Nine reasons to make the Bluesfest roadtrip

We’re now in the second quarter of 2019 (time is a flat circle, it was January literally two hours ago), and you know what that means – it’s Bluesfest time. This year, Bluesfest is celebrating its 30th anniversary in style. This powerhouse of a festival has weathered the storms that shrouded the initial lineup announcements, and the management team’s amends have brought Australian blues and rock fans an exciting array of acts that will keep you on your toes for the entire 120 hours from Thursday April 18 to Monday April 22.

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1. Tash Sultana

triple j prodigy Tash Sultana will be returning to the Bluesfest stage once again, this time with a full LP under their belt. In 2019, they took home an ARIA for Blues and Roots Album of the Year, thanks to the top tier production and lyricism of Flow State, which peaked at number two on the ARIA Charts. Sultana is one of the Aussie industry’s greatest outputs in recent years, with an enchanting stage presence and unbelievable looping skills to match – plan your festival around their set, taking over the Mojo stage on Friday April 19.

2. Paul Kelly

The cool uncle of Australian music, Paul Kelly is steamrolling his way back into Bluesfest like he owns the joint. A gentle poet on record, a charismatic shredlord on stage, Kelly’s been honing his skills since he was an emerging voice on the local Melbourne scene back in the ‘70s. His latest release, 2018’s Nature, will probably dominate the set, with his older classics (‘How To Make Gravy’ or nothing) no doubt sneaking their way in. He’ll be on the Mojo stage on Monday April 22. 

3. Norah Jones

Norah Jones is the soothsaying crooner behind those relaxing bangers your mum used to play on a Sunday morning (and that you’ve repurposed now that you realise your parents actually have good taste). Jones is bringing a brand-new album to Bluesfest –Begin Again will be released on April 12, ie. just in time for you to learn all the words for the most wholesome singalong of the festival. She’s on the Crossroads stage on Friday April 19. 

4. Hozier

Whether he’s singing on the subway or on a stage in front of thousands, I think we can all agree that Hozier’s deep and soulful voice will chill you, warm you, haunt you and move you no matter where it is he’s performing. His newest album, Wasteland, Baby!, topped the US and Irish charts with tunes that largely pay homage to the wonderful wordsmiths that came before him (Simone, Mitchell, Holiday). He’ll take over the Crossroads stage on Friday April 19.

5. Iggy Pop

Yes, he’s still going. Undeniably one of the biggest names of this year’s fest, the godfather of punk is heading Down Under to bring the high voltage, intense, shirts-not-mandatory performance back to the stage – this time with a series of new releases on the cards. With the early 2019 release of ‘Mobile’, Pop will (hopefully) have a series of new singles ready to go by the time he hits the Crossroads stage on Friday April 19.

6. Mavis Staples

A staple (forgive me) of the American soul and gospel (and civil rights) scene since starting her career at 11 years of age in 1950, Staples is coming back to Bluesfest as no stranger; this will be her seventh time appearing at the festival. With her newest album, If All I Was Was Black (2017) ready to go, this juggernaut of soul will be playing three separate sets on Thursday April 18, Saturday 20, and Sunday 21.

7. Kurt Vile & The Violators

It’s going to be their first Bluesfest appearance (hopefully of many more to come), so Kurt Vile & The Violators are surely going to be bringing a swathe of energy to their two sets. 2018’s Bottle It In saw Vile bring us critically acclaimed tunes such as ‘Bassackwards’, while his previous two albums made similar waves – Lotta Sea Lice a collaboration with Australia’s own Courtney Barnett. Prepare for a wholesome and probably wholemeal set coming straight from the best indie rock America has to offer, as Kurt Vile & The Violators take play Bluesfest on Thursday April 18 and Saturday 20. 

8. Archie Roach

Archie Roach is one of Australia’s greatest musical treasures, having driven his career for three decades with successes on both a local and international scale. He’s returning to Bluesfest with songs that engage with his personal history as an Indigenous Australian, and the human condition in general; having shared the stage with the likes of Leonard Cohen and Tracey Chapman, you know his lyrics are as hardhitting as they come. Catch Roach playing on Saturday April 20 and Sunday 21.

9. Mojo Juju

I recently had a dream where Mojo Juju was stalking me through the desert and apologetically murdered me on the side of the road when I got too tired to keep running. Honestly, if this were to happen at Bluesfest, I’d say ‘thank you’. Mojo Juju is returning to Bluesfest for another go, armed with her indefinable brand as well as her funky and politically astute tunes that demand some serious headbanging and fist pumping (try to get through ‘Native Tongue’ without surrendering your body to the beat). She’ll be taking over Bluesfest on Saturday April 20 and Monday 22.

Bluesfest is happening at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, Byron Bay from Thursday April 18 – Monday April 22. Tickets are available via the Bluesfest website.