Today’s post is another find, courtesy of BluesFest. Today I’ll be sharing one of the proudest discoveries of the festival, as I mentioned in the linked post all about the extraordinary five days; Benjamin Booker.
It was the final day of the festival and Kate and I’s energy levels were slowly coming to a grinding halt. Make no mistake, we’d had a ball at BluesFest, but five full days of festivities, walking around the grounds in totally unsuitable shoes, tossing and turning during the humid nights on our camping beds with a cold shower greeting us every morning…we were close to the end.
So on reflection it made sense that we threw caution to the wind on the final day and headed towards the only tent we hadn’t been to throughout the festival, Jambalaya, for the set of an artist who’s name we had only heard days before.
Reading Benjamin Booker’s profile on the festival app sparked my interest, the New Orleans blues singer was highly regarded and raved about, and it also provided a getaway to shorten the long hours we had spent sitting around, eating, chatting and people watching in between our pre-planned sets. So, once Kate confirmed she was up for it, we finished off our meals and set off towards the large tent on the other side of the grounds.
As I stood by, waiting for Kate to collect her phone from the charging station, I noticed the tent wasn’t too full at all. In fact, there were quite a few spaces up at the barrier, so after a quick dash to the portable toilets close by, we made our move and secured our spots.
It was an interesting wait to say the least. By the time we got there, Benjamin and his band were on stage already, doing their final sound check. In only a white t-shirt and black jeans covering his small frame, he looked quite unassuming, but each time he turned to grin at the crowd, or laugh at a middle aged white man who was getting impatient to finally see the Benjamin Booker live, we couldn’t help but smile along with him. He giggled like a small child every now and then, and chatted and joked with the audience throughout the sound check. His voice was clear, cutting through the noise of the tent. He was a genuinely interesting character to look at on stage and in the least creepiest way, I honestly could have just watched him for ages.
The crowd had also grown considerably from the moment we had arrived. While we had been at the front of a relatively empty space, as we looked behind us, we were both quite shocked to see the audience building up at a steady rate. Grown men were waiting, some patiently looking at the stage expectantly, others jostling each other around with laughter as they inched closer and closer to the front. It was an interesting demographic, one that we had not expected at all.
His soundcheck came to a close, and without stepping one foot off stage to finalise anything else, the band burst into the first song.
Believe me when I say; Benjamin Booker’s voice, is like nothing I have ever heard, live especially, before, and I am still in love with it. From such a small guy, there seemed like this animalistic growl that floated at the back of his throat with every word he said, and it added this heat to the entire performance that encapsulated his presence on stage. It was a hugely stark contrast to the mid-high range speaking voice we had been listening to only moments ago during the sound check.
Add into the mix the wildly intense stare that he threw right down the centre of the tent, and it was one of the most mesmerising sets I had ever seen. I honestly felt hypnotised throughout his performance, and no matter how hard his band was working to deliver a performance that met his level of intensity, no-one could take their eyes off him.
My favourite song from the set was Believe, but more recently, I’ve really been enjoying Motivation, which is in my 365 playlist for the year on Spotify. Violent Shiver was so high energy, but he maintained this level headed-ness that exuded confidence and charisma, so in between boogie-ing and head-banging there were moments of completely freezing to just watch him in awe.
Benjamin Booker was amongst my most memorable sets at BluesFest, and I’m so glad we managed to catch him on the last day before it was all over for another year. Hopefully he’s back sometime soon, because I’d love to see a full show of his. If it was anything like his set, it’s sure to be insane.
If you ever get the chance to see Benjamin live, I implore you to do so. I wasn’t sure at all what type of artist he was, I had absolutely no clue or prior knowledge of his music or his sound (hence my jaw dropping shock when he opened his mouth and started singing), so I’m sure you guys could get into it as well!
I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!