Bluesfest 2017 – An Awe Inspiring Wealth of Musical Experience

Byron Bay Bluesfest is all about the music. It’s not a festival you go to find a patch of luscious green grass to chill out on and catch up with friends. For starters you’re not likely to find such grass or any other festival spaces to chill out comfortably (unless you pay hundreds extra to sit on a couch in the VIP bar). And besides that there’s just so many incredible artists playing on its five stages throughout the five-day Easter festival to keep you on the move and happily engrossed in music.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige at Bluesfest 2017

Over its 28 year history Bluesfest has continued to diversify its line-up extending beyond “blues and roots” music to include more hip hop, funk, soul, jazz and reggae acts so there’s something to satisfy the broadest range of tastes.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas at Bluesfest 2017

No matter your musical taste and even where an act mightn’t be your cup of tea, what you’re sure to find on just about any Bluesfest stage are musicians and vocalists who are highly skilled, accomplished masters and mistresses of their craft; and who each have a wealth of experience in playing and performing. Thinking about the collective skills and experience of all Bluesfest 2017 artists combined, is both mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.

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Those gold standard levels of musicianship make for plenty of special music moments to be found during the festival. You know the ones I mean: those completely-present, thoughtless, blissful moments that make life feel so much better than however it might actually be at the time.

This year I found most of my special moments with Michael Kiwanuka, Miles Electric Band, Nas and The Soul Rebels, Roy Ayers, Laura Mvula, Snarky Puppy, Mavis Staples, Mary J Blige and Booker T.  Check out glimpses of those shows below- and look elsewhere for the low-down on shows by other 2017 artists including Santana, Gregory Porter, Patti Smith, Buddy Guy, Beth Hart, Nikki Hill, Busby Marou, Courtney Barnett, The Doobie Brothers and Neil Finn.

Miles Electric Band

First up there was that absolute sublime found in hearing and seeing the stunning chops of the multi-generational members of Miles Electric Band paying contemporary homage to Miles Davis’ electronic era.

Christian Scott - trumpet

Christian Scott with Miles Electric Band

The group’s second festival show, where the band seemed way more relaxed and wasn’t plagued by the sound issues of the first , fell on Blackbyrd McKnight’s birthday with the band acknowledging that in the most subtle and beautiful of musical ways.

Blackbyrd McKnight - Miles Electric Band concert 2017

Blackbyrd McKnight

Check out a track below from an album you mightn’t yet have discovered- Blackbyrd McKnight’s solo project ’bout Funkin’ Time – as well as video snippets from Miles Electric Band’s Bluesfest shows.

Blackbyrd McKnight - 'bout funkin' time

“Funkin Where You Belong” by Blackbyrd McKnight

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Nas & The Soul Rebels

Then came the delightful experience of hearing Nas perfectly spitting poetic rhymes with positive, inspiring messages accompanied by the sounds of a DJ and live instrumentation by New Orleans band The Soul Rebels (a perfect combo yes?). Nas threw the crowd back into the golden sounds of hip hop days gone, to cassette tapes and the forever-lasting influence of Michael Jackson’s music.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas

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Michael Kiwanuka

A spiritual experience of the highest order was also found in hearing the unique, old-soul voice of Michael Kiwanuka live-  especially when accompanied by his supporting female vocalist for some songs like ‘Rule the World’. He and his band opened both Bluesfest shows with the slow instrumental build-up of ‘Cold Little Heart’ before performing most other tracks from the latest album Love & Hate, ‘Home Again’ and a timely Prince cover, introduced with a bold statement to the effect that “without Prince, there would be no music”.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka’s Australian shows kicked off a long list of tour dates you can get along to over coming months in the U.K, U.S.A and Europe. In the meantime treat your ears to the song below from Love & Hate, check out video footage from his Bluesfest shows and hear more Michael Kiwanuka music here. Any good local music store should have both albums to buy and keep in your beloved-forever-after collection 🙂 .

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

“Place I Belong” by Michael Kiwanuka 

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Roy Ayers

Both of Roy Ayers’ festival shows were nothing short of instrumental sublime. It was a joy to see this funk-soul-jazz legend in his late 70s, still creating magic on the vibraphone and visibly taking great pleasure in creating live music with his band.

Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Roy Ayers

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Mavis Staples

At one of her earlier festival shows Mavis Staples told the crowd in no uncertain terms: “You know, my sisters are The Staple Sisters. We’ve been taking you all down for 60 years. And. I. ain’t. tired.”. Now although she (justifiably) looked a little worn by the end of her final show, the overwhelming feeling in the crowd seemed to be that Ms. Mavis Staples just gets better and better with age.

Mavis Staples live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Mavis Staples

Snarky Puppy

There were also all those good vibes brought to Australian stages again by contemporary instrumental jazz maestros Snarky Puppy – this time around with the personal added bonus for me of Bobby Sparks II being amongst them on organ/keys next to Shaun Martin.

