Laneway has been running for approximately 15 years, and what was once a self-proclaimed ‘hole in the wall’ speakeasy, has transformed into one of the countries most beloved day festivals.
I’ve been keeping an eye out on the Laneway line-up ever since I first became aware it existed, and 2019 is finally the year I got to go.
So on the 9th of February, I was up and getting myself ready in the morning, prepared to be at the station by 10:00, rain, hail or shine. It was rain, thank god, not hail. Not exactly shine the whole day, but there was definitely rain.
I met up with Jess, Kate and Kate’s younger brother on the train, and we rode into the city where we met up with my younger cousin and her group of friends who we were accompanying into the festival, and our favourite here at You Should Hear, Mia!
It definitely wasn’t an act heavy day for us, we were quite selective with who we went and saw, rather making the most of the great food and drinks available, the covered areas to sit and have chat, do some people watching and commentary, take photos and generally enjoy the vibe of the festival. We managed to catch a bit of G Flip’s set as we walked in and wandered around the festival, and the sounds of Skeggs, Smino, Camp Cope, Mansionair and The Smith Street Band accompanied us throughout the day, as well as a few other of the artists who were playing at the festival.
The first act we really saw was DJDS, a DJ duo from the US. Most of in the group had never heard of them before, but I can guarantee I probably enjoyed them the most. They played a great set, filled with amazing songs, some incredible remixes and they were one of the firsts artists from the festival I searched on Spotify when I came home.
After DJDS, it was straight to the stage right next to them to watch Masego, who was one of my most anticipated acts of the entire festival. Considering he started with Tadow, it was safe to say I went insane and had one of the best times of my life watching him play the sax, having a boogie myself, staring in awe as he pieced together songs bit by bit and play nearly every instrument up on stage.
After Masego it was a bit of a break with some more drinks, and soon we found ourselves gearing up and joining the ever-growing mosh pit for the one and only Rex Orange County. Rex has continuously been mentioned here on You Should Hear, so I was super duper excited for this set, and I think my friends all gathered that from how much I screamed when he walked onto the stage. It was such a great set. He sang some of my favourite songs, as well as some songs I haven’t listened to half as much, as well as a beautiful cover of No-One by Alicia Keys which nearly had me sobbing as everyone sang along. It was phenomenal.
Unfortunately, I had to be at a friend’s engagement party the same night as the festival, so I was out of there by 8:00 and changed into a fancy dress and heels half an hour later on the way to the engagement, but nonetheless, it was a fantastic day. The music was great, I had an amazing time with my friends, drinks weren’t super expensive like I had thought and the fried chicken was an absolute winner in my opinion. What more could you ask for?
At the date of writing this, it’s currently the 26th of January, and in celebration of yet again purchasing some more concert tickets, I thought I’d share with you my gig guide for 2019, so far.
For some reason, I failed to do a Gig Guide for 2018, so I’ll do a really quick dot-point rundown of the gigs, festivals and concerts I attended last year before I move on to this year.
The Kooks – January, 2018
Rudimental/Jakubi, Australia Open Live Stage – January, 2018
Let Go Fest – February, 2018
Billie Eilish – February, 2018
Jet – March, 2018
Bruno Mars – March, 2018
Ed Sheeran – March, 2018
Blues Fest – March/April, 2018
Harry Styles – April, 2018
Niall Horan – June, 2018
Gang Of Youths – November, 2018
RINI – November, 2018
Peninsula Showcase – December, 2018
Falls Festival – December/November, 2018
So 2018 shaped up to be a banging year for music and live gigs, concerts, stadium tours and festivals, and if I continue the way I’m currently going, 2019 looks like it’ll be much the same.
Here’s the Guide so far for 2019:
Laneway Festival – February Besides the disappointing news that my queen Jorja Smith won’t be performing anymore (I mean, a clash with the Grammy’s is reason enough I guess), I’m still super keen for this festival. I’m going with a great group of gal pals who I love, and I mean when I’m seeing Rex Orange County, Masego, Cosmos Midnight, Crooked Colours, G Flip and Middle Kids, I can’t complain too much. I am however missing Gang Of Youths because I have to leave early, but still, stellar line-up for what I’m sure will be a fab day.
Lauryn Hill – February
If you know me, you know this is a huge one. Heck, you know she’s one of my top favourite artists of all time, she featured in a squad of five artists I drew and framed for my room, and I’ve been singing Killing Me Softly since I exited the womb. My cousin, who I basically grew up with and have been best friends with since birth and I are going as a kind of celebration for her 21st birthday, and I cannot wait. If you read my write-up for Blues Fest which I attended with my family last year, you’d know I’ve already seen Ms. Hill, but a whole concert dedicated to her? A whole few hours of just Lauryn? Yes please.
Bene – February Again. If you’ve been around the blog for a little while, you’ll know how keen I am for this concert. Hopefully you’ve read my write-up all about Bene and what a cool chick she is. Heck, I was 100% prepared to go to the concert on my own, luckily my best friend Jess jumped at the chance to come with me when I asked her if she was down. Currently Bene only has two singles out, so I’m keen to see what else she performs at the show!
