Considering all the pandemic pain experienced by Bluesfest Byron Bay in recent years, it was a very pleasing development last week for Festival Director Peter Noble OAM to announce the event’s expansion into Melbourne and Perth in 2023.
Bluesfest Byron Bay returned in 2022, after cancellations in 2020 and 2021, the latter heartbreakingly called off due to a Public Health Order a day before it was due to start. It’s been quite the turnaround.
“What do the gurus say? if you’re living in the past, or you’re living in the future, you’re not living in the now,” Noble laughs.
“I’m not going to dwell on that. I was obviously very angry about Bluesfest getting cancelled the day before the event in 2021 for no good fucking reason but having said all that there was not much I could do about it. I just had to move on.”
Bluesfest 2022 powered forward, despite flash flooding in the lead-up onsite. Subsequent to this interview, it was then awarded Gold in the ‘Major Festivals and Events’ category at the NSW Tourism Awards.
“Last year was quite a triumph,” Noble says of the 2022 iteration. “It was great to see live music return at that level, and we were the first guys to do it. As we’d always intended to be. It was a great festival. And yes, it was a bit wet. But you know, what do you do? If it was Glastonbury and it was 10 times wetter, people would have said, ‘this is a normal Glastonbury.’”
Across the board it seems that the live music industry is finally making a comeback. But as Noble points out, “nobody has come further behind than we did. Anybody remember those photographs of the empty chairs in front of the stage? I just want to say that, because if we can do it, others can do it. And yes, it’s not been as easy as everybody hoped. The world has changed and not always for the best.”
Noble has previous experience producing events in Victoria, staging the Point Nepean Festival on the Mornington Peninsula in the mid-2000s. In 2009 he sat with the board of Visit Victoria to discuss a major new festival, but negotiations concluded due to a country vs city imbroglio. Noble wanted to go downtown.
“You see, we’ve got this wonderful event called Bluesfest Byron Bay,” he opines. “It’s a five-day event. It’s brilliant. It’s rural and you can almost see the sea from outside, and you can see the mountains.
“That event’s been established. So my goal was to simply do a downtown event in the city that’s the capital of music in the country, and that’s Melbourne.”
Taking into account the music capital’s autumnal weather, on April 8th-9th Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre will be transformed into a full weather-proof festival precinct featuring multiple indoor theatres and stages. Over 30 artists will feature, including Buddy Guy, The Doobie Brothers, Kasey Chambers, Keb’ Mo’, Lucinda Williams, Ash Grunwald, Greensky Bluegrass, Henry Wagons, Kaleo, Paolo Nutini, Robert Glasper and more.
Bluesfest Perth will be a one-day event at Nikola Estate in the Swan Valley on Saturday, April 1st. Artists announced thus far are The Doobie Brothers, Counting Crows, John Butler, Jessica Mauboy, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Christone ”Kingfish” Ingram with more to follow. For Noble, Bluesfest Perth represents a return to WA, where he was once associated with the now-defunct West Coast Blues N’ Roots Festival.
“The challenge is always having the right partner who has to be located where the event’s going to be,” Noble says of expanding his beloved event. “To have someone that can do all the set-up, all the marketing, all of the things that someone on the ground can do so that we can focus on booking the talent and getting them there. I mean, Mellen Events are a great partner in Perth, as are The Prestige Presents in Melbourne.”
For Noble the expansion is not merely a 2023 occurrence, but a plan and an investment in creating a new tradition. “Melbourne as well as Perth are events that will grow to be greater events and I’m really looking forward to it,” he says.
“To get that experience as you do when the bands are playing on multiple stages, and you can go between those stages and the next step just takes you higher. That’s the festival experience and that’s why festivals work.”
Tickets for Bluesfest Melbourne and Bluesfest Perth are available from www.ticketmaster.com.au.