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Blues At The Briars is bringing the house party feel to a one-day festival

“Music is universal, it’s not just the Southern Hemisphere. It’s about creating a crossover.”

When a casual house party incorporates live music, you can be sure of a good time. When you and your friends find your parties getting bigger and bigger, what do you do? Start your own festival, of course.

Blues At The Briars began as a modest house party on a rural property in the Mornington Peninsula, stemmed from a love of blues and roots and with the goal of keeping live music in the area. Five years since their inaugural day, organiser and founder Minx Ramsay says that passion is key for the event. “We’d put on these house parties and they kept getting bigger and bigger,” she says. “The last one had 96 people, and that’s when we thought ‘Why don’t we start a festival?’”

A combination of great food, great people, great music and a child-friendly location, Blues At The Briars has fast become the best kept secret of the Mornington Peninsula. In February 2018, they’ll host their sixth event with their most unbelievable lineup yet. Saxophonist Derek Nash joins Britain’s “best boogie pianist” Ben Waters in his return to Australian stages, while American AJ Ghent, with his howling indie-rock and gentle blues licks, will be joined by Briton Z Star Delta, who is described as the love-child of Jimi Hendrix and Nina Simone. These are just a handful of names who follow the festival’s role call of noted artists.

In the past, Blues At The Briars has hosted musicians including JJ Rome, Gail Page, 19 Twenty and Chase The Sun, and next year is looking to expand even more. “We’re getting artists applying from all over the world,” says Ramsay. “The States, UK, which is reflected in the lineup this year. We’re bringing them together with Australian artists. The word is spreading.

“Ben Waters is a member of the Jools Holland Orchestra and we’re so excited to have him, he’s one of the best players in Europe. We keep saying we’re stealing Jools Holland’s players bit by bit, he just doesn’t know it yet.”

The Blues At The Briars organisers pride themselves on showcasing not only established artists, but giving up-and-coming local and international talent the opportunity to perform. The Teskey Brothers, who were highlights at this year’s event, have since gone on to share the stage with the likes of Rag N’ Bone Man and Midnight Oil, and are now headlining shows in their own right.

The rapport that Blues At The Briars establish with their international performers – some of whom have never visited Australia previously and endure a shock when they’re thrown into the rural Victorian landscape – is one of support and excitement. The excitement from the visiting musicians is, as Ramsay says, reflected in their performances. “They love it. They get blown away when they come to the site, because with the forest it becomes a natural amphitheatre.

“They meet up with the Australian artists we host, and we feel we’re creating an international connection – in fact, there’s already talk of collaborations between local and international artists that’s come about from our festival. It’s pretty special, we feel we’re helping to create that – music is universal, it’s not just the Southern Hemisphere. It’s about creating a crossover.

“The Ben Waters band for instance, we put together a rhythm section which is now touring the UK and they’ll be playing the Sydney Opera House. That creation came through Blues At The Briars, we put that band together for them.”

Currently a one-day festival, Blues At The Briars has every hope, and all the potential, of becoming a bigger event. It could be a two-day event, even a camping weekend, one day becoming the ultimate house party – but Ramsay says the intimate family feel of Blues At The Briars is something they cherish. “We want it to remain a relaxed, boutique event, but we would love for it to become a two-day festival,” she says. “We don’t want to lose that intimacy, where everybody feels like part of a family.

“When people come, it’s a community feel, we’re family. It’s not so huge you get lost in the mire of it but certainly, we’d love to be a two-day event.”      

Blues At The Briars Festival comes to Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday February 24, featuring AJ Ghent, Z-Star Delta, and more.