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Snarky Puppy

Bobby Sparks - Snarky Puppy concert 2017

Bobby Sparks II

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Shaun Martin

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Mary J Blige

Watching the ever-strong and sassy Mary J Blige completely fill and command the largest stage space any one performer gave themselves at the festival (with her band and support vocalists positioned around the outer stage edge) brought more musical and visual delight.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige

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Booker T

Booker T inspired ear-to-ear smiles as he effortlessly bust it out on the organ alongside his son Ted Jones on guitar and other band members, performing a bunch of beloved Stax Records label classics like ‘Green Onions’.

Booker T Jones concert - Bluesfest 2017

Booker T Jones & Ted Jones

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Laura Mvula

Hearing and feeling the power of Laura Mvula’s vocal abilities live as she sang emotively about those places of darkness in which light can be found; and in her own words “making music that helps people”, was a blessed festival experience too.

Laura Mvula live concert 2017

Laura Mvula

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One of the greatest pleasures in being at all those shows was witnessing how each artist on stage clearly respects, encourages and appreciates the others’ musicianship and skills; and takes great pleasure in making music together. From Booker T joining his band on stage, walking to and acknowledging the members one-by-one before sitting down at his organ to play; to seeing Roy Ayers listen intently and smile at music made by his younger band members; to hearing the spokesperson or leader of each group take the time in their set to introduce all individual band members for the crowd to show their appreciation to.

Roy Ayers concert - Bluesfest 2017Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

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I’m certainly grateful to all the stunning musicians and vocalists who I heard perform at Bluesfest 2017; who created those special moments of music bliss. I wish I could tell you every one of their names. Blessed and enriched are all festival folk for their individual experiences- and for the existence of Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

You can check out more Bluesfest 2017 photos on Facebook and additional live video footage on YouTube or Vimeo.

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Bluesfest 2016 – Embracing Contemporary Hip Hop, Soul & Jazz Of The Highest Order

Blessed be lovers of innovative contemporary hip hop, R&B, funk and jazz music for the gift of consecutive live performances by Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington and Hiatus Kaiyote on the one stage at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote

Kamasi Washington live concert 2016

Kamasi Washington

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert 2016

D’Angelo

If you’re one of those music lovers you’ll know that every single one of the many musicians and vocalists who performed on stage with those artists on Thursday and Saturday nights (minus Kendrick Lamar on Saturday) are amongst the most skilful, talented and innovative creators of funkified jazz and soul music in the world right now. Having been influenced by and collaborating on each others’ music projects, all of them were in perfect company together on the main stage. And anyone lucky enough to be there would have found themselves in musical heaven – mesmerised by each and every sublime sound delivered by those artists.

Hiatus Kaiyote

As musical creators Melbourne’s “future-soul” group Hiatus Kaiyote earned their place on a bill with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington and their accompanying artists. As live instrumentalists, vocalists and performers on stage in the flesh at Bluesfest, Hiatus Kayote undoubtedly demonstrated their rightful place amongst them to audiences made up of both punters and those contemporary music peers alike.

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert - Australia 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote at Bluesfest 2016

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As well as delivering a welcome acknowledgment of the passing of the great hip hop creator Phife Dawg during their Thursday set, Nai Palm (vocals/guitars/keys), Simon Mavin (keys/samples), Paul Bender (bass), Perrin Moss (drums) and their three background vocalists delivered two stunning sets of songs drawn mainly from Choose Your Weapon and including a new song on the video below, and as always; showed audiences their unique “multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster” sound is at its most supreme when heard live.

Kamasi Washington

The inclusion of L.A-based saxophonist Kamasi Washington in the 2016 line-up was a welcome surprise after the cancellation of his first visit to Australia last year when Soulfest folded at the last minute.

Kamasi Washington live concert - Bluesfest 2016 Australia

Kamasi Washington at Bluesfest 2016

Each Bluesfest show Kamasi Washington performed with The Next Step / West Coast Get Down sounded unique. But both were definitely a family affair; a collective affair; and a humble and respectful one. Parts of Kamasi Washington’s recent jazz masterpiece The Epic were performed as well as some new music by him. But this was not a one-man Kamasi Washington show. It was a showcase of the sublime funkified jazz music and skills of all the incredible artists on stage with him who grew up playing music together. Everyone had their moments to shine during the sets and when it wasn’t their turn they listened, enjoyed, and appreciated what they heard from one other.

Ryan Porter and Kamasi Washington live concert 016

Ryan Porter w/ Kamasi Washington

Audiences were treated to the sounds of Kamasi Washington playing with his father Ricky Washington (who “taught him everything he knows”) on flute and with Ryan Porter (“one of his mentors”) on trombone; drum solos and drum-offs between Ronald Bruner Jr and Tony Austin; a jam between Kamasi Washington and Ronald Bruner Jr (“like they’ve being doing together since he got his first drum-kit at 3 years old”); a must-hear song “Abraham”  about to be released by double-bass player/vocalist Miles Mosley, and another from keyboardist Brandon Coleman; with vocals by Patrice Quinn (“the most beautiful voice he’s heard”).

