THE GREAT SOUTHERN BLUES FESTIVAL...Australia's Friendliest Festival

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February 22nd 2015
Published: February 22nd 2015
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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 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 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'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 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 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'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 are in for a treat 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 bass...James 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.

Thanks Neil.

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 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 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 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 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) of the iconic Rockabilly bands of all, 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 kids some may say...the future of the Blues scene we and others say...fantastic.

The Backsliders...Dom Turner 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 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...Mal Eastick...Kevin Borich (Kevin Borich Express) and Phil Manning (Chain) doesn't get better than this.

Wow...what a festival...still breathless thinking about it.

See you all next year.

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave

Additional photos below
Photos: 105, Displayed: 31



3 guitar fiends together

Our mate Andrew with Denise

22nd February 2015

Easy to see why you keep going back!
22nd February 2015

Thanks Jo. The GSBF is in my opinion the best blues festival in Australia. It is personable, great artists and not too big like the one at Byron Bay known as Bluesfest (East Coast Blues & Roots Festival).
22nd February 2015

Welcome back to blogging...
how many more before you get to you last trip?
23rd February 2015

Welcome back to blogging...
Thanks Bob. Trust you enjoyed this blog and are looking forward to my blogs of SW USA and our time together. Hopefully sooner rather than later!
2nd March 2015

So many musicians and so little time
Feel the beat... Great southern blues, Texas and all. Thanks for introducing us to friends found along the way. Sounds like our kind of people. Gosh, when will you learn to sleep until you get there and Denise wakes you. :) Good seeing you hang out with Mitch. Maybe you'll be considered a Mitch Groupie. WE may have to head your way and attend this festival.
3rd March 2015

So many musicians and so little time
Lookin' forward to including you guys in the Punter's Portraits Gallery. What a hoot that'd be...all the way from the US of A! Any excuse to get the band back together!

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