Kodaline – March This was a moment for 14-year old Priya. There are so many songs by this band that I listened to throughout high-school, so when I saw they were coming to Melbourne, I quickly messaged Jess who is 90% of the time always down for a cheeky concert, and booked our tickets straight away.
John Mayer – March I’M SO KEEN. As soon as even the whisper of a concert was mentioned, I was on it. My mate and I waited for tickets and I spent the most stressful twenty minutes of my life trying to secure some decent tickets. Getting the confirmation email that we had our seats was such a relief and I’ve been counting down since that moment. John Mayer live, what more could you ask for? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
Matt Corby – April Another magical man I get to see and hear live this year, and again, I’m counting down. I’m going with two friends who I’ve never been to a concert with before so I’m excited to experience it with them. Again, if you’ve been around for a little while, you’ll understand my obsession with Matt Corby and his incredible voice. Stay posted for the blog post all about seeing this man in the flesh.
RINI – April Literally the day after Matt Corby, one of my close friends and I are going and seeing RINI, a homegrown, Melbourne RnB artist who we saw only in November! I can’t wait to see him again, he’s released a few new songs, and I’m sure there’ll be some stuff coming out before this concert as well.
Blues Fest – April
I’m super duper keen for Blues Fest. Like more so than I was than last year. ALSO! I’d like to make a small announcement. A few months back, I wrote an short article about a band called Ocean Alley, and said this:
Low and behold, guess who was added to the Blues Fest line-up earlier this month? Ocean Alley. But anyway. Besides Ocean Alley, they’re are a heap of artists who I love coming to the festival, like Norah flipping Jones, Tash Sultana, Six60, one of the first bands I ever wrote about here, Allen Stone, Jack Johnson, Snarky Puppy and heaps more. Plus, this time my family and I decided to book an apartment in Byron Bay rather than camp at the festival, so I’m keen to enjoy some beach time and wandering around Byron before heading into the festival for the day.
Shawn Mendes – April
Possibly the cutest concert I have booked this year. I’m going with my best friend Kate, my little sister, and my little sister’s best friend. I genuinely can’t wait to see Shawn live, his vocals and his lyrics are amazing, and there are so many songs off his latest album that are sure to be hits in an arena setting.
So December was decidedly one of the best endings I could have had to the year 2018. It was a great month filled with hanging out with friends and family, going out to celebrate birthdays and the big gear up towards what I had spent the last half of the year waiting for, Falls Festival.
If you read my wish-list post from a little while ago, you may recall that I was absolutely shattered when my best friend and I missed out on tickets last year to scalpers who basically bought up the bulk of all tickets. If you then read my updated wish list post, you’d know that this year we managed to snag five tickets for the festival, which takes place over New Year’s Eve, from the 28th of December to the 1st of January.
So the remaining months of 2018 were spent in wild anticipation. This was only made even better when one of our tickets opened up and your favourite blogging superwoman Mia, ended up joining our group of gals!
Three days of live music, camping with my best friends and a road trip that Mia and I had wished for since the start of the year that somehow manifested itself into existence? Yes please.
The drive to Lorne was beautiful. I’ve never done the drive myself before, I’ve always been a passenger with my family, but getting to drive down with Mia was great. We had great music playing and highly intellectual conversations about Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Aquaman and other thought-provoking topics.
The car line to get into the festival was a lot better than I had expected and all our efforts of hiding alcohol in moisturiser bottles, setting spray bottles and Victoria Secret sprays went to waste when they waved our two cars through without a second glance.
One of the downers for the camping situation that wasn’t so much of a downer more so huge nuisance, was the fact that we were the first car on our lineup for the hill, meaning we were right at the bottom of the hill, meaning our tent was on a noticeable tilt. As in it was a decent workout putting it up while staying upright, let along sleeping without sliding all the way down to the end of the tent. It was a great laugh if anything.
After setting up our campsite and sorting our stuff out, we got to work getting ready for the rest of the day, which meant changing out of our T-shirts, into more festival appropriate outfits and using the mirrors in our cars to do our make-up.
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Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Technicolor 2 HC’
Unfortunately we were only able to get three-day tickets, meaning we missed out on acts like Hockey Dad, Ocean Alley, Mallrat and Dizzee Rascal but the remaining acts on the three days we were there were all fantastic.
If you’re not into reading about all the details for each day, first of all, why? And second of all, I got you, with this minute long video I literally made the day we got back because of how much I loved the entire experience. Hopefully you like it, and hopefully it inspires you to keep reading because I would greatly appreciate it.
The first day was a shorter day considering a large bulk of the people at the concert came that day as well, but it was incredible. Okay, so I wasn’t completely down with 88 Rising and Rich Brian and the fact that they performed their last song, then came back and performed the same song as their encore, but Anderson .Paak more than made up for it. The mosh pits we found ourselves in throughout the entirety of the festival were some of the best I’ve ever been a part of and the energy throughout each day was fantastic.
That night was, to put it lightly, a struggle. Sleeping on such a slant meant I was waking up every half an hour or so to shimmy my way back up the tent after sliding down to the bottom and on Sunday morning the rest of the girls shared my frustrations. However, we soldiered on, and after a lazy morning eating fruit, drinking Up-N-Go and chatting about the night before, we decided to get started with our day and get ready. It was a very relaxed morning/afternoon, having some drinks and chatting with the people around our tent, before making our way into the festival at 3:30 to see what was going on inside.
