BLUESFEST 2017 DAY 1: This is where it all begins

Although we’ve been in Byron for a few days now, checking out all the great acts in the Bluesfest Busking Comp, today is the first day of the festival proper and we certainly made the most of it.

Between us we’ve seen and photographed Davy Knowles, Andrew Bird, Rhiannon Giddens, Max Jury, The Strumbellas, Snarky Puppy, Vintage Trouble, Miles Electric Band and Courtney Barnett. And while we’ll go through some of the sets in more detail shortly, we need to talk about how awesome the set up is at Bluesfest.

Wrist band tickets

Bluesfest has traditionally ran with a ticketed drink system. This year they’ve introduced an awesome wrist band “tap on” system, similar to an transport card, just on your wrist.

How does it work?

You exchange your ticket on entry for a wristband which has an RFID chip attached to it. You can either add credit to the band by visiting a bunch of “top up” stations within the festival site, or by registering an account online and adding funds to the band via a credit or debit card.

Besides a few teething problems with the site crashing for a few hours after gates opened, as everyone tried to register their band and add funds online, once they got it all sorted, it worked great.


It has to be said that Bluesfest take festival food to the NEXT LEVEL.

It’s not just the variety on offer around the festival and in the many food hall tents, it’s the quality and the price. Don’t get us wrong, it’s festival pricing, but it’s not too over the top.

We enjoyed a bowl of jambalaya ($14), a bratwurst dog ($9) and a few other sweet treats we’ll talk about tomorrow.


One of the best things about Bluesfest is the site layout. It’s like a semi circle that surrounds the engine room of the festival (production, dressing rooms, media tents, service suppliers etc).

The walking areas have been laid down with gravel, making sure they don’t turn into a sludge fest by day 5, and the massive tents that house the stages have a bunch of designated ways to get in and out. It’s great to see a festival that really cares about it’s punters. There’s plenty of places to sit, chairs are supplied up the back in the tents and there’s a general sense that they care about the people attending. More on that tomorrow too.

The Music

Amity Angels

5 minutes after we arrived we started chatting to some people from Newcastle who had made the trip up to support a local group in the “grommets” version of Bluesfest Busking Comp. 20 minutes later we were at one of the small busking stages checking out the Hunter’s Amity Angels. Young girls with a country pop twang, a swag of great originals and sweet harmonies for days. We recorded an interview with the girls that will be available on our podcast in a few weeks. Make sure you subscribe here.

Mavis Staples

A pocket rocket with a band so smooth you could spread it on your toast. Highly entertaining with a powerful message of protest and love.

Snarky Puppy

How you get 14 people all playing at once to sound so good is beyond us. And how you mix that live, is another question. But these guys nail it, and are one of the MUST see acts at the festival. Led by bassist, composer, and producer Michael League, who was recently in Newcastle for a clinic at Bar Petite, Snarky Puppy make fusion music sound like one of the best movie soundtracks you’ve ever heard.

Courtney Barnett

We have to say that for us, it was strange to see the CB3 on such a big stage. And while the first couple of songs were swamped a bit by the enormity of Bluesfest, it wasn’t long before everything came together. By the time the band had everyone in the tent sining a refrain of “If you’ve got a Spare half a million, you could knock it down And start rebuilding” it was just like falling in love with Courtney’s music all over again.

Craig’s highlight

The Strumbellas

If you’re at the festival this weekend, put these guys on your list.

Dan’s Highlight

Vintage Trouble

Everyone who catches Vintage Trouble can’t wait to tell me how absolutely mind blowing they are. So I was pretty pumped for their first set of the festival.

Where I’d prefer to see and act like the CB3 on smaller stage, this band NEED the enormity of Bluesfest to capture their extraordinary energy and musicianship.

Band leader and singer, Ty Taylor told the adoring crowd that the anticipation of playing Bluesfest (which they’ve done before) was like waking up on Christmas morning with a hard on… Their excitement was both visible and audible.

Dripping in perspiration Ty took to the back of the tent at one point, and crowd surfed all the way down from the mixing desk to the front of the stage. It was the highlight of the day for me.

I can’t wait to catch their next set.


Thanks to Craig at Swamp House Photography