Close this search box.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our weekly
e-newsletter for news and updates

Advertise with us


Taj Farrant

Report and photos by Jason Rosewarne

In a week that saw the cancellation of Splendour in the Grass and a continuation of the drama (aka shit show) of the Pandemonium Festival, it was with a great deal of relief that the Bluesfest Byron Bay gates were open for business to celebrate the festival’s 35th anniversary and to top it off, the sun came out to smile upon us all too.

After the introduction to this year’s festival by festival director Peter Noble and the traditional Welcome to Country, the music kicked off with American first timer to Bluesfest Jackie Venson with her incredible blind drummer Rodney Hyder, who appeared to be enjoying every second playing for us all. Playing tracks from her fabulous new album Ghost in the Machine and diving deeper back into her catalogue, Jackie’s performances are exclusive to Bluesfest Byron Bay and judging by today’s performance, her reputation is sure to grow to much greater heights over the easter weekend.

Jackie Venson

From Jackie we headed over to another Bluesfest debutant, young Australian blues guitar prodigy Taj Farrant fronting his all-American band. Taj at just 14 years old is now living in the USA and being compared to legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana. Watching him on stage with his mastery of his instrument, it’s hard to believe he’s only been on the planet for such a short time. He’s one to keep an eye on to see where his talent leads him.

Bluesfest regular Fiona Boyes with her full band The Fortune Tellers put on a fabulous set at the Jambalaya stage featuring the only Sousaphone player I’ve ever seen here.

Yirrmal, another Bluesfest regular, has a voice that is just so soulful that it hits you deep in the heart, his audience is left in silence, listening to every word sung with intensity and passion.

Melbourne band Sweet Talk also made their Bluesfest debut this year with their Country-tinged folk rock on the Delta Stage and impressed all in attendance. The all-singing, all-playing 6-piece band from Melbourne was founded over a bond of late nights, American music, classic song writing and improvised jams. Gaining a loyal following, Sweet Talk have been journeying across Australia with appearances at Queenscliff Music Festival, Tamworth, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Out On The Weekend, and Gympie Muster,  and now they can add Bluesfest to their list of conquerings!

Meshell Ndegeocello was back once again, this time with her full band. She sat in front of her keyboard and switched between keys and bass throughout her magical set playing material from her current album “The Omnichord Real Book” and much more.

Festival faves, American band Drive By Truckers featuring Patterson Hood (son of bass great David Hood) and Mike Cooley swapped lead vocal duties with each tune and it was apparent early on that these guys had already established a dedicated following after successfully blowing fans away back in 2009. They delivered a high energy show featuring tracks from most of their albums including their latest Welcome 2 Club XIII and their classic 2004 album The Dirty South, which they recently reissued.

Here Come The Mummies, were a first day highlight for many of us, featuring an 8 piece funk rock band of 5000 year old Egyptian Mummies with plenty of brass and percussion and an overload of energy. They are playing again Today, Saturday and Monday and a must-see act if you missed them on day 1.

After a late cancellation last year, Elvis Costello & The Imposters finally made it this year and lit up the big Mojo stage to an eagerly awaiting crowd. They are a highly polished band and hit every note with perfection. As always Elvis mixes it up, playing tracks from his most recent work, The Boy Named If and delving deeper into his catalogue but also pulling out the crowd-pleasing bangers such as Watching The Detectives, (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea, Pump It Up, Alison and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.They play another show at 7pm Friday if you happened to miss them on day 1.

The Playing For Change Band were back again too, bringing their unique blend of talent, fusing players from all over the world to bring peace and connect the world through music.

Portugal The Man wrapped up Day 1 with an impressive debut at the Crossroads Stage.

Share this