Brandon Coleman live concert Australia 2016

Brandon Coleman

Miles Mosley live concert - Bluesfest 2016 Australia

Miles Mosley

Kamasi Washington & Ricky Washington live concert 2016

Ricky & Kamasi Washington

Ronald Bruner Jr live concert 2016

Ronald Bruner Jr

Tony Austin live concert Australia 2016

Tony Austin

Patrice Quinn live Australia 2016

Patrice Quinn

Kamasi Washington and the other artists who joined him on Australian stages undoubtedly gained a huge number of new admirers. Hopefully that brings any or all of them back again to play soon.

Check out snippets of video footage from Kamasi Washington’s two Bluesfest 2016 shows below and hear sample tracks from The Epic (2015) here.




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D’Angelo And The Vanguard

Accompanying D’Angelo at his Bluesfest shows were Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Rocco Palladino on bass, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples and Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals.

D'Angelo & Jesse Johnson live - Bluesfest 2016

D’Angelo & Jesse Johnson at Bluesfest 2016

Despite a curious set list taking audiences back to the glorious D’Angelo eras of Brown Sugar and Voodoowith only glimpses of the more recent ground-breaking album Black Messiah, D’Angelo and the 7 sublimely-skilled musicians and vocalists with him on stage delivered delightfully funky, soulful, rocked-out performances that were technically flawless.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

D’Angelo himself dazzled and seduced the crowd with his skills and artistry on guitar and piano, his contagiously-huge smile and his other-wordly vocal range. He left no doubt that he’s a musician, artist and performer of extraordinary genius in contemporary times, akin to the most legendary of funk, R&B and rock greats of our musical history.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

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Check out a video of the grammy-award winning Black Messiah song “Really Love”, performed live at Bluesfest on Saturday.


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Click here for more videos & photos from all 4 of D’Angelo’s Australian shows this time around.

Kendrick Lamar

Thankfully Bluesfest ignored any naysayers who questioned Kendrick Lamar headlining a festival that might have started as “blues and roots” 27 years ago – but long ago moved forward to expand it’s line-up for the musical good of the broader population.

Before Kendrick Lamar’s set I wondered how the complex musical wonder of To Pimp A Butterfly would translate in the live arena. But the Compton rapper brought a killer band on tour with him. That live instrumentation combined with the sharp and clear lyrical flow delivered by Kendrick Lamar with 100% passion and conviction, simply commanded attention and awe through every moment of the 75 minute set that flew by in a flash. From start to finish Kendrick Lamar made it abundantly clear that the experience of hearing his music performed live is profoundly more brilliant than the studio-version.

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar at Bluesfest 2016

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Check out these video snippets from Kendrick Lamar’s Bluesfest show plus a sample track below from the newly-released album untitled unmastered (2016).

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered (2016)x
Kendrick Lamar – untitled 02 | 06.23.2014 – untitled unmastered (2016)

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Bluesfest Appreciation

Byron Bay Bluesfest – this year was a dream.

In my book Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, The Vanguard, Kamasi Washington, The Next Step, West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote are the artists in the world right now creating the freshest sounding, most innovative blends of funk, soul, R&B, hip hop and jazz. All except Hiatus Kaiyote (Melbourne-based), Bluesfest brought those artists a long way to deliver spectacular live performances on Australian shores.  In doing so they filled a big gap left by the cancellation of Soulfest – “Australia’s first annual neo-soul, jazz & hip hop festival” which didn’t make it to its second year.

Thanks go to Bluesfest for embracing those contemporary artists and delivering the most blessed of line-ups in 2016!

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

D’Angelo

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert Australia 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar

Kamasi Washington live concert 2016

Kamasi Washington

Note: Despite feeling 100% satisfied by my Bluesfest 2016 experience, it was a limited one for sure. I went for 2 of 5 festival days, stayed at 1 of 6 festival stages and heard only 4 of 82 acts on the bill. A whole other world of music was happening over the five festival days – from Tom Jones to Allen Stone through to The Wailers – and a range of performing indigenous artists at the festival within the festival- Boomerang. I just can’t tell you about them here.

But you can check in to Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more festival photos coming of D’Angelo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington. 🙂

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D’Angelo Live In Australia – One, Two, Three, Four

After experiencing the first three of D’Angelo’s four incredible Australian shows, I was mysteriously left feeling less than fully satisfied. It didn’t make sense when D’Angelo and The mini Vanguard touring with him had just delivered flawless, stunning performances to Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay Bluesfest audiences.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

#1 – Melbourne’s Palais Theatre

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

# 2 – Sydney Opera House

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

# 3 – Byron Bay Bluesfest

 

 

 

 

 

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D’Angelo, Every Time

D’Angelo’s phenomenal vocal range and delivery as well as his skills on piano and guitar, are unquestionable. They are simply and absolutely sublime to hear live – every time.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

So is Michael “D’Angelo” Archer’s joyful high energy and super-smooth, confident engagement with the crowd. Man or woman, even if you only care about the sounds of music, who out there wouldn’t blush if D’angelo looked you in the eye and pointed at you while ever-so-naturally singing “I feel like makin’ love to you” in his voice from on high?

