The 29th Annual Bluesfest Byron Bay held over the Easter long weekend (29 March – 2 April) has been a huge success, with just over 95K attendees enjoying some of the world’s greatest talent, from idyllic Byron Bay. With a total of 82 bands or artists and over 165 performances, there were countless highlights.
On Thursday, Tash Sultana closed to a capacity crowd on Mojo stage, raising the roof with her extraordinary performance. UK’s highly acclaimed Rag ‘n’ Bone Man was another stand out from Thursday, leaving many festival attendees floored with his powerful voice and soulful lyrics.
On Friday, Double J’s live special was opened by a life affirming performance from Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. Hosted by Zan Rowe and Sarah Howells, All Our Exes Live in Texas, Mia Dyson, Benny Walker, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Michael Franti performed and were interviewed during the broadcast, that was simulcast on ABC Gold Coast, and replayed on ABC Local on Sunday.
Robert Plant played a massive set on Friday night from Bluesfest’s Crossroads stage, delighting audiences by closing with his Led Zeppelin classic Whole Lotta Love. Ms Lauryn Hill’s exclusive Bluesfest set may have started fashionably late, but the icon made up for it with a passionate performance full of hits. Other audience favourites included New Power Generation’s energy filled, slick sets and Gomez’s performance of their seminal record Bring It On in celebration of its 20 year anniversary.
Saturday at Bluesfest will go down in the record books as having more Blues acts playing at once than any other night in the festival’s history. Chain and Canned Heat showed why they are Australia’s greatest Blues bands, and deserve the highly successful 50-year careers they both have enjoyed. Harry Manx, Rick Estrin and the Night Cats, William Crighton and Shaun Kirk also made diehard Blues lovers very happy. Another Blues act that audiences couldn’t get enough of was 84 year old Bobby Rush, whose charismatic, and surprisingly raunchy performances won him many fans.
Aside from the Blues, Saturday night was all about having a good old singalong, with Jackson Browne and Bluesfest favourite Michael Franti closing, leaving audiences buzzing with happiness as they left the festival.
Bluesfest was 100% sold out on Sunday night, with a total of 23K people in attendance making it one of the biggest nights in the festival’s history. Performances across the board were red hot with Sheryl Crow, Melissa Ethridge, Seal, José González and First Aid Kitall wowing audiences.
John Butler Trio invited a collective of artists including Michael Franti, Ziggy Alberts, Hussy Hicks and Lukas Nelson on stage to protest the Adani Coal Mine, at the end of his spirited set.
The festival finished on a high as Chic featuring Nile Rodgers blew the crowd away with a show full of songs that Nile himself wrote and or produced, including Let’s Dance (David Bowie), Get Lucky (Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams), Live A Virgin (Madonna), Good Times (Chic) and We Are Family (Sister Sledge). There is no doubt he is one of music’s defining voices in the 20th Century and puts on a hell of a show.
Lionel Richie lived up to his promise of playing All the Hits, playing classics including Dancing on the Ceiling, Hello and All Night Long for a delighted crowd.
Bluesfest 2018 featured an impressive array of artists from across the globe with Colombia’s Juanes, Brazil’s Seu Jorge, Scottish/West African fusion Afro Celt Sound System and Scottish band Elephant Sessions proving that music breaks down all language barriers.
With their 29th year a huge success Bluesfest Director Peter Noble has already moved on to booking the festival’s highly anticipated 30th anniversary in 2019. Noble is committed to securing top talent; with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real who have been absolute crowd favourites at 2018, confirmed as the first artists officially booked for 2019. Watch this space.
THE BOOMERANG FESTIVAL:
The Boomerang Festival precinct was the heart and soul of Bluesfest and home to dozens of inspiring performances from artists including The Strides, Narasirato and Benny Walker. It ended on Sunday with a powerful Gathering Ceremony when artists from across the festival came together to perform dances, chants and traditional calls from the nations represented. It was a fitting ending to a festival that celebrates the beauty and sacred power of First Nations people from across the world.
THE BLUESFEST BUSKING COMPETITION:
The annual Bluesfest busking competition was won by Same Time Music. Neon Inferno took out the Grommet Busking Competition.
Cystic Fibrosis raised a record breaking $52,800 throughout the duration of the festival through their guitar raffles of donated Gibson guitars bringing their total raised at Bluesfest over the last 18 years to an impressive $582,800!
A big thank you to our volunteers at Bluesfest this year, 200 pre-festival and 500 during who supported departments across the festival including camping, traffic, production, waste management and on site charities, info, merchandise, cloak rooms, customer feedback and The Boomerang precinct.
The festival may be over for another year; however, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters have performances left in Adelaide and Perth, Newton Faulkner plays Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and Gomez hit Perth on Wednesday 4 April. Learn more at bluesfesttouring.com.au.