Another chocolate covered Easter has come and gone, and with it another successful delivery, the 25th, Silver Anniversary edition no less, of the Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Since its humble beginnings as an indoor event held over four days at "The Arts Factory" in Byron Bay in 1990, attracting around 6,000 festival-goers, the blues and roots showcase has changed venues and owners a number of times before literally putting down tent-pegs, in 2013, on a tea-tree farm at Tyagarah, about 15 minutes north of Byron Bay itself.

This year, 6 main stages and a rocking busking stage were graced by over 107 Aussie and major International artists over five huge blue sky days, providing something like 13,350 minutes of entertainment for music lovers of ALL ages – from the newly born to those well into their twilight years!

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 Lineup Poster
Amazing 25th anniversary artist lineup. Check.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that our visit south of the border for Bluesfest this year was my first time, but I can say with ZERO hesitation that it won't be our last! Only hours into arriving and catching our first taste of the immaculately set-up and administered festival, we were already discussing the possibility of a 3-day stint in 2015. Giddy-up!



Even our first contact with a volunteer staffer brought huge smiles to our faces as we were welcomed with a harmonica-embellished, softly sung greeting and instruction on where to park and pitch our tent. So good were these first impressions that we were able to look past the fact we were instructed to set up our tent directly on top of a rather irate nest of green ants! Their furious bites alerted us to the fact that it was probably a good idea if we repositioned our makeshift shelter elsewhere!

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Bluesfest home base set up and tied down. Check.

Once set up, it was straight off to the South Gate entrance to move through security and head straight into the grounds to start exploring!

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
HOT date. Check.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Saturday festival passes secured. Check.

Dave Matthews Band

While there was a literal smorgasbord of amazing performances to witness across the day, across the various stages, there was really only always going to be the one main reason for me to be down at Bluesfest this year – the headlining set by alt rock legends, the Dave Matthews Band (DMB).

If you've been following my blog for some time you'll no doubt already be well aware of my affinity to this band after having religiously road-tripped a half-dozen times down to the stunning Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State each Labour Day long weekend, while living in Vancouver.


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While the band's spirited performance may have been lacking the dramatic backdrop of the Gorge this time around, they certainly delivered in every other aspect!

The "Mojo" tent was heaving out all sides with fans and general music lovers alike dancing along with Dave to some of my all-time favourite DMB tracks like "You Might Die Trying", "Too Much", "Jimi Thing", "Ants Marching" and a HUGE rendition of "Grey Street" to close out the set.

Dave Matthews Band Setlist

Byron Bay Bluesfest, Tyagarah (19 April, 2014)

  1. Belly Belly Nice
  2. Funny The Way It Is
  3. You Might Die Trying
  4. Satellite
  5. Don't Drink The Water
  6. The Space Between
  7. So Much To Say
  8. Too Much
  9. You & Me
  10. Jimi Thing
  11. What Would You Say
  12. All Along The Watchtower ^
  13. Everyday
  14. Ants Marching
  15. Grey Street *

^ With Warren Haynes
* Encore


Below is a selection of images I was able to snap throughout the 150 minute set.

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Dave doesn't hold back, opening with "Belly Belly".
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Dave and Boyd rocking out.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Locking eyes and dancing with Boyd like only Dave can.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Legendary saxophonist, Jeff Coffin.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Boyd lights up yet another violin solo.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Just an incredible talent. Period.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin form a stunning horns combination.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Dave brings the tempo down for a spell.

Warren Haynes takes the stage

Hard core blues & roots fans got their "YES!" moment when Warren Haynes, legendary jam guitarist from the US band Gov't Mule (also playing at the festival), joined Dave and the band on stage to hammer out an epic cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower".

His guitar duel with DMB's Tim Reynolds during the performance was something to savour, and has already been put up there as one of the festival highlights this year so far.

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Warren Haynes joins the Dave Matthews Band on stage.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Warren Haynes jamming and duelling with Tim Reynolds.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Warren Haynes' surprise appearance impressed drummer Carter Beauford.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Back to more Dave-only goodness.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Boyd steals the spotlight during "Ants Marching".
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Dave signs off after a brilliant first night set for the band.

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
True to tradition, Carter closes out the night chucking drum sticks to his adoring fans.

John Butler Trio

Earlier in the night we were treated to another stellar live act in Australia's John Butler Trio. Again, not my first time in seeing these guys rock out live, but it was Kirsten's first time catching them in person, so I was really hoping that John & co. were going to bring their A-game and treat us to a selection of fan favourites, and also some tracks from their current album, "Flesh & Blood", released earlier this year.

Happily, all hopes and expectations were met as they jumped out of the blocks with "Revolution" and got the rowdy, eclectic crowd hopping over the course of their set to tracks like "Better Than", "Ocean" (A-MAZING as always), "Zebra" and, of course, "Funky Tonight".

John Butler Trio Setlist

Byron Bay Bluesfest, Tyagarah (19 April, 2014)

  1. Revolution
  2. Used To Get High
  3. Hoe Down
  4. Better Than
  5. Blame It On Me
  6. Pickapart
  7. Ocean
  8. Devil Woman
  9. How You Sleep At Night
  10. Zebra
  11. Funky Tonight

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
The charismatic and brilliantly talented, John Butler.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Byron Luiters on the double bass.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
"EVERYBODY NOW!"
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
John with new drummer Grant Gerathy.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Next level time...
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Air time...
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
What a very happy crowd looks like!

...and earlier that day

Of course it was an all-day event and it would be remiss of me to neglect mentioning some of the other acts we enjoyed across our time down in Tyagarah. The sublime folk stylings of Samuel Beam (aka Iron & Wine) were a highlight, as was the always entertaining KT Tunstall (I'll NEVER get tired of seeing her perform and loop her way through "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree" live!), and the real "sleeper hit" for both Kirsten and me, the unique talents of Aussie songstress Kate Miller-Heidke – what a thoroughly engaging young lady she is!

Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Iron & Wine's Samuel Beam.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
The crowd starts to gather and reserve their spots under the "Mojo" tent.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
The divine Kate Miller-Heidke.
Dave Matthews Band at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014
The brilliant one-woman show that us, Ms KT Tunstall.

In summary, we loved EVERYTHING about our first Byron Bay Bluesfest experience. A great lineup of acts was complemented beautifully by an immaculately planned, professionally run festival (benefiting from 25 years of experience no doubt) providing a fun, safe, feel-good vibe that will be hard to beat as far as gig experiences go for the rest of the year.

Congratulations and a big THANK YOU to all involved. There’s EVERY chance you’ll be seeing more of us next year!

UPDATE:
2014 Byron Bay Bluesfest by the numbers...

Just a few numerical facts from the 2014 Byron Bay Bluesfest for you to chew on, courtesy of the bluesfest.com.au website:

  • 104,526 festival goers in attendance over 5 days
  • 5,660 campers set up within the Bluesfest campgrounds
  • 109 bands/artists performed across 7 stages over 5 days
  • 40,000+ coffees were consumed by Bluesfest patrons over 5 days
  • Food consumed included 1400kg Noodles, 1 tonne of meat, 350kg of lettuce, 3500 Boiled eggs not to mention 20,000 + donuts and the 14,000 Yum Cha pieces consumed over 5 days
  • 1,844 meals were served to artists over the 5 days of the festival and 4,284 meals to festival crew over 7 days
  • 1,054 workers and 500 volunteers contributed to festival set-up, operations and de-construction.

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