Day 3. Robert Plant’s sensational set.

With only 5% battery left in this laptop it’ll be a short post with a few pics. Beautiful morning with the tandem skydivers circling down overhead.
Yesterday ended with Robert Plant, sensational, the best sound, lighting and musicianship I have ever seen, and they had incense burning on stage to give the full sensual effect.
New Power Generation, not a good sound, vocals all muffled and others said the same thing but what a crazy, funky set of Prince hits – like the best party you’ve ever been to – wild!
But a real highlight was Newton Faulkner from the UK. He plays solo with a looping pedal he hardly used, an electro kick drum and a bass pedal thing and he managed to get the whole crowd singing three part sing-alongs at one point – genius, powerful voice, simple songs and so relaxed, and ends with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Ok, just 3% left now, going to Byron Bay town today to buy supplies and do a little shopping.
Juan is my next door neighbour who I helped figure his tent out when we both arrived at the same time, from Brazil, he was with his girlfriend last night in his tiny tent, very cozy, he’s here with a whole bunch of Brazilians.

Day 2. Leon Bridges is sooo smooth.

I saw about 8 different bands yesterday starting with All Our Exes Live in Texas, who were charming and a bit nervous, Gomez from the UK played their first album all the way through, so good, was never a follower but they have a huge guitar rock sound, amazing band. Leon Bridges is such a smooth soul dude with a sharp band, wow, so tight, love it, they’re playing twice too.

Tash Sultana does the whole band herself, amazing, lots of younger people watching and she’s very right on, fiesty and accomplished. Everything looped with multiple delay units, the cameras showed her foot pedals, dozens of them, but she does it all effortlessly, plays big killer guitar solos, plays trumpet, percussion, keyboards, and sings from the soul – what a star. Must admit it got a bit too much of the same again and again for me so left and saw the closing numbers of The Wailers, Bob Marley’s old band, and yup, they play all those songs etched in the DNA of the people all around the world.
Totally muddy here, huge downpours all yesterday, but so warm, sub tropical. Today the sun has come out, phew, a high of 28 degrees and no rain predicted. Just sitting by my tent drinking tea, eating muesli and listening to the sound checks going on in the distance. I heard a half song of the man himself, Robert Plant, singing a few lines from a Led Zeppelin song, ‘mama said that’s the way, that’s the way it’s gonna be . . ‘ , hey, who out there can name that song?

Day 1. The Bloody Good Food Cafe

Only an Australian catering outfit would call their café Bloody Good. They start at 6am selling Bacon & Egg Rolls for $9, cooked on a bar-be right there in the tent. The smell of searing bacon is drawing in the campers from far and wide this morning. Four years ago they were selling the same thing as well as good coffee and the usual camping supplies like milk and bread.
So far it’s a wet BluesFest with tropical down pours – but the show will go on and the organisers are well prepared for the rain. The camping areas have been earthworked years ago to be curved into channels either side of the rows and even the roads have been raised up to create run-off. Best place to be right now is in the Bloody Good Cafe  – that bacon!
I really like this festival, it sounds a cliché, but everyone is so friendly, people have time to chat and this year I’m going to be more sociable and so far have managed to meet all sorts: old, young, fat, skinny – everyone has a story. One thing I have to say about Australians, they sure know how to do outdoor living in style; their camper vans and fold-out trailer campers (like Top-A-Gee’s) are amazing vehicles – and they’re all pouring into the site right now, hundreds and hundreds of them.
Last night I slept for about 12 hours, it’s the first time I’ve done that for a while. I’m on NZ time which means 8am here is my 6am so I get to the showers before the crowds. It’s the first time I’ve used a one-tap hot shower, and the temperature is set just right – cheers.
It’s actually been four years since I was last here and I pleased to say it’s all more or less all the same, same layout, same atmosphere, even all the stages and facilities are the same, and there’s staff everywhere. I have met a few people who are ‘voli’s, (volunteers), who work a couple of hours a day for a free pass. One person I met is assigned to loading in the road cases back stage – nice, I wouldn’t mind doing that.
I went for a walk around Byron Bay and down to the beach and around the streets. The township seems more prosperous now and I glad to see woman still stroll around the streets in bikini’s and blokes shirtless in board shorts. It’s a beachy kind of town and very warm – I definitely brought too many warm clothes.
There’s so much great stuff to buy, from real shops too, not a mall in sight. I can imagine the locals have banned the development of malls, the Byronshire Council are pretty staunch I hear, no fast food chains are allowed to operate here either – good on them. The music starts at 3pm and later I’ll be seeing Tash Sultana and Leon Bridges. Talking to Mark as he ate his bacon and egg roll, Canned Heat are a must see – ok.
It’s now 12.30pm, the gates to the festival area will open in two hours and I can hear the PA systems cranking up – first with that huge roar of big pink noise they use to check EQ levels, and now the headliners are in there sound-checking. Not all artists do sound checks at a festival because it’s impossible to pre sound check all artists, so, only the ones who demand it, the rest accept the constraints of performing on a festival-stage, and bring in their presets to load into the digital consoles, and the first song is the sound check – that’s so rock ‘n’ roll.

Byron Bay, here I come.

Tomorrow morning I fly to the Gold Coast to spend Easter at the Byron Bay BluesFest. I have resurrected this blog and will run it for the next 6 days. I attended BluesFest three years in a row back in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and after three years I’m back, perhaps for the last time, camping 6 nights in my little tent. I was so undecided about going but the lineup this year is a real goodie so I just had to go.
Robert Plant’s current band play the kind I music I connect with very deeply – it’s the English blues rock from my youth fused with Third World especially African and Islamic, Americana and Celtic folk – with a few re-workings of Led Zepp numbers, of course. When so many bands from that era like The Stones and The Who just stick with their original sound, Plant has pushed the musical diversity thing.
I’d never admit to being a fan of Lionel Richie but I love the production sound of that R n B genre, it’s such a big smooth groove. Whenever I do a sound check for a PA system I always choose R n B because it sounds so lush – perfectly compressed, mastered and manicured (and it makes my PA sound good, of course, when the client is there).  But that wasn’t the only reason I booked another Easter at Blues Fest, it was for all the other performers I’ll probably never get another chance of seeing – all in one place; Jackson Browne, Melissa Etheride, Sheryl Crowe, Seal, Chic with Nile Rodgers, Canned Heat ( . . going on up the country . .), Jose Gonzalez, Jimmy Cliff, Youssou N’Dour.

Plus a whole bunch I have checked out and can’t wait to see;  Tash Sultana, Seu Jorge (plays a complete set of Bowie songs in Portuguese, check out his Life on Mars), Leon Bridges, All Our Exes Live In Texas, and First Aid Kit – the fascinating Soderberg sisters from Sweden.  Ms Lauryn Hill is also there, but unfortunately playing at the same time as Robert Plant. The New Power Generation was Prince’s band when he was making all his best music – and I just love a big funk band – and there was no one more funkier than Prince! I’ll keep you posted.