Crowds go ballistic for The John Butler Trio as revellers help Bluesfest blow out the candles on 21 great years as the region’s main event.
Crowds go ballistic for The John Butler Trio as revellers help Bluesfest blow out the candles on 21 great years as the region’s main event. Jay Cronan

Bluesfest celebrates 21st birthday

SO THAT’S how you throw a 21st birthday party.

The annual Byron Bay Bluesfest celebrated 21 years on the weekend with 17,500 of its closet friends.

Music fans were enchanted by one of the most diverse line-ups in the festival’s history, with dozens of acts delivering jaw-dropping performances.

Late last night, Crowded House were expected to put the icing on what was already a very large musical cake after some blistering sets earlier in the weekend.

On Saturday, Britain’s Joanna Shaw Taylor and Aussie Ray Beadle delivered some killer raw blues, and guitar freak Joe Bonamassa proved he is the torch bearer for the next generation of great blues players.

And while guitar technicians were a signature at this year’s festival, there was plenty of other talent too.

Banjo genius Bela Fleck worked in beautiful partnership with African singer Oumou Sangare, while Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club hosted one massive salsa dance.

Yesterday’s early highlights included Aussie duo The Fumes and cult singer-songwriter Rodriquez.

Speaking to The Northern Star from Bluesfest yesterday, festival director Peter Noble said he was thrilled fans could experience the talent on display this year.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a bill like this. And I don’t know if we’ll have another one. Although I have said that before,” he said.

Mr Noble said he was more than pleased with how the festival had settled into its new home at the Tyagarah Tee Tree Farm.

“From all reports it’s going like a dream,” he said.

Fans appeared to have happily embraced the new site, with near sell-out crowds during the weekend.

However, some music fans did get a little too comfortable in the new surrounds, with sniffer dogs detecting illegal drugs, mostly marijuana, on more than 100 people by the middle of Saturday.

Inspector Greg Carey of the Tweed/Byron local area command said police had taken a harm minimisation approach where drugs had been seized.

“The vast majority have been given cannabis cautions,” he said.

The relatively small number of drug detections was one of the few blips in another hugely successful Bluesfest.

Festival organisers said tickets are available today for anyone keen to join what has already been one massive 21st birthday party.



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