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Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Technicolor 2 HC’
We got to see Ruel, who’s name you might recognise from a few of my playlist posts in the past, and right after him was Dermot Kennedy. Both were incredible acts and we managed to get quite close to the front, with only a few people in between us and the barrier.
Honestly, I have to say that seeing Running Touch next was the highlight of the entire festival for me, with Anderson .Paak the day before being the only one who came close. Running Touch was one of my most listened to artists of 2018, and I was super ecstatic when I found out he was added to the lineup a few weeks before the festival started. To make a good set even better, as we walked into the tent about twenty minutes before he could start, my eyes zoned in on the practically empty barricade, with the perfect amount of space for the three of us who were still left together, and I basically sprinted from the back of the tent to snag the spot.
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Runnin Touch’s set was incredible. It was so different, very intense and energetic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him the whole time. As well as his stage presence, his bass player and drummer were superb, and matched his energy the entire time. I got some of my best photos and video footage from that set, but enough to still have my phone away for majority of the set and really enjoy the music, head-bang to some of his heavier stuff and have a boogie to all his dance tracks.
We decided to stick around for the next act in that particular tent, Cashmere Cat. I haven’t listened to a lot of his songs that aren’t on the radio, but his set was very energetic as well and he packed the tent completely.
From Cashmere Cat we left the tent to join the hoards of people filling the main Valley Stage grass area for Hilltop Hoods. Flight Facilities were next and we decided to move as close as we could to the front, but when that got a bit too much, I pulled us over to the side, near the speakers where we ended up finding a huge group of our friends as well as one of our friends from our group who had been split up from us earlier in the day. Flight Facilities were fantastic and a great set to have a dance to.
They were the perfect way to end the day, and we were very pleased as we made the short walk back to our tent. That night Jess and I made the decision to test out sleeping in the cars, so we split up and dragged our bedding into the cars for the night. Let me tell you. Much more comfortable. So good. 10/10 in comparison to the night before.
The next day was our last full day and we were keen to make the most of it. We got up a bit earlier to get our outfits and makeup on, have a few drinks and chat in front of our tent, and we were inside the festival by 1:30.
We decided to have a fairly early lunch, and by 3:00 we were in front of the main stage, drinks in hand, ready to see Bishop Briggs. She was another one of the standout performances for me and I loved watching her set. After Bishop we split up and it was just Jess and I for a bit, so we decided to grab our final lunch for the festival, and sit down to enjoy Odette’s set, another singer you’ve probably heard me talking about it a bit on here.
After Odette, we caught up with a much larger group of friends for The Vaccines, before a short break back at the tents, after which we caught the end of Toto, making sure we were there for Africa and Rosanna of course. DMA’s were next up, and their set was fantastic, a set where we pushed ourselves a bit further into the moshpit.
After DMA’s, we headed back to the tent to grab our jumpers as it was getting a bit colder, before returning to the festival grounds to get a good spot for Catfish and The Bottlemen, who were playing at midnight, right after CHVRCHES.
Catfish and The Bottlemen were one of the most hyped up acts of the festival, and for good reason. They played an amazing set, counting down to the New Year with everyone in the middle of their set before welcoming 2019 with some new music that got everyone jumping and cheering. The mosh-pit was just like many of the others I’d been caught up in throughout the festival, welcoming, energetic and loud.
After Catfish and The Bottlemen, Jess and I decided to hang around for Golden Features, a bit of a different style of artist compared to the others we had been hanging out to hear, but it was definitely an experience that we shared.
The entire festival was one of my favourite experiences of 2018, and an incredible way to end a very busy year.
Today’s post is another find, courtesy of BluesFest. Today I’ll be sharing one of the proudest discoveries of the festival, as I mentioned in the linked post all about the extraordinary five days; Benjamin Booker.
It was the final day of the festival and Kate and I’s energy levels were slowly coming to a grinding halt. Make no mistake, we’d had a ball at BluesFest, but five full days of festivities, walking around the grounds in totally unsuitable shoes, tossing and turning during the humid nights on our camping beds with a cold shower greeting us every morning…we were close to the end.
So on reflection it made sense that we threw caution to the wind on the final day and headed towards the only tent we hadn’t been to throughout the festival, Jambalaya, for the set of an artist who’s name we had only heard days before.
Reading Benjamin Booker’s profile on the festival app sparked my interest, the New Orleans blues singer was highly regarded and raved about, and it also provided a getaway to shorten the long hours we had spent sitting around, eating, chatting and people watching in between our pre-planned sets. So, once Kate confirmed she was up for it, we finished off our meals and set off towards the large tent on the other side of the grounds.
As I stood by, waiting for Kate to collect her phone from the charging station, I noticed the tent wasn’t too full at all. In fact, there were quite a few spaces up at the barrier, so after a quick dash to the portable toilets close by, we made our move and secured our spots.
It was an interesting wait to say the least. By the time we got there, Benjamin and his band were on stage already, doing their final sound check. In only a white t-shirt and black jeans covering his small frame, he looked quite unassuming, but each time he turned to grin at the crowd, or laugh at a middle aged white man who was getting impatient to finally see the Benjamin Booker live, we couldn’t help but smile along with him. He giggled like a small child every now and then, and chatted and joked with the audience throughout the sound check. His voice was clear, cutting through the noise of the tent. He was a genuinely interesting character to look at on stage and in the least creepiest way, I honestly could have just watched him for ages.
The crowd had also grown considerably from the moment we had arrived. While we had been at the front of a relatively empty space, as we looked behind us, we were both quite shocked to see the audience building up at a steady rate. Grown men were waiting, some patiently looking at the stage expectantly, others jostling each other around with laughter as they inched closer and closer to the front. It was an interesting demographic, one that we had not expected at all.
His soundcheck came to a close, and without stepping one foot off stage to finalise anything else, the band burst into the first song.
Believe me when I say; Benjamin Booker’s voice, is like nothing I have ever heard, live especially, before, and I am still in love with it. From such a small guy, there seemed like this animalistic growl that floated at the back of his throat with every word he said, and it added this heat to the entire performance that encapsulated his presence on stage. It was a hugely stark contrast to the mid-high range speaking voice we had been listening to only moments ago during the sound check.
Add into the mix the wildly intense stare that he threw right down the centre of the tent, and it was one of the most mesmerising sets I had ever seen. I honestly felt hypnotised throughout his performance, and no matter how hard his band was working to deliver a performance that met his level of intensity, no-one could take their eyes off him.
My favourite song from the set was Believe, but more recently, I’ve really been enjoying Motivation, which is in my 365 playlist for the year on Spotify. Violent Shiver was so high energy, but he maintained this level headed-ness that exuded confidence and charisma, so in between boogie-ing and head-banging there were moments of completely freezing to just watch him in awe.
Benjamin Booker was amongst my most memorable sets at BluesFest, and I’m so glad we managed to catch him on the last day before it was all over for another year. Hopefully he’s back sometime soon, because I’d love to see a full show of his. If it was anything like his set, it’s sure to be insane.
If you ever get the chance to see Benjamin live, I implore you to do so. I wasn’t sure at all what type of artist he was, I had absolutely no clue or prior knowledge of his music or his sound (hence my jaw dropping shock when he opened his mouth and started singing), so I’m sure you guys could get into it as well!
Hello friends! Today’s post is one I have been looking forward to for quite some time now. I also have some extra blog posts coming soon that link in with this one too, so keep an eye out for those ones. However, let’s get into this post, because *warning*, it’s gonna be a long one. Really. It’s long as heck.
I was absent for just under a week, though I did have some posts scheduled to keep ya’ll sated, and hopefully you caught those! Me, on the other hand, I was enjoying a week or so away in sunny Byron Bay with my mum, dad, sister and best friend for my first Byron Bay BluesFest.
So what is BluesFest?
“Byron Bay BluesFest is Australia’s Premier Contemporary Blues and Roots Festival.”
I mean, Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon made an appearance, sneaking their way into the thousands of fans, so surely it’s a big deal?
Running over the Easter long weekend, and in it’s 29th year in 2018, the festival showcases music from all over the world at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, which is about a twenty minute to half an hour drive north of Byron Bay. The five days run for 12 hours each, with over 200 performances across the weekend. Roughly 6000 people camp (we shall get to that), enjoy over 100 food and market stalls, as well as drinking gardens and activities for children. It’s honestly one of the most well-rounded family friendly music festivals I’ve heard of, and I’m so glad I got to go.
The culture in Byron Bay is very relaxed. It’s an easy, chill, previously sleepy town, that’s transformed into on of the most loved vacation destinations for families, tourists and back-packers alike, the beach is close by wherever you find yourself to be, the people are lovely, and they’re all incredibly conscious about the environment and preservation. I don’t think I touched anything throughout the whole weekend that wasn’t recyclable, compostable or bio-degradable. It was very eye-opening in that sense.
But, we’re here to talk about the music, and I think the easiest way to do that is to outline the itinerary for each day, what we did and who we saw. Beginning with the flight into Brisbane, QLD.
Day 1 was an early day. My best friend Kate slept over on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning, bright and early at 4:45AM, we were loading our bags into a maxi taxi and heading off for the airport. Due to running just a little bit behind schedule, we rushed through the airport and made it onto the plane all within a half an hour time span. Thankfully, flying from Melbourne to Coolangatta isn’t a long flight at all, two hours max, so we reached Queensland around 8:00. Immediately the weather was noted. Where we had been hoodies and running pants to deal with slight Melbourne breeze, I had to strip off my jacket straight out of the doors due to the humidity and heat. Foreshadowing, noted on reflection.
We picked up our hire car, and with about six hours to spare until the campgrounds opened, bypassed the Tea Tree Farm and made our way into the Byron Bay town centre. Now Kate’s very familiar with Byron, having regularly gone up there with her family since she was a kid, so relying solely on her recommendations, we walked around the town for a short while, before my sister spotted a noticeboard directing down a small arcade alleyway, that led to a cute little cafe, The Hideout, which we decided to stop at for breakfast.
