Bluesfest make massive 27-act first announcement for 2019
The 30-year anniversary of Bluesfest is a big deal. The festival always provides an immense musical party come Easter time, but we get the feeling it’s going to hit the next level given the significant anniversary.
For their first announcement – issued a staggering eight-and-a-half months out from the festival’s commencement – organisers have reached out to some of the festival’s favourites from the past, pulling out a mammoth 27-strong list of artists who’ll be in the Northern Rivers to celebrate the occasion next Easter.
Leading the pack are the two big guns of Bluesfest: Jack Johnson and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals.
Rarely does an artist shape a festival in the way that Ben Harper shaped Bluesfest in the 90s and 2000s. Him and his band’s electric performances in their first couple of appearances remain the thing of legend. It was he who brought a younger, bigger crowd to the festival, and he who encouraged so many young musicians to follow him down the blues and roots path.
You might argue that Jack Johnson himself was one of those musicians. Following his early days warming the crowd up for Harper at Bluesfest over 15 years ago, the former pro-surfer became one of the biggest singer-songwriters in modern music. His chilled-out, coastal tinged folk-pop took over the world, and the unassuming musician took it all in his stride.
Both Johnson and Harper will play Bluesfest exclusively on this tour. So, you know where you need to be.
Another big return guess in 2019 is the godfather of funk, George Clinton. The 77-year-old leader of Parliament Funkadelic has decided to quit touring and will squeeze in one final trip to Australia before he hangs up those dancing shoes once and for all. Previous P-Funk shows at Bluesfest have been transcendent celebrations of funk that stretch on for hours; here’s hoping 2019 will see Clinton go out with a bang.
Also on the bill are a series of artists who probably have Bluesfest to thank for their increased popularity in Australia in recent years. The likes of Snarky Puppy, St Paul & The Broken Bones, Nahko And Medicine For The People, Allen Stone, Vintage Trouble, The California Honeydrops and Trevor Hall all won over huge crowds in previous appearances and have had endless requests for their return in the wake of their electrifying shows.
On the local side of things, we’re very excited to see the return of a couple of esteemed favourites in Kasey Chambers and Tex Perkins. Both have been regulars at Bluesfest in one way or another for decades now.
In honour of its 20th anniversary, Chambers will play her classic debut album The Captain in its entirety at the festival. This will be the first time she’s ever done so.
One guy who hasn’t ever made the trek to Bluesfest is Philadelphian indie rock king Kurt Vile, who’ll be bringing his band The Violators to Byron at Easter for the first time in 2019.
We’ve not had a new record from Vile in some time – notwithstanding his collab with former Bluesfest star Courtney Barnett – so perhaps this tour is a sign that there is new music on the horizon.
Another first-timer the legendary Arlo Guthrie, who is no stranger to Australia, and will pull out plenty of old favourites from his 50 years on the scene.
Then there’s the hugely popular Ray LaMontagne who continues to get bigger and bigger with every new record. This will be his first trip to Australia in well over a decade, and he’s made a lot of beautiful music since then, so we can imagine his fevered fans are besides themselves to hear of his return.
As well as those returning favourites are plenty of Aussie legends, including Tommy Emmanuel, Colin Hay, Richard Clapton, Russell Morris and The Black Sorrows, all of whom will remind us of the depth of talent that still lingers when it comes to artists who were superstars of a previous era.
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And blues fans need not be concerned, there will be stacks of that classic genre on which the festival was built in future announcements. For now, you’ll just have to make do with one of the world’s greatest living bluesmen, the slick, soulful and superlative Keb’ Mo’. It’s a hard life.
Here’s the full first announcement. And there’s still more so much more to come!
Jack Johnson, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Ray LaMontagne, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Snarky Puppy, Kasey Chambers, St Paul & The Broken Bones, Nahko And Medicine For The People, Tommy Emmanuel, Colin Hay, Arlo Guthrie, Keb’ Mo’, Tex Perkins, Allen Stone, Richard Clapton, Russell Morris, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Vintage Trouble, The Black Sorrows, The California Honeydrops, Trevor Hall, I’m With Her, Larkin Poe, Irish Mythen, Elephant Sessions, Greensky Bluegrass, Rockwiz Live
Bluesfest happens at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm from Thursday 18 to Monday 22 April. Tickets are on sale now.