Blues At The Briars


Blues at the Briars 2014

Saturday Feb 1

Blues at the Briars 2014 is taking place on Saturday Feb 1 at the Briars historic homestead and park located at Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia -see map.

Blues at the Briars is a family friendly event with plenty of music (twelve hours), arts, crafts, clothing vendors and a selection of good quality local food and beverage stalls.  You can take a picnic rug or chair and relish the scenic setting, while you listen to the artists of 2014, several of whom have had Australian and international acclaim.  I just got my tickets today and am looking forward to attending this event for the first time and catching up with good friends.  Here is the program for the day and a brief bio on each artist.

Artist program

  • Bondi Cigars – 10.00 pm
  • JJ Rome – 9.00 pm
  • Lloyd Spiegel – 8.00pm
  • Shannon Bourne and Chris Wilson – 7.00pm
  • The John Power Blues Band – 6.00pm
  • Blue Eyes Cry – 5.00 pm
  • Chris Finnen Band – 4.00pm
  • Phil Manning, Winston Galea and Peter Cornelius Trio – 3.00pm
  • The Sammy Owen Blues Band – 2.00pm
  • Mama Blue and Son – 1.00pm
  • Mike Elrington Band – noon
  • Jules Boult and the Redeemers – 11.00am


The Sydney-based Bondi Cigars are true survivors of the Australian blues scene without ever compromising their distinctive, no-nonsense style, to become a leading force in Australian R&B.

Always one of Australia’s hardest working outfits (on the road more than off), the Cigars have kept their music tight, hard-driving and down-to-earth: the Australian bar band par excellence.  Its two foundation members, Shane Pacey and Al Britton, continue to co-lead the band explaining the consistency of the sound, instantly recognisable for seventeen years now, despite personnel changes and occasional stylistic variations.

The band won Best Group, Best Album and Best Producer at the 2004 Australian Blues Awards, with Down In The Valley nominated in the 2003 ARIA awards for Best Blues & Roots Album.  Two of their songs “Lead Me Not Into Temptation” and “Intensive Care” featuring on the popular ABC’s popular Seachange album.


Jerome Smith was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem, in a musical household: his father was a saxophonist from South Carolina, his mother a church choir singer from Georgia.  He began playing professional gigs at the age of fifteen, and was soon working with groups like The Manhattans, the Persuaders, Eddie Floyd and Rufus Thomas and recorded with the alternative rock New York group Body Bag.

Jerome has performed with some elite musicians; including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Bridie King, Jackie Orsaczky, Billy Thorpe, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss and the Divinyls.  After moving to Melbourne in 2001,  he has been working on a number of projects. These include: Red Ronimo, Black White and Blues [with Phil Manning and Broderick Smith] and the Covering Addicts.

Jerome will perform at Blues at the Briars 2014 under the new name of JJ RomeThe band is a rare collective of some of Australia’s finest players – Mark Wells on guitar (Ronnie Wood, Slash), Roger McLaughlan on bass (Renee Geyer, Little River Band) and Jeff Consi on the drums.


With eight albums, a swag of accolades and twenty years of performing, writing and recording, Lloyd Spiegel has certainly squeezed more into 30 years than many do in a lifetime.  It’s that experience and presence well beyond his years that has seen him become one of this country’s leading blues artists and most respected guitarists.  His incredible command of the guitar, powerful voice and high energy performance captivates any audience.

In between extensive touring within Australia, Lloyd has travelled all over the world with frequent tours to Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S.A, where he’s toured coast-to-coast six times.  He’s played bills with legendary Blues artists from Buddy Guy and Etta James to Ray Charles, as well as artists from a range of musical genres including Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton and Willie Nelson.


Aussie Blues Legend Chris Wilson [harp and vocals] will be joined by leading Australian guitarist  Shannon Bourne.  I have seen them perform together and separately – and they are two dudes that sit at the top of the blues scene in Australia.  These dynamite players will be joined by other band members, to be announced – watch this space.


John Power has been playing and singing the blues since the sixties.  Part of the seminal Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, he was instrumental in getting the band’s distinctive sound.  Out of the Zeps came The Rock Doctors, originally formed as a “holiday” band, with Chris Stockley on guitar and Steve Williams on sax and harp.  This was a great fun band, everyone sang, everybody involved knew their blues and rockabilly roots.

John finally achieved notoriety in his own right when he formed, and led, The Hippos, an amalgamation of all his previous incarnations resulting in some very successful recordings and long overdue recognition.  The John Power Blues Band will be worth seeing.


