Jan 15th-Feb 10th
Right, where do I start? Mustique is unique.
Firstly, it’s a naturally beautiful island with amazing scenery, stunning deserted beaches, wildlife and a constant warm Caribbean wind. Then there’s the man made aspect – a billionaire’s playground with some of the most spectacular houses I’ve ever seen. Since it’s a private island, it’s kept in tasteful shape with no hotels or anything to really break up it’s natural beauty.
The venue for the festival is the world-known Basil’s Bar, a bambo clad structure built out on stilts over the ocean – a far cry from some of the usual London venues we often play. We played every night for two weeks, with a really varied bill: The main sets were fronted by Dana Gillespie, Dino Baptiste, Lewis Cohen, Ian Siegal, Marcus Malone, myself and, for the second week, Joe Louis Walker and Karl Gustav. Jamie Little and Evan(s) Jenkins played drums & percussion, Jake Zaitz guitar, and the hardest working man out of the lot of us, Geoff Walker, player bass for everyone all night every night. Everyone had a totally different take on the blues and different styles of performance from the brilliant traditional solo National Steel guitar of Lewis Cohen to the full-on Dino Baptiste full band boogie experience! I tended towards the New Orleans end of things but chucked in a few straight up tunes and some of my original tunes along the way. I found a fellow Little Feat fan in Ian Siegal so I sang ‘Dixie Chicken’ a few nights with Ian playing some killer slide and Dana, who used to go out with legendary ‘Feat drummer Richie Hayward, singing backing vocals. A few other people sat in with us over the two weeks including the ‘Rajin Cajun’, an Aussie sailing round the world who played some middle fiddle. We had a $1500 tip from a kind gent on one night, and Kate Middleton’s family came back a few times and said they were loving it. It was a slight shame that some of the people who had sat in with the band in previous years weren’t around this year – Mick Jagger, Donald Fagen etc. but I guess that would have just been one of the many bonuses of the trip.
During the time, we also had 2 guest sets from Felix Dennis who is one of the main patrons of the festival. Felix put us up in one of his gorgeous houses on the island, a Japanese style wooden house complete with two beautiful swimming pools and the smallest ‘PGA Tour rated’ golf course in the world with one green, three holes and 9 tees in different positions. Amazing. We also rehearsed at his house, which he acquired from David Bowie – it totally blew my mind…it could have been a 17th century Burmese palace, with beautifully carved teak walls and a lily pond on several levels descending into an infinity swimming pool. However, below a couple of terraces looking out to Britannia Bay was a door that led to a tardis-like state of the art games room with pinball machines, air hockey, pool table, full stage with band equipment/PA system, and of course a bar.
During the time there, we also played at the Bequia Music Festival on the neighbouring island. Some of us decided to take the Rajin Cajun up on his offer and sail over (or rather, sit on the deck with a nice cold beer while he artfully did all the work). Along the way we saw some flying fish and was quite amazed at how far they actually travel out of the water – some 200/300m, skimming at quite some knots above the whites of the waves. The festival itself was great fun, and here’s a clip of some of the gig – you can catch some more on YouTube.
Other highlights include a couple of scuba dives. I hadn’t done it for ten years, so I had a refresher session along with Marcus Malone, with Jan the dive instructor who I’d met on a previous trip to Mustique with ‘The Big Man’ in 2008. The second dive was a bit further out at the ‘Pillories’, and we saw some stingray, different types of snappers, lobster and some beautifully elegant soft coral forests swaying in the water. If I get the chance to go back, I will certainly do a lot more diving.[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157625844652565″]