About This Festival
Started as the East Coast International Blues and Roots Music Festival in 1990, Byron Bay Bluesfest has blossomed into an old-school favorite of music festival aficionados around the world. We say “old-school” because this isn’t a flashy festival like the EDM hit Tomorrowland and a good number of the musicians on stage are older legends. The mix of blues, soul, folk and rock plus the eclectic crowd that can include three generations from one family give the event an unpretentious, friendly vibe. Bluesfest has become the standard with which all other Australian music festivals are judged, and it has won global music festival awards alongside Montreux and Glastonbury.
With seven stages, Bluesfest gives you lots of choices in musical styles and headliners. The curatorial perspective of festival director Peter Noble is to highlight musicians with a strong point of view especially regarding how they might incorporate social justice issues in the context of their music. That spirit carries through to the fact that Bluesfest is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly festivals around. But, if you’re looking for strictly a blues festival, then we suggest you look elsewhere as Noble’s vision is much broader than that.
Positive, Chill Experience
With nearly 20,000 attendees each day and 200 performances over five days, this isn’t a small festival, but there are few music fests in the world that are more mellow and kick-back than this one. Whether you’re enjoying Ziggy Marley, the Doobie Brothers or Charlie Musselwhite, people come to Bluesfest to relax rather than be raucous. You’re more likely to see a “heritage act” than an up-and-coming musical act. Some have compared Bluesfest to Glastonbury in that they both attract a more mature crowd and have the constant threat of rain turning it into MudFest. Australians (95% of the crowd is from Down Under) call them “gumboots,” but galoshes are readily available in town. You might also buy a small, portable chair in town as sitting on the ground or standing all day can take its toll on your back. Yes, this is a festival meant for comfort, not chaos.
Relaxing Location for a Music Festival
Byron Bay’s bohemian past means you’ll see your share of didgeridoos and bongo drums, sarongs and dreadlocks, in the parks and on the beaches of the area. It’s a low-key atmosphere with high-producing aesthetics. The beaches of the area are dotted with lighthouses and you can swim with bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles. Given that the festival is during the long Easter weekend, it’s a popular family vacation spot so many people do a combination of music festival and beach adventure, especially if you enjoy surfing. If you enjoy diving, there’s a great spot at Julian Rocks that is part of Cape Byron Marine Park. Subtropical rainforests such as Nightcap National Park with Minyon Falls are not far from Byron Bay. Given all the area has to offer, it’s not surprising that other festivals like Splendour in the Grass and the Byron Bay Writers Festival have sprouted in this beautiful, fertile environment.