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For those Melbourne folks who have never experienced the magic of Bluesfest in Byron Bay or you simply can’t make the event in 2023, fear not … Bluesfest is coming to you! Australias premier contemporary Blues & Roots music festival is coming to Melbourne for the very first time on Saturday April 8 and Sunday 9 April, 2023.

The award winning Bluesfest in Byron Bay has been showcasing the biggest names in music from around the world every Easter long weekend since 1990 and the event is thrilled to announce that on Saturday April 8 and Sunday 9 April 2023, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre positioned on the on the banks of the beautiful Birrarung (Yarra River) will be transformed into a full weather proof festival precinct.  With multiple indoor theatres and stages, fantastic food and drink, family entertainment and so much more to ensure that the first ever Bluesfest Melbourne will be spectacular.

Across two incredible days, Bluesfest Melbourne will feature performances from extraordinary International acts and the cream of Australian talent including, Ash Grunwald, Buddy Guy, The Doobie Brothers*, Greensky Bluegrass, Henry Wagons, Kaleo, Kasey Chambers, Keb’ Mo’, Lucinda Williams, Paolo Nutini*,  Robert Glasper, Steve Earle and so many more!

Bluesfest chief Peter Noble who has joined forces with Melbourne based music industry veteran Neil Croker to present Bluesfest Melbourne says  ‘I am so excited to be bringing Australia’s leading music festival, Bluesfest Byron Bay down south to present a first of its kind two day indoor music festival.   We’ll be bringing some of the absolute premium international and local artists who perform at Bluesfest alongside the fantastic Melbourne artists to create an experience for music lovers that is unprecedented in this city.  Offering patrons the chance to see more than 30 performances over a two day period in an environment that is weatherproofed, accessible and safe, right in the heart of the Melbourne and Docklands area.  I see Bluesfest Melbourne becoming an absolute must see on the annual events calendar.”

With a range of ticket options to suit every festival-goer, Bluesfest Melbourne tickets will sell out fast.
On Sale at Monday 14 November at 9am through

Heres a taste of artists to come; [IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER]


*The Doobie Brothers & Paolo Nutini will perform in reserved seat Plenary theatre concerts in their only Melbourne shows.


On the eve of the Bluesfest Melbourne announcement, Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips chatted to Bluesfest director Peter Noble about the decision to bring the event down south in such a huge way.

Since 1990 Bluesfest has been such an integral part of the lives of so many Australian music fans, each and every Easter in beautiful Northern New South Wales. It has presented some of music’s most legendary performers and been the launchpad for so many undiscovered artists too. Personally I’ve been fortunate to witness performances at Bluesfest by absolute icons such as Bob Dylan, BB King, Santana, Patti Smith, Buddy Guy, Iggy Pop, and so many more. On the flipside I’ve seen some bands for the first time that have become all time favourites. I’m talking St Paul and the Broken Bones, Vintage Trouble, The Suffers and Marcus King Band to name a sprinkling. Bluesfest has become a fail-safe Byron Bay institution for followers of blues and roots music.  So why bring the event to Melbourne, when so many Melbournians like myself were happy to travel north on an annual basis anyway?

It seems that it’s a decision that festival director Peter Noble has been mulling over since before the pandemic. Peter tells me that back in 2019 they’d sold almost 30,000 tickets in Melbourne alone on their tours. So clearly there was hunger for this type of music in Melbourne. It was around the same time that there was a dark period with electronic music events in New South Wales, tragically coming to a head with several drug overdoses. There was also an impending election and a hasty decision was made to basically deem any gathering catering to more than 2,000 people in NSW a high risk event, making it tough for a guy whose gig deals with crowds in the tens of thousands. Peter then turned his attention to the Victorians, who were beginning to show interest in his plans.

“I started a conversation with Visit Victoria (Victoria’s tourism and events organisation),” Peter explains. “In the end they did want me to come but we couldn’t agree on the location. Visit Victoria had a mandate at the time about creating regional events and I’m going, ‘Im already doing a regional event, I want to do a downtown’. The money had been talked about. We were very close but we couldn’t agree on where, so I basically remained focussed on Bluesfest Byron and then we all know what happened in 2020, 2021 and all of a sudden it is 2022 and my good friend for many years Neil Croker said, well why don’t you come down and look at the Melbourne Convention Centre with me and I said … ’Im on a plane now’.”

