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LIVE REVIEW: West Coast Blues & Roots Festival, Fremantle, 13 April 2014

| 23 April 2014 | Reply

LIVE REVIEW: West Coast Blues & Roots Festival, Fremantle, 13 April 2014
Featuring Dave Matthews Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, The Doobie Brothers, Gary Clarke Jr, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Morcheeba, Jake Bugg, Russell Morris, The Soul Rebels, Dave Hole & more
Fremantle Park, Fremantle, Sunday 13 April 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Maree King

West Coast Blues & Roots 13 Apr 2014 - Elvis Costello by Maree King  (3)

Last year’s tenth anniversary of the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival was a big name, classic rock, two day extravaganza – but always intended to be a one-off. Hence, there was no attempt to surpass, or even equal, that mind boggling lineup, and in fact organisers this year have taken “the music lovers’ festival” a step back from the rocking blues format of last year and instead focussed on building a bluesier and rootsier day.

After some slide guitar wizardry from the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, our own DAVE HOLE, RUSSELL MORRIS takes the main stage crowd on a blues-soaked history lesson with songs from his recent Sharkmouth and new Van Diemen’s Land albums, singing about Aussie characters and conditions that reflect on the quintessential meaning of what it is to be us. He’s obviously loving the well deserved career resurgence, treating the crowd like we were old mates sitting around his back yard having a bash as he recounts tales of mates in remote areas (The Birdsville Track), ‘30’s gangsters (Sharkmouth), or having ‘acid & mushroom’ and Stones Green Ginger Wine flashbacks to lead into his 60’s psych hits The Real Thing and Hush. As he finishes with a hit from the 70’s – Sweet Sweet Love – he and his band are on fire in the midday sun and set the bar pretty damn high from the get go.

One of the immensely perfect things about Blues & Roots, is that it doesn’t try to be the line-snorting, ADHD, seven stages, 90 acts too-much-is-never-enough over the top chaotic thing that certain other festivals do. Two stages (I’d add a third, personally), not much crossover of talent (though have ten or 20 minute blocks later in the day when neither stage has an act on seems a bit wasteful) and a chilled out vibe make for an infinitely more enjoyable experience.

JAKE BUGG makes the Big Top Stage his own, thrilling a jam-packed crowd with his highly individual indie folk grooves.

MORCHEEBA highlight the diversity of the Festival with an excellent, chilled out set of smooth and lite jazz-funk by way of late 90’s trip-hop. Part Of The Process & Down By The Sea help people get their dance on, while the pure pop of Shoulder Holster gets a huge round of applause, the mellow grooves perfectly complementing the lazy Sunday arvo vibe. Flying in yesterday from Wellington with a pilot names David Bowie is as good a reason as any to play a Bowie cover, and their version of Let’s Dance accentuates the funky groove of the song. Trigger Hippy is another crowd pleaser, singer Skye smiling radiantly like she might burst, before finishing with another slice of pop perfection in Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day and Face Of Danger.

The last time we saw STEVE EARLE he was dominating the stage solo, just a mandolin and guitar keeping him company. Today he has brought his full band THE DUKES to deliver a set that straddles rock, folk, country, bluegrass, N’Orleans jazz and more. Earle lives and breathes Americana, joking that having spent so much time in New Orleans he feels he should be able to play piano by now – he can, of course, to the delight of the crowd. Rolling through a vibrantly authentic rootsy set, he finished with his most endearing song, the moonshine and dope-growing anthem Copperhead Road.

GARY CLARK JR is another wildly talented artist who refuses to be pigeonholed. Rock, blues, funk and soul are all part of his oeuvre, and there’s a Hendrix flair to his guitar playing. The man’s singing and playing are full of heart and passion, his face in turn screwed up in concentration, singing the notes of his solo, or just transcendent at the wondrous and ethereal power of the music. Playing much of his excellent latest album, Black & Blu, it’s a great afternoon of fiery blues rock.

THE DOOBIE BROTHERS fill the Big Top Stage with some righteous boogie soft rock, starting strong with Jesus Is Just Alright, Rocking Down The Highway and the title track from their most recent album, World Gone Crazy. By the time they run through Taking It To The Streets, beaming smiles abound on both sides of the stage.

Over on the main stage MATT CORBY keeps the hipsters happy with some indie roots tunes, but many use this slot to grab a bite to eat, queue for a drink or food or the ATM or merch.

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS waste no time, hitting the ground running with a hit-packed set that was the highlight of the day for many. From Pump It Up to Oliver’s Army, Watching The Detectives to Every Day I Write The Book, they can’t put a foot wrong. On a low note, what should have been a moving tribute to a recently passed songwriter friend is blunted by the sound bleeding from Boy & Bear’s set on the other stage. All we hear is ‘Jessie’ someone, who we later discovered was Jesse Wiinchester. Midnite Bus and Payday are cool additions to the set, before (I Don’t Want To) Go To Chelsea, Hank Williams’ Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To and the always excellent (What’s So Funny Bout) Peace Love & Understanding finish the set on a high note. On a day full of great music, The Imposters pretty much take the prize.

Deciding this was the high water point of the day for old rockers like us wasn’t too hard – with John Mayer, The Dave Matthews Band and Michael Franti & Spearhead to come, the evening’s music would be uplifting but ever-more-vanilla, so it was with a spring in our step and happiness in our heart that we took our leave, knowing we had enjoyed a full day of magical music and would miss the worst of the crowd.


Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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