around the world by taking you around L.A”. Their set was an eclectic fusion of music that showcased the best of reggae, salsa, dance hall and even hip hop. These guys are not to be missed! With most members switching between instruments each song was miles from the last. The highlight of their set was their famous performance/conga line through the audience.

(Ozomatli. Footage: Reebajeeb) 
Unfortunately I only had a change to catch some of Jack Johnson’s set but thankfully I did get to hear Bubble Toes. Having just seen Ozomatli this made Johnson’s set seem almost too mellow. His newer songs had the crowd singing along while legitimate fans like myself were hanging out for his earlier stuff... happy to say there were a fair few oldies.


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