After five days of furious face-melting solos, indulgently excessive jam sessions and an unprecedented quota of covers, Bluesfest raised a plastic cup to a well-attended, well-enjoyed and well-rained on festival for 2015.
Returning to the Tyagarah Tea Farm over the Easter long weekend, Bluesfest once again solidified its well-worn spot in the Australian festival game as one of the tightest productions on the calendar. It goes without saying, this isn't festival director Peter Noble's first time at the rodeo. Everything just works.
After three major headliners pulled out early in the game (The Black Keys, Lenny Kravitz and Ben Howard), expectations for this year's Byron Bay blues and roots festival were a little all over the shop. But at the end of the day, most muddy Bluesfesters probably forgot they were playing in the first place; memories erased by the sheer rhythmic speed of Rodrigo y Gabriela, the old-soul might and power of Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard, and the somewhat random but nonetheless straight-up high-fiveworthy inclusion of Jurassic 5.
Honestly, it probably took every Bluefest-attending journo every inch of self control not to use the phrase "rain didn't dampen spirits" in any post-festival write-up for this year's event. Boy, did we want to. Bluesfest 2015 welcomed its usual onslaught of autumn rain, creating bonafide mud swamps in the middle of the festival by Sunday. But this didn't stop the punters; Beth Hart enthusiasts braving the rain for one of the best Led Zeppelin covers ever burled, and Xavier Rudd's heaving tent of fans happily squidging through marshes of sludge for the set. If anything, the rain made legendary Spanish-style supergroup The Gipsy Kings' huge singalong rendition of 'Bamboleo' even more magic.
Blending older legendary artists with new hotshots seemed to underpin the entire Bluesfest program this year — undeniably evident in the wide-ranging audience demographic too. Unsung soul hero Charles Bradley energetically howled and sexy-danced through his soulful set despite being 66 years old, while 31-year-old bright young hypecard Gary Clark Jr proved his reputation as one of the globe's best guitar players. If Bluesfest continues along this old/new programming balance, they're in for immeasurable years of new and returning ticket buyers. Bluesfest ain't goin' nowhere.
And one last thing. After relentless discussion and noob shaming, we counted no less than six inappropriate headdresses at Bluesfest. Yeah next time, maybe not guys.