March 17-19, 2017 :
Oh my goodness, how much rain can one place get over a weekend? The 2017 Blue Mountains Music Festival delived three days of wonderful music for the ears, and a heavy sodden ground for the feet. All hail the gumboot !!!
Arriving late Friday evening, the plan was to catch Irish Mythen, Juzzie Smith, Bazzookas and Chris Wilson as a late night taster to the weekend to come. It wasn’t to be. The prospect of a long walk to the festival in the Mountain rain was just too much, so we decided to bunker down in our digs, keep warm and prepare for tomorrow.
We woke Saturday morning to more of the same weather that was not going to blow away. Following a lovely breakfast curry thanks to my Sri Lankian friend, the boots went on along with the raincoats, and we began our 10 minute walk in the rain to the festival site.
In spite of the inclement weather, a sold out festival ensured there were plenty of muddy feet on the ground. We duck into the Lurline Pavilion to catch the ’60s pop of Dog Trumpet, aka, Reg and Pete from Mental As Anything. With the wonderful Bernie Hayes on bass and backing vocals, and a guest appearance by the girls of Folk Uke (Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie), it was a lovely way to ease into the festival. Even though the water was running through the Lurline Pavilion, we were undercover, the music had begun and there were smiles on all the rugged-up face.
We were then off to the Palais Royale Ballroom, a venue that was rushed into the Festival following the recent fire at the Katoomba RSL. Very classy place the Palais is, but getting in to see Irish Mythen was not going to happen. That room was full, one out, one in.
With umbrellas raised, it was a short walk back to catch Caiti Baker and her supporting guitarist. To be honest, my lasting impression is that the sound was a bit thin. There were a number of times were I was hearing a percussionist that should have been in the mix, or just something extra to fill the sound out.
Being mid afternoon, and with the rain pretty well set in, it was decided to head back home, dry off and fill up on more curry and cheaper beer. Having been to the Blue Mountains Festival a dozen times staying mostly with the same friends, it has become a ritual to do a late afternoon recharge before heading back into the night. This year though, with so much water around, it was very tempting to rug up and stay indoors.
With curry in the belly, it was back to the festival, and to the first venue room to get undercover. Fortunately it was Hat Fitz and Cara at the Guinness Stage, an artist that I have heard about for probably a decade but have never caught live. Raw and untamed blues, the pair belted it out adding a good dose of heat to start the evening.
It was then back up to the Palais Ballroom, nice and early this time, to ensure we get our fill of Chris Wilson. Now I have seen Chris live about a dozen times, and most of those have been right here at the Blue Mountains Music Festival. Again it was raw blues, with a set list that chopped and changed at whim. Chris is the real deal, he lives it, and it was a pleasure to spend an hour with him again.
Back out into the rain, past a shopfront that had been turned into a mini rave (I’m not kidding, there were 10 people in a tiny shopfront, DJ and lights having an absolute ball), and down to catch Urthboy close the Lurline Stage. A sizeable younger crowd had braved the chill to see the local Wentworth Falls boy play his local festival. With Kira Puru adding some gorgeous vocals, it would have been the perfect way to finish off the Saturday night it it wasn’t for Bazzookas.
Hailing from Amsterdam and on their first Australian visit, Bazzookas were uptempo ska, all brass and dreads. We had trombones in the audience and kids up on stage, it was a free-for-all. Saturday night closers at the festival are always special and this year was no different, Bazzookas were the party that everyone needed following our wet and cold day of music.
Sunday morning and it more rain, and the closure of two of the stages, the Big Top and the Tantric Turtle. This caused the shuffling of set times with The Waifs, Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen, and Bustamento being moved to the Lurline Stage, and artists having their allotted spots cancelled. With a sold out Sunday already in the works, there were plenty of punters more than happy to enter the muddy festival grounds once more.
After attending so many Blue Mountains Music Festival’s, I have accepted that the cold and mist of the Mountains is very much part of the attraction. Just bring good boots and a weather proof jacket, and you will be sorted.
Reviewer and Photographer : Kevin Bull