Noble and Croker checked out the Melbourne Convention Centre venue and liked what they saw … a large space, centrally located, undercover and able to accomodate 3 stages and 12,000 people.

“It has the ability to do what I want to do, which is a downtown event,” Peter said. “I’d looked before at the whole precinct around Margaret Court Arena and that to me was very interesting as well but I can pretty much replicate that with Melbourne Convention Centre and it does have the ability to grow. Who knows where we will end up but we’re beginning now and I think the bill is strong enough to be a success first time in.”

Buddy Guy at Bluesfest by Jason Rosewarne

The Melbourne lineup picks the cream of the crop from its Byron Bay cousin. There’s the multi-Grammy winning version of The Doobie Brothers, featuring the great Michael McDonald, alt country legends Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, Scottish vocal sensation Paolo Nutini, Urban music royalty The Soul Rebels with Talib Kweli and Gza, plus the fabulous Robert Glasper (currently breaking all kinds of attendance records at New York’s Blue Note club), Keb Mo, Eugene Hideaway Bridges and more.  There’s a swag of great local acts too such as Henry Wagons, Fools, Ash Grunwald, Xavier Rudd, Chain, Geoff Achison & The Soul Diggers, CW Stoneking, and then there’s the international guitar masters Eric Gales, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram and on his farewell tour, the legendary Buddy Guy.

“I have been touring with Buddy for more than 30 years,” recalls Peter. “I remember when I first toured Buddy Guy, it was somewhere in the late 80s and at that point of time he hadn’t had a new record out for a good 7 or 10 years. He was saying to me ‘I am not going to make another record until a decent record label comes along and basically believes in me … believes in what I can do’.  Of course it was only two or 3 years later that Damn Right I Got The Blues came out and that changed the world for Buddy.”

“My memory of Buddy is that he’s one of those guys that really taught me the business. When I moved from being a musician to a promoter, to the dark side as they say, it was because I wanted to work with the best musicians but I didn’t quite get to that point as a musician … although I worked with a lot of great ones. By becoming a promoter in my late 20s, I had to had to learn the business all over again from that side and I wanted to do things that others weren’t focussed on. In Australia, we all know we love to rock hard, you only have to look at history, Acca Dacca to The Angels and all of that, Cold Chisel, but I was into something a bit different. Being able to work with artists like Buddy Guy, Johnny Copeland, Junior Wells and dozens more, we would play places that you wouldn’t expect blues to come to. I was just down at Coffs Harbour, the agent for that region, was saying you used to bring all the blues bands down. Isn’t it amazing back in the 80s and 90s that you could do that. You could go to the Sunshine Coast and you could go to Bendigo and Mt Gambier. I’ve been to Kununurra with Canned Heat… Darwin many times with John Mayall. Buddy Guy could come to Melbourne and do a couple of shows. You know how he had that long lead guitar lead (that is now remote) but he could go out and play in the street. That’s what he did. You could hear him but where is he? Then he would come back and play through the audience.”

I remind Peter that young blues music torch carrier Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram did that very same thing at Bluesfest this year, walking through the crowd to the back of the tent and into the Bluesfest street. A festival highlight for many.

“Christone Ingram is copying a long line of people in the tradition of the blues, which is where you get out and you play,” says Peter. “I’m also lucky enough to be his promoter but I will say about Buddy … he is not an easy man to work with. Buddy has very high expectations, starting with you call him Mr Guy, you don’t call him Buddy. He has an expectation of how it is going to go down. In the old days if you didn’t have that bottle of Chivas, which he doesn’t require anymore, then you were going to be in trouble. So guys like that taught me the business.  Fito from Canned Heat or John Mayall, those guys were tough but they were great band leaders as well as great artists.”

“Buddy’s now sold out the Enmore. To me that’s what being involved in Bluesfest is. We have taken the blues in this country to another level.  Part of that dream is to bring this event to Melbourne and I also I want to do it in Perth. People who don’t want to come to Bluesfest Byron Bay can go, wait a minute I’ve got a choice here.  I see Bluesfest Melbourne growing. There’s not an awful lot of people come up to Byron from Victoria, but they are going to come anyway because, well it’s hot at Easter when it is not hot in Melbourne. I want to see where we can take this. I have a strong feeling that this is really going to work.”

As I alluded to in the intro, the beauty of Bluesfest is not just the ability to see one legendary performer after another, it also presents the opportunity to discover your next favourite artists. One artist I’m looking forward to seeing in 2023 is Icelandic outfit Kaleo, who haven’t toured Australia since Bluesfest 2015 but have been mesmerising crowds in Europe for the last few years. Noble stumbled across the band while on holiday in Iceland’s capital.

“Kaleo, yes I found them I think in 2014. I went to Reykjavik and found an independent record store and I went up to the guy and said who is the best band in your country right now?  He said Kaleo, they are the biggest thing here. I was like quick sell me some CDs. That’s how I got to bring them to Bluesfest Byron for the first time in 2015. I went for a holiday and found a band but that’s not unusual for me. I just think they are brilliant. JJ the singer, not only is he one of those classic nordic men that the women go crazy about … have a listen to the voice! Then he writes the songs and much of it is blues based. I’ve seen them play at 2,000 seaters in America and now they are playing 5,000 seaters.”

Peter went on to extol the virtues of almost every artist on the Bluesfest Melbourne bill, including Scottish artist Paolo Nutini, who he said reminded him of hearing Van Morrison for the first time. I took the opportunity to mention that for many, Van and for that matter, The Rolling Stones are usually at the top of everyone’s Bluesfest wish list or rumour list. Peter was quick to plug that hole.
“Well The Stones tour for Frontier Touring. Van Morrison has got no intention of getting on a plane and coming down here. I’ve tried too many times,” he said.

This year’s festival in Byron Bay festival was such a triumph after so many pandemic-led non-starts and natural disasters wreaking havoc in the area. Add to the equation, the global issue of crew shortages with staff leaving the music industry to find work in construction, and then the low Australian dollar, it makes you wonder why a promoter like Peter Noble keeps going. What drives him?

“I’m not going to say the last couple of years haven’t been hard, they’ve been extremely hard,” he explains. “For those of us who are veterans, those were very valuable years of our career that we lost.  If you are 30 or 40 years it is not good, but if you are 70 and you don’t have forever, that was pretty serious. So to be able to come back this year, that was great. It was great to have a bill that people loved and of course it was nearly all Australian acts apart from George Benson and a few others. We didn’t know until a month or two out whether we could get any international acts. So I just booked Aussies and Kiwis and we had the cream of the crop of Kiwi talent … including a band called Crowded House who you might call a Melbourne band too. It was a brilliant festival. Midnight Oil’s last tour. The original Cat Empire’s last ever show. You could never replicate that, you can’t. To talk about Bluesfest Byron and now Melbourne and Perth … it’s like here’s a chance to hear international music at a festival again, like we haven’t been able to present since 2019. It was early 2020 when the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix imploded. It feels like a long time ago. A world ago.”

It was around now that I thought we should wrap up but the ever-enthusiastic Peter Noble wasn’t finished. He hadn’t mentioned the local talent enough that were playing at Bluesfest Melbourne.
“There’s Henry Wagons and a great band like Fools and Kasey Chambers who is a resident artist at Bluesfest. Melbourne has her for 2023. Melbourne Ska  and Chain. I always book Chain. Unfortunately at Bluesfest last year Matt Taylor couldn’t make it due to covid but he is out there touring with them again. I think we have to remember who our great bands are. I’m not saying there aren’t others but certainly Chain, Backsliders .. I just don’t think you can do a blues festival without them ….  and Geoff Achison is not too shabby either.”

“Being an old time promoter … I have been in the business more than 50 years … I have driven taxis and waited on tables too but you never know until you do it. From tomorrow  (now today!) it’s out in the world and I have just got this suspicion that Melbourne likes its music and they are going to adopt this festival quickly.”

Bluesfest Melbourne tickets will sell out fast. On Sale at Monday 14 November at 9am through

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