Australia: Bluesfest Byron Bay

Australia’s premier Bluesfest with its fabulous line up of Aussie musicians and a sprinkling of internationals over 5 days returned with a mighty, mighty vengeance this year, surprising many.

Surprising because covid killed it in 2020 and last year, this sold out event was cancelled at the eleventh hour after a single covid case was detected in Byron Bay.

Worse was in store this February though when the Northern Rivers was smashed with their worst ever floods. Fourteen metres of mud laden waters ripped through the region rendering towns unliveable. Hundreds were evacuated. And … defying all logic, the floods returned for a second crack.

Leesa Gentz from Hussy Hicks summed it up perfectly when she asked, ‘How is Bluesfest gonna come back from this?’

Well, come back it did. Bluesfest owner Peter Noble is a persistent man, supported by an army of incredibly hard workers, and on his Tyagarah tea tree farm, thousands of rousing cheers of respect rang out when he officially opened the 33rd Bluesfest.

Tell you what, my husband and I were ecstatic on two fronts – first, to be here considering Bluesfest has truly shouldered some shit and secondly, to don our Sustainability vests, grab a bucket in one hand, picker in the other and ferret out rubbish. It’s a damn fine gig – this volunteer one and a big shout out goes to the very efficient, very hard working Sustainability Dept. We enjoyed it all!

It wouldn’t be Easter or a music festival without rain… and a lot of it teemed down turning grassed areas into mud. Goes without saying that gum boots were mandatory.
Five stages pumped out music from midday to midnight
Bluesfest firm favourite – Tesky Brothers
A close second – everyone’s favourite Murri, Kev Carmody master storyteller. Still got it at 76, still receiving awards like this Shining Star from Peter Noble. Proud to be singing on his grandmother’s Bundjalung country.

Forever a working class man, Jimmy Barnes performed in all his rawness, but not sure about him being introduced by Albanese. Brought together by a love of music, not by any other creed or agenda, festies gave Albo’s federal electioneering mixed reviews.

Crowded House, Hoodoo Gurus, Black Sorrows, The Angels and The Living End smashed out their frenetic energy to a grateful crowd while headline act Midnight Oil performed their goodbye show. A solid rock thanks for Peter Garrett’s many years of power and passion.

Always was, always will be a fan of Paul Kelly’s music.
Hailing from Michigan USA The War and Treaty – gathering a whole bunch of Aussie support
Amadou and Mariam – from Mali Africa. Blindness is no deterrent for these incredible singers. ‘Best badass grandma I’ve heard,’ a young girl called out to us.
Carefully crafted lyrics of Xavier Rudd
Striking a chord or two
Colours of Bluesfest
A spot of retail therapy in between sets
Hugely entertaining
End of another good day’s work

Volunteering aside, I’m convinced that with 5 stages booked out solidly for 5 days, it would have been nigh impossible to see it all – so so much to take in.

Worth noting: Bluesfest was light on with volunteers this year, so if you want to consider volunteering for 2023, head on over to bluesfest.com.au. Tickets for next year are also on sale.

Henry Wagons alias Warren Zevon pretty much summed it up for all of us, ‘This Bluesfest is fucking amazing.’ And it was – every single soul sharpening moment.

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