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Bluesfest Draws 80,000

03:01 PM Wednesday 4/11/12 | |

The 23rd five-day Byron Bay Bluesfest attracted 80,000 fans April 5-9 – a higher figure than in 2009 and 2010.

“Last year we ran for six days with Bob Dylan headlining and drew 110,000,” festival founder Peter Noble told Pollstar. “So that was definitely a one-off. We were concerned because retail spending is down in Australia, and many festivals have canceled. But we worked really hard on marketing and the sales came through.”

Crowds came out for masterful sets from Earth Wind & Fire (their first visit), Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Specials, The Pogues, Buddy Guy, John Butler Trio, Weddings, Parties, Anything, Yes, Angelique Kidjo, G3, Alabama 3, My Morning Jacket and Lucinda Williams.

Cold Chisel used its stunning headline set on the first night to launch its first new album in 14 years – No Plans.

Framed by a full moon, John Fogerty played Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory and Green River albums in full on consecutive nights. It was difficult to tell who was more exhilarated – the audience or Fogerty, who increasingly turned the volume up and displayed dexterous guitarwork.

Seasick Steve invited Wolfmother to join him on a song they co-wrote a few weeks before in Byron Bay about the global financial crisis. Some of the next-generation acts including Great Big Sea, James Vincent McMorrow, Ray Beadle and Eilen Jewell also found new audiences.

“Man, I should move here!” David Bromberg exclaimed during one of his three appearances. “This is the best run festival I have ever been to. The stage crews are incredible and you guys are [expletive] great! Where did you learn to like this stuff?”

Bromberg discovered just how much Aussies like the blues. His first show started out with a 30-strong crowd; by the third song, the word spread and the tent was full.

However, the best line came from Bettye LaVette when a crowd member yelled out, “You’re the best act on Bluesfest!” and the audience loudly agreed.

LaVette waited for the applause to subside. “Thanks honey,” she drawled. “But it ain’t an act!”

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