/breakfast at The Hideout/
After one of the best breakfasts of my life, we got back in the car for some more drive-by sight-seeing and a stop at the beach. Having just got off a plane, we were severely under-prepared and over-dressed for the weather or a swim, so ended up enjoying some of the sunshine out on the grass, before bundling back into the car. A short shopping stop later and we were driving into the farm. Since we arrived incredibly early, we were amongst the first few cars to pull into the festival, meaning the whole check in process where we were all ticked off and christened with our wristbands was over relatively quickly, and we began the short drive to our site.
Now this is the camping situation. Blessed be my parents, for we are not a huge camping family. So driving past the rows and rows of vacant camp sites was mind-boggling to imagine how many people would begin to gather there over the course of the next two days. While it is predominantly camping grounds, BluesFest does offer three other types of accomodation. I say accomodation lightly.
The first, is a basic ‘tent motel’. Outsourcing the entire debacle of setting up the tent, you arrive to a better than average tent, ready and set up for you, all you need to bring is your sleeping gear, camping gear and everything else.
The step up from that is the Rainbow Tipi Village. Having to suppress the urge to point out the complete political incorrectness of the whole idea was a challenge but I wasn’t the one paying for the majority of the trip, so it had to be done. In a completely hypocritical change in tone, the Tipi Village was quite cute. Rows of tall tipi’s filled another lot of grass, spreading out 18ft in circumference each, alongside two rows of private parking, pre-booked so you’re as close as you can get to your tipi. Inside you get camping beds, a mattress, a pillow, both covered, small bedside tables, and a solar panel lamp. As well as the upgrade inside the tents, the village also comes with a ‘chill-out’ area, complete with hammock style lawn chairs, board games and beanbags, and a conjoined chai kitchen, with free chai made every morning.
And finally, there was the Flash Camp Glamping. For an extra $1000 you get a huge canvas bell tent, private toilet and shower facilities, fresh towels every morning, private kitchen, charging facilities, private parking, bamboo furniture, skin care and toiletries when you arrive, a rug, ‘mood lighting’ and ongoing staff assistance on site throughout the festival.
As I mentioned before, my family aren’t really used to camping, the last time we went being nearly five years ago, but we’re also not up for spending $3000+ on accomodation for five nights, so we found ourselves at the Rainbow Tipi Village. Which is where we reach our first hiccup. As I mentioned, we had a hire car for our trip, a Toyota Kluger, which made it a whole lot easier for us to move around Byron. However, it’s more of a city 4WD rather than a rural, off-road kind of car, and we were definitely not driving on roads. The rain the day before also meant that once we reached the Tipi Village, we encountered a little bit of mud on the roads. When I say ‘encountered’ I mean, we followed the road too far around the village, found ourselves bogged, had to leap out from the car to avoid landing in the mud, call for help from the nearby Tipi Village staff and get our car dragged out by a tow-bar. It was an experience. But within half an hour we were sorted and assigned to our five-person tipi.
/dad and sis roaming the ‘village’/
For five people, there wasn’t a whole lot of room, but it was cosy. Since we had arrived the day before the festival started, which began on the Wednesday, we had majority of the day to ourselves, sorting out our bags, making ourselves comfortable. However, the humidity was pretty intense, meaning we were all pretty worn out from the early flight and ready to lie about and generally do nothing. Which is basically what we did for majority of the Tuesday. Kate and Sonali, my sister, and I explored the village a bit more, especially the chill out area, and discovered that our prime spot would be opening up the car boot and sitting inside to let the occasional breeze pass us by, while we battled through relentless games of Uno, chewing through a whole pack of gum.
/chill out area, behind the Rainbow Tipi Village/
Our afternoon naps turned into deep sleeps, and we eventually woke up right about dinner time. To cater to the early arrivals who were making use of the early camping availability like us, there was a Campers Cafe just outside the festival grounds, serving food and drinks, so we made our way there for dinner, enjoying burgers and coffees, before heading back to our tipi for an early night.
Day 2 heralded the first official day of BluesFest, which started at 3PM that day. Being woken up early by activity around the campsites meant we had plenty of time to eat our breakfast out of the boot of the car, shower and suss out the amenities. Pleasantly surprised, the showers and toilets available for campers were actually really great and clean. A whole lot better than I thought they would be. This followed through for the rest of the festival. The toilets and showers were regularly cleaned and washed down at the end of every day and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had with portable showers and toilets.
After our showers we changed for the day and made our way back to the Campers Cafe for lunch.
And that’s when the rains started. We had been warned, Byron can be known for stop and start weather, and we experienced it in bucketloads during the first day, where it rained, like literally poured, on and off for the duration of the whole day. A little bit after 3, we made our way into the festival to begin our five days of BluesFest.
/a wet opening day for BluesFest, as indicated by Kate and my dad, equally as drenched/
One of the first acts I saw with my family was the Bali Blues Brothers, a blues bands from Bali who were playing in one of the smaller tents on the site. I thoroughly enjoyed their set, the frontman was entertaining and my family and I really enjoyed having a boogie to the music they were playing. Their guitar players were fantastic, hypnotic to watch and their guitar solos were amongst some of my favourites.
The next act we saw was on my mum’s list. She’d been raving about Caitie Baker from the moment we had woken up, so there wasn’t a way she was missing her set. I have to say, I really enjoyed her set as well. She was dancer performer as well, which is something I love when I watch singers live, and her band were very talented as well. I got huge Amy Winehouse vibes from her, and there were several jaw-dropping moments within the crowd hearing such a huge voice come out of such a small woman.
