Bluesfest is an alternative proposition to all of the festivals I attended over summer – I literally went to all of them, in case you missed my viral ‘Dear Diary‘ excerpts. Bluesfest cast a wide net from regular radio rotation, instead featuring a bill that is equal part legendary and equal part unknown. The most notable point of difference however, is the lineup which champions diversity in age, gender, and ethnicities. There was a very strong multicultural aspect to the curation which did not go unnoticed; particularly the Boomerang stage that spotlight Indigenous artists. There was also a busking stage which gave a platform to fresh local talent which assisted in pushing the overall community aspect of the festival.
The weather held up remarkably well over the five days that Bluesfest ran across, an Easter miracle for my hair which doesn’t cope well in the tropical climate that I had anticipated. The amenities were well looked after and I spotted a full bottle of Aesop soap in the portaloos (and you should know by now that it’s not a festival if I’m not talking about portaloos and Aesop soap). The food selection was broad, affordable and good quality with heaps of vegan options for those who are into that. I spent most of my time throwing money at Pizza Loca and Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts. If anybody is looking to bring either options to Melbourne then I will be right here waiting.
The atmosphere at Bluesfest was super relaxed, perhaps too relaxed at times. I got a little restless but kept myself entertained by people watching and literally eating everything. Bluesfest is very welcoming and family friendly, which was made obvious by the number of babies and parents in attendance. Not just regular parents but those cool parents that still wear vintage band tees and a fedora but not in an ironic way. There were multiple conversations had between myself and middle-aged music aficionados doing the hip wiggle. Admittedly, I indulged in a few hip wiggles myself.
Some highlights of the festival included:
– Watching the great Patti Smith perform her album Horses in full. Truly blessed to have witnessed this on her last ever Australian tour. She also graciously donated $10K to local victims of flooding which solidifies the fact that she is indeed an absolute angel.
– Talking shit with Suggs from Madness about whether he is more like Rick or Vyvyan from The Young Ones. He couldn’t decide in the end.
– Watching everyone turn it on for Nas and The Soul Rebels. Some alternate types of hip wiggling happened on site during this set. Repeat after me: “A full brass band makes the man”.
– Squirming in the pit when tween fans of Remi started squealing uncontrollably when he spat the lyric “Pussy”.
– Laura Mvula making a keytar look glamorous. I didn’t think it was possible to do this ever, but she managed to make it happen.
– Obnoxiously screaming “More cowbell!” at Roy Ayers only to have him actually give us more cowbell.
– Santana’s leather pants.
- Photography: Harry Hayes