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

At all his Australian shows D’Angelo undoubtedly demonstrated he’s a musician, artist and performer of equal wonder to the legendary R&B, funk and soul artists who influenced and shaped him. Some of them he payed tribute to in his sets (“She’s Always In My Hair” by Prince, “Red Hot Mama” by Funkadelic and “Brent Fischer Interlude” by Black Messiah collaborator Brent Fischer). D’Angelo does all those artists and their music justice, and then some. And how many contemporary artists can we say that about in 2016?

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

No I don’t think my slight and mysterious dissatisfaction was about D’Angelo’s performances. They made me smile from ear to ear in awe.

The [mini] Vanguard 

Did I miss hearing the distinctive bass sounds of Pino Palladino, the live horns and the gorgeous complementary female vocals of Kendra Foster or Joi Gilliam usually heard with The Vanguard? Sure I did. But their absence alone wasn’t leaving me with that feeling.

Because technically the seven insanely-skilled musicians on stage with D’Angelo played and sang almost flawlessly. Although he appeared nervous or daunted at times, Pino’s son Rocco Palladino did an admirable job on bass. And any opportunity to hear Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples or Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals…is a blessed one I would gleefully take any time. They all killed it. And I appreciated hearing every note they played and sang on Australian stages.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Chris Dave (l) – Isaiah Sharkey (m)

Jesse Johnson - D'Angelo & The Vanguard 2016

Jesse Johnson

Rocco Palladino with The Vanguard- Bluesfest 2016

Rocco Palladino

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Bobby Sparks (r)

Jermaine Holmes - D'Angelo concert 2016

Jermaine Holmes

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Red Middleton (l) – Chris Dave (m) – Isaiah Sharkey (r)

Looking Back

Was it the group’s set-list choices that left me wanting more? Maybe a little. In my world every song they played is a “Beloved Forever-After Song”. It’s true that all were arranged and delivered in funked-up, rocked-out, soulful brilliance. And hearing each one made me happy.

But a set made up of “Brown Sugar”; three/four jams on other artists’ songs, four/five songs from Voodoo (“Devil’s Pie”“Chicken Grease”“Untitled (How Does It Feel)”“Left & Right”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”); and only three from Black Messiah (“The Charade”“Really Love”“Back To The Future”/ “Sugah Daddy” at Bluesfest)…curiously felt like a look back to the distant (albeit magnificent) past.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Objectively the set choice might’ve been the safe bet when playing to Australian audiences made up of admirers from different D’Angelo eras. But for disciples who love every song he and his collaborators ever created, but appreciate the group’s artistry even more since the release of Black Messiah; and for newer disciples (including many young musicians there) because of Black Messiah, only hearing a small part of that album felt strange. Especially after they spent the past year promoting it through North America and Europe on The Second Coming Tour.

DAngelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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“Aint That Easy” – Black Messiah (2014)

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“The Show”

Maybe my mysterious feeling was about being delivered a “show”. I guess when you reach the professional playing levels D’Angelo And The Vanguard have, with their intense tour schedule performing show after show in different cities, having a pre-formulated, programmed “show” for perfect and tight execution on cue by a lot of musicians and crew might be more necessary, or pragmatic, or safer.

But the flip-side to that is a loss of organic spontaneity – musically and otherwise. As an audience member I still crave that spontaneity no matter how incredible the show is. No matter how amusing it might be to see D’Angelo mimic kissing a woman “way down there”; or how much I like seeing he, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey come together with their guitars in those moments. It makes me wonder if creative artists performing on stage also crave it at some point on their touring road.

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

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Fourth, Final, Full Satisfaction

Whatever the mysterious, probably unreasonable thing that left me feeling not-quite-full after three incredible D’Angelo shows, it disappeared and mattered not once the the fourth and final Australian show happened on Saturday night at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

# 4 – Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Finally and inexplicably all seemed as it naturally should be at a D’Angelo gig. With everyone seemingly vibin’ on the experience, together. The set-list was nearly the same but as a Byron Bay sider might say: there was some indescribably-different type of musical and energetic magic that happened at Saturday’s closing show…leaving peeps there connected, loved-up and on high. It was created collectively by everyone there of course, hopefully felt by them too.

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

Everyone at Melbourne, Sydney and Bluesfest shows (and others around the world) had their very own experience of D’Angelo And The Vanguard live. Maybe it was nothing at all like mine. Surely it was special.

Leave a comment if you want to share yours – we wanna hear it!

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

Visit Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more photos from these & other D’Angelo And The Vanguard shows; click a link for individual shows: London Roundhouse (2015) –  Melbourne Soulfest 2014 Brisbane Soulfest 2014; and check back here soon for Byron Bay Bluesfest’s dream main stage line-up with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington & West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote.

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Bluesfest 2015 – Nothing But The Euphoric Funk

Five festival days of performances by 89 international and Australian acts at Byron Bay Bluesfest ended for me with three hours at the main stage frontline having what felt like the most euphoric live music experience of my lifetime.

I was, of course, in the company of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

With the greatest of respect to all other performing artists and the Funk Disclaimer below, everything that came before Parliament Funkadelic at Bluesfest 2015 mattered little to me after the P Funk family arrived on stage – and by the end of their gloriously epic set, even less.

Bluesfest Before The Funk

Up until that spiritual Parliament Funkadelic experience, my Bluesfest time had been challenging.

