Mahindra Blues Festival 2015: When the Blues came to town

  • Debarun Borthakur, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 26, 2015 17:21 IST

The chord E Major 7 echoed from Mehboob Studios in Mumbai on February 14. Couples drenched in the fervour of St. Valentine’s Day might have found it a little ironic since the musical accordance is usually sought to express gloomy and sad emotions. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of the Blues-hungry audience which poured in good numbers to be a part of Mahindra Blues Festival 2015 on two consecutive days.

From the Blues’ flourishing days in 1950s’ Chicago to today’s few festivals wherever it is honoured, the audience had the opportunity to savour all changing hues of the genre over the years in the festival.

From veteran Bluesman Buddy Guy to new-kid-in-town Quinn Sullivan, there was a certain “generational” texture to the entire line-up of the festival in 2015.

And that generation gap was aptly bridged by artistes like Doyle Bramhall, Nikki Hall, The Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson and others in an exquisite line-up. While both 15-year-old Quinn and 78-year-old Buddy were stacked for the last day, it was evident that the curators of the festival did put in some serious taste for the genre into consideration on both days.

The first day belonged to Doyle Bramhall. While home-grown Blacksrat Blues’ Warren Mendonsa and his friends was a predictable opening act, it was Texas-born Bramhall’s precise choice of set-list that got things rolling. He and his band grabbed the audience’s nerves and gave them some bouncy electric Blues in the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Healey.

During the later part of his set, Rich Robinson too joined Bramhall on stage and both offered a soothing tribute to one of guitar’s greats, Hendrix. By the time they honoured the encore, a perfect stage was set for Blues powerhouses, lined-up to perform the next day, to exploit. And they did.

Having already graced the festival twice in 2011 and 2012, the regulars in the audience had heard Buddy Guy just enough to predict his concert moods and clichés. Except a few newly hummed ones, his set-list in 2015 comprised mostly of must-haves. However, notwithstanding that, the biggest surprise of the festival too came from the veteran –it was Quinn Sullivan.

Buddy has been mentoring young Quinn from the time he first met him in the back stage of a concert in Massachusetts in 2008. And it was no secret that Quinn was invited to the festival on Buddy’s consent. However, little did one expect that Quinn’s performance will make all the difference in Buddy’s concert. He added a fresh yet sophisticated twist to Buddy’s time-tested songs.

Quinn’s fingers were swift on the Stratrocaster. He was thoughtful yet teasing his 63-years old senior, Buddy. When they jammed together as the customary Blues festival tradition by the end of the set, young Quinn sounded capable enough to fit into some serious Bluesman’s shoes; if not Buddy’s.

Soon after, the whole of the festival’s line-up joined the two on stage and took the festival to a crescendo – taking turns to improvise in front of a somewhat tipsy audience.

By the time most of us at the do decided to call it a night, a wait for next year’s edition had already crept in and was troubling us. And as one of our friends aptly put – we’re already longing the Blues.

Doyle Bramhall II at Mahindra Blues Festival 2015 (top), Buddy Guy with Quinn Sullivan (centre) and All-Star Jam at Mahindra Blues Festival 2015 (bottom) (Photo: HT)

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