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Mornington Peninsula Blues Festival proves the regional blues scene is thriving

This weekend’s Mornington Peninsula Blues Festival will be the largest single celebration of blues music the peninsula has ever seen. 

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The event that is taking place at Mornington Racecourse will be headlined by Australian rock legend Ross Wilson, the voice and guitar of bands Mondo Rock and Daddy Cool, who will be performing all of his hits with new band, The Peaceniks. 

Whilst Wilson’s gold-standard of Australian rock is perfect for the final set of the day, it is the staunchly curated lineup of the best in Australian blues music that makes this event a must for any music lover within a “cooee” (or free chartered bus ride) of the festival site.

“Every single artist on this lineup is there because I believe he or she represent the very best in what is happening in Australian blues right now,” says festival organiser Patrick Elliget in reference to the remainder of the lineup, Lloyd Spiegel, Geoff Achison & The Souldiggers, Phil Manning & Chris Finnen, Claude Hay, Rob Papp, Rod Paine & the Fulltime Lovers, Sweet Felicia and The Honeytones, as well as The Brothers in Blues.

“I am looking forward to every act because all think they have something special to bring to the table but there is one act in particular that I am really looking forward to – the on stage partnership of Phil Manning and Chris Finnen,” Elliget says. “Not a lot of people are aware of Chris Finnen’s contribution to blues music but it has been massive. He is a guy from Adelaide who in blues circles is regarded as pure silk on guitar.

“Now, the reason that this union is so special is not only that Chris and Phil know each other but because Chris would fill in for Phil when he couldn’t tour with Chain,” Elliget says. “I have put them together with a couple of really good mates who are regarded as the best session musicians in Australia; Peter Beulke on bass and Winston Galea on drums.”

The promoter’s commitment to the music is not only reflected in the curation of the acts but also his decision to make the festival an over 18 event. Elliget makes it clear that he does not want any extraneous factors tempering the artist’s intensity of their music. 

“It was a very conscious decision to make this an over 18s event because this is about bringing the best blues experience possible without any little distractions,” Elliget continues. “We are allowing people to bring their own food in because it allows people to keep the price of the day down. There will be food trucks there and drinks at bar prices.” The festival’s second act of beneficence is that there will be free shuttle buses running all day from the city and Sorrento.

Elliget’s appreciation of blues music first began in his childhood home in Sorrento where he played drums in a family band with his father, three brothers and a sister. However, his burgeoning musicianship was put on hold when, “I sold the drums to buy a car when I was 18 … I always thought I would buy another kit but since then I have had a family and school fees.”

Despite drifting away from the tubs, Elliget’s passion for blues was redirected and refined down to an intense quintessence that, somewhat inexorably, to him creating the bi-annual, summer/winter, Mornington Peninsula Blues Sessions at Peninsula Community Theatre. Its subsequent success led to the creation of the festival.

Elliget hopes festivalgoers can appreciate the essence and history of the genre when the festival goes down on Saturday February 9. “This festival’s focus is to create the perfect place to appreciate a style of music that was created a hundred or so years ago only to be enjoyed.”

Mornington Peninsula Blues Festival is on this Saturday February 9 at Mornington Racecourse. Grab your tickets via the festival website.