Despite the drama, Bluesfest keeps rocking

After a busy run-up that featured several big names The 34th Blues Festival was canceled due to illness or even a boycott and took place under a brilliantly clear sky, but with significantly fewer festival visitors than in the previous year.

About 70,000 music fans attended the site outside of Byron Bay over the weekend, compared to about 100,000 last year. The often monumental rush-hour queues at bars and restaurants have been noticeably reduced this year, as have crowds for the smaller acts earlier in the day.

Buddy Guy, 86, wowed the huge crowd.

Buddy Guy, 86, wowed the huge crowd.Credit: Edwina cucumbers

Festival director Peter Noble, however, remained characteristically optimistic.

“For me, this is one of the best bills we’ve ever had,” he said. “That’s how it used to be before COVID. I think it’s fair enough to say we don’t have as many people as last year but we’re not dying and we’ll be back next year.

“I’d rather be upbeat and say, ‘Look guys, Netflix gets boring after a while. Put your phone out of your face and enjoy some live music because that’s our culture and our country.” ”

Earlier this year, Bluesfest dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons after a backlash after Sydney band Sticky Fingers were added to the line-up. The band’s lead singer, Dylan Frost, has long been accused of his behavior towards other artists.

Attendance for the 34th festival was lower than last year, but at least the sun was shining.

Attendance for the 34th festival was lower than last year, but at least the sun was shining.Credit: Edwina cucumbers

In February, headlining acts Sampa the Great and Melbourne crowd favorites King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard both pulled the pin in response to the controversy. Faced with the possibility of losing more acts, festival boss Peter Noble dropped Sticky Fingers from the line-up after initially confessing to them.

More recently, headliner Elvis Costello retired due to illness, as did (for unspecified reasons) multi-Grammy Award-winning American pianist and producer Robert Glasper, as well as Joe Camilleri and The Black Sorrows.

Jaclyn Diaz

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