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Bluesfest Byron Bay 2016

Peter Noble is more than just a festival director….he is a curator of fine music and performers to be presented to a large and diverse audience from teenagers to octogenarians and in 2016 he and his team delivered with an outstanding group of acts from artists of legendary status to little heard of acts who attracted appreciative crowds….

Travelling from Cairns to Bluesfest is a commitment in terms of time and finances and each year it seems more far northerners are making the trip down…so what is it that makes Bluesfest so great….

It’s the new friends we make each year and the ones we catch up with every year, it is the hassle and drama free nature of the festival, it is the family friendly atmosphere, it is the excellent food vendors and beverage options, It is an opportunity to see some great Australian and indigenous musicians, it is the smooth running of buses, it is the artists signing tent where you can meet some of your favourite performers, it is the radio national interview tent, it is the courtesy of all the staff (even security) and volunteers, it is the general positive nature of the 5 days….but most of all it is the chance to totally immerse yourself in live music for 5 days…

It is the best value for money concert ticket you will ever buy….especially if you go for an early bird option.

Bluesfest 2016 was jam packed with great artists both known and little known and the flow of each and every day was great….there is just so much going on that it is impossible to see everyone, artists playing multiple days allows a greater opportunity to do so but even then it’s tough.

Graham Nash

With a new album out in a few weeks and 40 years of back catalogue to draw from Nash put on two tremendous performances varying his set list for both.

He found the balance between playing his new material and giving the audience a taste of his classic hits. Nash interspersed his songs with tales about how they were written such as “Cathedral” which relates an LSD experience, “Marrakech Express” which saw him follows Ginsberg down to Morocco and more political statements such as the recent Japanese whale hunt prior to him playing “To The Last Whale” as well as “Chicago”.

A true showman he roused the crowd for an encore of “Teach Your Children Well”

A musical legend and all round nice guy Nash was seen walking through the crowd and Bluesfest signing autographs and talking with people.

Grace Potter

Grace Potter that Rock Goddess with her signature Flying V Gibson guitar stalks the stage totally rockin it out starting off with “Hot to The Touch” and following it up with “Empty Heart” and “Your Girl” it was great set from a perennial Bluesfest performer.

Archie Roach

Roach regaled the audience with tales of his life and a plethora of songs, an Aussie icon and an advocate of indigenous rights it was great to see him play as well as the many other indigenous artists who performed this year as part of Bluesfest including Lord Huron.

Mick Fleetwood’s Blues Band

The true highlight of the festival for many was seeing Mick Fleetwood’s Blues Band, The Mojo tent was never fuller for the whole five days than when this band went on and what a band they were.

Comparing themselves to the early incarnation of Fleetwood Mac as just a blues band this is what they delivered in abundance. Rick Vito as lead guitarist and vocalist was outstanding the energy and passion he brought to the shows was amazing especially his guitar solos in “Black Magic Woman” a Fleetwood Mac original made famous by Carlos Santana…..this live blew me away.

It was great to see Mick Fleetwood having such a great time on the drums and he finished their second set praising Peter Noble and his team at Bluesfest and expressing his disappointment it had taken him so long to get to play at Bluesfest…and his desire to return next year….who knows maybe he will bring some of his Fleetwood Mac cohorts next time.

Jackson Browne

Browne brought his self-effacing California country rock to Bluesfest and certainly filled the legendary musician status, his mellow vibe and politically conscious tunes sat well with the audience and the end to his set which started with “The Pretender” followed by “Running on Empty” and finishing off with “Take It Easy” which he co-wrote with Glen Frey of The Eagles was one of my greatest Memories from Bluesfest 2016.

City and Colour, The National and Modest Mouse

For many years Bluesfest has not been a Blues only event, in fact Peter Noble has said it no longer aims to be that and that if the festival was started a afresh then it may not be named Bluesfest, the name is part of the brand and its history….That is how artists like Modest Mouse, The National, City and Colour and Kendrick Lamar fit into the festival.

The audience is growing, the age group of punters is shifting, there are people in their 30’s with kids, there are people in their 50’s bringing along their teenage children and in true Bluesfest fashion the greater diversity of acts the greater enjoyment had by all.

