The Mahindra Blues Festival (MBF) can give the Jazz Utsav tough competition when it comes to the number of grey-haired and formally dressed revellers in the crowd. It is also probably the only festival where you can catch older people letting their hair down —jiving to rock ‘n’ roll numbers, hooting at the top of their lungs and even indulging in public displays of affection.
Organised within a compact area at Bandra’s Mehboob Studios comprising two stages, there was never any need to rush to catch an act because they alternated between the stages. The festival has achieved two notable things. First, it has managed to get the best of blues talent from around the world to India. Second, for a country that doesn’t celebrate the blues like it does jazz or rock, it has given the handful of indigenous acts from the genre a platform. Not to mention its effort in educating people and raising
awareness about the different styles within, such as Chicago and New Orleans.
Guitarist Jimmy Thackery was arresting with his fluid style of guitar playing. Just a day before, we’d met to talk about his India visit. The jolly, affable man transformed into a powerhouse star the next evening. Having performed earlier in India, guitarist Walter Trout was explosive too. His matchless playing was coupled with equally inimitable angst filled expressions. On day two, singer Dana Fuchs stole the show with her throaty vocals and surprised audiences by singing a Hindu chant. Popa Chubby was soulful and a delight to watch. Robert Randolf, on his pedal steel guitar, kept the momentum high. The all-star jam at the end, featuring all the artistes, was what a jam should be — impromptu, unpredictable and fun-filled. It was great to see as many as three Indian acts this year — Vivienne Pocha, Big Bang Blues and Soulmate.
Old-timers were heard lamenting the fact that the fest didn’t stick to the true-blues spirit this year and focussed instead on rock ‘n’ roll. Buddy Guy was sorely missed too.