New Podcast Reveals The Artist Who Changed Bluesfest

By Cameron Adams

Who does Bluesfest credit with changing the sound of the festival? Plus Ella Hooper’s tips on how to survive the 2022 event.

BLUESFEST is now one of the most iconic festivals on the Australian musical calendar; a five day event in Byron Bay that continues to win international awards.

After being blown out for the past two years thanks to the pandemic, Bluesfest is on track to start on April 14, with the site lucky to not be harmed by heavy rain in the area.

The 2022 event will be feature mainly Australian artists including Midnight Oil – on one of their final shows ever – as well as Crowded House, Jimmy Barnes, Amy Shark, The Living End, Kasey Chambers, Paul Kelly, the Cat Empire and Missy Higgins.

While Bluesfest began in 1990 as a niche event catering to blues and roots artists, Festival Director Peter Noble remembers how the event evolved its musical direction in 1996.

It was the year US musician Ben Harper played with his band Innocent Criminals – with his modern, rock-driven take on blues and roots in an era where modern country music dominated the event.

“When Ben Harper played something happened in the audience,” Peter tells Inside Bluesfest.

“I actually went ‘I’m not getting this but I better get it fast because this is real’. That was a very, very special moment for us in terms of going ‘Where is our festival going?’ We have to develop outside of being purely blues and alt-country. Because if we don’t, we’re not getting enough people come to be able to continue.”

BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 09: Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals performs on stage at the 18th Annual Bluesfest East Coast Blues & Roots Festival at Red Devil Park on April 9, 2007 in Byron Bay, Australia. (Photo by James Green/Getty Images)

The event runs for five days and Inside Bluesfest host Ella Hooper – a long time fan of the festival – has her top tips for survival.

  • Pace yourself – a festival that runs for multiple days is a different mindset
  • Have a plan – the map with playing times at different stages is your bible
  • Prepare for the elements – it might be humid, it might be wet, you will need mozzie repellent and your sunglasses, your gum boots and lots and lots of socks, trust me
  • You need snacks and your own water bottle, but the food at Bluesfest will astound you
  • You’re going to make new friends so if your phone doesn’t have reception take a pen and paper to write down peoples’ numbers or their Instagram handles

Listen to both episodes of Inside Bluesfest featuring Crowded House, Amy Shark, Missy Higgins, Peter Garrett, The Living End and more on LiSTNR. Bluesfest runs April 14 to 18, tickets still available at bluesfest.com.au