Bluesfest hits 100K, suffers a patron’s death
The 27th Bluesfest in Byron Bay which wrapped up yesterday, drew just over 100,000 patrons over five days (March 24 to 28) selling 94.8% of its total tickets. Over 82 bands put in some spectacular sets at the festival’s custom built event site at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm.
There was a tragedy when a 44-year-old man was found dead in a car on Saturday at 2.30 pm. An on-site medic performed CPR but was unable to revive the man. Cause of death is still awaiting a coroner’s report, but police are not treating the death as “suspicious”.
Kendrick Lamar opened the festival on Thursday night before the biggest crowd of the event. A controversial addition to the bill, Lamar’s set was powerful and seemed to draw a much younger crowd. The Cat Empire drew the second largest audience. Also drawing a large crowd were Eagles of Death Metal whose overwhelmed singer Jesse Hughes told the crowd, “It’s been a weird few months for us. But you took that bad shit and made it go away.”
Other highs included the guitar attacks of Tedeschi Trucks Band and Joe Bonamassa, Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds, Archie Roach doing his debut album Charcoal Lane in its entirety, Tom Jones joined by The Blind Boys of Alabama, two soulful sets by D’Angelo, the return of Jackson Browne, The National, Kamasi Washington joined by his jazz legend father Ricky Washington, and The Wailers who performed a different Bob Marley & The Wailers classic album on different nights.
Those making their debuts as Rhiannon Giddens, Elle King, The Bros Landreth and Blackberry Smoke found new fans. St Paul and The Broken Bones told the crowd, “They told us this festival was incredible, they weren’t lying, baby!” and later declared it their best show in a long time.
City and Colour
Graham Nash commented, “The overwhelming feeling I get at Bluesfest is that people love music.” Allen Stone added, “Bluesfest is one of the best line-ups that I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of” while The Wailers admitted, “It’s an honour and a privilege to be here.”
Bluesfest Director Peter Noble declared, “If I could book the same festival all over again in 2017 and not change one artist I would be sorely tempted to.”
Also making an impression was Boomerang, the indigenous festival for all Australians, which this year featured a dance ground, healing tent and talks and ideas stage in its precinct. The Boomerang closing ceremony showcased First Nation artists from across the globe including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand, Tibet, Canada, Rotuma Island and Soloman Islands.
Boomerang Festival Director, Rhoda Roberts explained, “To bring ceremony to all Australians will be the future of this nation, this year’s ceremony not only acknowledged the passing of senior elders, it reconnected local communities to language. The ceremony is a chance to honour, exchange and show off we have the oldest living culture on the planet.
“Ritual is the embodiment of who we are and unless you go to Arnhem Land you are not going to get the experience that Bluesfest allowed us to share with our audiences.”
Of charity highlights, Cystic Fibrosis raised $47,000 over the five days, raffling donated Gibson guitars, and bringing their total raised at Bluesfest over the last 17 years to $471,000.
The Playing For Change Foundation, who create positive change through music and arts education, raised over $20,000 at their charity stall and were approached by hundreds of festival patrons who want to get involved and help the Foundation.