Bluesfest by day: Kygo, Lennon Stella, Sue Foley and The Trews
Lennon stella singing with Shades (credit: Sean Sisk)
It was a new week going into Bluesfest's one and only Tuesday, and it was a slow ramp-up to the excitement of the night. Thanks to this crescendo of pop and bluesy rock, anyone who had settled down after the weekend was ready to get back into the music.
The night started off on a smooth and relaxed note as Lennon Stella's laidback performance drew in a young and excited crowd. Tracks like "Breakaway" and "Polaroid" saw Stella delivering glossy vocals over and over, while keeping her stage show very centered and low-key. Nevertheless the yells from the young crowd showed this a was enough for her fans who were hanging on her every move. They equally became a chorus of singers to her rendition of "Bad" while she donned her own guitar later in the set for a similarly lo-fi mix of covers.
However over the course of a whole set, it did feel like a bit of a shame for Stella to remain so reserved and essentially just sway most of her set regardless of the energy behind songs. Even when "Myself" presented some of the dirtiest bass of her set and more invovled choruses, she would simply lean in and interact with the crowd. This is why it was so great to see her moving to "Bitch (Takes One To Know One)" as she met the energy of the crowd in full force right at the end of her set, which incidentally added to the overt attitude of the track.
While the focus was still more on music than a stage show at Sue Foley, you also got a much more diverse range of sounds. Whether it was Latin swing or a more classic guitar drive, Foley delivered one of the festivals rare blues-heavy sets. A cover of Maybelle Carter's "Cannonball Blues" even added a little extra country to the set. Though she easily shined on her own, her band really helped add a heft and steady beat to the show. Members of the Texas Horns also took the stage with her in pieces, before appearing as a whole to enhance "The Lucky Ones and really make the track ooze soul. As nice as it was to get a rare bass solo out of the set, it was partially muddled by the overblown low-end mix at the stage, likely a product of trying to combat sound-bleed from the City Stage. Regardless, Foley's exuberant energy, and constant joy to get people singing with her made her set infectious.
The Trews led with this kind of call-and-response dynamic, and never let it go from their blistering set. Despite the large pop focus of the night, their tent was packed down at the Bluesville stage with fans ready to sing. Their concert got off to a stomping start on "Vintage Love," which gave fans a brilliant chorus to shout along to and stir listeners into a frenzy. This turned to cheers and claps on "Not Ready to Go" with plenty energy going right into "So She's Leaving." However it was the constant back-and-forth cries on "Hope & Ruin" that really showed how involved the band could make the crowd, and was ultimately the most direct artist to audience performance of the night. And as they set into "Sing Your Heart Out" with a roar of "THIS IS OUR BLUESFEST SINGALONG" it was clear the Trews were just as excited to play as their crowd was to watch.
Theatrics were clearly at the forefront of Kygo's set too, as began his show by rising above his massive crowd about 20 feet in the air just to play a piano. Going into the first bass drop on "Stole the Show" there were metaphorical and literal fireworks as the crowd bumped into the air from the pure energy of his sound. Between remixes of "The Middle" (Zedd) and "Jackie Chan" (Tiesto) people were really moving around, and the pyrotechnics continuously added to the already heightened feeling in the crowd. There was even more dancing as "Higher Love" brought out the vintage pop fandom, with Whitney Houston's powerhouse vocals carrying the audience into euphoric bouncing within the field.
It was great though to get a rare live performance from a singer at a DJ/Producer show like this however, with Justin Jesso coming out repeatedly in the set. During "Stargazing" the singer was hyper, moving between the special effects and actual fire to take a moment to high-five the front row of the show. While the bass mix was notably lacking at times from the main crush of the audience, the stellar visuals and lasers of the performance helped offset this, especially going into "It Ain't Me." However the hysteria of the crowd also turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword of highs and lows, where a drop was just as likely to send a crowd jumping as it was to be the tipping point for fights or mosh-pits. Given that this behaviour is a little more at home in a punk show, it could feel dangerous at times more by the discordant energy of the aggression and general lack of preparation for it by the normally friendly EDM crowd. Audience trouble aside, the closing number was a spectacle all its own, with live string players upping the epic tone and letting the final confetti and sky-high fireworks really show how explosive a headlining set at Bluesfest can be.