Blessed be lovers of innovative contemporary hip hop, R&B, funk and jazz music for the gift of consecutive live performances by Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington and Hiatus Kaiyote on the one stage at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.
If you’re one of those music lovers you’ll know that every single one of the many musicians and vocalists who performed on stage with those artists on Thursday and Saturday nights (minus Kendrick Lamar on Saturday) are amongst the most skilful, talented and innovative creators of funkified jazz and soul music in the world right now. Having been influenced by and collaborating on each others’ music projects, all of them were in perfect company together on the main stage. And anyone lucky enough to be there would have found themselves in musical heaven – mesmerised by each and every sublime sound delivered by those artists.
As musical creators Melbourne’s “future-soul” group Hiatus Kaiyote earned their place on a bill with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington and their accompanying artists. As live instrumentalists, vocalists and performers on stage in the flesh at Bluesfest, Hiatus Kayote undoubtedly demonstrated their rightful place amongst them to audiences made up of both punters and those contemporary music peers alike.
As well as delivering a welcome acknowledgment of the passing of the great hip hop creator Phife Dawg during their Thursday set, Nai Palm (vocals/guitars/keys), Simon Mavin (keys/samples), Paul Bender (bass), Perrin Moss (drums) and their three background vocalists delivered two stunning sets of songs drawn mainly from Choose Your Weapon and including a new song on the video below, and as always; showed audiences their unique “multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster” sound is at its most supreme when heard live.
The inclusion of L.A-based saxophonist Kamasi Washington in the 2016 line-up was a welcome surprise after the cancellation of his first visit to Australia last year when Soulfest folded at the last minute.
Each Bluesfest show Kamasi Washington performed with The Next Step / West Coast Get Down sounded unique. But both were definitely a family affair; a collective affair; and a humble and respectful one. Parts of Kamasi Washington’s recent jazz masterpiece The Epic were performed as well as some new music by him. But this was not a one-man Kamasi Washington show. It was a showcase of the sublime funkified jazz music and skills of all the incredible artists on stage with him who grew up playing music together. Everyone had their moments to shine during the sets and when it wasn’t their turn they listened, enjoyed, and appreciated what they heard from one other.
Audiences were treated to the sounds of Kamasi Washington playing with his father Ricky Washington (who “taught him everything he knows”) on flute and with Ryan Porter (“one of his mentors”) on trombone; drum solos and drum-offs between Ronald Bruner Jr and Tony Austin; a jam between Kamasi Washington and Ronald Bruner Jr (“like they’ve being doing together since he got his first drum-kit at 3 years old”); a must-hear song “Abraham” about to be released by double-bass player/vocalist Miles Mosley, and another from keyboardist Brandon Coleman; with vocals by Patrice Quinn (“the most beautiful voice he’s heard”).
Kamasi Washington and the other artists who joined him on Australian stages undoubtedly gained a huge number of new admirers. Hopefully that brings any or all of them back again to play soon.
Check out snippets of video footage from Kamasi Washington’s two Bluesfest 2016 shows below and hear sample tracks from The Epic (2015) here.
Accompanying D’Angelo at his Bluesfest shows were Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Rocco Palladino on bass, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples and Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals.
Despite a curious set list taking audiences back to the glorious D’Angelo eras of Brown Sugar and Voodoo, with only glimpses of the more recent ground-breaking album Black Messiah, D’Angelo and the 7 sublimely-skilled musicians and vocalists with him on stage delivered delightfully funky, soulful, rocked-out performances that were technically flawless.
D’Angelo himself dazzled and seduced the crowd with his skills and artistry on guitar and piano, his contagiously-huge smile and his other-wordly vocal range. He left no doubt that he’s a musician, artist and performer of extraordinary genius in contemporary times, akin to the most legendary of funk, R&B and rock greats of our musical history.
Check out a video of the grammy-award winning Black Messiah song “Really Love”, performed live at Bluesfest on Saturday.
Click here for more videos & photos from all 4 of D’Angelo’s Australian shows this time around.
Thankfully Bluesfest ignored any naysayers who questioned Kendrick Lamar headlining a festival that might have started as “blues and roots” 27 years ago – but long ago moved forward to expand it’s line-up for the musical good of the broader population.
Before Kendrick Lamar’s set I wondered how the complex musical wonder of To Pimp A Butterfly would translate in the live arena. But the Compton rapper brought a killer band on tour with him. That live instrumentation combined with the sharp and clear lyrical flow delivered by Kendrick Lamar with 100% passion and conviction, simply commanded attention and awe through every moment of the 75 minute set that flew by in a flash. From start to finish Kendrick Lamar made it abundantly clear that the experience of hearing his music performed live is profoundly more brilliant than the studio-version.
Check out these video snippets from Kendrick Lamar’s Bluesfest show plus a sample track below from the newly-released album untitled unmastered (2016).
Kendrick Lamar – untitled 02 | 06.23.2014 – untitled unmastered (2016)
Byron Bay Bluesfest – this year was a dream.
In my book Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, The Vanguard, Kamasi Washington, The Next Step, West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote are the artists in the world right now creating the freshest sounding, most innovative blends of funk, soul, R&B, hip hop and jazz. All except Hiatus Kaiyote (Melbourne-based), Bluesfest brought those artists a long way to deliver spectacular live performances on Australian shores. In doing so they filled a big gap left by the cancellation of Soulfest – “Australia’s first annual neo-soul, jazz & hip hop festival” which didn’t make it to its second year.
Thanks go to Bluesfest for embracing those contemporary artists and delivering the most blessed of line-ups in 2016!
Note: Despite feeling 100% satisfied by my Bluesfest 2016 experience, it was a limited one for sure. I went for 2 of 5 festival days, stayed at 1 of 6 festival stages and heard only 4 of 82 acts on the bill. A whole other world of music was happening over the five festival days – from Tom Jones to Allen Stone through to The Wailers – and a range of performing indigenous artists at the festival within the festival- Boomerang. I just can’t tell you about them here.
But you can check in to Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more festival photos coming of D’Angelo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington.