The 21st Annual Byron Bay Bluesfest


In 1990 when the Byron Bay Bluesfest began, it was actually held in Byron Bay. Imagine that. The Arts Factory – a hostel/campground that is well known to any backpackers that pass through the town was the first site. These days the festival has far outgrown its humble beginnings. For over a decade the site has moved around, while the organisers search for a permanent home, which they believe they have finally found this year at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm. Eleven kilometres away from Byron Bay, the 2010 Bluesfest was actually closer to Brunswick Heads, but I suppose changing the name now would just be confusing.

If you still chose to stay in Byron Bay (and who can blame you) then you had to be prepared to open up your wallet. Hostels were almost doubling their prices, as were all the campgrounds in town and anywhere along the road towards Tyagarah. I decided to take the hit myself and stay at Main Beach Backpackers, which cost me $35/night for a dorm bed. I couldn’t say no to staying 20 metres away from Byron’s gorgeous beaches, although spending my days at the festival meant not a lot of time for sand and surf. Oh well.

After reuniting with some fellow Poms, Day One of Bluesfest began with a 20 minute bus trip on the $4 Bluesfest Shuttle. I could go on about how if they’re going to take the Bluesfest out of its hometown, shouldn’t they at least help people get there for free to compensate, but I won’t…

After I arrived, picked up my media pass and found my way to the press tent, I finally had time to properly peruse the schedule to figure out who I would actually have time to see. Always a problem at festivals – multiple stages mean overlapping performances; picking and choosing can be a painful process.

This year’s fest was centred around celebrating great guitar music from legends like Jeff Beck to eclectic world music bands like Tribali. There were enough musical geniuses around to blow anyone’s socks off.

The day had a good start with artists from the Brushfire Records label – Zee Avi, Neil Halstead and Matt Costa. From there I got to rock out with Jen Cloher and the Endless Sea, jump around like a maniac with the Narasito Pan Pipers, stare in awe at Daniel Champagne, salsa to the Buena Vista Social Club and sing along to all my favourites by Jack Johnson. More thoughts on that in my Day One post.

What a great way to kick off the Easter holidays.

Marianne McPhee
Marianne McPhee was born in London and has been a traveler throughout her life. She spent her summers in France and Spain on a boat, her teenage years living in the USA, and months backpacking through Europe and Morocco. She has spent eight months traveling through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia where she also taught English and then ventured to Australia for more exploration. She is a graduate from Boston University and currently works in the travel industry in London.
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