On the first day of Bluesfest Peter Noble said ‘Let there be music’. We’ve finally recovered from another successful Bluesfest Byron Bay, which saw over 100,000 people passing through the portal to Blues over five days. With 82 acts playing across four different stages, the 27th annual Bluesfest Byron Bay was one of the most entertaining so far!
Day one dawned bright and sunny, producing one of the most controversial performers Bluesfest has hosted – Kendrick Lamar. While a lot of grumblings were heard throughout social media in the lead up to the Easter holiday, the set itself shone. Singing fan favourites like King Kunta and Alright the American rapper had thousands of bodies moving as he amped up the crowd. He was in good company, with his friend and guest saxophone player Kamasi Washington enthralling the masses with his Thursday night solo set. Highlight of the first day had to go to Melbourne lad Harts, who opened the Crossroads stage and had everyone walking away espousing Jimi Hendrix comparisons.
The only detractor from the general Bluesfest buzz was due to organisers underestimating the departure of fans come midnight. While Bluesfest usually sees staggered exits from punters, as the clock struck twelve thousands of people flooded the buses and carparks – causing delays of up to three hours in exiting the festival. However organiser Peter Noble worked with road services to ensure a repeat didn’t occur throughout the rest of festival – to the great relief of many!
Friday saw a plethora of talent saturating the Bluesfest stages; from local lasses Hussy Hicks to headliners The National. A stellar performance from Aussie favourite City and Colour kept the mood mellow, while stand out of the night St. Paul & the Broken Bones catered to those who wanted to swing their hips – with a cover of The Beatles I Want You nearly bringing down the tent.
D’Angelo, need we say more? His smooth voice soothed the Bluesfest crowd and was a perfect representation of the organisers attempt to renegotiate the music that fills their line up. Appealing to all age ranges and a broad spectrum of music lovers, the RnB Neo Soul singer-songwriter was a perfect cherry on top of a day that was filled with Grammy nominees Hiatus Kaiyote, The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, Elle King and many more.
While Sunday still wasn’t quite sunny Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds covering all of the Oasis classics brought a smile to thousands of faces. Listening to a myriad of voices singing along to songs like Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger was one of the most surreal experiences Bluesfest has delivered in the many years we have been attending. Imagine the camaraderie of thousands of people packed into a tent, voices raised as one as they sing lyrics that have become imbedded in your brain. The Cat Empire brought their special brand of groove to the stage, and we can’t wait to see their set at the NightQuater in May, with The Decemberists adding a beautiful indie-folk touch to the night.
Monday night came too soon, with silver fox Tom Jones closing out the night at the Mojo tent, bringing The Blind Boys of Alabama onstage and wowing us with a re-invented slow Sex Bomb. Special mention goes to Vintage Trouble whose homage to classic soul music was outstanding, energetic and sexy.
We may need a lot of sleep and some showers to recover from the five days of fantastic music, but we’re already excited for next year!