Bridgetown Blues Festival
Day 1: Friday, 7th November 2003:
I arrive early and set up camp before anyone else appears, started to wonder whether those plans of "everyone getting there and setting up tents before the festival starts to see the first set" would ever happen (at any festival!). After the rest of the crew arrived (if you arrived 10 minutes later, I would have been in town!) and set up their gear, we wandered into town around about 8PM, grabbed some food and drinks and saw Harmonica Shah featuring Howard Glazer. The flash didn't fire for these shots, they have an eerie glow about them, but not the best for making out members of the band!!
I kinda got stuck into this boxed corner, and it was hard to get out and take photos. It was also bad for viewing too, but the sound was excellent, he was a great harp player! We watched them for about half an hour before wandering down the street, to catch Diamond Dave & the Doo Daddies. Hmmm, I'm guessing Dan is picking this list! Oh, that first one looks like an album cover shot there, Dave!!
Once again a great player, we saw him play at the blues harp festival some time ago too, or some name like that, at the Charles Hotel. Some people left, so we managed to get good seats and watch the next act, Satellites from Adelaide.
They were pretty damn good. I must admit potentially no interest in Rockabilly style music, but they were great! Their stage act and presence were just dynamic, and everything fitted so well. Tanya bought a copy of their CD, and in a running joke throughout the rest of the festival, it seemed we couldn't go anywhere without seeing them, and Tanya didn't have the CD for signing at the same time. Anyway, we watched them finish their set, and left that to see the John Butler Trio.
John Butler is interesting. I'm naïve about him, but he was one of the drawcard acts. I was talking to a girl I met on the street on Friday when I went to town buy a ticket, Hailey, and we had a thought provoking conversation about Greenpeace and how individuals aren't always the ones that make the difference, but they support the ones that do make a difference, by paying for the clothes that are on their back and putting fuel in their petrol tanks to do environmentally good or protective things. I think Greenpeace do a great job, keeping crooks honest. So our conversation wandered back to the blues festival, and she said she'd be down the front dancing to John Butler, which is where the tie for this conversation and the viewing of John Butler exists. Before I went to sleep I was thinking about that conversation and thought about the parallels between the analogy presented and audience participation with a band, how an individual doesn't support a band, but many individuals support a band, it pays for them to keep going on the road. Or something like that - I'd consumed more than my fair share of alcohol by then. John Butler was OK, but not revolutionary, and I'm not sure whether I liked his moral stance on certain issues; or maybe because I'm ignorant of them? But the crowd went off, so whatever it is I don't see in him, obviously all these other people did. Crowd participation, several bourbons and thanks to that lady that let me swap spots with her for a few minutes to snap off some pictures, we wandered back up that big hill to the campsite. Dan's esky had survived the hot day with a fair bit of ice left inside, so cold stubbies were the order of the night, and we jammed the night away.
Tent city was on the opposite hill to our campsite (on a friends property - thanks Glen!) and was isolated from a lot of the noise and hooning going on. But not all of it. A couple of beers and several more bourbons later, we had finished diagnosing the intricate aspects of how players can reach a certain level and others can surpass that, and discussing the acts we had seen, and good and bad points about them, and laughing about funny stuff that happened during the day, after that, we crashed.
Day 2: Saturday, 8th November 2003:
I got up early to chop the wood for the fire for the evening, but my stomach was disagreeing with running on empty. Dan got up and we munched down a can of baked beans each (yes Kylie, one each!) with this little stove thing that Dan had borrowed (thanks Dave!) - and then we had perculated coffee and Orange Juice - and you guys reckon I'm organized!! We wandered down the hill to the Blue Owls Nest venue to see Mia Dyson.
Mia Dyson plays a combination of guitar and lap slide, the lap slide was an interesting instrument to watch. I think it might be worth purusing a couple of Hock Shops and seeing if I can pick up a cheapie. Might be fun to play with one, or maybe an open-G bluegrass banjo. I love that sound, but it's also very cliché in a way. Anyway Mia Dyson's stuff was pretty good. I found that, although good, most of the stuff was a bit slow for me, I know that's contradictory, but I thought her best number by far was the last one that she did - they rocked out on that and it left me feeling good, so she gets plus points for that. I'm glad I saw her, the band had a level (or five!) of musicianship above me, her voice was magic, and it was a good start to the days events. We wandered down the street and saw some buskers (I'm guessing that the two girls with one guitar are Kim Bettenay and Claire Barry???) prior to getting to Indigo Duck in the Geegeelup Marquee.
They had an interesting, but well used sound. We stayed for a couple of numbers, wanting to move along and see some more of the street shows and markets. It was pretty amazing how that saxophone player (who is unlisted in my guide) was blowing a sax almost as big as herself. She was pretty good though. We wandered the streets for a while before meeting up again at the local pub.
