Northern Star Column

Bluesfest – Byron Bay ’08

Bluesfest as ever was a lesson in waterproofing and hygiene.

On Friday night my pick was Hacienda from San Antonio Texas, Dan Aurbach’s backing band and a mighty outfit in their own right. Their wily combination of Tex-Mex swing with drunk 50’s rock and roll proved a winner with the jaded few who fled the jampacked marquees for the easier vibe of the APRA tent.

Sunday night was a far more pleasant proposition.

The Drive By Truckers came out roaring, three electric guitars, pedal steel, a rampaging rhythm section and a swag of great songs. They’ve been a long time coming and despite their sometimes monolithic approach, their volatility put them in good company.
Lucinda Williams, finally arriving in the country after several false starts, proved as beguiling as her records. She brought a very classy band and though she stayed safely within the parameters of her popular works, you could see where the raggedy passion was peeping in.
Paul Kelly was the finest act on my radar. His stage demeanour was, as ever, effortless and utterly in control, without resorting to any of the hysterical hijinx and arm-waving that’s the stock in trade of some other stalwarts. Our greatest songwriter, Kelly always wields a masterful band and in this outfit, Ashley Naylor, guitarist from Even, proved more than equal to his predecessors.

On Saturday night – Sara Tindley at the Winsome Hotel. She was as poised and grooving, despite losing a promised Lucinda Williams support at the last minute.

Next Wednesday night I’m playing theMullumbimby Folk Club in cahoots with Uncle Burnin’ Love and Tom Jones – on Friday night we’re at the Commercial Hotel, Casino.

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