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Report and photos by Jason Rosewarne

While brilliant sunshine greeted Day 1 attendees at Bluesfest, the weather gods were not as kind to those attending Day 2 and a downpour determined that gum boots would be the day’s required attire.

Local act 19-Twenty opened proceedings. Self-described as an infectious riff and groove-based blue-billy-grass-rockin’-roots band, the trio have become Bluesfest favourites, assembling an ever-growing fanbase both here and overseas with their positive energy and cheeky stage banter.

Drive By Truckers have a wealth of music to draw on and anyone who saw them on Day 1 didn’t need to worry about seeing exactly the same show on Day 2. The guys read the room well, play it by ear and have no concern for superfluous set-lists.

Lisa Hunt’s pedigree is impressive having shared the stage with Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, James Brown and Miles Davis overseas, while hanging with Australian music royalty such as Delta Goodrem and Jon Stevens here. Lisa Hunt’s Forever Soul is old school gospel, R’n’B and blues, a perfect mix for Byron Bay music lovers.

Festival Director Peter Noble called a press conference at 2.30pm to outline his perspective on the state of play on the music festival scene. Noble bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t get good press prior to Bluesfest to talk up his festival’s 35th anniversary celebrations but as soon as Splendour in the Grass was cancelled, the mainstream press wanted to talk to him. His point being that the mainstream media is only interested in negative stories when it comes to music, instead of rewarding those doing the right thing by the artists and music fans. He also attacked the Australian Music Festivals Association, saying the board was made up of representatives from corporations like TEG Dainty, Live Nation and Frontier and did not represent grass roots music issues. He also questioned why such corporations share ten of thousands of dollars in music grants when they are run by shareholders who are millionaires.

The press conference also gave Bundjalung woman Rhoda Roberts, a chance to talk up the return of the  Boomerang Dreaming Festival next year as part of Bluesfest 2025. Rhoda invited Bluesfest revellers to discover the world’s oldest instruments, dance and rituals along with traditional art practices and musical workshops over three days of festivities for Boomerang Festival 2025.

The Paper Kites have become one of Australia’s biggest indie-folk bands. In the past twelve months the band have performed sold out shows across the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, Ireland, France, Denmark and The Netherlands. 2023 saw the band release their sixth studio album and most poignant project to date –  At The Roadhouse. Stumbling across an abandoned heritage venue in the small Australian town of Campbells Creek in 2022, the band repurposed the space into a venue (The Roadhouse) and embarked on a month-long residency – bringing this album project to life and tonight the band brought little Roadhouse to Byron Bay. The band eased into their set with the lo-fi  Between The Houses, placing the attentive audience into a daydreaming state of mind, and continued to leave us in an optimistic, cheerful emotional plight for the remainder of their gorgeous set.

In 2023 New Zealand’s L.A.B. performed a sold-out tour of Australia, alongside their first performances in the United States, capped off with a performance at the iconic California Roots Festival and a sold-out Hawaiian show. Tonight, in their only Bluesfest appearance for 2024, L.A.B. brought their eclectic mix of reggae, blues, funk, rock and electronica to a crowd eager to dance their arses off to the band’s infectious beats.

Melbourne’s Sweet Talk, clearly enjoying their moment in the spotlight were back again to deliver another dose of their  splendid country rock thang.

Making their Bluesfest debut, The Dead South, a Canadian acoustic-based outfit laid their organic brand of roots music upon the Bluesfest throng and didn’t disappoint.

Bluesfest royalty Jack Johnson took to the Bluesfest stage, as he has many time before, armed with his collection of Australian made Cole Clark guitars and proceeded to entrance the crowd with his feel-good vibes. Aptly for the day’s weather conditions, Jack opened his set with Mudfootball and went on to win hearts with his amiable nature and singalong tunes, leaving us with The Wailers’ Soul Shakedown/Good People. A Good Friday indeed!

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