We saw a few street acts and buskers along the way. The guy with the Bohemian Wood stand was interesting, he was carving by using a large spruce of wood (not in photo) with a piece of string between that and his workbench. Pressing and releasing the piece of wood at his feet produced an up and down motion which was then wrapped around a piece of wood for a home made lathe. 33 Trees were notable, they have a very celtic feel to them. Wow, look at all those people and stalls in Bridgetown, it's a popular weekend! Funky Claude were at the Alfresco Showcase, we popped in to see them, they were good, but had some tough acts to follow. Mark Hoffman (spelt three different ways in the guide!) appeared on digaredoo on the street, Tanya got a copy of his CD. Pink and White Bridge were playing outside the Bridgetown Hotel, Phil used to play with the bass player (Bob ?) before I took that position in a band long gone. Kylie got a temporary tattoo. (only real tattoo's give that 10% tougher status!)
The next act we saw after meeting up was the Monique Brumby duo (with three people in it?!). It was, for me, the highlight of the weekend. I must admit I'd picked both Monique Brumby and Mia Dyson from the handbook in a semi-hungover state, whereby the selection criteria was "she looks cute, lets see her", but wow, when that woman opened her mouth and let that voice out, I was absolutely floored. She is a truly amazing singer, it was absolutely amazing. People were leaving the concert and I was looking at them and thinking "where could you ever go to hear better than this??". She was magic. Worth the price of the entry alone, and I'm sure I have worn my friends ears' thin with talking about how good she was. She was pure aural bliss.
Unfortunately her bass player (Maryanne Window) was hiding from my view behind a big curtain, and the guitarist (Phil ?)[update, jan 2004: The guitarists name is (Fret Rattlin') Don Farrell. Thanks to Phil, who is the bands sound mixer] kept ducking behind a mike stand, but I got a couple of shots. I hadn't intended to get any CD's on the weekend, but when I heard this lady, I knew I had changed my mind. I said to the crew that I wanted to go and grab that CD before they sold out, and get a signature with it, as was announced at the end of the set. They said sure, but they wanted to grab the first couple of songs of the next act at the same place, The Wise Family.
Scott Wise, the Father, is a luthier that Phil used to fix his bridge and frets on his Fender; and recounted a story about how he was reluctant to do work on the bridge as it would then "not be a Fender". A true craftsman I would suspect - he is also the maker of a hand crafted "Blues at Bridgetown" guitar, which is valued at $au3500. I bought three tickets, and I could really do with a 12 string acoustic. The raffle is drawn on December 12th. Anyway, for whatever reason, the Wise Family took a while to come on, and by the time I'd taken a couple of snaps, and signalled "let's go", about half an hour must have passed. We wandered down and Tanya pointed and asked if I wanted my photo taken with Monique Brumby, who was about 100 metres away and walking in the other direction. I wasn't sure if that was crossing a line from getting an autograph on a CD, to asking to have a photo taken with her. We passed the CD shop to go and see a workshop by Nashid. Unfortunately for him, he was nominated for an award, and was flown over to America to accept it, rather than enjoying the beauty of West Australia's Bridgetown. His loss was our gain however, when Mark Constable and Gary (Stoyles?) adorned the stage and did an impromptu blues jam workshop. Both talented musicians in their own rights. We hung around afterwards and Phil got Marks number for some harmonica lessons.
After that we cruised back to the CD shop and I finally got a copy of Monique Brumby's album Signal Hill, (as a bizarre coincidence, I was asked a couple of weeks ago about going on a Tasmanian trip in 2005, and that would be one of our destinations!). I also enquired about how we could be playing there, rather than being in the audience, so now I've got those details. We headed to the other end of town to check out a band that Kylie had watched a few times when she worked at the Kalamunda hotel, 43 Cambridge.
Unfortunately I'd just heard this magnificent voice, and to top that, they'd need to be phenomenal, but they were good. Headed back to the campsite for a bit of a break, watching the sunset over the hills and jamming with the guitars again.
I wanted to catch the Sensitive New Aged Cowpersons as I'd heard some of their stuff from years before, and had heard good reviews about the band (albeit years ago, and have never had the opportunity to see them). Either my brother or Kevin had a tape of theirs, years ago. A tape; yer, how old is that?
We went to the other end of town (a familiar theme!!) and saw this busker on the way - I don't know who he is, I heard one song and it's so hard to remember everything seen and heard. We got to the other end and saw Tin Dog, and stayed for a drink there.
We went to see Geoff Archison play some solo guitar. Damn, can that guy play!! Phil was asking if I was watching chords, but he was playing so fast, I couldn't even see chords!!! We missed the majority of his set though, so only saw about 3 songs before he left, and Matt Taylor came on. Displaying his years of knowledge with playing with the Australian icon's Chain. You know Chain, Tanya?
