The countdown is officially on, with just nine weeks left (from the date of publication) until Bluesfest 2020! With a history steeped in over three decades worth of world class musical line ups and unforgettable vibes, this upcoming 31st instalment of the iconic event is promising to deliver one of the festival’s best experiences ever, when it once again descends upon the idyllic surrounds of Byron Bay from 9 – 13 April 2020.
As we start to get excited and begin the count down, here’s nine damn fine reasons why this year’s Bluesfest is simply not to be missed.
The vibe: In the immortal words of Dennis Denuto from Aussie film The Castle; “it’s the vibe of the thing”. And in the case of Bluesfest, it truly is all about the vibe when it comes to why it’s held in such loving regard by all who attend it. It literally has one of the most chilled, friendly and electric atmospheres of any Festival, anywhere. Which is why, year after year, Bluesfest continues to draw the very best in musical talent, both iconic and up and coming, from all over the world.
The location: Does it get any more picturesque and chillaxed than Byron Bay!? The world-renowned seaside town (and its gorgeous Northern NSW surrounds) has long been the place for intrepid travellers and free spirits, with its magical vibes embedded within the DNA of Bluesfest.
The food: With a bumper five-day line up to navigate, the smart festival goer knows that keeping your sustenance up is an essential component of any Bluesfest experience. And when it comes to food options, Bluesfest never fails to deliver – the range of culinary delights to choose from is truly mind boggling! From exotic worldly delicacies through to Byron Bay faves such as the legendary Govindas Vegetarian, Pizza Loca (with their renowned pesto and chilli toppings) and Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts (the blueberry and choc doughnuts are to die for), Bluesfest truly has all food groups and culinary tastes covered. And to stay hydrated you can’t go wrong with another local fave, Ginger Nektar (either Original or Ginger and Cranberry). And the Byron Bay township itself is also overflowing with a lip-smacking choice of unique, non-fast food restaurants and take-aways.
Family friendly: There are precious few big-ticket festivals around that cater for families as thoroughly as Bluesfest. Integrating kids of all ages into the whole festival experience has always been a hallmark of Bluesfest, its safe and friendly vibes (there’s that word again!) ensuring that folk of all ages (including the ever-present gaggle of older festival veterans) co-exist harmoniously in Bluesfest bliss. There’s also a dedicated ‘Bluesfest Kids Zone’ together with conveniently located nappy changing and breast-feeding facilities.
Crowded House exclusive: Aussie bands (with apologies to New Zealanders laying claim to them!) don’t come much more revered and loved than Crowded House. With band lynchpin Neil Finn now moonlighting as a touring member of Fleetwood Mac, the iconic three-piece are making a highly exclusive, one-off appearance at this year’s Bluesfest. This version of Crowded House also features original bass player Nick Seymour and second incarnation drummer Matt Sherrod, as well as a guest appearance by the band’s producer and respected keyboardist Mitchell Froom. If you don’t catch them this time, who knows how long you’ll be waiting for another chance to sing along to ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ amongst a tent full of fellow joyous devotees.
The (final?) return of Patti Smith: While on the subject of musical legends Patti Smith, New York’s poetic high priestess of punk may be navigating her seventh decade, but the passion and fire still burns strong, as anyone who witnessed her incendiary performance at the festival in 2017 can attest to. In a word – unmissable!
The Bluesfest Busking Competition: Now into its seventeenth year, the Bluesfest Busking Competition is at the forefront of offering unsigned, original Australian artists the chance to shine in front of the wandering throngs of festival attendees. So while you’re on your way to check out your big ticket acts, you may very well stumble upon your new favourite local act – yet more bands for your buck! Previous winners have included killer Gold Coast acts Electrik Lemonade and Ivy, so be prepared to be gobsmacked by the quality of what’s going down at the Bluesfest Delta Stage.
A chance to witness unique, one-off artist collaborations: Another annual Bluesfest ‘given’ is the anticipation of knowing that you’ll be guaranteed at least one chance to see iconic artists randomly collaborating with each other. The roll call of unique collabs is truly impressive, from The Dave Matthews Band and Govt Mule performing a spellbinding take on ‘All Along The Watchtower’ together in 2014 through to Tom Jones and the Blind Boys Of Alabama delivering goosebump-inducing moments together in 2016. In 2017 hip hop met New Orleans jazz, soul and funk, when Nas and The Soul Rebels delivered something truly magical together. And last year it was Casey Chambers and Jack Johnson turning up during Ben Harper’s set, with Ben reciprocating for Casey’s performance (as well as The Veronicas, Tommy Emmanuel and The War And Treaty) And who could forget Gary Clark Jr and Lukas Nelson getting up onstage with Jack Johnson!? Who will it be this year?
Celebrating With Our First Nations People: In homage to our First Nations People, this year sees the return of The Boomerang Festival, which will run concurrently onsite across the Friday to Monday of Bluesfest and features an inspiring amalgamation of musicians, dancers and artists delivering performances, workshops, talks and artworks showcasing the talent and diversity of the peoples of our original culture.
Bluesfest 2020 runs from 9 to 13 April at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm. More info and tickets at bluesfest.com.au.