Postcard: Larry Heath of the AU review at Bluesfest

posted by Larry Heath on April 04, 2013

Photo: Iggy Pop at Bluesfest 2013 by Johnny Au

Byron Bay, Australia -- Hello friends of Cultivora!

I come to you from the land "Down Under" to herald the good word of the five-day Australian Blues and Roots Festival known simply as "Bluesfest". It's held in Northern NSW in the sunny beach town of Byron Bay and is a festival that attracts some of the biggest names in the world - this year we have Robert Plant, Paul Simon, Iggy and the Stooges, and Santana as just a few of our headliners - and some 80,000 punters (Editor's Note: punters are the Aussie equivalent of festivalgoers) over the Easter Weekend event.

I write you this postcard having just returned home from the event. My feet are sore, my Gumboots/Wellingtons are muddy and I'm pretty keen to have a nap. But the memories from the weekend won't be leaving me anytime soon. There's something about the ├╝ber long festival format that makes you truly leave your comfort world behind. You enter a strange routine filled with amazing music, surprisingly decent food, and the company of good friends; you're sure to leave with some new ones, too.

There are seven stages at the event, and over two hundred performances to whet your musical appetite over the five days of the festival. Of my personal highlights, Robert Plant was a truly life changing experience. Getting to hear the legendary vocalist of Led Zeppelin in the flesh, and still sounding as great as ever, was something I'd waited my whole life to witness. Some seven Zeppelin songs were included, including tracks like "Black Dog," "Whole Lotta Love," and "Rock and Roll," so he did not disappoint me - although those who wanted to hear more of his solo Blues material may have thought differently.

Paul Simon, meanwhile, had the honour of closing the festival, and did it in grand style, pulling out no less than three encores and ending on one of my personal favourite tracks of all time, "The Boxer." Sure, it's not the same without Garfunkel there - and he doesn't do Art the disservice of calling in a replacement - but it's still a beautiful singalong, and I couldn't have thought of a better way to end the five day affair.

Other highlights included the gorgeous Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, who Festival Director Peter Noble has already invited back for next year on the back of their phenomenal performance. Glen Hansard and The Frames was emotionally gripping, and showed the talented Irish singer/songwriter off at his best - not to mention the band behind him! He made sure to throw in a few Swell Season songs for good measure too. On the local side, The Beards, Saskwatch and Busby Marou were all much talked about acts, as were Canada's Ben Caplan and Matt Andersen.

To say it was a jam packed five days is an understatement, and this brief report barely scratches the surface. All I can say is that this is one festival you just have to experience for yourself. The festival will return over Easter weekend in 2014 for its 25th year. An incredible accomplishment for any major music event to reach such a milestone! And you can bet they have some big names up their sleeves...

You can check out hundreds of photos, plus interviews with the talent and all the reviews over at our Bluesfest hub!

Follow @theaureview on Twitter

See Also:

36 Hours in Byron Bay
Introducing Our Guide to Byron Bay Bluesfest
Cultivora's Must-Have Camping Gear for Summer Festivals