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Blues, Roots and Folk goes off at The Gov

Music

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Dennis Kipridis, Melissa Templar and the team from The Gov, are to be highly commended for organising such a successful blues/roots festival, where others have failed in recent times – and all in one hotel – albeit Adelaide’s leading venue for live music.

Three stages presented 27 amazingly diverse acts and excellent crowds filled every area of the hotel most of the weekend. Everything ran smoothly and on time, all the artists and patrons were in good spirits – it was a big success all round.

DAY ONE: Friday night with the ladies, Carla Lippis, Zkye and Gail Page. Each of these fabulous singers chose two great divas of the blues and performed songs by them.

Kelly Menhennett cropped

Kelly Menhennett.

Carla Lippis in her last Adelaide show for a while, drew on the Billie Holiday and Mahalia Jackson catalogues. Accompanied on grand piano by Aaron Nash, she sensually and powerfully strolled through her set, seemingly effortlessly, the highlights being Jackson’s ‘How Did I Make It Over’ and a stunning rendition of classic ‘I Believe’.

Zkye, joined by her full Zkye Blues band, did Etta James and Koko Taylor proud, as she always does, with emotional power and range. Koko Taylor’s ‘Don’t Mess With Mother Nature’ and ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ won over the appreciated audience. This is as good a band as you would see anywhere, with every player a master, but special mention has to go to Damien Steele Scott for his insanely cool bass solo.

Gail Page’s set was beset with drama, losing a sax player to illness half way through the first song, drummer Enrico Morena blew out a snare drum and guitarist “Fish” Tsounis had amplifier problems, but nothing was going to stop Page from taking over the ‘Starry Night Club’ and making it her own. Anne Peebles and Mavis Staples were given the full treatment with Page belting out classic after classic; the power blues/soul of ‘Somebody’s on Your Case’ and ‘Your Love is Like a See Saw’ almost beyond belief, such is the power of the biggest voice going around.

DAY TWO: So many acts, so little time! There was almost too much going on as people, including myself, scurried from room to room to catch as many great acts as possible.

mojo juju cropped

Mojo Juju

The highlights of Day Two included the smouldering sensual vocals and edgy tremolo enriched Fender Telecaster guitar of Mojo Juju, assisted only by her drummer. The dimmed lighting and Mojo’s unique stage presence had the audience largely spellbound by her performance, as we all listened entranced and watched a few dancers swaying in time with the infectious grooves of this splendid artist.

The Streamliners were their usual classy, imaginative selves and possibly the highlight of the night for most of the audience was The Hiptones, their infectious funky rhythms and great fun songs, led by the super-cool Snooks La Vie filled the dance floor and had most asking why these guys aren’t still playing together. Perhaps a great gig like this might be the welcome catalyst for more appearances for these guys.

Veteran Kevin Borich did what Kevin Borich has been doing for a long time now. His rock/blues sound well grooved after a lifetime in music. Borich’s slide playing in particular, on the Gibson Firebird is exquisite. Originally a disciple of the great Jimi Hendrix, he has created his own unique style and special place in the hearts of loud rocking blues lovers across Australia. KB was ably assisted by Dennis Kipridis (bass) and the impeccable Jamie Jones (drums) on the night.

Earlier in the afternoon Claude Hay from Melbourne dazzled the audience with his high energy guitar and vocal skills, brilliantly utilising a guitar synthesiser to create a variety of instrument sounds as he powered through a high energy set. Others of great note were the Kelly Menhennet Band with a polished set of her original tunes, the Bakers Digest with their rollicking rootsy style, authentic old style bluesman Lloyd Spiegel and the Steve Brown Band, always holding a special place in the hearts of Adelaide music goers. Special mention must go to the soulful Lazy Eye, their particular take on the blues driven by Evan Whetter’s Hammond organ and vocal, rising guitarist Erica Graf and drummer supreme, Mario Marino, a tasteful powerhouse.

DAY THREE: The chilled out “up close and personal” performances on the Sunday were a welcome wind down after a couple of days of big crowds and frantic activity. The hardy were treated to outstanding performances from regular overseas tourist Sam Brittain, Carla Lipps, this time with guitarist Steve Pederson and leading folk festival regular and consummate storyteller Glenn Skulthorpe. Steve Brown again took the stage with guitar buddy David Rhodes in an entertaining set. The only disappointment of the whole festival was the mysterious non-appearance of Ray Beadle, to the disappointment of many.

Highlight of the weekend for me, was saved till the very last spot on the festival program. Just as the energy levels were starting to flag and the eyelids growing heavy, the amazing Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson from Queensland burst onto the stage and took the place by storm with their rollicking, high-energy style, which just about typified everything you would expect to see at a blues, roots and folk festival.

Fitz with his metal bodied resonator and an ancient electric guitar was as skillful and authentic as anyone going around and drummer Cara Robinson was so full of energy, you wondered how she kept it up. Both sang, Fitz in a more relaxed style, but for Robinson it was, well, let’s just put it all out there. She even did a turn on the tin whistle, key instrument from her Irish roots and did a dance routine down amongst the audience while Fitz took over the drum sticks. Very funny storytelling from both linked the songs together and the show ended with a good old audience participation finale, complete with call and answer.

the hiptones cropped

The Hiptones.

The Adelaide Blues and Roots Association Awards for 2014 were also announced on the final day with the following worthy winners taking the honours in their various categories, recognising outstanding performance throughout the year.

Outstanding Group: Lazy Eye
Outstanding Female Performer: Zkye Compson-Harris
Outstanding Male Performer: Mick Kidd
Outstanding Solo/Duo: Mick Kidd and Dave Blight
Outstanding Instrumentalist: Chris Finnen
Outstanding Rising Talent: Benny C and the Associates

The Deep South Blues, Roots and Folk Festival was held at the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel from November 28 to 30.

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