IT'S BEEN a festival of legends – legends from Chicago, New York, the Mississippi delta, Europe and Australia.
There is a Viking saying that a man is not dead until his name is no longer spoken. If that's true, some of this year's Bluesfest stars will never die.
There have been blues legends from decades back, and younger legends-in-the-making who've strutted their stuff and won the love and approval of new audiences.
Conditions changed dramatically at the Bluesfest site yesterday on the extra day added to the planned five-day festival.
Rain had fallen overnight and showers increased to squalls by lunchtime. For five days, the sun had shone on Bluesfest, with only the lightest of showers. But by yesterday the crowd was reminded by rivulets of water on the ground that the site is, after all, situ- ated on a swamp. With most of the visit- ors having to get back to their lives, and the pouring rain, crowds were well down on previous days.
All the same, spirits were high, and officials reported a trouble-free festival with driving in, parking and driving out posing no problems.
Among the musical highlights was Chicago blueswoman Mavis Staples, who brought Elvis Costello on stage to join her in a great rendition of The Band's The Weight: “That was one I'll never forget! Yes indeedy!” she roared afterwards. Others to impress included Kate Miller-Heidke; Gurrumul's velvet voice over a hushed crowd; Tony Joe White's laid back delta blues, simple and delicate, a counterpoint to the over-produced sounds of some of the big bands; and best of all, the wild and wonderful Cat Empire, blowing everyone away with their fabulous musicality.
Lowlights were the lack of a vocal mike when Aaron Neville joined the Blind Boys of Alabama in their first performance – his vibrato, almost falsetto, voice inaudible for the first three songs when he was meant to soar above the Blind Boys; and the same thing happened in the same venue the next day when Trombone Shorty had no sound for his trombone – hello? – and had to wave it in the air to get the attention of the soundman to get him into the mix.
The festival has also been notable for its plentiful and diverse food.
But it has been a fantastic festival of non-stop musical delights, the site has held up well, the campers are happy, the memories will last for ever, and all praise should go to Peter Noble and his crew of workers and volunteers who have oiled the wheels of this huge machine and made it purr smoothly for thousands of happy festival-goers for nearly a week.
Pre-early bird tickets are available for next year already. Go to the Bluesfest website.