The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

WEST COAST blues and roots festival 2012

fremantle park, fremantle

Sunday, 1st april 2012

 

FEATURING JOHN FOGERTY, MY Morning Jacket, THE POGUES, THE SPECIALS, TROMBONE SHORTY, CROSBY, STILLS & NASH, BUDDY GUY, KEB' MO', Blitzen Trapper, Steve Earle, Husky, Gin Wigmore, The Sheepdogs, Felicity Groom, Zydecats, Ruby Boots and The Seals


 

Sunset Events have built a great brand in the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival over the past nine years. An eclectic mix every year, 2012’s line-up runs the gamut through alt-country, classic rock, soul, indie, boogie, rock, zydeco, ska, badass roots and yes – even a little blues!

 

A little drizzle isn’t enough to scare off the faithful, and a couple of hundred – including The Rockpit - are already queuing when gates open at 10:30am on this slightly cool Sunday April Fool’s Day morning.

 

Sunset have realised over the years that the more mature festival goers that favour Blues & Roots don’t need the 7 stages and 90-plus bands that the hyperactive and attention deficit teens favour, so we have all quality, and minimal scheduling clashes along the way.


 

Breakthrough Artist Winner THE SEALS leant proceedings a “drunken barn dance” feel under the Big Top to start the day’s entertainment, and whilst entertaining, their nervousness was obvious.

 


The Main Stage cranked up with local alt country groovers RUBY BOOTS beguiling many with the perfect soundtrack to the by-now-sunny late morning. Stay Away, Hide Away Your Love and new single Wise Up feature the ballsy and passionate vocals of Bex Chilcott and in her own words, “there’s a little bit of raunch, there’s a little bit of surprise”.

 

 

Less breathy than Canada’s Cowboy Junkies, Ruby Boots really have the songs, the chops and the presence to go as far as that band. Chilcott is a strident and striking singer, and Devil Inside Of Me and Big Fat City get the early crowd grooving.


 

 

Over in the Big Top local institution THE ZYDECATS, fronted by Grammy nominated legend Lucky Ocean, serve up a tasty jambalaya of New Orleans swing-infused blues that got toes tapping and hips swinging.

 

 

It’s an infectious groove, with vocal duties being shared by Oceans, sax toting lead singer Bill Rogers and guitarist/vocalist Kent Hughes – the latter taking the lead for the boogie of Shuffling Fool. Zydeco Son Par Soleil is irresistibly bouncy, the washboard and accordion trademarks of the Lousiana Zydeco style making for a great musical party before Get Up brings the funky soul.

 

 

With all the swampy bayou vibes going down under the tent, the Cats throw in some slow Muddy Waters blues for good measure, and are never anything less than compulsively entertaining, their innate sense of fun and inescapable danceability at the forefront throughout.


Meanwhile, FELICITY GROOM is delivering a mesmerising set on the main stage. Darker than this reviewer remembers her past work, she taps into the frailty and wide-eyed wonder in all of us through Siren Song and a revelatory cover of Mental As Anything’s only international hit, Live It Up, stripping it back to it’s raw emotion and longing, and delivering it devoid of the jokey one-hit-wonder vibe of the original.


 

 

Wikipedia says Saskatoon, in Canada’s Saskatchewan province has a population of over a quarter of a million people, and right now four of them are making new fans under the Big Top with their scruffy, long-hair, chugging riff-heavy Seventies classic rock mania.

 

 

They are called THE SHEEPDOGS, and they play music to grow long hair to in a Mountain, Bachman Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who vein, and they may well be my new favourite band.

 

 

I Need Love, Southern Dreams and the rest are unashamedly retro, and their irrepressible songwriting and vocal harmonies set them apart from the crop.


Reluctantly tearing myself away from the Guitar Hero rifferama of these Canadian wundertramps, the Main Stage now offers up soulful New Zealander GIN WIGMORE and her band THE DIRTY LOVE.

 

 

Tattooed, rake thin and bottle blonde, Wigmore exudes both musical and sexual appeal. As soulful as Joss Stone – if Stone grew some balls and raunch, copped a sassy attitude, and danced the set away.

 

Sweet Hell sees Wigmore dosey-do-ing before the meaty raunch and feedback intro of Queen Of The Night, and she is obviously relishing the experience as more and more crowd the front of the stage, her smile beaming throughout her set, pausing the dancing only barely long enough to sing or play some guitar.

 

 

Why You Gotta Be So Mean and Oh My God are similarly vibrant and thrilling and reminiscent of a less-rockabilly Imelda May. Classy music for the soul.


Over in the Tent HUSKY prove a bit too introspective and indie to captivate the bulk of the crowd, who mostly gather in the park to eagerly await the arrival of Steve Earle.


STEVE EARLE is one of the original badasses, and although his set starts ten minutes late due to some sound issues, all that does is give the throng more time to assemble and build anticipation. Earle has the balls to stand up in from of thousands in the cold hard light of day armed with only a guitar or mandolin and his rich Virginian-by-way-of-Texas drawl.

