Melbourne’s only dedicated blues bar opens for the first time on October 31 at Collingwood’s Agent 284, with live music and tracks from PBS DJ Matt Frederick (right). Bessie’s Blues Bar will transform Agent 284’s downstairs gallery room from 8pm to 11pm every Thursday.
But if you want to get your blues on for the other six days of the week, Matt has shared his top 5 tips…
1. Best places to shop for vintage Blues vinyl
If you’re after 45s, the best place is Off The Hip, no question about it. It has a reputation as a home for garage rock but dig thorough the crates and you’ll find classic R&B, Chicago Blues, early rock and roll, Memphis trash sounds … it goes on. If you like your music on the soulful side of life, there are also gems to be discovered at Fitzroy’s Northside Records. From soulful Little Milton to funky Bobby Rush to smooth Al Green, I’ve found it all hidden away on Northside’s magic shelves. Lastly, special mention should go to the grand old daddy of second-hand records in Melbourne Dixon’s Recycled. I always blow my budget whenever I go in there, always finding just one more special gem.
2. Best blues radio show
We have an embarrassment of riches in blues radio in Melbourne. The great thing is that each show has its own feel and personality, each highlighting a difference aspect of the blues. On my own PBS program “Juke Joint”, we have “Roots of Rhythm” and “Jumping the Blues” on a Wednesday and there’s always good blues to be heard on Mohair Slim’s “Blue Juice”. Over on Triple R, “Son of Crawdaddy” is an institution and Saturday night’s “Hellzapoppin'” is exactly what you need to get you jumping on a Saturday night. And let’s not forget Werner Martin’s “Hot Damn Tamales” on 3CR.
3. Best vintage guitar shops for Blues gear
No doubt about it – it has to be The Music Swop Shop in Carlton. It’s an Aladdin’s cave with everything from sought-after classics to mystery no-name’s begging to be set up and turned into faithful friends. All this plus the kind of customer service that people pretend doesn’t exist anymore.
Music Swop Shop, 145-147 Elgin St, Carlton, 9348 1194
4. Best clothes shopping for a sharp blues man
The answer would have to be Anton’s in Melbourne Central. The poorest of bluesmen may have worn overalls at work but when they got on stage they dressed to the hilt with high waist suits, bright shirts and two-tone shoes. Anton’s is the only place I’ve found that has that kind of gear in the genuine, authentic style.
Shop GD 10, Melbourne Central, 9663 8610
5. Best blues music festival
Once again, we’re spoiled for choice, but for my money if you want a consistent blues focus then the best place to be is the blues pavilion at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues (1-4 November). You’ll find the best in local and international blues acts all day long with none of those pesky rock acts sullying the bluesy goodness.