We had a four hour break between Caitie and our next act, so Kate, Sonali and I took the opportunity to roam around and have a look at the stalls. Jewellery, candles, clothes, headbands, artwork, henna, hair pieces, boutiques, it was all available, and we also took the chance to choose out something to have for dinner when we met up with my family. The food was in excess. So many options, we were genuinely spoilt for choice, there was so much on offer. Jambalaya and chicken baguette’s with a side of cajun spiced cone of fries was the move for the first day, and even today, there are no regrets. It was amazing.
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Our final act for the day was Leon Bridges in one of the biggest tents of the festival. He filled it up quite well and his set was a great mix of high energy stage presence and the crooning he’s become so well known for. His back-up singer was equally as beautiful to watch as he was, and I loved his movement and marching around the stage. My dad found it a little amusing, but his in-tempo pacing and marching up and down the front of the stage was really fun to watch for me.
That brought our planned acts to an end, and we met up in the Crossroads Cafe, infront of the Crossroads tent to have a coffee. The early morning and slow day from Tuesday was still catching up to us, as well as a slight frustration with the amount of rain and slush we were having to put up with, so we called it a day around 10:30, and headed back to the tipi.
Day 3 began nice and early again. It became apparent that daily activity at the tipi village started very early in the morning, so we made the most of it and took our time showering, getting changed, having our car boot breakfast, smashing out a few games of Uno, then walking over to the grounds at 12:00. We did’t have any acts scheduled until 3:00 that afternoon, so wandered around a bit more, finally stumbling upon the Delta tent, where a young girl was sitting on stage with a guitar and a stamp pedal. I have to say, Molly Millington, soon became one of favourite new acts from the bill, and a discovery who I’ll be sharing more of soon…
After a few stop and starts around the tents, as well as some more browsing, we made a pit stop for 15 minutes to watch All Our Exes Live In Texas. Now this is where I have to say that I’m being completely, 100% honest about how I feel about each artist that I saw. I enjoyed the fifteen minutes that I saw, but when my dad suggested we move to another tent to see another act, I agreed straight away, purely because it got a bit slow and it dragged on a little bit for me. There’s no denying that they all have incredible voices and the blend of their harmonies combined with a mandolin, ukulele, accordion and guitar was lovely to listen to, but I couldn’t say that they were a stand out for me. It was one of the slower acts, and when considering how long the days were and how much time was spent standing around, I really wanted to utilise my time well and see acts that excited me, though I definitely understand why so many people flocked to the Crossroads tent when they were performing.
Next was a favourite of mine who I had been preparing to see since the lineup came out; Darren Harts, better known as Harts. He played a lot of the favourites that I’ve enjoyed since I saw him a couple of years ago at council music festival for a gold coin donation entry, PLUS all the new stuff he’s released. He’s a machine on the guitar and his production style is incredibly unique. His bass player and drummer were equally as well rounded, filling in all the places that he couldn’t perfectly. However, I had to collect my jaw up from the floor when he mentioned that this might be the last year for his Harts project. His performance definitely left a lasting impression when he ended the set smashing his guitar due to a ton of built up frustration and uncertainty about his career as he’s gone on to say on Twitter and in the follow up interviews he’s done since. I’m definitely glad I got to catch him before anything changes.
Between Harts and the next act we had another four hour break, as we grabbed a late lunch and moseyed around some more, looking at the stalls. I purchased a ring for myself and my mum stocked up on cotton head bands that I have been using to death recently.
/the cutest dresses that I still regret not buying for myself/
At 8:00 we made out way back to the Mojo tent, to catch The New Power Generation, a collective made up of Prince’s past band members, as well as three vocalists joining them for their performances. Hands down, this band are in my top five of all the people we saw at BluesFest. I was obsessed with two of the singers; the young girl who had this ridiculously huge voice, was full of sass and power, and the ‘young cat’ who had one of the best voices I’ve ever heard, and was an amazing dancer. They both grabbed my attention every time they came on stage to sing a song, and all the musicians in the band were so talented and entertaining to watch. The first time I saw them we were all there off to the side a bit, dancing along and singing with the other families, but I couldn’t stop just staring at all the magic going on onstage. When they performed Purple Rain, the entire tent exploded and everyone roared in the audience, singing along and cheering at all the right moments. It was a fantastic moment to experience.
The final act of Day 3 was an act I had been waiting for, ever since she was announced as a final late addition to the bill earlier in the year and that was Ms. Lauryn Hill. I’m a huge Lauryn Hill and The Fugees fan, so I’d been counting down to seeing her set at BluesFest for quite a while. While dad, mum and Sonali were elsewhere, Kate and I grabbed a quick bite to eat for dinner, then made our way back to the Mojo tent to get in nice and early. While the crowd was still pretty strong, we managed to get in quite close with a decent view. Now this is where the audience was split. Lauryn has a DJ who comes on before her, to get her in the mood and hype up the audience. I love this aspect of a lot of RnB and hip hop live acts. Kehlani did it at her concert, and I’ve seen countless others. He played a ton of classic RnB, rap and hip hop songs, old and new, which I was loving. However, with a crowd who are running back and forth between tents and trying to stick to a schedule, you have to remain pretty tight on time, which was something that was never going to happen with Lauryn, who is notorious for running overtime due to coming out pretty late. While I was having the time of my life, it became apparent that a lot of people were quickly becoming fed up of waiting, and as well as a chant for her to come out starting up, there was also some mild boo-ing to the DJ. Eventually at 10:30, a half an hour after she was scheduled to come on, Lauryn made an appearance and began her set.
