For almost three decades the Byron Bay Bluesfest has drawn thousands of music lovers from all corners of the globe to the small seaside town of Byron Bay to converge on Tygarah Tea Trea Farm, nestled between Byron and Brunswick Heads for the iconic music festival known as Byron Bay Bluesfest.
It is here that on the 28th year that hip hop super star Kendrick Lamar headlines Thursday whipping the younger crowd into a frenzy and opening the five days of endless music, drinking and partying. Legend and R& B super star D’Angelo is no stranger to Australian stages and the ‘Brown Sugar ‘singer stuns the crowd clad in a feather cape.
The great thing about the festival is that there is always some thing new to discover and this year is no exception. The surprise act of the festival being Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real. County music legend Willie Nelson’s son manages to amaze audiences with his stellar guitar playing and laid back lyrics.
Brisbane local Sahara Beck also manages to surprise audiences her first set and word quickly spreads with her second set filling up, people dancing along to her fun and cute style. North Coast Busking competition winners Ivy are just plain excited to be on the stage having won the right to be there. Delivering a set played enthusiastically the boys manage to get Kasey Chambers dancing. It’s these moments that make Bluesfest the festival of all festivals, up there with the likes of Coachalla.
Of course there are also the heavy weights of the music industry for the music lovers. Taj Mahal playing a laid back set to blues lovers with an impressive swag of guitars at the ready. The Blind Boys of Alabama raise spirits under the Mojo tent with uplifting gospel music and a feel good vibe. Performing a new take on ‘ Amazing Grace’, singing it to the tune of ‘ House of the Rising Sun’ the Blind Boys are a true inspiration to people with disabilities, delivering the entire set with little help and still managing to have the entire crowd dancing.
Brian Wilson and his pet sounds taking everyone back as he sits clad in track suit pants to a time where The Beach Boys just meant fun. He seems a little lost and disorientated at times but most of the crowd don’t seem to notice as he plays the hits. Then of course we have Tex Perkins delivering some great music and churning out some fist pumping music to round out Friday evening.
The one band name on everyone’s lips is Eagles of Death Metal in their historical first Australian tour since the tragedy in Paris. Jesse Hughes warms up the crowd on the Mojo stage in true rock star style before smashing out a ripper set at one point shouting out ” We are glad to be alive”. ” Jesse, we are glad to have you here” is the general vibe from the audience.
Another memorable moment that touches everyone is when Jeff Martin introduces his friend drummer Mick Skelton to the stage. During his recent solo tour Jeff dedicated the song ‘Requiem’ to Mick, hoping that the vibe of love and positive energy would help his friend in need. Having Mick join him on stage as he sings ‘Requiem’ to his friend, fondly looking over at him is a rare moment in music history. It goes to show the bonds of friendship that tie us are at times vital in this life.
Arguably the three of the most fun bands of the weekend happen to be Vintage Trouble and St. Paul and the Broken Bones and the impeccable dancing of Con Brio. Gaining a slew of well earned new fans over the weekend the charismatic lead singers both managing to enrapture audiences and have everyone moving about. Con Brio pull out some funky tunes with lead singer Ziek McCarter channeling a young Michael Jackson.
Along side the Bluesfest this year the Boomerang Festival, a rather enjoyable and rare chance to see dancing and arts from some of the First Nations of Australia, Fiji and Torres Straight Islanders. It is a cultural celebration of dance and art that hopefully one day will be a festival in its own right. This year though it is nice to have it encapsulated with the Bluesfest as a nice chance to catch some culture.
With the eternally youthful Tom Jones rounding out Monday evening with a some what jazzy set the rain, mud and sunshine of Bluefest has rounded off another year. With new music to discover and old music to reacquaint people with their favorite musicians it was a weekend that was at times hectic and at times a chance to just wander around checking out the local stalls and food vendors. With so much to see and do it is no wonder that Bluesfest has survived this long in a calendar of events that come and go.