It was all big bikes, big arms, tatts, beards, beer and, I expect bourbon at the 2nd annual Towradgi Beach Hotel Rockin' Blues Festival, last night and today. Rockin' Blues being apt branding, for what I heard fitted the descriptor to a tee.

Other commitments, regrettably, prevented me from staying for the duration, but I did catch three bands worthy of note.

ngariki The last was Ngariki (Maori, I gather, in case you're wondering), from Newcastle. Apparently, this blitzkrieg guitarist is a multi-instrumentalist, in the way of, say, Stevie Wonder, or Paul McCartney. There's not much else that's McWonder, but plenty that's wonderful, like his rich, baritone blues vocals, aforementioned guitar godheadedness and songwriting. There are riffs and rhythms quite redolent of Purple and Zep, which is no bad thing, in my book. These are some heavy blues blokes and the big sound comes from just three of 'em (if I've got it right, Rob Bell, bass and Marty Paget, drums); even if billed as five, to which their prodigious presence is more akin. If I dropped some of the names of luminaries he's worked with, you'd be hard-pressed not to be impressed. But Ngariki needs no references (but I will mention his involvement with Ash Grunwald, for there are moments of aural resemblance). Of course, if you're Novocastrian, you probably know the local ABC has its very own music awards, in which Ngariki has prevailed as both artist of the year and as having the best blues 'n' roots song. Originally, Aunty pledged backing an EP, but she later revised her plans to fund a full-on album, on the strength of repertoire, no doubt, like Another Golden Day, underpinned by a funky groove hovering between Hooker & Hendrix and landing somewhere in the Cray area. 'The secret's out, end of doubt, end of woe': that'll be the day, but the Ngariki secret's out, so if he doesn't make it down your way soon, I recommend a lazy weekend a couple of hours north of Sydney, if you suss one of his gigs.

Glen TerryGlen Terry, the first band I caught, hails from south, not north: down Canberra way. He has an album out, entitled Soul Searchin', the title of which is a good guide to what he does with his smoky voice, while playin' some smokin' guitar. This man has charisma and has a band which really generates heat. He crosses into jazz territory and plenty of others, too: how many bluesmen to you know who've played Cairo, for example? Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, Thailand, Dubai and Sri Lanka; Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have been among his other stopovers. Terry himself is no relation, in case you're wondering, to Sonny; in fact Glen was born in India. Somewhere along the way, perhaps, he adopted an anglo identity, much as one encounters subcontinental telemarketers doing.

His band members deserve special praise and attention, for they bolster Terry's own unmistakable talent no end. They include saxist, Andy Thompson; keyboardist (electric piano and Hammond), Parris MacLeod, who had much to do with Terry's album, as producer); Gail Page, on vocals, whose seasoned vocals are a complementary counterpart to Terry's; the mind-blowin' Christian Marsh, on 'blues harp'.

Dave TiceDave Tice, fronting Finn, was slap-bang in the middle. Tice is famous enough, but not famous enough; if you see what I mean. He deserves more. After all, we're talking about a man that's been on bills with The Clash and Motorhead, who's been signed to Vertigo, alongside stablemates like Sabbath, who's toured Australia with Slade, Quo & Rainbow and collected  a swag of gold records and Aria nominations. For those of us (tragically) old enough to remember, he fronted hard rockers, Buffalo (they played a dance, at my highschool, when I was about 15, if that) and UK rhythm 'n' blues band, The Count Bishops. He's the stuff of living legend and shows precious few scars and wrinkles for a bloke who's probably been there, seen and done that. For a while (and maybe still) he teamed with Mark Evans, ex-AC/DC, for regular gigs at Sydney's Bridge Hotel. In between, if I've got my chronology correct, he had Headhunters, The Dave Tice Band and Bar Kings. And, truth be told, he goes back even further than me, having played in Brisvegas bands, in the mid-60s, when I was barely past captivation by Puff, The Magic Dragon.

For this gig, Tice showcased his robust, man-of-steel voice, on irresistible, defy-you-not-to-dance, platinum-plated classics, like Mona. Behind him were the similarly snowy-haired Jim Finn, on drums and vocals; cool-as-a-cuke bassist Michael Lynch (he also cuts a swathe, when called upon, on mandolin and harp), also helping out with the odd vocal and sensational axeman, Paul Surany, who also doubles as a vocalist. Self-assured, expert and entertaining, to boot. Of course, I couldn't help musing, as my companion and I watched obese, but 'live large' seniors ripping it up, pausing to make the odd obscene gesture, what must go through the mind and other parts of a never-too-old-to-rock-'n'-roll bugger, who once almost certainly had spunkettes and nubiles falling at his feet. A snigger? A tear?

So, what did I miss? Plenty. Rude rockabluesmen, The Detonators. Roots riflemen, with a country twist, Marshall & The Fro; lovable for their ode to flipflops, Thongs, alone. And me ol' fave, the Kevin Borich Express, to name but a few. My suggestion? Book a room at Towradgi for the 3rd annual.


Blues On Stage & Towradgi Beach Hotel Presents
Rock N Blues Festival

Venue: Towradgi Beach Hotel
Dates: September 6 & 7, 2008
Bookings: www.moshtix.com.au

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