 

Waitin’ On The Sky showcased Earle’s life-lined, ragged voice, and “sea shanty from an ocean far to the North” Gulf Of Mexico’s acapella start was nothing short of captivating in it’s raw and torn beauty.

 

 

When Earle sings My Old Friend The Blues, you just know he not only means it, but has also earned it, and through the likes of Someday and God Is God, his delivery is magnetic, before climaxing with a riveting performance of his biggest hit, the mandolin driven Copperhead Road.

 

The hour is over far too soon, but this is not the last we will see of Mister Earle today…


The crowd in the Big Top swells dramatically after Steve Earle wrapped up, and close to a full house caught BLITZEN TRAPPER’s rootsy art folk indie stylings. From mellow beginnings owing a debt to Dylan, through to an early AC/DC and Skynyrd vibe on set closers Street Fighting Son Of A Gun and Round & Round, they impressed with their diversity, but it was the legends most of the crowd were here to see today.


KEB MO apparently started his career playing steel drums in a calypso band, but it’s soulful blues in a style reminiscent of Robert Cray that won him a worldwide audience, and that’s what he brings to Freo today.

 

 

Boasting a smoothly honeyed voice and a clean guitar style, he and his energetic band keep the afternoon sun lovers happy with tunes such as I Love Muddy Water, Now That You Got ‘Em and the fun and vigour of You Don’t Have To Shave Your Legs For Me, featuring a beguiling and deceptively simple melody and some improvised joking around mid-song.

 

Spend It All On You and Thought I Heard My Name continued the slick bluesy theme of loves lost and won, and had dancers and loungers alike gently rocking along.


It’s a tight squeeze back into the Big Top to see a legend of the Chicago Blues in BUDDY GUY, and if we’re talking about Badasses, Guy is one of the originals, still leaving a million imitators for dust with his amazing playing and dynamic presence, still as cool as ever aged 75.

 

Buddy Guy Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

A blistering Hoochie Coochie Man encapsulates all the rawness and anger and swagger of the Blues as an artform, with both Guy and his second guitarist Ric Hall tearing out some searingly hot licks.

 

Put simply, watching Buddy Guy play is like watching Monet paint or Shakespeare write – it’s incomparable, fire & ice in perfect harmony, and you’re in no doubt you are truly in the presence of greatness.

 

Steppin’ Out On Me and a huge version of I Just Wanna Make Love To You close out the show and immediately the crowd is abuzz talking about what was, for many, the set of the day.


One imagines that CROSBY, STILLS & NASH and Buddy Guy would have enjoyed a good catch-up backstage, both coming from a long ago and very different time, even though stylistically they couldn’t have been much more different.

 

CSN Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

C, S & N embody the “peaceful, easy listening” sound of sunny early Seventies California, and even with a lack of energy and frisson from the stage, their sublime vocal harmonies and gorgeous melodies prove not in the least bit dated despite the vintage of the likes of Marrakesh Express, Nash’s love poem for Joni Mitchell, Our House, and emotional set closer Teach Your Children, featuring additional backing vocals from Steve Earle.

 

CSN Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

It’s all a little TOO peaceful after the intensity of Buddy Guy’s set, but it was a pleasure to hear how well these three Woodstock veterans voices have aged, especially when Stephen Stills’ Buffalo Springfield classic For What It’s Worth washes over the crowd like the sparkling sunshine.

 

CSN Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net


Back in the Big Top TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE have a more polished and funky, less guitar heavy sound than most of the bands on the bill, and it’s a mix that appeals to the crowded tent, especially when he cracks out his instrument of choice and starts blowing up a storm.

 

Trombone Shorty Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

There’s no And The Saints Come Marching Home to be heard – Trombone Shorty brings blues, funk, soul and jazz together in a New Orleans, horn and conga laden hot pot.


It’s two-tone-tastic from the moment THE SPECIALS bounce onto the main stage, bringing ska and fun and a still-timely message of tolerance that is as relevant now as back in the days when they enjoyed seven consecutive UK number one singles.

 

The Specials Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

Do The Dog, Dawning Of A New Era and What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend had plenty of punters running on the spot and who know this most English of bands had such a loyal following Down Under?

 

This reviewer certainly wasn’t much of a fan of The Specials in their heyday, being firmly immersed in the British Heavy Metal culture of the time back in the day when the tribes were not allowed to cross over, but I’ve since got into them and enjoyed their energetic crowd-pleasing show, despite lead singer Terry Hall’s sour face throughout.

 

There’s very little by way of banter, apart from repeated exhortations to “get up and join in”, the band preferring to let the music do the talking before the rain sets in. They make a great fist of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic Monkey Man, and the crowd sang along vociferously to Rat Race, A Message To You Rudi, Concrete Jungle and the unemployment lament Ghost Town.

 

On that note this reviewer jumps in the car and makes a bee-line across town for ADAM ANT's headlining show at The Astor Theatre, just avoiding the long-threatened rain and - sadly - The Pogues and John Fogerty... but that's another story, and for now Mark takes the reins...

