Lismore's Brotherhood of the Blues shake Bluesfest's Juke Joint

Local brotherhood shines at Bluesfest

THE streets of Lismore gave rise to one of Bluesfest's newcomers Brotherhood of the Blues' earliest songs.

The loping 12-bar blues Love Has Left This Town tells of vocalist Zac Paden's sadness when two busker friends departed suddenly for the city and he was left "dragging my feet on the ground" trying to find them.

Cerebral palsy means Zac from Lismore does indeed drag his feet - it's one symptom of his disability, something he shares with the two other indigenous men who front the band, Luke Murray from Lismore and John Cieslak from Kyogle.

But their disabilities didn't stop the three from delivering two impressive dance-along sets at the festival, where they packed the Juke Joint and gained a load of new fans.

Being booked for two shows was unexpected and awesome, said Zac afterwards. "We still can't believe we're here."

Northern Rivers band Brotherhood of the Blues is formed by artists of mixed abilities.
Northern Rivers band Brotherhood of the Blues is formed by artists of mixed abilities. Digby Hildreth

Despite some "healthy" butterflies beforehand they loved their time in the spotlight, and sport huge grins after their rapturous reception. The audience was blown away - "and so were we", says Zac.

"I love being on stage," says wheelchair bound Luke. "I don't want to go home."

Bluesfest also gave them a chance to meet some of their heroes. Archie Roach had seen them on NITV and sought them out. They also met Steve Earle and they loved watching Blind Boy Paxton perform.

The three are keen to get back in the studio to record a full album after the success of their self-titled EP, which was recorded at Studios 301 in Byron Bay.

"We've got loads of material," says Zac, some of which they road-tested in the Bluesfest tent.

And there is the possibility of a tour, even taking it overseas.

But first there's a documentary film to wrap up, directed by Rohan Langford and called Access All Areas, for which the Bluesfest gigs provide a triumphant conclusion.

John is a drummer but the three focus on singing while being supported by a bunch of talented local musicians -a 10-piece ensemble on the Bluesfest stage.

The three met through the Lismore disability organisation RED Inc but have disparate backgrounds.

Luke is from Ballina originally and lives in Modanville. John grew up in Kyogle but was born in the Northern Territory.

They had been writing songs individually before they met - "all my life", says Luke, who co-wrote the EP's Uncle Blues with John after the passing of their family members.

Luke had ambitions to start a punk band and name it

Skeletons of the Devil, before he found his home in the Brotherhood.

The group "sort of fell into place", says Zac. "We've been on a fast-track … no pun intended."

The weekend's stage experience showed them how good they are as a band, he says, and reinforced their belief in each other.

He tries to get sensible about their success - but simply can't: "We have to know our limitations. But we don't have any!"



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