Massive milestone celebration!
Bluesfest 2009 wraps up its 20th Birthday with the world's finest
musicians and 85,000 fans
April 14th 2009 – Last night in Byron Bay, five incredible days of
blues and roots music from all over Australia and the world drew to a
close at Belongil Fields, capping off a 20th Anniversary birthday
party of infectiously good music and signature Bluesfest spirit.
In ticketing terms, it's up there with the most successful Bluesfest
events of recent years, with approximately 85,000 fans from a total of
25 countries and states & territories of Australia walking through the
entry gates over five days of blues, rock and roll, alt-country,
world, soul, reggae, funk, Latino and roots music.
Turning water into wine
The rain came down but could not keep people away – and over five days
of intermittent showers and rainfall, spirits remained high, while
gumboots were sold in huge numbers out of practically every driveway
and service station in and out of Byron Bay. By Monday night, up to
85,000 thirsty souls had even finished off the ale, rendering
Bluesfest 'the festival with no beer!' Fortunately, plenty of water,
wine and spirits remained on hand!
Festival Director Peter Noble said, "If you wore designer shoes this
year, the weather may have claimed them inside 30 minutes! But people
here are absolutely beaming and having the time of their lives. It's
incredible we've had such a great turnout during an economic downturn,
and in fact, 3 or 4 stores in Byron Bay said they've had their biggest
shopping days ever, so it's a big win for the business community here
"Musically, this could very easily be the best Bluesfest we've had
yet, but all I can say is it's going to be incredibly hard to top this
next year for our 21st anniversary Bluesfest!"
Christmas at Easter
It was a second Christmas that came at Easter this year to Byron Shire
businesses at a time when most of country is talking about recession
hardships. NSW Events revealed that Bluesfest 2008 brought in more
than $13.5 million business revenue to the state, mostly going into
the Northern NSW and Byron Shire region. And with the success of
Bluesfest 2009's 20th anniversary – this figure looks like it will be
Fortunately, Police have reported a very low level of incidents
concerning patron behaviour in and around the event, saying there is
much good will and a prevalent responsible attitude at Bluesfest 2009.
Several well known identities were seen enjoying the fabulous music on
offer across six stages at Bluesfest this year, including Coldplay
front man Chris Martin who was spotted feeding his young daughter
yogurt seemingly unnoticed by the crowd! Other celebrities at
Bluesfest 2009 included regular attendee George Negus, actress Laura
Dern (who is married to Ben Harper) and actor Matthew McConaughey.
Australia's favourite 'anti-pop festival'
Festival Director Peter Noble said, "The greatest thing about
Bluesfest is actually our audience which sets us apart. We tell people
to bring their dreadlocks, their Barrack Obama t/shirts and their
green awareness to what was recently described as Australia's
favourite 'anti-pop festival' by the media. You can be a part of the
revolution alright, but don't forget to dance, because you will be by
September 2008 saw Bluesfest recognised as an international winner in
The Greener Festival awards, for the second year running, for its long
term commitment to environmental and sustainability practices. For
example, this year at Bluesfest more than 3,000 litres of "waste" will
go to local farmers for use in compost.
Peter Noble continued, "It's a genuinely aware, globally united,
anti-mainstream spirit and attitude – the musicians who play here get
it – and the audience definitely gets it. Artists tell us all the time
they love playing at Bluesfest. First Byron is a special place, second
they love the level of sound production we offer, and third – they say
our audience is among the most receptive in the world! Bluesfest is at
heart a family event. We strive to be inclusive of everyone while
remaining a festival that holds no more than 18,000 people per day
(much less than most of Australia's big festivals). That's why we
celebrate a diversity of cultures, ethnicity, musical spirit and
genres. This is the lifeblood of Bluesfest, and everything we stand
Speaking about his 1997 breakthrough to the world stage via Bluesfest,
Ben Harper said in a recent Kathy McCabe Daily Telegraph interview,
"It is the most important festival in my life. It's as much about the
people who make the Byron Bay festival as it is about the music on
Musical high points from Bluesfest 2009
Peter Noble said, "There are just too many music highpoints to mention
everybody! John Butler performed fantastically – which was
particularly poignant as it signified the final performance of his
current band. Ruthie Foster thrilled audiences with her soul powered
folk and blues winning ever more praise. The Blind Boys of Alabama
were jaw-droppingly great, and went over better than ever. Ben
Harper's new band BEN HARPER and RELENTLESS7 debuted to Australian
audiences by rocking so hard it scared me, but then he knew just when
to switch gears like a true artist. I was lucky enough to grow up with
Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley – well, let me say that Ben Harper is one
of the absolute greats of this generation, and he proved it again at
"Tim Finn was astoundingly good and his voice was wonderful – such a
reminder of how many of those great classic songs came from his pen.
