Usually when the annual Byron Bay Bluesfest rolls around, we hit the ground running. This year we stepped into the mud gently, but it still kicked off with the same combination of mind-blowing artists, fantastic market stalls and a crowd that was celebrating all things music. Thursday 29 March brought us headliners like Tash Sultana (Mojo stage), The Wailers (Jambalaya stage) and The Original Blues Brothers Band (Crossroads stage) that all performed to close the first day with a bang, but there were also a few surprise favourites of the day.
First highlight was Aussie band Holy Holy, who brought their latest album Paint to the stage. Blending twangy guitar and massive synths, they were sending out a call that brought the punters flocking to the Mojo stage. Another crowd favourite keeping people from straying too far from the Mojo stage was Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, who hails from Sussex in the UK, as he has the kind of riotous roar that makes you sit up and listen. We were blown away, and not just by the set of lungs he has, as we listened to his soulful blues-infused pop.
Darkness had descended, but the light show Leon Bridges brought to the Mojo stage defied the dark. While he gyrated across the stage, bringing his brand of 60’s soul music, the visuals lighting up the stage behind him transported the audience back in time. Singing ‘Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand‘ and ‘Bad Bad News‘ off his upcoming album Good Thing there wasn’t a still soul in the tent. Unexpected show-stopper for the night was Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit who brought The Nashville Sound from Alamaba and held the crowd in the palm of their hands. From boisterous songs like ‘Hope the High Road’ to heartbreakers like ‘Elephant’ we’re glad we didn’t miss this.
What a start to one of our favourite festivals! We’re doing it all again today with a reggae heavy day, so tune in tomorrow for our Friday highlights.