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Published: February 22nd 2015
THE GREAT SOUTHERN BLUES FESTIVAL...Australia's Friendliest Festival.
T'was about 15 years ago we first heard about it. Staying in a log cabin in the bush near Moruya in southern NSW...swimming in the stream...best place to chill out.
Into Moruya for provisions and saw a Texas Shop. Did a double take. A Texas Shop in Oz...Texas flags...everything Texas. That's when we met Texas Dave...his distinctive hat...told us about the Festival in Narooma that October long weekend...been going every year since...wouldn't miss it.
It's where we hear the best music and meet the most interesting people.
I'll introduce you to some now.
2014 first day..."Dave...great to see you again. I'm in trouble I need your help. I've been charged with stealing a bucket. Do you think you'll be able to handle it? This is a big case!"
"O.K.(emphasis on the sigh). Do you want to tell me about it?" Bucket Law
He had taken his car for detailing. Had a pile of rags in a plastic bag in the boot. Somehow the rags got
wet and the plastic bag was gone.
So he put the wet rags in a bucket he found and drove home.
Only problem...he did not return the bucket...was observed on CCTV and the Police visited a few days later.
He was indignant the Police questioned him for hours...indignant they would not let it go.
Even then...he did not return the bucket.
Pretty straight forward you say?
His mates who were offerring themselves as character witnesses told me his bedroom was full of buckets!!!
So I had a client facing a very minor charge...with a fetish for buckets.
My approach was simple. Psycological Report in order.
"After all Your Honour...Who has heard of anyone who has stolen a "used" bucket???"
****** Tom Jones
When I met him I noticed his shoes. They were snakeskin with pointed toes.
So I asked him if he was in one of the bands playing at the Festival.
Said he was not...just here to listen to the music...so we got to know each other quite well over the weekend.
After a while he admitted he had been in a band...lots of
bands actually...he was the piano player.
And being in bands he had a way with the women.
Play me a song they would say.
He would play...and they would stay...overnight you might say.
Then one day a woman twice his age asked him to play...and sing a song by Tom Jones.
That's not what I do he said.
That's not the point...it's what I do she said.
He doesn't play in bands anymore...doesn't play the piano anymore...and he doesn't sing Tom Jones anymore either!
****** Getting there
The Great Southern Blues Festival is every October long weekend.
A six hour drive from Sydney to Narooma so drove down the Hume Highway to Goulburn then back to the coast via Braidwood. Longer drive but much less traffic than driving down the coast via the Princes Highway. Want to be there in time fot the first bands kicking off on Friday at 6.30pm .
I drove the first few hours then Denise took over...everyone knows she's a better driver...and faster.
Having a nap...woke up...Den 'round a bend overtaking a car...oncoming car sweeping towards us.
Naturally I screamed.
Naturally Denise went off her brain.
There were two lanes our way...we in the overtaking lane...no danger at all.
Yet again Denise threatened to tie me up...and put me in the boot...what's a guy gotta do to give a girl a good time?
Crowds wandering in...at Narooma they wander...don't stream...don't jostle...always a good vibe.
Like to cruise around before hitting the tent stages to get into the music.
And first up on the Peter Phelps stage a cool dude with biscuit tin guitars...and a gal with long blonde hair and blue eyes banging the drums into a groove that really caught our attention...slide riffs...haunting harmonica. Fabulous C.D...listening to it now.
From northern NSW...Moondog's Gypsy Blues Band
...a blues duo who really know how to jive...brilliant.
An accoustic set on the Albert King Stage with Dom Turner
from the Backsliders and Phil Wiggins
from the Blues Highway of USA...Den & I following that route shortly and Dom's Facebook posts inspiring that journey...here's a performance you might see on a porch overlooking the Mississippi.
Then from Germany...the Johnny Rieger Band with John McNamara
from Oz...very cool...very hip. Jeff Lang
...a festival frequenter...master of the Churchill lap guitar...of many styles...I've even seen him evoke West African grooves with Djan Djan.
