Some of the best musical acts of the last three decades, playing in one of the most idyllic places on Earth. Why the hell would you miss that combo? Nope, we don’t care if you have deadlines, or that Sunday knitting club you love so much. All of that can wait.
Byron Bay will host the biggest party of the year and missing it will haunt your conscience for the rest of your existence. Here are some reasons why in April, Bryon Bay will be the centre of the world, again.
Simply put, since 1990 Byron Bay Bluesfest has brought to Australia some of the best bands of all time. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Classic acts like Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, and Iggy Pop have shared the stage with contemporary heavyweights like Kurt Vile, Kendrick Lamar, and The National.
The yearly event has grown to attract over 100,000 spectators that flood every easter the small beachside town located in the far northeastern corner of New South Wales.
There are many amazing festivals in the world. We have Roskilde in Denmark, Sziget in Budapest, Rock al Parque in Bogotá, and of course, the usual suspects Glastonbury and Coachella. But what makes Byron Bay Bluesfest special among the lot, is not only its spotless selection but the fact that it’s an event basically held in paradise. And no, this is no exaggeration either, Bryon Bay is one of the most beautiful, easygoing, — and yeah, expensive — sites in the whole world.
Check it out below:
“Cheer up, slow down, chill out” famously reads the Bryon Bay welcome sign. Bookworms might recognise it from John Macgregor’s 1986 novel Propinquity, filmgoers must’ve seen Byron Bay in the brit comedy from 2014 The Inbetweeners 2, and gamers will remember the area was featured in the 2016 open-world racing title, Forza Horizon 3.
The small Eden with a population of over 9,000, postcard-perfect beaches, and delicious waves, was first baptised by the local Arakwal aboriginal peoples as Cavvanbah, which means “meeting place”, a pretty appropriate denomination for a location that over the years has turned into a singular convergence point of celebrities, hippies, surfers, tourists, international backpackers and hordes of horny teenagers.
Since European settlers started arriving in the 1700s the area went through multiple iterations during the 18th and 19th centuries, transforming the place from a logging site to a whaling port, and then to a gold mining operation. If that wasn’t enough, by the mid-1900s, various factories had established in the area to produce dairy, bacon, and other processed meat. The small industrial hub was prosperous, but an absolute ecological disaster.
Byron Bay’s transformation into a tourist destination only began in the 1960s, when surfers started to come in droves, attracted by the consistent waves and gorgeous landscapes. People of alternative thinking started to tag along, be it city outcasts, hippies, new age enthusiasts, or creatives who found in the bay the perfect site to grow roots outside the typical 9 to 5 life.
By 1973 the community was so big the first Aquarius Festival was held in nearby Nimbin — Australia’s Woodstock — cementing the bay’s reputation as a hippy, carefree destination.
What makes the area different from the Gold Coast is that when cash started to flow in by the ‘80s, the community fought to grow along a sustainable development model, focusing on farms and taking decisions like limiting the height of town centers to max three storeys. Today, Byron Bay is one of the hottest up-market residential areas in the country, visited by more than two million tourists each year.
Byron Bay’s sensational beaches and reliable waves have been attracting surfers for years, but as visitors became more diverse, the beaches have diversified as well. There are spots ideal for meditation and sheltered swimming, while at sites like Julian Rocks you will be able to scuba dive among sea turtles, or you can go to Cape Byron Marine Park to get the chance to kayak beside bottlenose dolphins.
Food, lots of it
One of the biggest selling points of Byron Bay is definitively its thriving foodie scene, especially the community’s emphasis on sustainable farming and organic foods. Over 70 local farmers set up their stands at the weekly farmers’ market at the Cavanbah Centre every Thursday to sell the most mouthwatering fresh produce you can imagine.
Additionally, Byron’s town centre is the epicentre of a myriad of star cafés, restaurants, and bakeries that will absolutely destroy your carb count for the rest of the year. If that’s not enough debauchery for you, you can go to the outskirts where you can find even crazier places, like this farm called Three Blue Ducks which hosts an elite restaurant with a menu entirely comprised of its in house-produce.
Eden at your fingertips
Lush natural locations and remarkable heritage-listed sites are everywhere in Byron Bay. The Cape Byron track, for example, is a 3.7 KM trail that leads you through rainforest and windswept cliffs that offer you breathtaking views over the ocean. It’s so spectacular, between June and November you can even spot migrating humpback whales. How about that?
There’s also the hike to the rim of Mount Warning that will offer you a 360-degree view that stretches all the way from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast. Fancy a walk through a dense rainforest? Byron Bay got you covered with the Nightcap National Park, where you can also find immaculate creeks and an assortment of critters including pademelons, tawny frogmouths, bandicoots, and possums.
Jaw-dropping clifftop views, stunning beaches, subtropical rainforests, and the best food in Australia, not enough? How about some of the best bands in the world?
This year’s Bluesfest is going to be particularly cracking with a balanced lineup that features bona fide legends alongside hot contemporary acts for every taste. If hanging out in paradise is not a big enough reason to come to Byron this April, here are 12 acts that will help you make up your mind.
This one is for those who suffer from chronic ‘90s nostalgia. There was a point in time when her breakout album Jagged Little Pill was inescapable; you could stumble upon it on MTV, in your shiny state-of-the-art Discman, and even in your mum’s favourite radio station.
