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Byron Bay Blues Festival by Hal Miller

Byron Bay Blues Festival
Byron Bay, Australia
Our Australian geography lesson culminated with the band's concert at the Byron Bay Blues Festival. The actual location was Tyagarah, New South Wales and the venue was approximately fifty miles via the Lord Nelson Highway from our hotel location in Gold Coast, all located on the central eastern coastline of Australia adjacent to the South Pacific Ocean. (A long way from home)
Upon our arrival we were greeted by the sight of this enormous tent city and the sounds of music coming from all directions. The artists reception area, itself another enormous tent, had us located next door to the cubicle set aside for legendary vocalist Mavis Staples. Carlos could not have been happier as he almost immediately sought out this old friend and by now historic former lead vocalist of the The Staple Singers.
When this reunion concluded Carlos said,"Okay, let's go see Buddy (Guy)". Chronologically 80, Buddy Guy was 25 at the Byron Bay Blues Festival as he had the packed tent singing along with him as he played and sang "I Just Want To Make Love To You". Watching from the side just a few feet away , Carlos could only smile and shake his head in rapt admiration as he enjoyed this friend, mentor, and soaring inspiration. As Carlos said later at the evening's conclusion, "Seeing Buddy was such an inspiration. We had to play our asses off tonight!"
It's difficult to adequately convey in words the sheer enormity and organized chaos that was part and parcel of this finely produced festival with musicians coming and going, security and workers wandering all about, and trucks hauling in and hauling out equipment. Suffice it to say that it was truly a sight to behold and appreciate. Now consider that as the band preceding Santana was concluding its set, the Santana crew readied itself to allow the other band's crew to get their equipment off stage even as they began to move theirs on stage. The band had been allocated about a half hour to prepare the stage, to set up and test instruments, do line checks, get stage monitors, house sound and video in order before Production Manager Hoss Keifer gave the thumbs up signal and the Woodstock chant + video rolled and percussionist Karl Perazzo started in on congas. Santana at Byron Bay 2017 had begun and believe me, that overflow crowd knew it and roared its greetings when Carlos stepped out front and center.
"Toussaint L'Overture" was delivered with such impassioned furey that guitarist Eric Gales, standing in the wings exclaimed,Damn!", and Cindy Blackman's solo almost literally brought the house (tent) down. There almost no breaks between songs as Santana went through some seventeen songs in the two hours allotted with "Smooth" followed by band introductions and "Love, Peace, and Happiness" bringing yet another triumphant Santana evening to a close. The band exited the stage, jumped into waiting vehicles, and headed back to the hotel and a morning flight the next day to Auckland, New Zealand. Everyone felt exhilarated. It had been a great show.
In one sense the story ends here but not for the Santana crew who immediately following the band's exit had to clear the stage for the next band. Trucks had to be methodically loaded and then the crew quietly stole off into the night to transport everything to the airport and on the way to New Zealand. Only then was their work finished and as usual-as always- it was a job superbly done.
Hal Miller
Auckland, New Zealand

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