Each year, as the Byron Bay Bluesfest line-up is announced, I find myself poring over the list of artists, oohing and aahing at the stellar quality of performances I’ll be missing out on – but not this year, no siree! Attending the music festival that has been on the top of my bucket list for more than two decades is finally a reality: I’ve saved up, I’ve booked up, and I’m taking my kids. Gulp.
With just a week to go, the butterflies have now kicked in and I’m excitedly scribbling down a few key things I’m looking forward to experiencing. Here are 12 of them.
1. Ms. Lauren Hill
Having listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on repeat for months (and months) in 1998, the neo-soul legend is still one of my go-to artists when I’m flicking through albums to play. Can you imagine seeing her live in the spectacular surroundings at Bluesfest? Eeek!
2. Leon Bridges
One listen and you’d be forgiven for thinking American soul and gospel vocalist Leon Bridges is a 70-year-old dude singing the blues on his porch in Alabama, after a long life of struggle and torment. The emotion Bridges conveys within his art is deeply moving, and quite astonishing given he’s just 28 years young.
3. Byron Bay
Just muttering the words “Byron Bay” sends a waft of relaxation over my bones. The beaches, the food, the vibe – I am yet to find another destination that changes me from a fast-paced city gal into a carefree (wannabe) bohemian hippy chick after just an hour on a plane.
4. Tash Sultana
Is there anything this woman can’t play? Witnessing the singing, beatboxing, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire in action could potentially blow my can’t-even-play-one-instrument mind.
5. Taking my kids to a five-day music festival
Byron Bay Bluesfest is a family friendly event, and includes entertainers like Mr. Bumsqueak (tee hee) along with face-painting and a full kid’s festival program. My two are a bit old for these shenanigans, so I’ll be enjoying watching them soak up the magic, dance the days into nights, and become inspired by the talent before them.
Morcheeba’s electronica chill-out album Big Calm (1998) was played over and over in every bedroom, car and cafe in the late ’90s and beyond – including mine!
7. Lionel Richie
Hello. Dancing on the Ceiling. All Night Long. So much boogie to deal with!
8. The Wailers
I’ve heard the eight-piece band can still jam like they did with the legendary Bob Marley in the ’60s and ’70s (see below). Just breathing in the same air as these kings and queens of reggae will be enough for me.
9. Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers
This is our chance to get our disco on with mastermind Nile Rodgers, who has famously collaborated with the likes of Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga (to name a few).
10. Dan Sultan
Killer was in my top 10 albums of 2017, and hearing the soulful, husky tones of Indigenous Rights representative Dan Sultan under the stars on Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm will be a highlight for sure.
11. Rag’n’Bone Man
Similar to Leon Bridges, Rory Charles Graham (AKA Rag’n’Bone Man) seems to be an old soul in a young man’s body. His exceptional sound, and ability to make my eyes blissfully close, will not be missed at Bluesfest.
Bluesfest is completely committed to minimising any negative impact the event could have on the environment and local wildlife. As such, they have stringent recycling strategies including converting the landfill into methane gas (which powers homes in the area) and giving organic waste to local pig farmers. After 29 years, the site remains the home of koalas, and festival-goers may even see the native icons in their natural habitat over the long weekend (*squee*). Koala monitoring programs and strict policies are in place to reduce any disturbance – Bluesfest organisers even planted 170 trees for the furry little ones to hang out in a few years ago.
Shout out also to First Aid Kit, Robert Plant, Holy Holy, Seal, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Franti and all the other artists I’m desperate to see but couldn’t fit into this list.