A great night to have the blues, Howlin Steam Train chug-a-lugged down to The Tote this past Saturday.

A welcome surprise to see The Ben Wright Smith Band on the bill too, as people trickled in and sat on the steps or curled up next to each other like they were gathering around a campfire. The band played as elegantly as always and it was nice to see Ben Wright Smith dressed down (or maybe too much is being read into appearances but he has grown his hair out), a bit grungier looking but the same sound is still there – the one that’s like a lullaby. After attending a few gigs before, it’s always nice to witness the wordsmith that he is, even if at first you are confused – ‘‘I see your smile hanging from every apple tree’’ – as one song goes, the lyrics put a smile on your face.

Next up was Jackson Firebird, a duo from Mildura (or as they so charmingly introduced themselves, ‘We’re from Milduuurrra!). A drastic difference to the relatively intimate Ben Wright Smith set, patrons were scared off the floor the moment the drummer took a flying dive onto the stage and proceeded to bash his hands down onto what appeared to be some flat drum on the floor of the stage. The heavy metal force never stopped for a moment, as though Spiderbait’s ‘Black Betty’ was on a permanent loop.

Howlin Steam Train took the stage after a few technical troubles. This only helped to build the crowd tension to a frenzy as they eased as close to the stage as possible. Making up for the late start with lots of crowd interactivity and smiles Howling Steam Train didn’t waste another second and started up what was to be a blues heavy set. The crowd was going to love anything Howlin Steam Train performed anyway, which was clear by the energized dancing to just about every strum of the guitars, rather like a scene out of Black Snake Moan. Though it was song of the moment and the nights excuse to party, ‘Ramblin Man’ that really brought the house down. The band has some pretty charming vocalists, the one front and centre ending every smart comment with a wink, which prompted a few in the audience towards the merch table, needless to say there probably aren’t any singles left.

– Hannah Joyner