Blue skies again as Bluesfest wends its way into Day Two, punters thronging through the gates early, setting up camp and getting bearings, potato on a stick, Hungarian snap-fried bread, organic donuts, the latter of which has a line thirty deep all night long. The bars do a brisk trade and a full house, people still lurching through gates North and South, settle in for the long haul.
Nikki Hill is a revelation, her band masters of rocket-fuelled bluesy swing, her voice the beacon which calls you home – a festival regular now, and with good reason, a vocal powerhouse who don't mess around; Boomerang has kicked off (a festival within a festival), but with a lineup tweak, so in place of up-and-comer Yirrmal are party starters OKA who crack through a bouncing set which is positioned, perhaps, a little too early in the day for some; Rhiannon Giddens with her trad ensemble fill the vast Crossroads tent — two banjos, upright bass, electric guitar, huge old noise building with intent, her voice too, the guiding light, old music for now.
Later on, Crossroads overflows with what are termed 'Parrotheads', those most dedicated (and, perhaps, slightly loony) of Jimmy Buffett fans. The man himself takes to the stage and seems to have more fun than everyone else combined, his band whirling around him... his country material is deep and real, while his calypso-inspired work, not so much. A steel-drum-led version of Crowded House's "Weather With You", proves a crowd favourite however; Bonnie Raitt, a seasoned vet, a true roots music great, holds the crowd in the palm of her hand, sings and plays electric slide while her band fill the gaps — Raitt is a true legend, and tonight shows exactly why (they play INXS and John Hiatt songs back to back and it works wonderfully well); and to Mary J. Blige, another hip-hop/R&B legend up on the Mojo stage.
Blige is the consummate performer, she's slick and knows how to work and to interact and to make it happen, but tonight her rather slow R&B seems dated, she herself a little less energetic. Perhaps the power and passion exhibited by fellow '90s rapper Nas, the previous night, paints Blige's set in a paler light, the latter just not able to come out of that tall shadow. Blige is good, but this one didn't kick.
All photos by Carl Neumann.