Story Chris Dobney, Photos The Tree Faerie
The 25th anniversary Byron Bay Bluesfest launched yesterday to clear skies and a wild, enthusiastic crowd.
Festival director Peter Noble has cast a wide net once again and snared a broad audience.
From the carefully perfected pop of superstar John Mayer to the old-school blues of Buddy Guy and the gravelly irony of Dr John (the straight man’s Elton John, resplendent at the piano in a purple suit) there really was something to suit every taste.
My great discovery of the day was Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, playing a sweating, dancing, pulsing African rhythm, with wild, soaring brass notes to a tent barely a quarter full.
Whoever was programmed against John Mayer was probably going to lose out but the good news is they’ll be playing again at the same time tonight.
Mayer meanwhile played a most un-Bluesfest-like set to a tent packed to the screaming rafters.
From the site that was still in the last stages a prepping when I first stuck my nose in at midday, to the crowded bustling festival in progress when I returned at 7pm, everything ran smoothly, delays were minimal (apart from the roads in) and crowds were orderly.
As a venue the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm has come of age, with the now familiar layout spreading out the crowd to a bearable level.
The addition of the new Sunset Bar – a VIP lounge in a double-storey prefab that looked ever so much like a surf club – was an inspired move that will no doubt help to soothe the aching limbs of weary punters.
The ‘chair ban’, while not enforced festival-wide, has helped to clear venues, making them feel more spacious and easier to get around.
A large array of chairs towards the rear of the main venue has taken the place of the raked seating of old, meaning it is difficult to get much view of the stage from a chair any more. But perhaps this was always the case.
Onward to day two, with Jack Johnson, Joss Stone, Gregg Allman, Aaron Neville, Boz Scaggs, Doobie Brothers and many more.