Lenny Kravitz had cancelled and there weren’t many programmed acts left for my own personal musical tastes – and, so many of the 2015 artists were Bluesfest frequent flyers. An unfounded festival greeting by a police sniffer dog didn’t help. Nor did ugly behaviours I saw by some of my fellow festival-goers. Then there was that disappointing Bluesfester who found my camera with its images and sounds so precious to me, and decided not to return it. And amongst all of that I just wasn’t as successful as others in not letting the rain and its resulting inches-deep, stinky mud slush get me down.

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Beyond the negative…moving on to accentuate the pre Parliament Funkadelic positive 🙂 …Bluesfest 2015 had some acts that motivated me back through its gates to experience the goodness of their shows.

Jurassic Five and the awesomely-funky sounds of hip hop created by DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark alongside four stellar emcees (Chali 2na + Akil + Marc 7 + Zaakir aka Soup) who might “sound like one” in unison but individually have their own unique melody and tone which makes your body move in delightfully different ways.

Jurassic 5 live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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Gary Clark Jr – an absolute monster on guitar whose sounds reminded me of how good the blues can be and how important it is to the past, present and future of music of so many kinds.

Gary Clark Jr. live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Fly My Pretties – a talented collective of independent artists coming together again in the live arena to represent the distinctive sounds of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Fly My Pretties live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Jimmy Cliff with his astounding level of positive energy and delightful showmanship so many Bluesfests later – and his super-tight Jamaican band.

Jimmy Cliff live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires – akin to a placid James Brown bringing the sounds of funk and soul to the stage.

Charles Bradley live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue who bought his feel-good mix of jazz, funk & hip hop from the lands of New Orleans to get down to in Byron Bay, yet again.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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You can check out Trombone Shorty’s take on funk with this here sample track from his album Say That To Say This….

Trombone Shorty - Say That To Say This album cover

Say That To Say This (2013)

‘Get The Picture’ – Trombone Shorty – Say That To Say This

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Paolo Nutini…whose musical style may not be up my personal alley of taste, but who impressed me nonetheless with his engaging live performance.

Paolo Nutini live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Rodrigo y Gabriela and the way just two people and the stunning sounds of their guitars can so easily fill the space of an entire main festival stage.

Rodrigo y Gabriela live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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No doubt the 100,000+ folks who passed through Bluesfest gates over its five days with leanings towards different musical flavours to me, had lots more of their own experiences of musical goodness.

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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All my Bluesfest 2015 experiences both good and challenging, washed away in euphoria within minutes of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic arriving on stage to close the festival’s main stage. Some might say that’s a travesty to Bluesfest and its artists to say so, but I do so through the eyes and ears of a long-time devoted Funkateer.

Funk Disclaimer

Funk music has brought me more listening and dancing joy during my lifetime than any other musical style in history. That’s a pretty profound contribution to have made to my wellbeing – one which I am eternally grateful for.

George Clinton and the many incredible musicians, vocalists and visionaries who have flown on the Parliament/Funkadelic/P-Funk mothership throughout its many different historical incarnations have been at the front, centre and side of funk music since the 60’s.

They’ve constantly reinvented themselves and their music to keep it alive in a changing world, musical landscape and life circumstances. George Clinton tells it that all along the way, people in the music industry have repeatedly screwed he and other artists out of royalties and tried to squeeze them down or out.

So to witness and hear George Clinton (at almost 75 years old) on stage in 2015 alongside other P-Funk legends  – still keepin’ the funk alive and fresh – and performing it so energetically and brilliantly for three epic hours, was a super special, blessed thing.

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Amongst those old-school P-Funkers by his side were Robert PNut Johnson (in the P-Funk family since 1976), Michael Clip Payne (since 1977), DeWayne Blackbyrd McKnight, Steve Boyd and Lige Curry (since 1978) plus Bennie CowanGreg Thomas and Ricky Rouse (since “a very long time” ago).

P Nut Johnson - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Robert P-Nut Johnson

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert- Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

Michael Clip Payne (r)

Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Blackbyrd McKnight

Steve Boyd- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Steve Boyd

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Lige Curry (r)

Bennie Cowan- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Bennie Cowan

 

 

Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Greg Thomas

Ricky Rouse- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Ricky Rouse

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic Made Me Do It

The priceless value of George Clinton & co.’s music in my life and to the world of music generally, was more than enough inspiration to make me do things I’ve never done before to take full advantage of the Parliament Funkadelic blessing before me at Bluesfest.

The first was lining up for a George Clinton signing before the show – not to get his name on anything – but simply for the chance to thank him for the profound musical gifts he’s given.

George Clinton at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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The next out-of-character mission was maneuvering my way to the Parliament Funkadelic frontline (in dangerous sound-quality territory) long before their set so I could witness the brilliant chops of each and every one of those artists up close.