The clock strikes 10...the M.C. rocks in...you are in for a treat here...one of the best guitarists in the country...a photographer's dream...facial expressions on his sleeve...the Steve Edmonds Band
...we front row for this one. Steve Edmonds
...master exponent of Hendrix...ZZ Top...Led Zeppellin...rock & blues classics...shredding the night air...Mark
on drums...leaving nothing in reserve...crowd swooning for more.
Steve well known around the country...plays pubs from Newcastle to Wollongong...even our local...many friends in the audience he acknowledging.
Slips a line in ZZ Top's La Grange "Dancing Dave is here..."
smile my way...blowing a kiss to Denise...crowd grooving away.
Past 11.15 p.m. the M.C. got to give it away...great night to warm us up...great vibe for the bands coming our way.
The waves were big today...smashing the entrance to the river channel...bashing to get in.
Warning it'd be too rough to chase whales with Wazza this year...our pics last year sensational...Holy Whale Breach Batman...We're Chasing Whales
C'est la vie...there's always next year.
And while many take pics of the bands...many
The promoter & heart of GSBF
riffs and bars...many memories...I also take photos of the punters.
Without the festival goers there's no festival...check out my pics of this year's lot. Neil Mumme
"Hello big fella" he says every year...interesting greeting from this man mountain...those addressed like microbes in comparison.
Neil is the Promoter...the guy that started the Great Southern Blues Festival in about 1996 or so...and with his wife Rhonda...the heart and soul of the Festival.
Big man...bigger heart...big vision...bringing bands from around the World to join Aussie blues bands cooking up a storm.
Big man...bigger heart...can't thank him enough for bringing his home town of Narooma to the fore each October long weekend.
Blues in our System...Incredibly Good.
As you say...Thanks Big Fella...from all of us! Murray & Jools
One of the best gigs Denise & I have ever attended was Jool's Birthday Bash a few years back.
The Canberra Blues Society shredding the night away in Murray & Jools' loungeroom...staggeringly good. Murray Foote
is the Official Photographer for the festival...not surprising when you see his pics.
Every year I pick his brain some more...nothing like tips from a
Official Photographer GSBF
Ripping along in his sportscar...hair and beard flying around him...with Jools shivering (if its cold)...or looking like the lady of the manor...beside him.
Murray is off to New York soon...First Prize in a Photo competition.
Jools is going as well...but taking a detour...to a Doll Convention.
But no ordinary dolls...Jools is the Yves St Laurent...the Coco Chanel of the Doll's world.
Check out the works of Julie Manley
...and be prepared to be blown away.
He was wearing a t-shirt from the 4th GSBF so I asked for his photo...telling me how he'd paid $3 too much for his Festival tickets that year...contacted by Rhonda that she'd send him a T-shirt instead of refunding 3 bucks. Pretty chuffed he was wearing it today and Rhonda said she remembered all those years back! The Perch Creek Family Jugband
causing a buzz but I kicked off today with PJ O'Brien Blues Band
from Perth...last saw them in Sydney for International Blues Day at the Basement...great talent. Ilya Szwec's Groove Depot
...really like that band...my first time. Bondi Cigars
...always a crowd favourite...seen them at gigs around the country for many years now. 3 Kings...Ian, Benny & anor
staying where we are staying so gotta get into them.
Wandering around chatting so what a thrill when I walked into 8 Ball Aitken
...long red hair flying...slide guitar like flames flickering...one of my highlights of the festival. An Aussie who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Blue Shaddy
were involved in a motor accident and late arriving so Rick Estrin & the Nightcats (USA)
came on early. Seen these guys a few times in years past and still one of the major acts in any blues scene...Rick's harmonica...still got it...lead guitarist a hero of my hero from New York Popa Chubby
(here last year and we are seeing him in the Caribbean in January 2015 with part of the TB Big Big Band (featuring Denise, Dancing Dave, Dangerous Dave & MJ).
