Adani, Blues and Rebel Heart
José González presides over the Mojo Tent. A single and solitary figure slung over guitar, he casts a delicate acoustic spell. Flowing arrangements that command a crowd of thousands. Cat Stevens and James Taylor rolled into one. But mellower.
The guttural vocals of Steve Smyth pack a sharp contrast. His voice seeps with carnal intent, yet he’s just as adept at spiralling melisma. Paired with a string section, songs like ‘Written Or Spoken’ hit with full impact. Somebody hurls their bra.
Boomerang Festival. Yirrmal close their set thundering with clamour of a thousand drums. Good for the soul.
But First Aid Kit. Country delivered with rock’s rebel heart. These sisters are Swedes but sing like they’re from the heartlands. It’s from that space between that they connect. The dream’s always bigger from somewhere far off. They inhabit that myth, country’s cool slickness, painted glamour and outlaw heart.
‘It’s a Shame’ and ‘Fireworks’ pull the set into gear with raucous applause. It’s heavy with the tracks of new LP 18, which is a plus. These are the tracks carrying the most feeling. It’s an album written in the wake of failed romance, heartache and the real channelled into the universal. Backed by drum figures of music’s great romantic heartbeats, it wins the audience over.
Ben Booker gives out soul. Words ripped directly from his throat, band punctuating his every emotion. Then there’s Lucas Nelson (again). Willie Nelson’s son and the onetime Neil Young sideman rocks hard.
His father was a preacher, but he never sang in choir. Bobby Rush claims to be one of oldest bluesmen living. He is 84, but he’s also possessed with a wicked humour. Who said hip hop held the monopoly on bravado?
The fast talkin’ bluesman’s fame came late. He didn’t break out the lucrative club circuit until 1971. But by then he’d learnt from the pioneers. Legends like Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. He’s shared stages with Ike & Tina Turner.
It’s been decades since he made his first guitar out of broom and string. He’s still looking to turn a sly dollar playing the music he’s loved. The crowd are having a ball. He’s backing dancers well, they’re pushing modern conventions of taste. He’s a relic, a dirty grandpa. Blues never stops or blows out. It just keep goin’.
But the talking point of the whole festival is #STOPADANI. John Butler sways the crowd with ‘Ocean’ but the set’s – the night’s –moment comes with the unfurling of a massive, stage-sized banner. ‘CORAL NOT COAL’. Bearing it are a host of the festival talents. Fifteen in all and with names including – deep breathe -Michael Franti, Mia Dyson, The Teskey Brothers, Ziggy Alberts, William Crighton, Hussy Hicks, local favourite Ziggy Alberts, and Tay Oskee. An potent statement of protest and unmissable festival closer.
Review by Riley Fitzgerald
Photography by Alix Mckenzie