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Event Report: Byron Blues Festival 2012


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2012 was the 23rd year for the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival and I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the first time in 15 years. The festival has grown from a simple two-day festival to a massive five-day juggernaught with over 83 artists playing across five stages.  It has been reported that over 87,000 punters attended the annual festival over its five-day duration. I will add that five days is a hell of a long time to keep in the festival mindset – and yes it is draining!

From a business perspective it was a very well run festival, with numerous shuttle buses coming and going to and from the event. Day tickets cost $160 or you can purchase a ticket for the whole five-day festival for $599 AUD. The music ranged from Blues, Ska, Reggae to rock with the likes of Buddy Guy, The Specials and Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. So yes a very varied line-up. Not just for blues and roots enthusiasts.

This did have its pros and cons – waiting around to see a couple of keys acts everyday whilst not being interested in others can be a downer in some books. Albeit I still managed to have fun and discovered some new upcoming artists I probably would not have ever previously considered including standout performances from; Dallas Frasca, Dubmarine and Watussi.

One key complaint was the lack of alcohol choice notably no cider options at all for the general punters whilst VIP’s had access to Seeds cider. Whilst, yes alcohol was expensive – that is to be expected at all festivals from my experience.

Choice of food was amazing, one of the best I have ever seen at the many festivals I have attended all over the world, yet it was excessively overpriced, a coffee at one place set me back $6AUD and the same for some hot chips!!! Absolutely crazy!

It’s a pity police obviously have nothing better to do than harass a small number of harmless pot smokers. Police surely your time could be better-spent policing big-time drug dealers and corrupt local and national politicians?

Unlike most festivals I have had the pleasure of attending, all stages at the Blues and Roots Festival 2012 were within large tents along with a number of large eating areas. The two massive tents were amazing. As a result the being enclosed away from moving winds the quality of sounds was awesome.

Whilst yes I hear some of you complain about the fact you would have liked to have been able to look up into the stars as you favorite band was playing – it is also important to ensure you the punter get the best quality sound. I’m sure artist’s would prefer the best sound quality possible – I could be wrong!

Parking at the festival was well organised. Location wise the event used to be held not far from the centre of town in Byron Bay. Apparently it moved out of town by ten or so kilometres a few years back, as locals complained about the noise and behaviour of the tourists who attend the festival. The irony being that Byron’s economy has been suffering for a while and one would have thought making the event move out to its current site actual had the effect of taking tourist dollars away from Byron.

I went to the festival to specifically see a few key acts including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Earth Wind and Fire, The Specials, Zappa Plays Zappa and psychedelic legends Yes. Sadly, I was not that impressed by most of them, and perhaps my expectations were a little high considering the age of some of these artists. I was informed the last time Yes toured Australia was 40 years ago in 1972.

Yet despite being 75 years of age Buddy Guy still managed to play a blinding set. Once again though reviewing artists is such a subjective thing and the above is my opinion only.

However, I was blown away by Melbourne three-piece Dallas Frasca who recently turned down a license deal from Sony Music Australia – will definitely look forward to seeing them again – it was an awesome way to start Friday’s proceedings. I was surprised that I actually was quite blown away John Fogerty – he rocked.

Dubmarine (http://www.dubmarine.com.au/) with indigenous singer and front man D-Kazman along with a trombones and thumping base was an incredible mix of hip-hop, ska and electro and it just rocked!!! And finally South American inspired rock and roots band Watussi (http://watussi.com.au/site/) played a thumping set.

Would I attend again? Most definitely! However, I would probably select two and possibly a maximum of three days from the five. I’ve already booked my flights so see you there next year!!!



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