Close this search box.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our weekly
e-newsletter for news and updates

Advertise with us


Lachy Doley

Bluesfest Byron Bay Day 5 Easter Monday
Report: Colette Imison Photos: Jason Rosewarne

We finally made it to the end of the finish line with Day 5 after a massive weekend of non-stop music. The final day of Bluesfest 2023 had a real festive vibe about it, knowing that it was the final day of a glorious gathering of people with the finest musicians the world has to offer. With the sun shining we were all ready to party and absorb every last minute of what was without a doubt an experience that will be etched into our memories forever.

Peter Noble and his team and all the Bluesfest volunteers delivered yet another amazing Bluesfest. Australian Musician would especially love to thank Gaynor Crawford (Bluesfest Publicist) for the opportunity to capture all of the special moments that Bluesfest presented.

Day 5, this Easter Monday featured some huge headliners… as did every other day here!  Today found me catching only a handful of new acts, for the most part it was a day spent squeezing in some tasty seconds, receiving a final fix of a few favourites. One thing that must be mentioned to readers is, that if you ever have the pleasure of attending a Bluesfest, make time to see artists you don’t know.  Bluesfest is a melting pot of new discoveries, with so many artists on the festivals line up, I guarantee you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation by branching out and spreading your wings.

It all kicked off with local artist Bobby Alu, who certainly set off the happy vibe of the day. Of Polynesian heritage, Alu not only sang, he took you across the Pacific. With his ukulele in tow, Alu also showcased his insane skills on the Samoan Log Drums, transporting you straight to the Polynesian Isles.

North East Arnhem Land and Rirratjingu/Yolngu musician Yirrmal was the perfect follow up to Bobby Alu. Bringing us back to country, his storytelling was exquisite. Yirrmal was introduced to stage where he combined singing in language and English in a heartfelt manner. He acknowledged himself and all to this country, before introducing his band that comprised of keys, drums, bass and acoustic guitars, sax, flute and two backing vocalists.

Yirrmal stated that it’s an honour to be here before launching into an Uncle Archie Roach song called ‘Spirit of Place’, a celebration song the spirit that moves across and heals the land and its people. The track found Yirrmal singing in language, where he chats about yarns and teachings about the law of the land. It highlights specific sacred areas around Australia such as his homeland Arnhem Land, Fitzroy Crossing and Uluru only to name a few.

Yirrmal’s lyrics are a must to listen to and absorb fully, as it truly teaches the essence of the story, beliefs and truth of our First Nations people and this country that we are privileged to walk on. He then performed ‘Promise Land’, a song from his upcoming album, ‘Promise Land’s’ which features Dami Im on the recording (who also performed at this years Bluesfest). Sung in English, Yirrmal performs a deep and felt translation of a traditional Yolgnu story of grief and loss and one’s journey to the Promise Land.  There was a variety of genres and styles offered during his set including latino vibes and a dash of funk, which set the crowd dancing.

Crossroad’s Stage turn up the heat when Aussie favourite Jon Stevens took to it. Having gained popularity in Australia back in the 8o’s and 90’’s fronting his band ‘Noiseworks’, the band gain notoriety with several huge hits. After going solo in the 90’s, Steven’s went on to replace Michael Hutchence some time after his passing as the new frontman of INXS. Needless to say, filling Hutchence’s shoes is a huge feat. Yet, Stevens stayed true to himself as an individual artist, whilst at the same time granting Hutchence the respect he deserves.

Stevens set provided the ultimate journey down memory lane for festival goers who decided to check out his set, beginning with ‘Touch’, the title track and first single off Noisesworks second album. Giving us songs from both Noiseworks and INXS’s catalog, the entire set was hit, after hit. Having been on tour for some time, Stevens stated he almost didn’t make it across from his homeland New Zealand, but expressed he is so happy and excited to be here, given it was his and his bands final show after performing 135 shows since the start of this tour. Having given us a taste of Noiseworks, Stevens then moved on to deliver some INXS, delivering an amazing rendition of ‘New Sensation’. The band’s saxophone player paid INXS’s Kirk Pengilly some kudos via his on point sax lines that had the droves up and dancing. Chatting to the crowd Stevens discussed the time that he performed at the Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony with INXS. He explained the privilege and joy that memorable experience brought him, before performing INXS’s massive hit ‘What You Need’’, featuring that killer guitar hook.

