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100,000 punters flock to Bluesfest

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Bluesfest 2016. Photo Jeff Dawson
Bluesfest 2016. Photo Jeff Dawson

Chris Dobney

By the time Tom Jones sang out ‘It’s Not Unusual’ at 10 o’clock last night more than 100,000 people had passed through the gates of this year’s 27th annual Bluesfest at Byron Bay.

There were 82 separate acts onstage, comprising more that 600 artists and support staff. Some 500 volunteers, including traffic wardens and garbologists, smoothed the path.

The event was bookended by two very different acts: crooner to swooning mums, Tom Jones, and world number one rap artist Kendrick Lamar, whose take on politics  got his target audience at least as excited as his dick jokes.

Jeff Dawson’s photos of Sunday at Bluesfest

Eagles of Death Metal put in an astonishing set just months after their near-death experience in Paris, with lead singer Jesse Hughes telling the crowd, ‘We’ve been through all kinds of bad shit in the last few months but this here makes all that bad shit go away. So stick with us and we’re going to make a different kind of bad shit.’ And so they did.

UB40’s Ali Campbell achieved the remarkable feat of singing and chewing gum at the same time, which was a bonus as far as the thousands who packed out Crossroads were concerned.

Other old timers who rocked the crowd included Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, The Wailers, The Original Blues Brothers Band, Taj Mahal and The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. Not to mention 73-year-old Beach Boy Brian Wilson.

A great standout in this year’s mostly male Bluesfest line-up was Melissa Ethridge who put in a powerhouse hour and a half set that made ‘Bring Me Some Water’ sound like it was written yesterday.

Up-and-coming artists like Lukas Nelson and Promise of The Real, Rhiannon Giddens, St Paul and The Broken Bones, and Fantastic Negrito – all of whom played riveting sets – kept it fresh and proved that Peter Noble hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to spotting talent.

Mr Noble himself was so pleased with the line-up he said if he could schedule them all again next year without a change he ‘would be sorely tempted to’.

‘From Kendrick Lamar on Thursday opening to The Original Blues Brothers Band closing it has been one of our greatest festivals,’ he said.

‘The legends, the emerging artists came and Boomerang not only came back but knocked everyone out doing it.

‘Thank you to everyone for coming and sharing the Bluesfest experience with us, we couldn’t do it without you,’ Mr Noble said.

2016 saw Boomerang indigenous festival incorporated into Bluesfest for the first time.

While critics may argue it lacked the punch of a standalone festival, it certainly brought indigenous culture and music to a much wider audience.

That was certainly the opinion of Boomerang festival director Rhoda Roberts, who said that, ‘unless you go to Arnhem Land you are not going to get the experience that Bluesfest allowed us to share with our audiences.’

‘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,’ she said.

The Boomerang closing ceremony showcased first nation artists from across the globe and patrons watching the incredibly energetic and moving performance were overheard calling it the highlight of their festival experience.

More stories from Bluesfest 2016

100,000 punters flock to Bluesfest

By the time Tom Jones sang out ‘It’s Not Unusual’ at 10 o’clock last night more than 100,000 people had passed through the gates of this year’s 27th annual Bluesfest at Byron Bay.


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Seasoned festival snapper souled right out

Veteran Echonetdaily photographer Jeff Dawson has probably caught more performers in the act up close at Bluesfest than you can think of, and much more than most of his peers on the job this year.


Bluesfest hump day and the rain came

It wouldn't be Bluesfest if we didn't get a bit of rain and at the halfway point yesterday afternoon, the heavens open to hear the sweet tunes drifting up from Tyagarah and the rain fell.


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