/lauryn hill, an true icon/
In a split second, the frustration pulsing from the crowd turned into screaming and cheers, as she began her set. She was like a conductor up on stage, directing her band and back-up singers with the flick of her wrist, all the while periodically dabbing at her forehead with a towel to keep up with the heat and humidity that had only heightened during the evening. She sang so many classics and my voice cracked only half-way through Killing Me Softly, making my screaming and cheering pretty much useless up until she closed the set with Doo Wop.
At the same time, my mum and sister were at the Crossroads Cafe tent, my dad inside reliving his childhood listening to Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. As well as a ton of the original LZ songs that the huge crowd were waiting out to hear, he also shared some bluegrass tunes and new originals. On his return my dad couldn’t stop talking about the intensity of the crowd, how grown men were crying and how all he could think about were some of the first songs he got on record. At the end of the show he joined us at the Crossroads Cafe, we all enjoyed an ice chocolate and made the walk back to our tent with the thousands of people leaving too.
Day 4 was another early start, as we headed to the smaller Delta tent to watch the Byron Bay Busking Finalists for 2018. Due to several pitstops at food stalls, market shops and other tents along the way, we managed to catch the last two performances. One was a young girl, Cecilia Brandolini, who was a talented piano player and had a really beautiful, haunting folk voice, and the last performers were my favourite, the winners, SameTime. The band comprised of two brothers, one on guitar, one on a standing drum arrangement and both on vocals assisted by two of their mates on bass and electric guitar. I 100% recommend that you listen to the one song they have on Spotify. They are incredible. They both have amazing voices for a 16 and 19 year old, and all their songs were catchy and interesting to listen to. The younger of the two, on the drums, was an insane singer, harmonised incredibly, and smashed it on the drums as well. My whole family thoroughly enjoyed their set, especially the medley at the end that included You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, Ice Ice Baby, Africa, Thriftshop and a ton more songs that had the audience cheering and singing along each time a new tune was introduced.
The next act my family were all keen to see were The Wailers, another tribute band, made up of past members of Bob Marley’s band. They were incredible to watch. Despite some of them being well into their 60’s and 70’s they performed the songs so well, and with so much passion. It was clear to see the love in the tent, hearing, seeing, smelling, all the things Bob Marley was about and is known for. It was an interesting experience, my mum, dad and I enjoying it especially, being huge reggae fans.
When we were done at The Wailers, we stopped for lunch in the food court, enjoying Vietnamese that afternoon, and making use of the huge amount of spare time we had yet again, looking at more stalls, stopping in between tents to see what was on and chatting in the food courts. A popular stand was the Byron Music Shop, a sponsor for the festival, and everyday at 7 they had jam sessions, right after some live performances from locals. It was incredible to watch people jumping up from the audience that was steadily growing around the shop, and after chatting to one of the musicians who had sang a song with the Bali Blues Brothers during their set I even jumped up and sang Superstition, my absolute favourite Stevie Wonder song and it was a ton of fun, especially having a couple of interesting people approaching me after to tell me how much they enjoyed the song. After sticking around for a bit more of the jam, Kate, Sonali and I headed back to the Mojo Tent to meet up with mum and dad.
The next act we saw was a repeat that was agreed upon by the entire group and that was The New Power Generation. This time, mum and Sonali stayed back at the side, and somehow Kate, dad and I found our way to the front of the mosh pit that had doubled in size for their final show.
/NPG ft my faves/
Their entire set was yet again, a huge party and honouring of Prince and all that he was, and it’s still one of my favourite sets I saw at BluesFest.
The final act we ‘saw’ for the night was The Original Blues Brothers Band. I say ‘saw’, because like I mentioned, it was a long day, and Sonali, Kate and I were slowly winding down. So while my mum and dad headed over to the Crossroads tent, Sonali situated herself right outside at the Crossroads Cafe with a hot chocolate, and Kate and I went to the food hall to grab some dinner, before we all met up with Sonali at the end and headed back to our tent for another sticky, warm night.
Keen to get the day started, we made our way back to the Delta stage nice and early to catch the Busking Competition Winner’s, SameTime, do their own set. Due to a longer time for performing we got to hear some more songs from them, and of course, enjoyed the medley at the end. The boys were definitely too humble for their own good. Sam, the younger brother, especially was not shying how low his expectations for their own set was, stating he would have been happy with 20 people coming as he had expected. We managed to get right to the front, and every time I glanced behind me, the crowd had grown by a good thirty people. By the end of the set they had over 300 people stopping in the Delta tent watching them.
