Monday, 31 October 2016

2016 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues

Rock solid ensemble
Festival organisers can be forgiven for opening the festival with a Blues Brothers tribute band as this bunch of musos are locals. After an hour we left the Hume Bank Blues Stage in search of something a little more sophisticated to please our ears. Steve and I are not jazz aficionados, we like our music light and easy. The Ronan Guilfoyle Trio were too fundamental for our ears so we sneaked out between numbers and took up residence in the Pinsent Hotel where Monique diMattina was on stage playing some accomplished piano and entertaining the crowd with her witty lyrics. We stood at the back until our legs were ready to sit down again and then we headed to the beautiful theatre at the performing arts centre (WPAC) to catch Melissa Aldana.  By now it was 10pm and I closed my eyes  and rested while Melissa played four tunes. When the one hour set was over Steve proclaimed  “tomorrow we need to find some acts with vocalists.”
Lovely room at Tony & Sue's B&B

We retired to our B&B and were sound asleep by midnight. Unfortunately we’d had to leave our tent strapped to the bike for the festival as our pre-booked camp site at Painters Island Caravan Park was cancelled due to flooding of the Ovens River.

Hetty Kate
We started our Saturday at the festival with the enchanting Clancye Milne in the WPAC hall followed by the wonderful Hetty Kate in the St Pats Hall. As we walked away from the venue we both agreed “this is more like it.” Early in the evening, Kimba Griffith’s powerful performance of The Songs That Saved Your Life made an impact on us, original, organic, and outside the box. We were back in the blues venue for the energetic JJ Thames and we were assured that the future of blues is in good hands.

Kimba Griffith
No doubt this year’s floods have presented some unexpected challenges for festival organisers. It seemed like there were two festivals going on; Blues at the outdoor Blues Stage, jazz in the concert venues and never the two shall meet. It would have been nice to see some acoustic blues in the concert venues and some easy listening jazz at the outdoor venue to create a more together atmosphere.

Fiona Boyes
Hetty Kate lured us back to The Pinsent Hotel on Sunday for a bottle of local wine and a light lunch as she was playing a three hour session. We were pleased we had caught Hetty in a concert venue the day before as the sound system in the hotel didn’t do her sweet voice any justice at all. It was great to catch Fiona Boyes late on Sunday afternoon at the Blues stage. Wow that babe has surely grown into an international artist that Australians can be proud of. We saved the best until last and ended our festival with a set from James Morrison in the WPAC theatre; and no one makes it look easier than James.

The man himself, James Morrison
2016 was our first visit to the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, and thanks to the festival organisers and the army of volunteers for making it happen.  Fifteen minute tunes, with each band member taking their turn at a solo, seemed the norm amongst the jazz bands and it would be nice to see some festival artists presenting in a more popular format.

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