BY SUNDAY afternoon at Bluesfest 24 the rain looked like it was going to pull up and settle in for the long haul, just like a Robert Plant fan on Saturday night.

But despite the damp a huge crowd was on hand primed for a big night with sets from perennial Bluesfest favourites, The Cat Empire, last year's word-of-mouth sensations The Melbourne Ska Orchestra and a highly anticipated show from Rufus Wainwright.

Before that, I want to go on record with my call on this year's break-out sensation - Saskwatch.

I saw this brass-driven high-energy Melbourne nine-piece twice and their quality songs and slick execution won the crowd both times.

The band and the crowd seemed to fall in love with each other as we hooked into the catchy melodies and cranking brass lines.

Fronted by the sparkling Nkechi Anele, who also turned up as a panellist on the Rockwiz stage, Saskwatch just edged out the majestic and hilarious Ben Cap- lan as my favourite artist this year.

Kaplan's giant voice and hilarious between-songs banter transfixed the crowd and his nightmarish music hall songs were as dark and funny as a Tim Burton movie.

He also accomplished that rarest of feats, getting an Australian audience to clap in time through a whole song before leading us all in an impromptu primal screaming session.

"Lets all scream as loud as we can so everyone outside wonders what the f!@k is going on in here," he said.

Earlier on Saturday I had been drawn into the Mojo tent by the urgent call of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

This was big screen rock at its best as the band channelled Heart and Janis Joplin with a dash of Zeppelin and it turned the crowd into instant acolytes.


Today's highlights

  • Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Crossroads, 4.15pm. A mix of dirty R'n'B, blues and country care of the London based siblings.
  • Ben Howard, Crossroads, 5.45pm. The British roots-folk troubadour is set to have all the hipsters swooning.
  • Wilco, Crossroads, 10.30pm. They had the whole crowd transfixed in 2006 and they'll do it again this year.
  • Bonnie Raitt, Mojo, 6.15pm. Taking home a Grammy Award this year, this country star is showing no sign of slowing down.
  • Paul Simon, Mojo, 8.15pm. Need we say more?

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