Blues Traveler was one of the best live bands I've ever seen, I can't
believe they've never been here before. Eric Bibb I had to see twice
he was so good, he's now risen to the level of a major blues artist.
Paul Kelly has never gone over so well at Bluesfest underscoring his
deserved status as quite probably Australia's finest songwriter.
Terrance Simien played an amazing Zydeco set and even brought his 2008
Grammy award with him and told the crowd, 'Australia I brought this
home for you!'" (Note: Terrance Simien won the first ever Zydeco
Grammy in 2008 with an album released on Peter Noble's AIM record
label – making it Australia's first ever Grammy for an independent
Other highlights included blues beatnik Seasick Steve who was in
wonderful form, Saltwater Band which featured the otherworldly voice
of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, simply wowed about 10,000 people –
this from a band that's used to playing to 300 or 400. Lucinda
Williams rocked the house proving she's much more than an alt-country
artist these days. While Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson won hearts
yet again for being such quality songwriters and performers, audiences
also got to witness a genuine soul legend in Booker T and the DBTs
(Drive-By Truckers who also played a hugely popular set). AYO - a
captivating star of the future – put Bluesfest audiences into an
irresistible groove for the second time with her soul, reggae fusion.
New soul sensation James Hunter caused a big stir with his silky and
rich set of vocal chords and compelling stage show. Toni Childs proved
extremely popular, and will certainly need a bigger stage next time
around at Bluesfest, while Missy Higgins, Jason Mraz and Michael
Franti & Spearhead delivered impeccable sets drawing big crowds in a
festival lineup that just kept giving.
New comers and big buzz makers
And speaking of stars of the future, one young band called Carney has
been generating a major buzz all around the festival for their brand
of dynamic blues rock – with many of the stage crew saying they're the
band of the festival, and look like being major stars within months –
so watch this space!
The new InDIG stage at Bluesfest stage (in partnership with Events
NSW), which showcases the country's Australian and Southern Pacific
Rim Indigenous heritage, has proved to be a massive hit and will be a
permanent fixture at Bluesfest from here on in. Peter Noble said, "The
InDIG stage and tent could have been twice as big, that's how many
people it drew." InDIG highlights included fantastic sets from
Christine Anu, Archie Roach & Ruby Hunter, Dan Sultan, and Te Vaka.
Other notable newcomer artists included Grace Woodroofe and Tom Freund
(both chosen to play by Ben Harper), one of Australia's Best Latino
outfits Nu Yorican Nights, the Gold Coast's Tijuana Cartel, and the
truly fantastic Son Veneno. Watermelon Slim & The Workers proved to be
a major treat for blues fans, while Tim Churchill scooped the major
award in "Busking Over Byron", the Bluesfest busking competition which
sees him winning $2,000 worth of time at Studios 301, and newfound
status as clearly an emerging new artist on the blues and roots scene.
Fittingly, for its 20th birthday anniversary event, Bluesfest 2009
represents the first time that Director Peter Noble has presented the
event as its sole owner. Council approvals permitting, the Bluesfest
team now looks very much forward to staging their 21st festival in
Easter 2010 at its new home on land bought at the Tyagarah Tea Tree
Farm – 10 mins north of Byron Bay.
It will be an even greener, even more positive and even more
culturally and environmentally aware festival, so see you next year
for the 21st anniversary event!
For more information, please visit: www.bluesfest.com.au