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

Ricky Rouse and Blackbyrd McKnight

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Bluesfest During The Funk

It was there on the Mojo stage frontline at 8.30 pm that all the funk stars aligned and I found myself directly in front of the mothership collective, surrounded by a posse of multi-generational, devoted Funkateer strangers-became-funk-bonded-friends. For the next 3 euphoric hours we watched and listened in awe, danced, and screamed in appreciation whenever asked, for the super-tight live funk delivered by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

On a different day or place I know that live P-Funk explosion could have been even bigger than it was at Bluesfest.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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Long-time musical heroes were joined on stage by a new generation of P-Funk stars who have their own independent music projects going on: Danny Bedrosian – Thurteen – (Garry Starchild Shider’s son) Garrett Shider and George Clinton’s grandkids Tracey “Tra’zae” Lewis-Clinton, Patavian Lewis and Tonysha Nelson

Their presence gives me hope that the funk really can survive long into the future “like it always has” – thanks muchly to George Clinton and so many other artists in the P-Funk family passed and living.

Tra' Zae - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tra’zae Clinton

Tonysha Nelson - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tonysha Nelson (c) + Danny Bedrosian + Garrett Shider

 

 

 

 

 

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Thurteen (l)

Kandy Apple Redd - George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tonysha Nelson + Patavian Lewis

Garrett Shider- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Garrett Shider

Those on stage with George Clinton took their turns to shine – so often at the behest or encouragement of Dr Funkenstein – and unfailingly with his support and appreciation.

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Most P-Funk stars were on stage shining consistently for the whole epic set – including the superb drumming delivered by human funk machine Benzel Baltimore Cowan.

Benzel Baltimore - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Benzel Baltimore Cowan

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We got tasty funkin’ jams and solos, beloved songs of all ages from the vast Parliament/Funkadelic/P Funk discography. as well as new ones showcasing music of the younger P-Funk members like female duo Kandy Apple Redd.

Patavian Lewis - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Patavian Lewis

Tonysha Nelson - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tonysha Nelson

Carlos McMurray was amongst those youngsters on board the mothership, bringing to life the irreverent but beloved P-Funk character Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk.

Carlos McMurray- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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At the end of those three euphoric hours, the final uncharacteristic thing George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic made me do when I realised the experience was really, truly over and the mothership crew had flown away (maybe never to return) – was to shed a tear.  Dramatic yes? But a true story of the profound goodness of funk music in this life!

Then I moved on to simply be grateful for my music blessing, and relish in the buzz I felt in every cell of my body for as many days as it lasted.

For its shockingly-bad sound quality, I’m loathe to include this video footage from my guardian angel/bodyguard friend behind me at the show protecting my P-Funk dance space, but, dedicated Funkateers might find some goodness in the imagery at least…

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“The Mothership Will Fly Just Like It Always Does”

Thanks to the live experience of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at Byron Bay Bluesfest, it was five days before I could bring myself to listen to any music at all – for fear it might taint that euphoric feeling I so desperately wanted to hold onto.

To try and comfort myself about the mothership’s departure  – and renew my hope that funk music truly will survive into the future, all I could finally turn to was this here George Clinton and The P Funk All Stars song from their seminal 1996 reunion album T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.  Its lyrics affirmed the survival of funk then and always, and funk do I hope that the words remain true into our musical future.

George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars - TAPOAFOM

T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (1996)

‘T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (Fly Away)’ – George Clinton & The P Funk All Stars – T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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At Bluesfest I got to thanks George Clinton personally for the crazy-amazing music he’s gifted the world over five decades. I suppose a benefit of cyber-Beavering is that I can put out here the same deep-felt thanks and appreciation to every other Parliament Funkadelic member past and present – and hope that they or their family might receive those thanks.

Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Blackbyrd McKnight (c)

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Finally in this long Beaver funk story, thanks has to go to Bluesfest for bringing George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic (+88 other acts) back to perform on its stages in 2015.

Greg Thomas - Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

Greg Thomas

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Ricky Rouse- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Ricky Rouse

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic devotees can get the low down on their recent Sydney show here and check in to Beaver’s Facebook page for lots more Bluesfest photos coming.

Better yet, funkateers in the U.K and U.S. between now and August can find their own euphoric P Funk experience at one of their Shake The Gate World Tour shows.

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Byron Bay Bluesfest – Only For The Music

On it’s 25th anniversary, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 was the best one for me yet.  It was an unusually comfortable Bluesfest experience under unusually clear, blue Easter skies and sunshine – with the usual phenomenal music artists playing on its 7 stages.

Every year that I’ve gone to Byron Bay Bluesfests past, I have moaned about the things that I’m not into about the overall Bluesfest experience.  Each year after where I can, I’ve bought another costly Bluesfest ticket, and gone back again. I’ve done that for one reason only:  The Music.

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu – Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie + The Taxi Gang-Bluesfest 2014

Despite my grumblings about non-musical aspects of the festival, I always go home from Bluesfest feeling musically satisfied after hearing some of the western world’s most incredible music artists of contemporary history. Just a few of those artists from Bluesfests past are Fred Wesley, Burning Spear, Damian Marley, Ernest Ranglin and Parliament Funkadelic.

Musically, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 went the same way. I went from one stage to another, finding artist after artist who blew me away with their music and/or musicianship.

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At Bluesfest 2014 I also found I had less of the usual non-musical things to moan about. One of the main reasons for that was because this years festival seemed to have much smaller crowds than in others – making the overall festival experience a much more hassle-free and comfortable one.

