POPULAR: Pat Powell drives buses during the day and jumps on stage to sing with Melbourne Ska Orchestra at night at Bluesfest Byron Bay.
POPULAR: Pat Powell drives buses during the day and jumps on stage to sing with Melbourne Ska Orchestra at night at Bluesfest Byron Bay. Marc Stapelberg

The man driving the music at Bluesfest

YESTERDAY, Pat Powell drove artists to and from the Bluesfest site, but then he put on a black suit, a red tie, a funky hat and went on stage as a feature singer for Melbourne Ska Orchestra.

For years, Powell has been a driver at Bluesfest during the day, and a star on stage at night.

Sometimes he gets back behind the wheel after the gigs, when they don't finish too late.

It all started seven years ago, when he drove Melbourne Ska Orchestra to their gig at Bluesfest. The band members decided to hire him as one of their featured singers after they heard him sing.

"One year (2015) I did a Bluesfest gig with Diesel n'Dub and with Melbourne Ska Orchestra," he said. He also drove buses that year,

"With Diesel n'Dub I did lead vocals on two songs, and with the orchestra I normally do some leads and play some percussion, but also drive the orchestra to the stage."

Yesterday he sang one of his feature songs, Bus Driver, with the band.

Originally born in Bristol, England, from Jamaican parents, Powell lived during the 70s in the UK, Jamaica, Europe and then ended up in Sydney in 1981.

"My first relation with Bluesfest was a gig, I played with a band called Survival Reggae about 18 years ago," he said.

"After that I got a job as a stage manager, I was running the original Juke Joint. Four years later I was offered the job as a driver and I have never stopped."

After driving thousands of artists, the most exciting for Powell to have in his bus were those he listened to in his teen years in Bristol and in Jamaica.

"I think the ones that stuck with me the most are the people that I saw in my teens," he said.

"I saw George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic's Earth tour in the 70s, so to then pick him up for me was a spinner.

"I saw Earth, Wind and Fire in 1976 and then I drove them to their 2012 gig here.

"I also had a 25-minute chat to Gregory Porter, two years ago, and I felt a real connection with him, he is a true gentleman and I was familiar with his music as a fan," he said.

 

Melbourne Ska Orchestra perform at the Crossroads Stage on the fourth day of the Bryon Bay Bluesfest at Tyagarah.
ON STAGE: Pat powell performs with Melbourne Ska Orchestra at Crossroads Stage on the fourth day of the Bluesfest Byron Bay. Marc Stapelberg

Powell released his debut album, About Time, in 2018 and dreams to play his own Bluesfest gig.

"I'd like to come back and be on stage with my band, doing my music, my way," he said.

"I still want to come with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and also drive the bus."