The Black Keys may have bowed out of their headline slot at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia over the upcoming Easter weekend, April 2–6, due to drummer Patrick Carney’s shoulder injury, but there’s still plenty more on offer. Here are a few things you need to know:


Who’s Friday’s headline act now?

American blues-rock band Alabama Shakes is moving up to replace The Black Keys on Friday, April 3, and will be preceded by Paolo Nutini.

The act that will fill the extra slot now left vacant will reportedly be kept a secret until festival day. Festival Director Peter Noble has said that a handful of Aussie acts are in the running – among them, Spiderwood, Kingswood and British India – though the possibility of an international act has not been ruled out.

There will be up to 200 performances by both international and Australian artists, across six stages. Other notable acts include Hozier, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Band of Skulls, Train, Zac Brown Band and the Counting Crows.


It’s not just for blues aficionados

It may be called “Bluesfest”, but in reality this festival presents an eclectic range of blues, soul, folk and rock – with legacy acts appearing alongside newer ones. As such, it draws an equally eclectic and sizeable crowd of over 17,000 spanning multiple generations.

Also, in 2004, Bluesfest was nominated for International Music Festival of the Year at the USA Pollstar Awards alongside the UK’s Glastonbury Festival. But despite its size and popularity, it has also earned a reputation for its laidback vibe.

Things you shouldn’t bring

Bluesfest prohibits iPads and specialised video/audio recorders, though you can bring a camera in with you. Presumably, for the sake of not obstructing other festivalgoers’ view, you are also asked to leave your umbrella at home and bring a raincoat and gumboots instead.

By the same reasoning, what about selfie sticks? A number of global music festivals have moved to ban them, but Bluesfest has made no mention of it… yet.


It’s a festival with a conscience

The Bluesfest line-up reflects not just the finest musicians, but also those with a unique perspective. Noble has said, “Bluesfest features musicians who have something to say on the Planet, this may be by being the finest players of their respective instruments, or it may be by sharing their culture and particularly social justice issues in the content of their music, of which I am proud to present.”

In the same vein, it also encourages eco-friendly and recycling practices so as to have minimal impact on the environment.

The festivities will stretch across the 120 hectares of Bluesfest’ permanent home at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, situated 11 km north of Byron Bay. Here, you’ll find koalas in their natural habitat. To protect them, Bluesfest has developed a programme to monitor their movement and health, paying the bill if medical intervention is needed – such as in the case of a koala called Mavis (all koalas onsite are reportedly named after Bluesfest artists) who had chlamydia.

Alongside food and craft stalls, there will also be charity booths on site, such as the Cystic Fibrosis Charity – Bluesfest’s longest-standing charity organisation.


What else is there in Byron Bay?

Located in New South Wales, Byron Bay is the easternmost point of Australia. It’s a hippy seaside town famous for its natural beauty, surf beaches, and artistic leanings as many architects, designers and technophiles have set up shop here.

And there’s poetry even in its name: the English lieutenant James Cook had named Cape Byron, a headland adjacent to the town, after John Byron: naval officer, circumnavigator of the world, and grandfather of the famous poet Lord Byron.

You can go whale watching, skydiving, scuba diving or diving at the Cape Byron Marine Park, cycling along the oceanway to the lighthouse that was built in 1901, or hiking in the subtropical rainforests of Nightcap National Park. More information here.

Shuttle buses run regularly to Byron Bay from Bluesfest. Byron Bay is also only an hour’s drive south of the Gold Coast and about two hours away from Brisbane, should you be looking to extend your trip. Make it a holiday while you’re at it!


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