I know for many people these three bands were a highlight of their festival experience.

Jeff Martin

Martin best known for his time in The Tea Party (the band) played two sets and it was his early Sunday morning set which I caught, it was stripped back yet powerful and beautiful displaying his amazing guitar skills with performances of Requiem and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven…which was kind of fitting for Easter Sunday.

Eagles of Death Metal

I thought this was a strange addition to the line-up but seeing them play to a pack audience during their afternoon set and with such an emotional and joyful set it was great. Whilst unspoken it felt like a form of solidarity between the band and the audience against all the terror in the world and our right to be free and have a good time.
The band were truly moved by the love in the tent and were seen walking around the festival during the day happily posing for selfies and signing autographs…..hope to see them back next year.

Taj Mahal

It was a great way to spend my 40th birthday seeing one of my favourite musicians in the world play, Taj Mahal is an original Bluesman and whilst well known never seemed to hit the heights of Buddy Guy or B.B. King but he is no less talented.

This year he performed solo surrounded by guitars of all fashions and playing a collection of his best known songs including “Goin Fishin” which he said he couldn’t get away with not playing.

Vintage Trouble

Was clearly the photographer’s favourite band with Ty Taylor’s stage antics making them one of the best bands to photograph in the world.

Their Music also hit the right note with the audience who were dancing and singing away and got up and down and shook it all to Taylor’s direction.

Their rocking soul brand of good times was an amazing spectacle to watch and listen to and I am sure they will make an appearance at a future Bluesfest in the not too distant future.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird’s

Gallagher often touted as a moody grumpy Mancunian was anything but when he hit Bluesfest and on stage was just dynamite. Just under half the songs 9 out of 19 were Oasis songs which is a big turnaround from his last visit to Australia, so it was a great mix for those who love his new music but also want to hear the songs that made Gallagher arguably one of the greatest songwriters ever.

Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova, Masterplan and the ending of the set with Don’t Look Back in Anger satisfied all the Oasis check boxes but Everybody’s on the Run, The Dying of The Light and What A life proved he still has what it takes to make and write great tunes. Would love to see him back.

Brian Wilson

Wilson certainly fits the legend category and the 2014 film biography about his life “Love and Mercy” brought his music to a whole new generation, I saw him in 2001 and he was fantastic….He has all the songs but live…some of the lustre has been lost

Discovery Band of Bluesfest 2016

St Paul and The Broken Bones were the standout band I had never heard of prior to Bluesfest, The lead singers over the top stage presence and outstanding soulful voice blew me and everyone I spoke too away.... I think they made a lot of new fans in Australia over the Easter long weekend.

Joe Bonamassa

What can you say…he is a legend, the man can play guitar and the crowd soaked up his two hour onslaught of licks….


The Australian Contingent was well represented again with Russell Morris, The Backsliders, The Cat Empire and Ash Grunwald who played a fantastic set and the discovery of the festival for me was the gorgeous and super talented Sahara Beck who even though playing early in the day still drew big crowds for both her sets… I think we will be hearing a lot more of her in the future.

So that was Bluesfest 2016 and as always we are sad it’s over, but now our attention turns to who will be playing next year…it is a fun game and with each announcement we get surprised by people being announced we never thought of.

Well here is a few suggestions and longshots Van Morrison, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Keith Richards Vintage Vinos, Buddy Guy, Michael Kiwanaku, Robert Cray, Los Lobos, Mariachi El Bronx, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Eddie Vedder (solo), Dr john and The Nitetrippers, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Michael Franti, Don Henley and some great Australian artists as always maybe Peter Garrett (solo) or with a reformed Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly playing his A-Z set over the five days, John Butler trio, Bustamento, Melbourne Ska Orchestra Blue King Brown…

It’s a world of possibilities best left to peter Noble to try and figure it out…

But why wait to hear whose playing book an early bird ticket HERE grab your flights and just make a plan to head down to Byron bay Bluesfest in 2017…you’re going to meet new friends, have a great time and hear some outstanding music.