Up the front for the next band...slide guitar wizard Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings (USA) with Carlos Montoya
on violin & harp (Paraguay)
. Great gig...full of smiles and energy. Could swear Roy Rogers was my mate Jim Perhne...looks dead spit of him!
This is a big day and night but not over yet!
Up the front for The Palladins
(USA)...one of the iconic Rockabilly bands of all time...energy, sweat & guts aplenty. Even their old mate Rick Estrin joined them for a couple of tracks...the double bass guy shedding tears of pleasure.
Blues is life not entertainment...heart and soul converted to soundwaves.
Blues is life...not entertainment.
We wander back to our hotel around midnight...Narooma quiet as a small town should be...the sea air refreshing as the memories of the riffs and melodies of the day wash over us.
Chatting on the porch for hours with our new mate Andrew
...its not just the music but the people you meet. Rob, Matt & Manu
there for the first time.
So pretty late start for another big day & night...first band about 2.30. The Montgomery Brothers
...school kids some may say...the future of the Blues scene we and others say...fantastic. The Backsliders
on guitar, Ian Collard
on harmonica and my favourite drummer...Rob Hirst
from Midnight Oil fame. Know Rob from school as his brother was a friend of mine...always enjoy their gigs. Ali Penny & The Moneymakers
...Ali is my Queen of the keyboards...she always says Hi...still remembers she's been
Mitch Woods (USA), Bridie King & Ali Penny
to my place...always flashing a smile...seen her supporting countless artists over the years...magic.
Shows the quality of the festival when Ali Penny has to compete with Big Bad Blues Babes
in the next tent...Kerri Simpson, Kylie Auldist
and my top female vocalist in Oz...Vika Bull
. The rendition of Janis Joplin's ********* brought the house down.
But Ali Penny
soldiered on...joined Mitch Woods Boogie Woogie (USA)
together with her soul mother Bridie King
...3 masters of their craft tickling the same keyboard together being one the highlights of a fabulous day. Russell Morris
with lead guitarist Peter Robinson
playing the famous Sharkmouth CD...and of course the classic "The Real Thing"...used to swoon to that in my youth!
But I can't stay for long...the South Sydney Rabbitohs are playing the Canterbury Bulldogs in the Rugby League Grand Final on the big screen outside the tent...and we are gathered with the fans to cheer them on. It's the first time Souths have been in the Grand Final since 1974...the year their captain John Sattler played most of the match with a broken jaw...the picture of his bloodied face holding the trophy aloft part of football folklore. I was at that
Grand Final with my Dad...and now I'm seeing them repeat the feat...with beautiful blues as accompaniment...and an Englishman Sam Burgess playing the game with a fractured cheek and eye socket.
I get up at 18-6 and miss them cruise to 30-6...gotta check out The Black Sorrows
...Joe Camilleri's band
...saw them years ago when Vicki & Vika Bull
were up front...special when Vika Bull
fronted with Joe tonight for some of their classics..."Don't Let Me Go" ringing in my ears as I tear myself away to hear another overseas act.
Catch John from the Canberra Blues Society as I head to the next tent...confirming I've gotta get in there.
It's moments like this that I go to GSBF each year. Kelly Richey Band (USA)
...up front to enter Blues Heaven...Kelly
on lead & Vocals, Freekbass
on bass & Big Bamm
on drums..."Risin' Sun" still ringing in my ears...everyone saying the same after this gig "I am Breathless" over and over...an absolute highlight of the Festival...gotta get them back Neil.
How do we close a festival as good as this? The Palladins
in the Albert King...Ryo & Manu
in Ferney's Juke Joint...but for us three of our favourite
guitarists in a one-off performance together in the Peter Phelps stage as 3 Wise Men
(Kevin Borich Express) and Phil Manning
(Chain)...it doesn't get better than this.
Wow...what a festival...still breathless thinking about it.
See you all next year.
Relax & Enjoy,
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