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BluesFest; Can I have an Immitation White Russian?

Today kicked off rather more smoothly than usual…which worried me slightly!

After arriving on site my first port of call (besides writing for you lot and editing pics) was a band called eMDee.

The programme described them as a techno didgeridoo and bass setup – sounded like the perfect start to the second to last day of Bluesfest!

Rolling up to the Apra tent there was a small crowd gathering but I had no problems getting a good spot. As the 4 piece entered the stage the mesmerizing and quick tempo of the didgeridoo set up kicked in and the venue was soon filling fast!

Coming from the Northern Territory the band has sold thousands of records – both busking and through the stage, so they had a pretty good following.

Their sound was catchy, fast paced and the use of some excellent didge skills got the crowd buzzing – an excellent atmosphere for a midday set, they didn’t disappoint, and I’m sure that they’ll climb the bill in future years – an evening slot would be no doubt epic to witness.

I had a few hours to kill after this set, or so I thought. I was soon tipped off about a secret gig that was about to happen by a band called Poor Mans Whiskey.

I had pencilled them in to shoot later on in the day but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to witness them in an intimate acoustic set in a random part of the festival site. I caught site of the guitarist around the rumoured time, and basically didn’t let him out of it until the group assembled outside of the food tent.

It was s gem to catch – a mix of folk, blues and rock that even packed a punch and got the assembling crowd dancing when played without amps. After a handful of songs they dispersed and everyone was left with a tantalizing insight into their 8pm slot.

Another gap in my time sheet occured so I had another wander around the site – this time checking out the various goods the mini market had to offer; everything from candy floss to didgeridoos and mexican ponchos!

The it was off for my first gig in the Caba Caba Ray tent. I’d been told about a band called The NeYo, who a few of my friends had caught doing a set in The Rails bar in Byron the night before – they promised an upbeat set that was sure to get the crowd moving.

And thats what happened!

After the first tune I looked around to find the tiny tent pretty packed and limbs moving in all directions. A bit of ska and with a crazy array of dress topped with an overly energetic bassist and talented young drummer really whipped up a frenzy.

Unfortunately I had to leave the action slightly early to catch the next band on the Mojo stage…

The next treat that was lined up on the Mojo stage was Fat Freddys Drop.

I’ll admit now that I recognised the name, but didn’t have a clue what they sang, what their style was or whether I’d actually enjoy it.

As soon as the first song kicked in I knew I’d be making sure I stayed for the rest of their set – it was a beautiful, soulful sound but with the pace to get everyone moving.

For me the highlight was their first song – “When the Rain Comes” – a slower pace but it really had me hooked. I also enjoyed the fact their songs lasted for agggggges!

For those of you unfamiliar with the way a press pass works, you basically get to shoot the first three songs of each bands set. Thats usually about 15mins in the pit.

With FFD thought it was nearly 40mins! Which meant I could shoot and enjoy the show from the front once I was done!

The other highlight of the set was the trombonist. He came on stage looking pretty dapper in a white suit with a matching trilby and waistcoat.

But about 3 songs in he began to strip down to a pair of shorts and a wife beater. He had so much energy, and whilst the rest of the group kept a fairly low profile he danced around stage and generally got the crowd stoked – which included a bowler hat clad Newton Faulkner who was stood by us.

My stoke was kept on a high for the next band – the headliners on the Jamalaya stage (I gave Crowded House a miss) – Gogol Bordello.

Having had a taste for the crazy pulsing tunes of this Russian sounding New York formation at Reading Festival a few years ago I was excited to see them on a much smaller scale.

But how they ended up playing Bluesfest is beyond me! After a weekend of mellow, laid back blues and acoustic sets the immense speed and energy from Gogol seemed slightly out of place.

I wasn’t complaining though!

With the opening of their set it soon became aparent that they weren’t holding back due to the small stage size. I think the only way to describe the energy that came from the stage and carried through the crowd is mental.

Pure unadulterated carnage!

Everyone loved it.

If you don’t know Gogol then picture this; take copious amounts of booze, a bottle of wine to swig on stage, an electric violin, some guitars, drums and an accordion, mix with a bunch of (quite possibly) mentally unstable Gypsy Punk style musicians with an Eastern European flavour and you have Gogol Bordello.

The tent was a mix of flailing limbs, sweat and mud.

Exactly how I like my festivals.

And it got even messier during the bands hit “Wearing Purple” when the lead singer (whose energy is nothing short of immense) started flinging red wine into the crowd!

An epic finish to a Sunday evening!