The event was run over three nights and Sunday afternoon, with two stages and 19 acts covering blues, soul, zydeco, funk, boogie, rock, folk and all points in between. There was also a nice balance between young and older, female and male performers, and a variety of instruments on display – from guitar to sousaphone.
In a departure from previous years, there was a low-key front-bar opening on Thursday night, featuring the incomparable Fiona Boyes (NSW). She smiled her way through a set of “real deal” blues on a range of funky-looking guitars which she handled with expertise and authenticity, supported by a band of Adelaide’s finest.
The whole weekend consisted of highlight after highlight, but the big event within the event was Friday night’s “Women Sing the Blues”, now well established as a dinner and show, with a superbly designed stage set and packed room.
Zkye delivered an exceptional performance of trademark soaring, explosive vocals backed by the awesome musicianship of her band, Zyke Blues.
Ursula White, who opened the evening, was also backed by the Zkye Blues band, which features her husband Paul on keyboards. She is a pocket dynamo of range and energy, single-handedly setting the audience alight with her dynamic soul and blues.
The surprise packet for me in the line-up of blues women was Jan Preston and her Boogie Circus. An expat Kiwi now living in Sydney, Preston is a boogie, blues and ragtime pianist of great dexterity, with a strong voice and great stage presence. Think Jerry Lee Lewis, Winifred Atwell and Fats Domino and you would be on the right track.
The variety of acts continued into Saturday, with two stages in operation: the main Venue plus the converted dining room set up as a smaller sit-down space. Impeccable timing meant there was continuous live music from start to finish, alternating between the stages. The big-name featured acts ruled in the Venue, while the line-up in the Purple Room could have easily graced the main stage on any other night.
Highlights of the evening were Mojo Webb Band (Queensland) and Ray Beadle (NSW). Webb is a delightfully eccentric maniac who delivers a high-energy performance with a unique guitar style and a distinctive, powerful voice – he’s truly an all-round entertainer and the audience loved him.
Beadle is a more understated character who lets his guitar do the talking – he put on a master-class of speed, technique and energy across a variety of styles, setting the room alight.
Psycho Zydeco did the New Orleans style proud, with their original line-up of sax, guitar, drums and accordion, plus the mandatory washboard thrown in for good measure.
Pugsley Buzzard growled his way through a set of piano blues, with the bass parts handled by the sousaphone (which is basically a whopping huge tuba, for those unfamiliar with the instrument).
On the smaller stage, the stand-outs were Blue Eyes Cry, our own much-loved Dirty Roots Band and the reformed Double Wammy.
Sunday was a more up-close-and-personal set of performances in the smaller space, with Ray Beadle and Mojo Webb (among others) delivering excellent unplugged acoustic sets, before all hell broke loose with the mighty Backsliders closing out the festival with their trademark powerful, loud, grungy blues. Rob Hirst (Midnight Oil) and Dom Turner were joined by legend Broderick Smith (Dingoes) on blues harp.
A more powerful sound system would probably be a good idea in this room for next year’s event; otherwise, there was a lot to like about this trip to the Deep South.
The Deep South Festival is hosted annually by the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel.
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