Cat Empire?s lead singer Felix Riebl works his magic at the East Coast Blues and Roots Music Festival, Red Devil Park.
Cat Empire?s lead singer Felix Riebl works his magic at the East Coast Blues and Roots Music Festival, Red Devil Park.

Nothing blue about a world class event


THE new forces behind the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival believe moving to a new venue next year will help it become the world's top music event.

New directors Glenn Wheatley, Michael Chugg and Daryl Herbert yesterday joined with long time boss, Peter Noble, to push for a relocation to a 162 hectare site at Tyagarah, north of Byron Bay, near the Pacific Highway.

It coincided with an announcement that an extra 250 tickets would be sold daily at the gate in an attempt to thwart scalpers.

"Last year we were ranked in the top five festivals in the world. This year I want to be number one," Mr Noble said, who broke up with long-term business partner, Kevan Oxford, last year.

The move to Tyagarah is under discussion with Byron Shire Council, with the new directors playing an important role.

Despite their heavyweight influence and experience in the music industry, the new team insisted they would not mess with the successful blues and roots formula.

However, there have been a number of noticeable changes already in evidence this year.

Glenn Wheatley, manager of chart-topper John Farnham, has added his expertise by updating the festival ticketing system, while international promoter Michael Chugg boosted the festival line-up by adding his touring US act, REM.

"It's not about headline acts," Mr Chugg said.

"It's about having great acts and putting on a great show.

"But it's long gone past being just roots and blues, it's got everything. But the traditional blues will always be there."

While the 'spirit' of the festival may not change, both promoters confirmed a major change of venue, from Red Devil Park to the tea tree farm at Tyagarah, was in store.

"We're at a pussy's bow with the venue," Mr Wheatley said.

"Ultimately we think we could do a better job with more permanent facilities.

"But, we are very mindful of the culture and environment of the area."

Mr Chugg stressed the new festival home would not become an all-year-round party site, despite the concerns of nearby property owners.

"There's been a lot of information spread about that's not even close to what we're on about," Mr Chugg said.

But this Easter Mr Chugg said the priority was putting on the best festival they could.

"The feeling here is great," he said.

"We've brought in some top artists, we've put in a new early-bird ticketing system, changed the layout of the site and brought in top professionals to run the bar.

"I'm just looking forward to some amazing performances and sharing that with 15,000 people each day."

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