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Bluesfest expands to Melbourne

Australia’s Bluesfest is expanding to Melbourne for 2023.

With the original Byron Bay blues & roots festival running from 6-10 April, the brand is adding an indoor edition at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 8-9 April.

Bluesfest founder and director Peter Noble is teaming up with Melbourne music industry veteran Neil Crocker to stage the multi-stage spin-off. Acts will include Ash Grunwald, Buddy Guy, The Doobie Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Henry Wagons, Kaleo, Kasey Chamber, Keb’ Mo’, Lucinda Williams, Paolo Nutini, Robert Glasper and Steve Earle.

With the opening day of Byron Bay’s 2022 Splendour in the Grass festival being cancelled after being hit by adverse weather, organisers stress the Melbourne complex “will be transformed into a fully weatherproof festival precinct”.

“We’ll be bringing some of the absolute premium international and local artists who perform at Bluesfest”

“We’ll be bringing some of the absolute premium international and local artists who perform at Bluesfest alongside the fantastic Melbourne artists to create an experience for music lovers that is unprecedented in this city,” says Noble.

“Offering patrons the chance to see more than 30 performances over a two day period in an environment that is weatherproofed, accessible and safe, right in the heart of the Melbourne and Docklands area.”

Weekend passes start at A$508.69 (€327.66).

Byron Bay Bluesfest returned in April with headliners such as Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly, Crowded House and Jimmy Barnes. Its 2021 edition did not take place after initially being postponed due to a public health order a mere 24 hours before doors were due to open to the public. A rescheduled date was later cancelled as a result of the pandemic.


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Bluesfest announces rescheduled 2021 dates

Byron Bay Bluesfest is now slated to take place in October with a four-day format, after the original 2021 event was cancelled at the eleventh hour.

The festival had been set to take place between 31 March to 5 April 2021 but less than 24 hours before it was set to open, the New South Wales government called it off due to a new Covid case in Byron Bay.

The rescheduled event will take place at Byron Events Farm across four days instead of five (1–4 October 2021), though the organisers have said that current five-day ticket holders will receive some ‘special’ news alongside the lineup announcement.

This Wednesday (19 April), the festival will announce the full line-up which organisers say ‘will be worth the wait’.

“Trust us when we say the wait will have all been worth it…,” reads a post on Byron Bay Bluesfest’s Facebook. “We’ve been adding more of Australia’s absolute best talent – a way of saying thank you to all of you who have supported us during this time.”

“Trust us when we say the wait will have all been worth it”

The April 2021 lineup included the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana and The Teskey Brothers. It’s unclear whether any of the acts from the original lineup will appear at the October event.

Season tickets will go on sale after the line-up is revealed, followed by three-day and one-day tickets.

The cancellation of the April Bluesfest event was touted as a “watershed moment” by the Australian music industry, which had been lobbying for a business interruption fund that would help live events redeem their costs in the event of an eleventh-hour cancellation.

The Australian Festivals Association’s Julia Robinson told IQ that such a fund is essential to boost business confidence. Read her comment here.


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Parklands bids to retain Falls and Splendour

North Byron Parklands – the 650-acre greenfield site which has since 2013 been home to one of Australia’s leading music festivals, Secret Sounds’ Splendour in the Grass – is hoping to be granted permission for a permanent 50,000-cap. festival venue, despite opposition from some councillors and local residents.

Parklands, which is also home to the Byron Bay leg of Falls Festival, submitted its A$42 million (US$33.4m) proposal before Christmas, which, if approved, would allow the site to host Splendour and Falls permanently, along with limited one-day concerts and smaller cultural and community events for up to 20 further days.

The application follows the end of a five-year trial period, which started in 2012, that required a series of trial events to be monitored and reviewed to test the site’s suitability.

“We feel we have done an outstanding job in managing our environmental impact, which has been reflected through a range of improvements covering traffic, noise and community amenity during the trial,” comments Parklands general manager Mat Morris. “We now hope to be able to operate on a permanent basis so that we can invest in improvements to the site which will further enhance this world-class cultural venue.”

However, the tender process has been criticised by local authorities, which lack jurisdiction over the site, as anti-democratic, with responsibility for approving the proposal falling to New South Wales (NSW)’s Department of Planning and Environment.

“Hundreds of jobs and more than $100 million in economic benefits would leave the region”

“Because the NSW government is currently the consent authority for events held on the North Byron Parklands site, Byron Shire Council has limited input to what occurs aside from compliance issues, including traffic management and noise to minimise disruption to residents,” a Byron Shire Council spokeswoman tells the Sydney Morning Herald.

The paper also quotes Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson as saying he “strenuously oppose[s] the circumvention of local government decision-making”.

Local resident Denise Nessel adds that the festivals further stress the infrastructure of an area “already overrun by tourists”. “Many of us who live near the site are not pleased with the ever-larger numbers of festival goers who use our roads, camp on our streets and beaches and swarm into nearby towns in great numbers, and we are not looking forward to twice as many festival days, as are proposed, and still more in future,” she says.

If the proposal is rejected, Morris suggests Falls and Splendour will be forced to relocate from NSW, north to neighbouring Queensland. “Hundreds of jobs and more than $100 million in economic benefits will leave a region with high youth unemployment and a range of businesses dependant on these events,” he says.

Secret Sounds has since December 2016 been majority owned by Live Nation, with Splendour and Falls becoming its first Australian festivals.


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