Dedicating ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ to Michael Hutchence, Stevens declares it as being one of the greatest songs to have ever been written. Ending it pointing to the sky, he honoured Hutchence in saying “God Bless You Michael.”

The hits kept streaming in with ‘No Lies’ and ‘Hot Chilli Woman’ by Noiseworks. During INXS’s ‘I Need You Tonight’ each band member had their own time in the limelight, with all granted huge solos. Ending the set with one of Noiseworks’ biggest hits led to a huge sing-a-long for ‘Take Me Back’. Starting a massive holiday tomorrow, Stevens thanked his band and crew who have been working hard and thanked the fans for their support.

Straight after Jon Stevens I had to convince my exhausted feet to walk the distance down to Juke Joint where Roshani was churning out a track called ‘Feel Good’, hitting some wild falsetto notes. From N.S.W and born in Sri Lanka, music has always been in Roshani’s blood. An Alternative, Roots, Soul and R&B singer and multi-instrumentalist, Roshani is an absolute breathe of fresh air. Described as a ‘one woman show’ Roshani delivers it all. From soulful tunes, to rapping verses, Roshani utilises her loop machine to blend her vocals and instrumental parts. With an uplifting flashback section, Roshani loops her own mix of 90’s dance hits, making everyone get up and dance.  Encouraging musicians to aim for their dreams, Roshani explained that she only returned to making music again in 2019 and that miracles can happen if you simply put the effort in.

Lachy Doley and the Horns of Conviction put on a grand set with Lachy’s strong vocals and a powerhouse band supporting him. The man is a genius on the Whammy Clavinet and is one of a small numbers of musicians choosing the instrument as their own. Consequently, Doley has established himself as one of the best the world has to offer.

As the sun set, Aussie favourite Xavier Rudd filled MOJO to the brim. Back this year after a mesmerising performance in 2022, Ruddy’s lyrics have purpose. From connection to the land, spirituality and human rights.With Wurundjeri ancestry, Rudd sang parts in language whilst exhibiting his didgeridoo skills. With a beautiful moment on acoustic guitar he even had children in the audience knowing the lyrics and singing along to ‘We Deserve To Dream’ from his latest album Jan Juc Moon. The crowd was overjoyed when local boy Bobby Alu joined Rudd on stage to belt out a few tunes. The special moment personally for me was when he played his 2013 release and title track song ‘Follow The Sun’.

The Crossroad Stage was the tent to be as the festival was drawing to a close as 2022 Grammy ‘Song of The Year’ winner Bonnie Raitt performed. Opening her set with ‘Made Up Mind’, Raitt was awe inspiring for every female (and male) in the room and sure showed that the many years working in the industry has resulted in the perfection of her craft. With several guitar changes through the evening, Raitt is without a doubt one of the greatest female guitarists we have been blessed to have seen in our lifetime.

On her last performance of her Australian Tour, she thanked her audience, her band and crew for supporting her. The highlight of her set was her performance of the title track from her Grammy winning album ‘Just Like That’. She performed this with an acoustic in hand and recalled the story that inspired her to write the track. Upon meeting a woman, Raitt learned that the woman had lost her son and that his heart was donated to another man who required one. One day the woman was given the opportunity to meet the recipient of her son’s heart. And the song tells the story of being able to feel the heart beat of your baby again. There were many tears in that tent in that moment, which included Raitt as she concluded the song.

Whilst Raitt was performing, you could hear the singing and cheers in the distance coming from MOJO where Michael Franti’s was setting the alight. Later on at the Delta tent, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue closed off the festival to those who dared to stayed until the very end.

Many had Monday on their agenda to catch legendary American band The Doobie Brothers. Celebrating their 50th Anniversary Tour, the band ended the 2023 Bluesfest in a manner that can only be described as a spectacular, an experience full of memories. Reuniting for the first time after 25 years found band members Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald, Pat Simmons and John McFee bringing it all to the stage on their final Australian show for the tour. As they did at Bluesfest Melbourne, the band pulled out all their classics such as ‘Black Water’, ‘What A Fool Believes’ and ‘Takin’ It to The Streets’ to name a sprinkling of iconic tunes. Of course they ended their tour and Bluesfest Byron Bay with their most loved hit ‘Listen To The Music’, an apt ending for the show and a beautiful weekend.

We did listen to endless MUSIC.
We sang.
We danced.
We smiled.
We cried.
We made new friends.
And shared the most amazing experience that will forever be remembered, with people we LOVE.
And that’s a wrap for Bluesfest 2023.

Share this