The Blues Festival is almost upon us and so it seemed fitting that we touched in with festival director Peter Noble about his top five picks for the upcoming festival.This was never going to be an amazing task because, as Peter says, ‘It’s like asking the father which child he loves most’
‘It’s like trying to find Wally because there are so many brilliant acts, and in choosing a few I will be missing out on people who won Grammies or who got nominated, such as Bobby Rush at 82, who just got his first Blues Grammy, or Rick Estrin, who got nominated for seven blues awards. Bluesfest is an embarrassment of talent. Someone on our website posted that it would take them a month to see all that talent. And you can’t see everything. We all know that when Lionel Ritchie sings and All Night Long drifts through the Festival it’s going to be one of those moments, but there’s just so much more to see…’
Okay, so here it is. The big man pinned down and forced to give a selection. Here are Peter’s Picks!
1. Boomerang – ‘A festival within a festival’, says Peter. ‘The Australian public have the opportunity to experience Indigenous culture and enjoy it, and please open the door a little more – all we want is a treaty. You did it in New Zealand, they did it in the 1830s. We were busy having border wars, we don’t accept that when these people come to us wanting to have a treaty we shut the door. The Boomerang festival will survive. We should be putting it in the noses of our stupid politicians who should have their eye on our original people who deserve a lot more. That’s why they are always our first pick. You can have a cup of tea with an elder, or do some weaving; you can sit and weave and get the experience of being with an Indigenous person and get to know them and love and support them.’
2. Tash Sultana – ‘The highest-ticket-selling contemporary artist in Australia today,’ says Peter. ‘No-one sells the tickets she sells and a year ago she wasn’t selling any. She’s bloody brilliant. I could go back all those years to when Kasey Chambers was playing and Steve Earle was raving about her. when I saw her by herself I thought she can’t be stopped, she has a message for the world – and so does Tash Sultana. She’s a musician for the world.
That footage of her on the Bourke Street Mall doing it all herself, so powerful, is one of those young ladies who are unstoppable.’
3. Reggae… Jimmy Cliff – ‘He is playing an exclusive show in Australia,’ says Peter. ‘I heard a whisper that this will be his final Australian performance. He won’t say how old he is. He is still the best voice ever in reggae. Bob Marley might have been the best songwriter, but Jimmy is the best singer. He must be closer to 80 and he dances the whole set he does. Along with that are the Wailers. Family man Barrett has had a stroke. On Bob Marley’s death bed he promised to keep the band alive. A lot of the original bands come around Family Man. If you want to hear the music by the band of Bob Marley who recorded with him, not one or two, but three or four of them. This is the best chance, you won’t see those acts again.’
4. Women – ‘We have lots of women at Bluesfest,’ says Peter. ‘Last year we had a headliner, Patti Smith, who won the Helpman Award for act of the year up against Adele and Bruce Springsteen, and she still won. Cheryl Crow is on this year and my god she is a true headliner; and Melissa Etheridge – these are the things that happen at Blues, musicians such as Lauren Hill. The day we announced her we had more than 500,000 likes on our Facebook; she’s only playing Bluesfest. If you go farther down you have people such as Katy Baker, Mia Dyson, First Aid Kit, Morcheeba… just keep going. That’s what Bluesfest has always been: it’s always been a festival that comes out of the black music experience. We always feature people of all genders and all colours.’
5. The big South American acts – ‘Seu Jorge. Ever since I announced him I got to know a lot more Brazilian people in this area. The biggest hero of the lot is coming – Juanes. He has 23 Grammies. Here he is playing blues; that’s what it does. We widen it. Bluesfest is an embarrassment of riches and I believe I have booked one of my best, but this year you just look through it and it never ends, you are down on the 20th line. Show me another festival in Australia that goes to that depth of talent.’
Peter is immensely proud of his festival and claims it’s because ‘all the money is on the stage’.
‘It’s not about kite shows or decorations or stuff like that. We just got nominated for the sixth Pollstar award for best international festival. We are the only other festival to be nominated six years in a row.’
And hey, the word on the street from Peter is ‘Easter Sunday isn’t a day to sit back and wonder about going; it’s starting to look like it’s going to sell out.’
Thursday 29 March till Monday 2 April.
Program and tickets on www.bluesfest.com.au.