“Australia’s Premiere Blues and Roots Music Festival”

This year I heard other people moaning about the festival line-up. “Not enough blues”, “No big name acts” etc.  Well thankfully for lovers of reggae, soul, r&b, funk and hip-hop music, Byron Bay Bluesfest hasn’t been just a blues music festival for many years past.  And lots of the artists that performed in 2014 are big name acts in the musical worlds of many (mine) – just not big in the worlds of the people complaining:  Erykah BaduAaron NevilleLarry Graham (former Sly and The Family Stone) – Sly & RobbieThe WailersIndia Arie.

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 poster

The artists below are the ones I caught at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 who sent me away from their shows as high as high can be on their music and/or musicianship.

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 Music

Queen Erykah Badu (USA)

Erykah Badu’s show at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne earlier in the same week of the festival was simply divine. Her festival show, somehow was even more divine again – and for me the top highlight of Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014.

Like in Melbourne, Erykah Badu demonstrated with every sound and movement she made, that she is an incredibly talented artist (and woman) like none other in the world.

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu’s powerful stage presence and incredible vocals captivated me and everyone around me from the moment she stepped onto the stage until coming back from some time amongst the crowd to finish the show.

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos here of Erykah Badu performing ‘I Want You’ ‘…& On’ live at Bluesfest 2014

Aaron Neville (USA)

Aaron Neville and the sounds of his heavenly voice took me to another world.

Now in his 70‘s, naturally his voice has the sounds of life lived. They make that voice ever-so-much richer than in years past when it was of the completely squeeky-clean heavenly kind.

Aaron Neville live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Aaron Neville at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos of Aaron Neville’s performing ‘Fever’ + ‘Everybody Plays The Fool’ live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 here…

 

Sly & Robbie and The Taxi Gang (Jamaica)

The first part of Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang’s Bluefest shows were incredibly tight. Tasty dub and reggae to die for. The energy of the show was high, and rising.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The music stayed tasty and tight all through their set. But the energy dropped and the band seemed to look slightly bored (or embarrassed?) from the time they introduced vocalist Bitty Mclean to join them on stage – as “the new Crown Prince of Reggae Music”.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Check out this video of a song from the first half of Sly & Robbie’s Bluesfest show to hear these words of wisdom…

 “If you’re hot, you’re hot. If you’re not, you’re not. Use what you got.”

+ 1 more…

Sly & Robbie and the other instrumentalists in their band are musically hot, musically brilliant. They use what they got – and it’s more than enough without needing a “crown prince” to croon amongst them.

Check out this video from the second half of Sly & Robbie’s show to see if you agree…

 “The new Crown Prince of Reggae Music”?  Really?  

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Bitty McLean

Chali 2na (USA)

“Hands up if you agree with me that all music played on the radio now is shit?  Welcome to the Chali 2na radio station”.

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na’s words of welcome to the crowd at his Byron Bay Bluefest shows went like that.

So, everyone tuned in to Chali 2na and his 3-piece bands live radio station and went with them on an energetic journey of the funk, hip-hop and reggae kind. Those 2 live radio programs kept the crowd dancing and smiling throughout the hour – and screaming for more when the end came.  The best and longest dances I had at Bluesfest 2014 were at these two Chali 2na shows.

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Chali 2na live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos from both Chali 2na’s Bluesfest 2014 shows here (+ 1 below of him emceeing with Ozomatli)

The Wailers (Jamaica)

What else can I say about The Wailers minus Bob Marley except this: stellar musicianship – and good music that made everyone happy.

Video here of The Wailers playing ‘Three Little Birds’ at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014…

The Soul Rebels (USA)

The Soul Rebels with their brass-heavy soul, r&b, funk and jazz music, hail from one of my dream musical destinations of the world – New Orleans.  A 2015 mission of mine, I’m sure.

The Soul Rebels - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The Soul Rebels at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Video here of The Soul Rebels live at Bluesfest 2014…

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station (USA)

The stage show by Larry Graham & Graham Central Station was, well, pretty corny.

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Larry Graham & Graham Central Station live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

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But if you ignored the group’s white glam outfits and show moves; if you just listened to Larry Graham’s phenomenal bass playing; and looked up to see him playing bass so thoughtlessly and effortlessly as though an extension of his body, you found instrumental gold.  Some Sly & The Family Stone tunes were included in the set.

Larry Graham & Graham Central Station live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos of Larry Graham on bass at Bluesfest 2014 here – 1 with the full band + 1 of just he and a drum kit player…

India Arie (USA)

I have loved India Arie’s music for a long time. She was one of those “big name” musical acts that got me to Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014.

India Arie live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

India Arie at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

India Arie played 2 festival shows. I left before the end of the first – and what I heard there didn’t get me back to see the second. The only reason I can figure as to why the show didn’t move me, is the absence of a bass player on stage with her.

