05 Nov Blues Bytes: Blackwood Rising
By Bob Gordon
Blackwood Rising – the fiery blues duo featuring Pat Steinbacher and Geoff Rowe – have performed numerous times at Blues at Bridgetown over the years, however one of their most memorable experiences happened in a year when they didn’t actually play.
“We didn’t get on the line-up in 2015 so we volunteered instead and got a gig as stage and venue managers at the Geegelup Stage on Saturday and the Festival Club on Sunday,” vocalist/guitarist Steinbacher recalls. “As luck would have it, our shifts lined up with a two-piece from the USA called Old Gray Mule. We’d not long taken the decision to start a two-piece and the performances from Charlie and Cooper from OGM were lightbulb moments for us.
“They gave us the inspiration we needed as well as some tech tips, and apart from being a kick-ass blues act, they were great guys that we still keep in touch with. Our sound owes a lot to those guys.”
The Bridgetown locals were named after the Blackwood River and inspired by its floods. Their music echoes that ebb and flow, a local palette framed by fine blues traditions.
“We like to think we’re pretty authentic with a lot of our stuff although our material ranges up and down the scale as well,” drummer Rowe says. “For about the last six years Pat’s been taking guitar lessons with local Bridgetown blues legend Martin Lee Cropper and building on his playing in learning how to play really early blues, like fingerpicking and bottleneck slide work. This has given us a bit more of a bluesy edge because being able to pull that sort of playing off really adds to an authentic blues sound. We don’t just stick to one particular style of blues, but everything we do is tinged with blues.”
“As a two-piece, we can change it up a lot and let songs go wherever they want because it’s just the two of us,” Steinbacher adds. “We’ve been playing together in various bands for about 15 years now and we kinda have this weird ESP thing going on where we each can just kinda sense and feel where the other is going to head next. We can’t see why we’d ever want to restrict that freedom. And that’s how the old blues cats did it, too.”
Highlights of Steinbacher and Rowe’s music career thus far includes playing shows with the likes of Ian Moss and Diesel, The Black Sorrows and Mental As Anything, as well as Bridgetown stalwarts such as Blue Shaddy, Tom Fisher & The Layabouts and 19-Twenty.
“Gigs like that… you kinda pinch yourself that it’s really you,” Rowe says. “To be honest though, nothing gets us more excited than Blues at Bridgetown, it’s our home festival and Pat, at least, hasn’t missed one since 2004 when he first moved to Bridgy. It’s a huge honour for us to be contributing to the music these days after coming along as punters for so many years.”
In 2018-19 Blackwood Rising have been focused on playing at least 20 gigs a year, as well as evolving their repertoire.
“We’ve been focussing this year on getting some more originals in our set and move away a bit from a reliance on too many covers,” Steinbacher says. “Although we never play a song the same way twice and our covers are pretty loosely based on whatever song we’re covering, so even our covers sometimes sound more like originals!
“After some juggling and tweaking we think we’ve settled on our tech and-set up so now it’s all about the material. We’ve been kicking some big goals in the last couple of years and want to build on that now. It’d be great to block some time off and set out on a bit of a tour around the place and we’re always keen to do more support work. Having said that we also love playing around our area and getting our sound out to local punters as well. We’re not scared of a bit of a drive, so we get around.”
Blackwood Rising perform 7pm, Friday, November 8, at Scotts Tavern; then on Saturday, November 9, from 1.35pm at Scotts Tavern, and 5.30pm at The Cidery.