I know it was only a Jetstar flight to Ballina, but when you get allocated seat 1A, you know things are going to be alright.
So began my annual pilgrimage to Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, home of the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015.
Once I checked into my tent motel, a quick bus trip into Byron to get a few supplies, I was ready to start the festival proper.
Upon entry to the site, the first thing you realise is just how big it is. Spread over a sprawling acreage, with six performance tents, this place is massive!
My first point of call was to the merch tent for the mandatory t-shirts and then off to the Juke Joint tent to see Sydney-siders, The Bella Reunion. Playing their version of Chicago blues, these guys were hot. The lead singer is a good looking fella, could easily be the leading man in McLeod’s Daughters or the like. Highlight of their set, was a great tribute to Joe Cocker with a stonking version of The Letter.
Next it was over to Jambalaya to see the countrified swamp rock of Melbourne band, Wagons. Henry Wagons is such an engaging front man with his between song banter that had the crowd cackling. And these boys hit the groove from the get go!
I then stayed in Jambalaya ready to experience one of my must sees for the festival, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. As soon as the joss sticks were lit across the front of stage and the incense filled the air, the CRB were go! Sunset was a perfect time for these guys with their brand of cosmic cowboy rock. And they were in great form taking the crowd into space with a great selection of songs from their 3 albums. Highlights included a 12 minute version of Star or Stone, the sonic lift off of rocker, Shore Power, a psychedelic reworking of Hard To Handle and finishing with a rousing rendition of Rosalee. And with the words “Is the air getting thinner, are we getting high” still ringing in my ears, I saw a guy with a CRB t-shirt which said on the back, ‘Blessed are the trip takers’. Indeed.
Walking out of the tent and into the night sky, this is where Bluesfest really comes alive. All of the stalls are lit up and there is magic in the air.
Next was a stop in the Delta tent to check out the funky blues hip hop fusion of G.Love and Special Sauce. But after about 5 songs I needed a coffee!
Fully recharged, I headed into the huge Mojo tent which probably could hold around 10,000, for the ever brilliant Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Fronted by the incredible trombonist/trumpeter Troy ‘Shorty’ Andrews, these guys rock the house. Think Living Colour with a horn section. And the bass player had Fluro green bass strings…very funky!
And then my biggest dilemma of the night. A choice between sets by Counting Crows; reggae king Jimmy Cliff; Angus & Julia Stone and Celtic pub rockers,The Rumjacks…I opted for Jimmy Cliff!
And he doesn’t let the crowd down. The original reggae superstar, Jimmy Cliff sits on the same pedestal as Marley and Tosh. He must be well in his 70’s but his voice is still pure and he moves like James Brown! Fronting an 8 piece band, with bass and drums so thick you couldn’t spread them, he belted through his classics…I Can See Clearly Now; The Harder They Come; a singalong version of Cat Steven’s via Maxi Priest’s ‘Wild World’ and Rivers Of Babylon… He had the crowd dancing, singing and smiling. It was a perfect way to finish day one of Bluesfest 2015!
Already looking forward to tomorrow.