Another trip was undertaken to the opposite end of town to see Monique Brumby & the Riders, at the Geegelup Marquee; her full band outfit. I took the CD I bought earlier and when they were setting up on stage I went to the front of the stage and beckoned her over. I said that I'd bought her CD after I saw her earlier today, then added something along the lines of how she was an awesome singer and wrote great songs. Totally out-of-character for me, but I'd never heard that voice before. It also might have had something to do with the several doses of dutch courage consumed before that time. Anyway I'd taken down a few copies of the CD I'd made years before, in the hope of swapping them, rather than purchasing CD's (hey, it works on the internet!!) but didn't know that they had planned on a central place for CD's this year. To cut a long story short, I gave her a copy of some old music I had made years before, with one of my business cards that has current details on. They set up and played, damn she's an awesome vocalist, but I liked her better in the acoustic set, as her voice didn't have to drive over louder instruments. Some pissed chick offered to take my photo in front of them playing. You'd think I would have at least combed my hair!
Brett had driven down from Bunbury to join us, as he was wanting to see a bit of blues for the night, and had also bought a few home-made beers to be sampled. His car was at the far end of town; the far opposite end of town to the campsite. I wasn't much in the mood for walking twice as far as necessary, so Kylie and I elected to go to the Blue Owls Nest and meet there at some predetermined time that eludes me now. We saw Chris Wilson & Spidermen & Jilliane Jones and then tried to contact the rest of them to find out where they were. Phil had Kylie's phone, and my phone was "out of range" (an all too common problem with my phone!!) so I suggested we head back to the campsite where my phone had previously been "in range", and we trekked up there. Glen had said the previous night they were having a rave up at the pyramid on his property, so we went there to make a call, my phone was still out of range, so borrowed Glen's which worked. Phil said they were still planning on seeing a couple more bands, so Kylie and I joined the rave.
Later on, we moved back to the campsite and lit the fire, a couple of people came down to sit with us like a chill out room for a bit. Dan, Tanya and Phil rocked up some time after that (2ish?), raving about a band they saw; Blue Shaddy who apparently went off. So when all the old farts had burnt out and gone to bed, I went back to the rave. The Police arrived at around 4am asking for the music to be turned down. Glen turned it off, stating that when it goes down, it goes up and up again, and he didn't want for the Police to have to call a second time. Sensible. I stayed until about 5 talking to those two drunk country girls, one was from Queensland and did artistic clothing. It sounds strange, but she described it well, but I can't remember the details of the conversation. Then another conversation with the other one, and I can't even remember that. Just a vague memory of two people talking about nothing, but having a good time doing it. I wandered back to the campsite at about 4.30am or so, sitting up for a while to warm my feet by the fire and drink a bit of water to sober up a bit before going to bed. It was a good fire!
Day 3: Sunday, 8th November 2003:
Got up early whilst still feeling a tad seedy. I was planning on staying an extra night and then slowly making my way up to Perth on Monday, but the only act I think I would have enjoyed was the Monique Brumby one at 5PM. To be honest we'd seen so many fantastic people playing that the music was becoming confused. You know the old "which band did this?" and "have we seen them?" etc. We ended up packing up the tentsite and I was looking forward to hitting town for something to eat. I got organized and packed up the tent and associated gear, then took some pictures of Glen's pryamid and heiroglyphics. He was telling me that he was going to build a larger pyramid next to the current one, and I recall some conversation we had about it where he was telling me the methodology on how he was intending to build it. Interesting conversation we had.
Before leaving town we decided to check out a couple more acts. We caught the tail end of Mia Dyson's gig, with an appreciative audience. She's got a great voice, sweet like an angel. As we were walking in Dan said something about we had just passed Monique Brumby and her bass player Maryanne Window, I thought about trying to grab a pic with her, but by the time he'd said it, they were both 150 metres away and rounding a corner. Another missed opportunity. Mia was great, it was still a pleasure to hear her perform, I reckon she'll be due for an ARIA soon.
Last performance went to Geoff Achison who we'd only seen the tail end of on Saturday. He's an amazing guitar player and watching him was just a thrill, some of the moves he has on guitar should be made illegal; they are too good!!
Phil wanted to grab a copy of one of his CD's so we went to the CD Shop again. It was hot in there so I went and stood outside, and Mia Dyson and her two band members were there chatting to a fan. They were yakking about past festivals and I guess waiting for people to ask for autographs on CD's. Anyway he asked whether they were heading back to Melbourne, and Mia said that she was touring parts of WA with Monique Brumby, so I'll have to pick up an X-Press and see where they are - probably the Fly by Night in Fremantle.
Sitting back at home, nursing blisters on my hands from chopping wood, and blisters on my feet from walking for the better part of two days solid, a little bit worse for wear perhaps, but definately stronger in music knowledge. Inspired to write some songs, I listened to Monique Brumby's CD about 4 times on the way home. The album is really good, I'll check out the website moniquebrumby.com and see if she has more. I'd love to hear an album with her voice and guitar alone, and maybe some bass.
all images and text © j. r. mortimer 2003