Fronted by the brilliant voice of Iseula Hingano and backed by a band led by her partner Nathan Brett (guitar), Blue Eyes Cry is certainly an Australian Blues act on the rise.  The other band members are Stuart Prendergast (bass) and Cameron Smith (drums).  Blue Eyes Cry have gone from strength to strength, diving head first into the Melbourne blues scene in late 2011, since then they have been selected to perform at premier music festivals around Australia, national tours and recorded their debut album Sleepin’ Alone under Black Market Music.


Chris Finnen blends blues, Celtic, African and Indian influences into his unique style and has a great command of the guitar and a mesmerizing stage presence.  He has graced the stage with the likes of Bob Brozman, Jeff Lang, Chain and the great Dutch Tilders.

The Chris Finnen Band also includes Greg Dodd (guitar), Winston Galea (drums) and Peter Beulke (bass), all with impressive pedigrees – this should be a hot outfit.


Many Australians know Phil Manning as a member of Chain, the legendary blues band whose contribution to Australian music and the development of the blues in this country is unparalleled.  Since the mid-seventies, Phil has forged a brilliant solo career for himself and also accompanies many other artists including Black, White and Blues where he has joined forces with Jerome Smith and Broderick Smith.

Winston Galea has a similar story.  Since the age of seven, Winnie has been playing drums and percussion in many well-known outfits across Australia, the Mediterranean and Pacific.  Winston is best known for his long association with the legendary Dutch Tilders and as part of The Blues Club with Geoff Achison and Barry Hills.  He is currently involved in several bands including Jules Boult and the Redeemers and The Blue Dukes with Kevin Buckingham and Ian Ferguson who played at last year’s inaugural Blues at the Briars.

Pete Cornelius in his fifteen-year career has gained much respect in the music community, both here and overseas as a fine exponent of both guitar and bass.  With his own band The Devilles, he has toured relentlessly and has featured at some of Australia’s most prestige festivals, including Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, The Great Southern Blues Festival, Blues on Broad Beach, Thredbo Blues Festival, The Australian Blues Festival, Forth Valley Blues Festival and Southern Roots.

Together, these guys form the classic three-piece rhythm & blues outfit.


Sammy Owen Blues Band was first formed in 2011 as a rotating line up of musicians from Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street and performed weekly at some of the street’s most frequented venues.  The five piece band now includes Sammy Owen (lead guitar/vocals), Mark Aird (drums), Matt Robb (guitar), Simon Haeusler (bass) and Liam Kealy (Hammond B3 Organ).  Over just one year, the band has recorded an EP Cash Converter Blues, played over 150 gigs at some of Melbourne’s top venues and billing at the Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival and the Echuca Winter Blues Festival.
The band is mainly influenced by 90’s and modern blues with influences like Tommy Castro, Little Jimmy King, Michael Burkes,The Boneshakers, Buddy Guy and Bobby Rush.


Olive May and Steve Romig , otherwise known as Mama Blue and Son. are a joyful discovery in the varied world of Australian Blues.

Olive May has established herself as one of the finest female baritone voices you are likely to hear.  The album Outa Cash, Outa Luck & Outa Booze recently reached number one in the Australian Blues and Roots charts.  Her son, Steve Romig, is a fine producer, writer and musician who has written a number of tracks on the album, as well as having authored songs for many great artists such as iconic singer John Farnham.

If you are into authentic, old style Blues music, then you will not want to miss these guys.


Since forming in 2003, The Mike Elrington Band has shown promise as one of the most exciting Blues/Rock power trios on the Australian scene, combining the passionate and raw elements of electric blues and the explosive elements of gutsy, gritty, groove-driven, jam-band rock.  Over the last ten years since releasing the critically
acclaimed Too Good To Be True album, the band has cut its teeth playing blues clubs and festivals throughout Australia, the United States & Canada.

“Blistering and passionate guitar playing, a red-hot rhythm section and an absolutely jaw-dropping live show. One of the most exciting acts to come out of Australia in years!”

-Ed Ivey, Blues Revue Magazine, San Francisco, USA


Melbourne musician Jules Boult will bring his seasoned professionalism, and a little bit of Melbourne, to the stage in the Mornington Peninsula.  He will be joined by revered feel-based guitarist Martin Cooper, himself a cardinal figure in Australian blues lore.  Jules Boult has already turned a lot of heads in the blues industry.  His music and performance remains true to the blues tradition.

Boult’s songs are imbued with a sense of humour and this is reflected in both his lyrics and performance style.  Mark My Words was Boult’s second album and, as an independent release, received stellar reviews from critics, including an award as Best New Talent at the 2011 Australian Blues Music ‘Chain’ Awards.  In a sign that is indicative of the momentum Boult is gaining – he wasted little time in releasing follow-up albums Live Carnivale in 2011 and Almost Alone in the twilight of 2012.

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Author: Rob Dickens

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