As the 23rd annual Bluesfest is set to open its gates, festival director Peter Noble is convinced that ‘this is one of the best programs we’ve had’.
‘It’s such a deep bill of artists,’ he says, ‘I never know if I can do it again. So much comes down to people wanting to come here and play and then it all falls into place. It’s pretty amazing!’ And this year, for the first time ever, it’s an Australian act that headlines the five-day program. ‘Cold Chisel is an interesting call – over the years I’ve had people like Jack Johnson, along with the traditional blues and roots artists.’
While Noble agrees that Chisel are neither blues nor roots, it’s undeniable that they hold an important place in Australian music history as both important live artists and songwriters. ‘They’re Aussie icons,’ says Noble.
Bluesfest has become about broadening the program to suit a very broad demographic.
‘Bluesfest has a few styles,’ says Noble. ‘Alongside the blues, there is always going to be a touch of reggae music, a bit of rock and roll, a bit of bluegrass… but we are doing a festival that’s pretty unusual these days in that it doesn’t have a target demographic.’
Noble admits his programming style is often a creative response to the style of artists that start to say ‘yes’ to this world-recognised and internationally lauded event.
‘When I get offered Lucinda Williams and John Hyatt, it starts to get a feel of its own, and then add Steve Earle…’
While Noble and Byron Council are currently at ideological loggerheads regarding the Cultural Events Policy, Noble believes that music is not just unfairly targeted, but locals can tend to get laissez-faire about the cultural experiences they have on their doorstep.
It’s something he believes is unprecedented for a regional area. ‘You don’t get something like this in Mollymook! And to some degree, that’s something locals can take for granted – every year maybe 20 per cent of the festival attendance are locals. You can drive here and go home, see and hear a festival regarded as one of the best in the world! And then during the same week at the Hotel Great Northern you’ve got 10cc.
‘I still can’t believe that the community isn’t outraged by what is being proposed.’
This is the third year Bluesfest is on its own purpose-made site, at the Tyagarah Tea Tree farm. He believes that finally having a dedicated home is crucial to the event’s integrity. ‘The distinction between having a sportsfield and a dedicated event site is that we need to put in, we don’t need a pristine field that is ready, we do need to get in there and put in roadways and pads for stages – so the public can receive the benefit. When you come to Bluesfest you can see what we’ve done. The site has certainly changed and that’s thanks to a million dollars’ worth of investment.’ For more info visit www.bluesfest.com.au.