Bianca Holderness

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Blues on Broadbeach Was a Sun-Drenched Celebration of Soul and Community

Over 150,000 music lovers descended upon the Gold Coast for one of Australia's most enduring music festivals

The 23rd annual Blues on Broadbeach festival unfolded last weekend, painting the Gold Coast with the vibrant hues of rhythm and blues.

From May 16th-19th, over 150,000 music lovers descended upon the festival, drawn by the promise of soul-stirring melodies and the allure of hidden musical treasures waiting to be discovered.

As one of Australia’s largest music festivals, Blues on Broadbeach brought together an eclectic mix of international stars and local talent, all performing across multiple stages. 

The festival kicked off on Thursday morning with a special blues session aimed at the early-arriving interstate crowd. Blues on Broadbeach Festival Director Mark Duckworth shared with Rolling Stone AU/NZ, “We always start with something special on Thursday mornings. Over the years, it’s grown, and now we need bigger spaces – it’s great.” 

This year’s stacked lineup boasted an impressive list of international blues artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Eric Bibb, Ana Popović, and Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton. “To get them all in one weekend on the other side of the world takes some strategy, but also sometimes a fair bit of luck,” Duckworth revealed.

Image: Samantha Fish Credit: Bianca Holderness

Meanwhile, acts such as Karl S. Williams, Mitch Grainger, Dana Gehrman, 8 Ball Aitken, Hussy Hicks, Dallas Frasca, Chase the Sun, and Buddy Knox were among the too many to mention local acts performing in front of the enthusiastic crowds.

But Blues on Broadbeach is more than just a music festival: it’s also about building strong community ties. “For me, it’s the sense of community where all the restaurants will come out onto the street… there’s 17 different performance areas across the festival. That’s the special part,” Duckworth noted.

Wandering through the packed venues and bustling streets, it was impossible not to get swept up in the infectious energy of the festival. Everywhere you looked, people were smiling, dancing, and embracing the joy of live music. The sense of community was palpable, with strangers becoming friends as they bonded over their shared love of the blues.

As the sun set on Friday evening, Sunshine Coast singer-songwriter Minnie Marks took the Surf Parade stage, acoustic guitar in hand. A seasoned veteran of Blues on Broadbeach, Marks’ comfort and joy in performing was evident from the first strum as her stirring voice and masterful playing captivated the crowd.

Saturday saw a powerhouse performance from US stars Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton at Victoria Park. Their set was a masterclass in blues-rock, with Fish’s soulful vocals and searing guitar work perfectly complemented by Dayton’s gritty, raw style.

Image: Melissa Etheridge Credit: Bianca Holderness

As the performance neared its end, a sudden barrage of rain and hail descended upon the crowd. But in true Blues on Broadbeach spirit, the revellers refused to let the weather dampen their enthusiasm, simply huddling together and continuing to dance and cheer.

At the Surf Parade stage, local legends Hussy Hicks faced a similar predicament. Forced to abandon their planned performance due to the hailstorm, they instead treated fans to an impromptu acoustic set, delighting the surrounding restaurantgoers.

Saturday night belonged to Melissa Etheridge at the Kurrawa Park stage. Her performance was a tour de force, showcasing her incredible voice and guitar skills. The crowd hung on her every word, every note, as Etheridge poured her heart and soul into each song.

Image: BOOMCHILD Credit: Bianca Holderness

Sunday introduced a new ticketed event at Kurrawa Park, kicking off with the eclectic sounds of Sydney’s BOOMCHILD and their unique blend of electronic, hip hop, soul, and funk. As the sun set, local favourites Tijuana Cartel took the stage, their distinctive fusion of global electronica and world music igniting the park with energy.

Image: Fat Freddy’s Drop Credit: Bianca Holderness

The Sunday event culminated with New Zealand’s beloved seven-piece group Fat Freddy’s Drop and their intoxicating blend of reggae, soul, and blues in what marked their only Australian show for 2024.

As they hit the stage, the excitement was palpable and it wasn’t long before Kurrawa Park transformed into a giant, pulsing dancefloor, with the crowd moving as one, lost in the groove and united in the joy of the moment.

As the festival drew to a close, attendees were left with a deep sense of gratitude and the knowledge that the spirit of live music was alive and well on the Gold Coast, with Blues on Broadbeach once again proving to be a positive celebration of music, community, and the power of the blues.

More information about Blues on Broadbeach can be found here.  

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