Guest post by Zac Seidler
It all begins in a very Jimmy Hendrix-like fashion. Raw, tight, edgy guitar pulsing through your veins followed by an emotion-riddled male voice sitting high above the drum and bass locked in the dark depths below. Gary Clark Jr. inspires poetry, inspires brooding, inspires musical deliberation as he single-handedly tries to rejuvenate the blues that is seemingly sinking into the ‘Muddy Waters’ with the old souls of B.B. King and Ray Charles.
On Friday I ventured to Australia’s largest, oldest and most famous summer music festival, Big Day Out, in sweltering 45-degree heat in pursuit of some ironic Red Hot Chili Peppers. In a sweaty and drunken haze I stumbled upon Gary Clark Jr. rocketing through ‘Bright Lights,’ and just as I came within earshot of this cool bearded Texan he swept into my favourite part of this song, shouting emphatically at the crowd, “I don’t care…cause you don’t care!” Suddenly the few thousand people around me left their uncomfortable sticky bodies and were transported to a time where music wasn’t about who had the biggest venue, or the confetti or the blistering synths, it was when the sound and the words prevailed and no one really gave a shit about the rest.
Sadly, I wasn’t alive for this era, but my parents never let it down. My brother D always asks me whether I think I was born at the right time and if not what decade do I think think I belong in. With soul and the blues now somewhat of a bodily extension of mine…like a weird phantom limb, it would have to be the 60s. It’s no wonder Gary Clark Jr. is being called the 21st century Hendrix, because, as he pulls you down into a distortion-fueled void where anti-establishment lives, a hint of arrogance – “you’re gonna know my name by the end of the night” – lets you know he’s still human, not merely a collection of perfectly ordered frequencies.
This track has a rock solid groove, underpinned by snare snaps on beats 2 and 4 that are further accentuated by Clark Jr’s own raw guitar flicks that intermittently kick in to drive the blues bus. I think everyone around me, mainly my girlfriend, was worried I was having a seizure, head bowed bouncing up and down, clapping like a fool, but this guy’s music warrants no social etiquette or prepared dance moves. The chorus repeats “Bright Lights, big city going to my head”, but on stage Jr. exuded a type of musical sincerity that obviously flowed from years of unwavering practice. It is clear, however, that Clark Jr. was not one of those kids who was forced into his room to practice by his over-controlling tiger mum. It runs through his veins, and you can see that in the way that his hand glides effortlessly over the fret board and in the way his voice rises and falls with a natural prowess. But, he was sweating. Like all of us he was sweating, and suddenly all of the layers fell away and he mustered the energy to smash out a solid guitar solo that filled the thick air and warranted a cheeky glance back from me to Brother J that simply said, ‘Holy fuck.’
This guy has untapped talent and talent on tap but the best thing about it, is that he doesn’t need ‘Bright Lights’ to make you see that.
Gary Clark Jr. – Bright Lights