India Arie live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014India Arie live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos from India Arie’s 1st Bluesfest show here for you to check out…

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Nigeria)

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 put on a good show of Afrobeat song and dance of old as well as new from their recently released album A Long Way To The Beginning.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

You can check out a video here of Sean Kuti doing his thing at the group’s Bluesfest show + a sample track from the 2008 album Many Things

‘Many Things’ – Seun Kuti – Many Things (2008)

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Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Ozomatli (USA)

Los Angeles based group Ozomatli have been around for 20 years playing their mix of hip-hop, funk, r&b, reggae, dancehall, salsa, cumbia, merengue, samba, comparse & more.

That diversity of musical styles and the vocal and instrumental versatility of its band members, have made every live Ozomatli experience I’ve had a special one. Their Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 shows were no exception.

Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Videos here of Ozomatli live at Byron Bay Bluesfest

This one with Chali 2na …
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Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014Ozomatli live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The Ones That Might Have Gotten Away

The artists whose shows I heard and loved were of course just a handful of artists who performed at Byron Bay Bluefest 2014.

Also in the line-up were Joss Stone, Dr John, Morcheeba, Elvis Costello, John MayerDoobie Brothers, KC & The Sunshine BandMichael Franti & Spearhead, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, Jack Johnson, Jeff Beck, Dave Matthews Band, Steve Earle & The Dukes + more.

Morcheeba live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Morcheeba at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra (Australia)

Keeping with some Afrobeat flavours, have a listen here to a sample track from one of the Australian groups in the Bluesfest 2014 line-up – The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra

Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - Do Anything Go Anywhere (2010)

Do Anything Go Anywhere (2010)

‘Future Africa’ – Do Anything Go Anywhere (2010) – The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra

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You can check out another sample track + a video of The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra live at AWME (Australasian Worldwide Music Expo) 2013 here.

Musically I think Byron Bay Bluesfest can rightfully claim to be “Australia’s premiere blues and roots festival” – music found in a large part of the western world at least. I maintain that WOMADelaide festival takes the Australian festival prize for musical quality from all corners of the wider world – and importantly, for the things apart from music that make an overall festival experience an amazing one.

Beaver’s Moaning

“It’s pretty much an event where hopefully the vast majority of people are only there for the music. That’s what it’s all about. There’s not an awful lot of other effects happening at Bluesfest. I realised a long time ago it’s a music festival, that’s all it is. It’s not about prettying the site up and all that. We put our money into musicians”

Peter Noble – Festival Director of Byron Bay Bluesfest (from interview in Melbourne’s Beat Magazine – April 2014)

So, Byron Bay Bluesfest is what Peter Noble says it is.

The festival undoubtedly brings amazing music and amazing musicians to Australia.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie

But for me and everyone I know, a good music festival experience is about so much more than the music.

Personally I’d love to see more festival money spent on those “other effects” and “prettying the site up” – for the benefit of everyone who spends their money on going to Bluesfest to hear its legendary artists.

Bluesfest owns the land where the festival happens – on a beautiful tea tree farm at Tyagarah, just outside the town of Byron Bay (one of the world’s alternative-living, natural paradises). They can make the festival site and people’s festival experience whatever they want it to be.

On a site that is surrounded by trees, I’d love to see some trees inside the festival space.

At a festival that lets thousands and thousands of ticket holders through its gates each day, I’d love to see that tiny site in the middle of the photo become a much bigger space – where people could move around it freely and in comfort – without feeling like a cow being herded slowly between stages.

I’d love to see the creation of lots of different types of meeting spaces inside the festival site where people can relax and hang out together during those long festival days and nights. More than a big canteen-style food court where you eat and run. More grass for people to sit on instead of gravel. Bars with chairs inside them to sit and have a drink. More cafes, and restaurants to hang out in.

For an extra $350 the financially privileged of the world can buy a VIP ticket so they can enjoy some small comforts the rest of the festival punters can’t – a VIP bar and toilets with smaller lines, and some comfortable seats to rest their weary bones upon.

This year for an extra $1590 on top of the ticket price, the ever-so-privileged (and dare I say stupid?) people of the world could “treat themselves to something really special” by buying themselves entry to the VIP Sunset Club. There, in the middle of the festival site, they could “watch the hustle and bustle of Bluesfest from the private balcony”.

VIP Sunset Club - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Bluesfest VIP Sunset Club- as advertised on www.bluesfest.com.au

VIP Sunset Club - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Bluesfest 2014 VIP Sunset Club – as is

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I’d love to see money spent by the festival on making everyone’s festival experience a more comfortable one. We have enough inequalities and class structures in the world already – let’s not create them in our music festivals too.

Byron Bay Bluesfest is what it is, now. We’ll see what it becomes. The festival site at Tyagarah is a relatively new one for Bluesfest.  It will get better with age no doubt.

Hopefully one day I’ll have lots more reasons to give you apart from the music for why I want to get myself to Byron Bay Bluesfest whenever I can.

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang - live @ Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Sly & Robbie & The Taxi Gang at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Before leaving Bluesfest 2014 I bought myself a season pass for Bluesfest 2015 at early bird prices – because next year I know that like always, the line-up will include incredible music artists I simply must experience live. If you want to get yourself to the festival in 2015, the sooner you buy tickets the better – prices will go up and up until Bluesfest comes around next Easter and a season pass is nearly double its cost now.

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