We didn’t have much planned at all for Day 5 until later in the evening, so it was another day spent sitting on the lawn, moving between food halls, market stalls, and the Byron Music Shop again. Kate and I mainly roamed around ourselves for the rest of the day, until we moved to the Mojo Tent to catch the end of Ziggy Alberts. The couple of songs we saw were all so beautiful and he left a lasting impact on the crowd as he got us to join in with his last couple of songs, and dance and jump around in a folk dance. And then the rains came. It was five minutes of the most intense torrential rain I’ve ever experienced and Kate and I had only been out there ten minutes before it started. Thankfully it stopped towards the end of his last song, and we made our way back to the Mojo food tent to grab a really quick dinner, before running back for one of our highlights, Tash Sultana.
Tash’s set, was unreal. It was one of the sets at the festival where people really didn’t care and just let loose, me included. Tash’s music, if you haven’t somehow heard it, is this huge build-up of intricate layers and steps that she sets up with her artillery consisting of a monster of a guitar board at her feet, her insane guitar skills, percussion pads, trumpet, mandolin and several synths. Her entire set up stations her in the middle of the stage, on a bohemian carpet, several salt lamps behind her, surrounded by her instruments and half the show is watching her build each song with the array of loop pedals at her feet.
/tash sultana mixing up the magic/
Not only is her artistry fantastic, but her voice is amazing. It’s incredibly powerful, but at times it would feel like she was even crying as she reached for insane high notes. It was an emotional set, euphoric and high in spirits. We made friends in the mosh pit, danced with strangers and spent several entire songs with our eyes completely closed feeling the music, or wide open in a trance of awe, watching the woman on stage create such magic. It’s easily in my top three sets.
Day 6 marked the final day of the festival, and we headed to the far corner tent, Juke Joint to watching the Local Area High School Showcase, which showcased several bands from high schools in and around Byron Bay. I swear it’s something in the water because even the kids in Byron are talented. All the bands were crazy good, like on par with some bands we were seeing during the festival, yet all incredibly humble and visibly excited to be on stage.
After a quick stop for our final lunch, Kate and I headed back to Juke Joint to see the Bali Blues Brothers again, and stayed on for Ryan McMullen, a singer/songwriter from Ireland. Fans of Ed Sheeran, Niall Horan, James Morrison or James Arthur…give this guy a listen. Ryan has one of the most soulful voices I heard at the festival. He was so understated and humble, yet all his effort and emotion went into his songs, whether he was on the guitar or the piano. It was just him and a drummer on stage, but they managed to fill the tent entirely with their sound and the soon the audience size reflected that as well. It was big enough to the point where his attempts to get the crowd involved paid off beautifully, with us singing entire lines with a nod of his head. It was a lovely set to watch and I left the show after get shivers several times, just because of how much I was loving his voice.
The final act we actually saw was Benjamin Booker, which was a discovery for Kate and I. Having only heard of the New Orleans singer here and there around the festival, we decided to catch his last set at the Jambalaya Tent. We were pleasantly surprised as we were able to walk right up to the barrier, considering we were about twenty minutes early, but turning around five minutes before the show, we were definitely surprised to see his audience consisted of a lot of older men. During the soundcheck for the instruments, Benjamin and his band were all on stage for the test, and not only was he this little, cute dude in jeans and a white t-shirt, but he was chatting and joking with the audience, grinning widely for photos and laughing whenever a white middle aged man called out to him.
He started singing and we were both mind-blown. This little dude with his soft-spoken, mid to high range talking voice, literally growled into the microphone with every word he spoke and had this intense stare that honestly hypnotised you for the entirety of his performance.
/benjamin booker everyone/
It was so crazy to watch and hear, having just seen him five minutes before during the soundcheck. His songs were all so easy to groove to and bang your head a little, and his topical content was catchy and easy to sing along to, even for the two of us who weren’t all that familiar with his music. It was a very proud find for us.
The last couple of hours of the day were spent at food tents with the family, watching Lionel Richie up on big screens due the absolute zero chance of squeezing into the tent, and just generally enjoying the final evening at BluesFest.
Omg the waffles. Incredible. Kate and I shared a plate of waffles with maple syrup, swipes of Nutella, ice cream and jelly babies and most definitely did not regret it, even with the sugary mouths we were left with.
It was a great ending to a great long weekend, and we were all thoroughly satisfied as we made our way back to the tipi for the final time.
Day 7 was nothing crazy. We packed up the car and left the farm around 10, driving back into Byron Bay for breakfast at The Hideout again, roaming the streets, checking out some shops, making a stop at the Byron Bay Lighthouse at Kate’s great recommendation, taking some photos, driving along the beach and finally heading to the airport, where we whiled away another three hours before our flight, charging our phones and catching up.
I swear, if any of you find yourself in Australia around Easter Time, make it a priority to head the the Byron Bay BluesFest. It was an insanely fun weekend, especially considering my family booked the tickets on an impulsive whim, something we rarely do, that left mum panicking from that moment on. There’s so much on offer, good food, good markets, good stalls, amazing people and incredible music. Heck, my family already took advantage of the early bird sale prices and bought our tickets for 2019 at the festival itself, so you know it’s something worth checking out.
As the lady who sat next to Kate and I on the flight home said to me after we swapped our experiences at BluesFest, I’m probably hooked for life, hun.