 

 

By Shane Pinnegar

 

 

THE POGUES are probably everything you expect them to be, there’s a riotous crowd in the Big Top well before stage time and a legion of mic stands and guitars, mandolins and banjos line the stage in anticipation.

 

The band when the time comes run onstage and greet the crowd all energy and anticipation, and then comes MacGowan who shambles onstage rather daintily for a man who looks as battered and worn as he does. Still there’s a defiant cigarette in hand and after croaking something largely unintelligible into the microphone the band hits the ground running.

 

Pogues Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

In truth MacGowan looks ill tonight, his frame is quite slight and he now sports a proud pot-belly but to most close up he just looks drunk, very drunk, and drunker in fact than most of us might ever have been. But if it’s an act, it’s a very good act; and the fact that there are no bright lights on him, and that the rest of the band are picked out beautifully seems to underline his condition. In truth though, if you can forgive him the fact that you can barely understand his rambling between songs it’s all completely irrelevant as tonight his voice roars like a lion and the band motor through an exceptional set that includes all the great moments even a casual observer like me knows.

 

 

From ‘Streams of Whiskey’ on there’s little let up except for the band to say a few words and whenever there is a pause from MacGowan someone else steps in. In a set with many highlights it has to be ‘Dirty Old Town’ that receives the biggest ovation. There is of course one notable exceptio, but then again it isn’t Christmas…

 

 

There may be a host of pretenders on the scene these days, and all of them are pretty great – from Flogging Molly to The Dropkick Murphys, no one can match the Pogues on their day from tonight’s evidence.

 

Now who’s for a pint?

 

SETLIST:

1. Streams Of Whiskey
2.  If I Should Fall From Grace With God
3. The Broad Majestic Shannon
4. Boys From The County Hell
5. Tuesday Morning
6. The Sunnyside Of The Street
7. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
8. Repeal of the Licensing Laws
9. Body of an American
10. Thousands Are Sailing
11. Dirty Old Town
12. The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn
13. Sally MacLennane
14. Rainy Night In Soho
15. Fiesta

 

 

 

Never having had the pleasure of seeing JOHN FOGERTY before tonight, his set turns out to be the highlight of the evening for me even after some great and memorable sets earlier in the day from Steve Earle, Crosby Stills and Nash, the mesmerising Buddy Guy and the very enjoyable Trombone Shorty and his Orleans review.

 

 

I had been warned by a few people in the run up that there were two versions of John Fogerty: one of whom was all that you imagined he would be, and the other was pretty forgettable. Tonight Fremantle got the former; the legend whose songs are still memorable forty years later and the crowd lapped it up.

 

John Fogerty Blues and Roots 2012 TheRockpit.net

 

Starting off with the entire ‘Cosmo’s Factory’ album makes you realise that Creedence had so much more to them than the Greatest Hits we all know in fact the opening song ‘Ramble Tamble’ weighing in at over seven minutes long will be a revelation to some. 42 years old this year ‘Cosmos’ is an album that not only gave us some bona fide Creedence classics in:  ‘Travellin’ Band’; ‘Up Around the Bend’ and ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ it also saw Fogerty and co cover music they loved – not only is there ‘Grapevine’ but also ‘Before You Accuse Me’ by Elias McDaniel (who might be better known to some as Bo Diddly.

 

 

 

After Cosmos’ we get a set that includes as you might imagine a good proportion of Creedence classics along with some later Fogerty material the best of which comes in the form of songs like: ‘Centrefield’; Gunslinger’ and  ‘Hot Rod Heart’ as well as some choice covers.

 

 

 

Fogerty has brought his A-Game tonight and despite the fact that there are many more Creedence songs that he didn’t play that the crowd would have lapped up it’s hard to believe anyone went away disappointed. And after last years rather underwhelming Bob Dylan, Fogerty proves he at least still has plenty in the tank.


 

SET ONE: COSMO'S FACTORY

1. Ramble Tamble
2. Before You Accuse Me (Bo Diddley cover)
3. Travelin' Band
4. Ooby Dooby (Roy Orbison cover)
5. Lookin' Out My Back Door
6. Run Through the Jungle
7. Up Around the Bend
8. My Baby Left Me (Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup cover)
9. Who'll Stop the Rain
10. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye cover)
11. Long as I Can See the Light

 

SET TWO: GREATEST HITS

12. Centerfield
13. Hey Tonight
14. Born on the Bayou
15. Gunslinger
16. Blue Moon Nights
17. Hot Rod Heart
18. Keep on Chooglin'
19. Have You Ever Seen The Rain
20. Oh, Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison cover)
21. Down on the Corner
22. Bad Case of Loving You (Robert Palmer cover)
23. The Old Man Down the Road
24. Fortunate Son
 


ENCORE:

25. Rockin' All Over the World
26. Proud Mary

 

 

By Mark Diggins