Bluesfest 2022 review: Easter weekend washes the blues away in Byron Bay

Bluesfest 2022 review: Easter weekend washes the blues away in Byron Bay

Words by Rebecca Miller

They say good things come to those who wait, and wait Bluesfest fans did, two long years for the festival to finally return. The line-up did not disappoint.

Rock legends The Living End kept the party vibe going after sunset Friday night. ‘Prisoner of Society’ was a crowd favourite, and a cover of ‘Tainted Love’ went off like the 1983 Challenger. Festival goers were happily recorded as part of the set for Double J radio.

Tex Perkins wooed Johnny Cash lovers with his renditions of ‘Jackson’ and ‘Ring of Fire’, among others. Lesser known artists were welcome additions to the set-list, including Nowra-based rock and roots band, 19Twenty, with original track ‘Natural Woman’, and an energetic cover of Rage Against the Machine’s, ‘Killing in the Name Of’ .

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Midnight Oil drew a huge crowd, playing old and new songs, interwoven with Peter Garrett’s political messages on Scott Morrison’s lack of action on climate change, the New South Wales and Queensland floods, and acknowledging First Nations people still not recognised in the constitution.

The good times rolled into Saturday with folk rockers the Pierce Brothers – albeit missing Jack Pierce – who succumbed to COVID-19. Pat Pierce nailed the show with the support of third Pierce brother, Justin, and fellow musician, Kim Churchill. Blues legend, Ash Grunwald, belted out bangers from his new album, ‘Shout into the Noise’ to his grateful listeners.

Up next, was roots duo, Hat Fitz and Cara who graced the Delta stage with Cara’s powerhouse voice singing their uplifting tune ‘Try’ supported by her partner, Hat Fitz’s weathered, Aussie ocker vocals.

The Saturday night shenanigans continued with Baker Boy bouncing onto the Crossroads stage accompanied by two female hip hop dancers, all of which had more mojo than the Energiser bunny. Baker Boy smashed his Triple J, Like a Version cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ and did an outstanding remake of Bernard Fanning’s ‘Wish you Well’, which we can only hope he records.

Xavier Rudd bought everyone back down to earth and embraced Indigenous culture with tribal dances from First Nations men, while he played the didgeridoo. Paul Kelly rounded out the evening to adoring fans, with the talented Vika and Linda Bull’s harmonies embraced.

Sunday highlights included Josh Teskey and Ash Grunwald playing their first album together, ‘Push the Blues Away’. Josh’s husky voice complemented Ash’s perfectly. Ash also spoke of the recent floods impacting his family and floating along his street on a stand-up paddle board.

The Waifs bought their much-loved folk music – minus the talented Vicki Thorn – who also contracted the virus. Fellow band members, Donna Simpson and Josh Cunningham did her proud. It was the first gig Donna had played without her beloved sister in 30 years.

Jimmy Barnes’s set was delayed by political spam from Anthony Albanese promoting his party’s supposed support of the arts community before being promptly booed off stage, followed by cheers for Barnesy. His gritty vocals encapsulated the giant crowd which billowed from the large tent covering the Mojo stage. Singalongs ensued to ‘Working Class Man’, ‘Khe San’ and ‘Flame Trees’. Meanwhile, the collaboration with Josh Teskey covering the Dirty Dancing hit song, ‘Do you Love Me’ injected more fun.

Crowded House rounded out the night with Neil Finn sporting a white suit and the after effects of a sneaky hash cookie. Barnesy also made a cameo appearance for ‘Mean to Me’, but ‘Fall At Your Feet’ won everyone over.

Of course, with hours of standing and dancing, quality food is required, and Bluesfest delivered. Vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-intolerant folk were catered for and local eateries supported, along with charities such as Lifeline, flood fundraisers, support for orangutangs, cystic fibrosis and more.

And, for people seeking retail therapy, local businesses were again championed with many hippie wares available, including jewellery, clothing, feathered hair pieces, cowgirl boots and musical singing bowls. A relaxing massage was also on hand for those needing time out.

Bluesfest was a blast from start to finish, despite me sadly missing Monday’s music due to catching the dreaded lurgy. Now the countdown begins for the 2023 event… I wonder who will grace the stages?

Pros: Amazing variety of artists, great food and vibes

Cons: Mud, passive smoking, and an endless sea of fedoras blocking the view of the bands

Highlight: Jimmy Barnes’ set