Her popularity hit its peak when she played the role of God in Kevin Smith’s comedy Dogma in 1999.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘You Oughta Know’
Recommended album: Jagged Little Pill
Amadou & Mariam
One of the most critically acclaimed and lauded African acts of the last four decades, they have influenced everyone from Four Tet and Jamie xx to Damon Albarn and Manu Chao. The duo successfully merges traditional sounds from Mali with blues, Cuban rhythms, rock’n’roll and other styles from all over the world to produce something that is dancefloor-friendly, emotional and absolutely unique.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Dougou Badia’ featuring Santigold
Recommended album: Welcome to Mali
Dave Matthews Band
DMB is one of the most technically proficient bands in the whole world, a name capable of intersecting fans of mainstream adult-orientated pop and aficionados of the long tradition of jam music. If you ever wanted a concert that could unite your dad with your stoner friends, this might be it.
Since their major-label debut album Under the Table and Dreaming from 1994, DMB has sold almost 100 million copies of their studio records and live presentations combined, making them one of the top 100 highest-selling music acts of all time.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Crush’
Recommended album: Before These Crowded Streets
Eagles of Death Metal
Fronted by guitarist and singer Jesse Hughes, EODM is one of the various projects from multi-instrumentalist and rock’n’roll renaissance man Josh Homme, frontman of Queens of the Stone Age and part of superbands and collectives like Them Crooked Vultures, The Desert Sessions, and U.N.K.L.E.
How to define their sound? Imagine head-swinging melodies, muscular, dirty guitar riffs, tattoos, and aviator sunglasses. Their music is a mix of rockabilly, bluegrass and the most ridiculous falsettos, rock’n’roll devised to celebrate life, alcohol, and sex. And we love it.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘I Like to Move in the Night’
Recommended album: Death by Sexy
The Brit rocker has gone from hardcore to punk, from country to folk, and although his output is incredibly varied in sound, the one underlying trait has always been a knack for highly articulate and heartfelt lyrics that resemble the great wordsmiths of the history of rock’n’roll like Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, or Bob Dylan.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘The Lioness’
Recommended album: Be More Kind
One of the most commercially and critically acclaimed bands to ever come from down under, Crowded House is an institution at home and a two-hit wonder abroad. In the late ‘80s, they recorded some of the best rock-pop of the decade with an oeuvre full of jangly guitars, melancholic melodies, and meticulous lyrics.
The band pulled the plug in the late ‘90s after their fourth album, and since then they have gone through a handful of reunions. Their new chapter starts with this exclusive headline appearance at Bluesfest.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’
Recommended album: Together Alone
The English musician is one of the living legends to visit the festival this year. With a career that spans over six decades, every project he’s done since the ‘60s has signified a stepping stone in the evolution of blues and rock, directly influencing everybody from Eric Clapton to The Rolling Stones.
Today, 86-years old and with more than 60 albums under his belt, he is still out there showing new generations how it’s done.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Dirty Water’
Recommended album: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton
Since Steve Wonder, probably nobody has been able to find the perfect recipe to merge rock ‘n’ roll, funk, blues, and soul as efficiently as Lenny Kravitz. During the ‘90s and early aughts, the American multi-instrumentalist was almost untouchable, crafting hits not only for his albums but for artists like Madonna, Vanessa Paradis, and Steven Tyler.
In a career that spans three decades and almost every award available, he has recently veered towards acting and photography with relative success.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘If You can’t Say No’
Recommended album: 5
An overnight internet sensation, LP is coming to Australia for the first time making her much expected debut at Bluesfest. During the first decade of her career, she was the scribe of mega-hits of a diverse range of artists that went from The Backstreet Boys to Rihanna.
In 2016 she was finally unleashed from a series of limiting record deals and released her album Lost on You, which took over the world and still today echoes throughout the record industry.
Laura Pergolizzi has risen to the top with an unlikely recipe for pop-stardom; she’s a fully-fledged musician that writes her own material, performs instruments on her albums and on stage, and features no dance choreographies in her act. No risqué Instagram posts either.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Muddy Waters’
Recommended album: Lost on You
The explosion of the Seattle sound and the Bristol underground scene in the early ‘90s were probably the last musical revolutions of the XXth century, and we could argue we haven’t seen anything like it yet in the new millennium. One of the most far-reaching and impactful new styles to emerge from those aesthetic upheavals was trip-hop, a rich, enigmatic genre that blended hip hop, rock, blues, jazz, and electronica, yet sounded like neither of those.
One of the first and most successful exponents of trip-hop was Morcheeba, a band fronted by the charismatic Sky Edwards, who’s smoothing, angelic voice gave them a distinctive sheen different from other bands of the genre.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Big Calm’
Recommended album: Big Calm
One of the biggest legends to ever feature in the festival, she absolutely owned the stage in 2017 in what we thought would be her last performance on Australian soil. But just as she says, tomorrow might bring wonderful things. “I’d like to do it all over again. I’m ready if you are!” she said when it was announced she had the medical green light to rock again.
The poet, photographer, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, human rights activist, and all-round damn awesome human being is one of the absolute highlights of the event.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Recommended album: Horses
The Cat Empire
The Australian band formed in Melbourne in the late ‘90s is one of those acts that can change its sound from album to album, even from song to song. Known for their infectious mix of ska, jazz, and funk with some Latin rhythms sprinkled in for good measure they’re local heroes not only for their upbeat, celebratory music but for their activist work as well.
Throughout their lengthy career, they have collaborated with many organisations like the World Wide Fund, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and since 2011, the band has been official ambassadors for Melbourne organisation Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
Song for the uninitiated: ‘The Sun’
Recommended album: Steal the Light
Super baited already, aren’t you? Well, you’re in luck! If you’re ready to experience the best Easter of your life, we have for you the Rolling Stone Bluesfest VIP ticket which offers music fans the chance to experience Bluesfest like a friggin’ rock star.
Backstage tours, side-stage experience, and an invitation to an exclusive “Karaoke with the stars” party, where, yeah you guessed it, some of the acts performing at the festival will lead the most demanding Karaoke challenges ever!
I mean come on, stop reading and go get it already. You will find all the info you need right here.