It’s no secret the Blues Train has been running for 24 years, but what may surprise you, is that many of our attendees aren’t first time visitors. In fact, there is a large percentage that has ridden the train more than 50 times.
In honour of approaching our 25th year, we spoke with just a few of the regular faces on the Blues Train.
Our Blues Train Regulars
Kerry Stotten, first rode in 1998
An expert of the Blues Train, Kerry Stotten is so at-home with the experience she booked tickets to go by herself earlier this year. “There was only one seat left so I just got it spur of the moment,” she says. Throughout the night, she spoke and danced with people she’d only just met, enjoying the experience the same as if she’d brought a convoy of friends along with her. “You don’t feel like you’re alone because of the atmosphere,” she says.
This act of making friends aboard the train isn’t isolated for Kerry, as many years ago she made lifelong friends through their shared passion of blues music. “I would go on the Blues Train whenever Chubby Rae was on and I kept running into these people. I would go to Ocean Grove and go into Geelong and still see them. We became friends of course because we were all at the same gigs!” she laughs.
She will be meeting up with these friends again in the coming weeks and months, to share in their love for blues music on the train and at the Echuca Moama Winter Blues Festival.
First riding the train in 1998, Kerry has taken well over a 100 people along with her across more than 50 separate shows. Each night has built on her love for the experience as well as her understanding of blues music.
“There are so many great artists I’ve found just because I’ve been on the Blues Train. It probably introduced me more to the blues and that type of music…. I love blues music and it really broadened my music taste,” Kerry says. “It’s just the atmosphere, it’s such a great night and there’s nothing like it. And I love music but it’s nothing like going to a pub or a club to listen to music. It’s a totally different mood.”
Narelle Needham, first rode in 2012
Already a lover of blues music, after discovering the genre at a relatively young age, Narelle Needham can fondly remember the moment she would dance around to blues music in her bedroom in London when no one was home. Her love for the genre grew, and she soon became a fan of Arthur Alexander, Blue Juice on PBS FM and Otis Redding. It was only natural that when she saw a flyer advertising the Blues Train, she was sold.
“I was having lunch in Queenscliff before I moved that I saw a flyer for the legendary Blues Train. Fascinated I was by this Blues Train. I must do it,” Narelle writes in her blog post for Tourism Greater Geelong & the Bellarine. It was 2012 when Narelle first rode the train, 18 years into its history of operating as the most unique live music venue for the region. Following the night, Narelle realised what a unique experience the Blues Train truly was.
“Dance like no one’s watching, sing at the top of your lungs, sway to the movement of the train, hear acts that will surprise you, but most of all walk away from an experience you’ll never forget. In fact, because of that, no doubt your first time, won’t be your last,” she writes in the post. Of no surprise, the trip wasn’t her last, and there was even a year where Narelle experienced the Blues Train six times.
“I am privileged to have met and listened to the best blues musicians in the country,” she writes. Favourites over the years have been Chris Wilson, Sweet Felicia, Wayne Jury, Jimi Hocking, Jesse Valach and George Kamikawa.
Also learning the “tricks of the trade” over the years, including what to do when the train stops at Drysdale, if you see Narelle on the Blues Train, follow her advice. Read Narelle’s full Blues Train experience here.
Paul Crombie, first rode in 2001
Go through Paul Crombie’s CD draw and you’ll find over 80 CDs from Blues Train artists. These are mementos he’s collected from his 17 years riding the train, however, his greatest keepsake is the love he’s developed for the genre. “We went on the Blues Train originally for a good night out.
Now I’m hooked on blues music and people say, ‘Why don’t you like anything else’ and that’s Hugo’s fault,” Paul laughs.“My son has introduced me to Spotify, but The Blues Train keeps pulling me back I suppose.”
For the past 17 years, Paul travels from his hometown of Melbourne to the Bellarine for a holiday and his annual stop at the Blues Train. Over this period, Paul has brought more than 750 friends and family with him to share in the experience. This year in October, he has booked out an entire carriage of friends to spend the night with.
“Hugo keeps looking after us so we keep rolling up,” Paul says.
While Paul remembers the early experiences on the train with fewer toilets, simpler meals and wilder nights, he cherishes the memories made on that very first night. “The first time we went on we saw a band called Chubby Rae and we came out trying to get a taxi to Ocean Grove and she drove us home,” he says. “So we’re good mates now. We had her 9-10 years in a row in D carriage and now we’re friends. They’re going to be at Echuca Moama Winter Blues Festival and we’ll catch them there.”
To start your journey with the Blues Train, pick a date and book your tickets here