Last week, the first Byron Bay Bluesfest announcement was released - earlier than ever before, featuring an eclectic lineup that Peter Noble describes as the “Cool and Groovy” announcement. Featuring Iggy Pop, Ben Harper, The Frames and many more, I caught up with Festival Director Peter Noble to talk about the festival, BIGSOUND, the lineup and much more…
You had the announcement out today, how are you feeling about it?
It’s good to get them out. Now it’s up to the public to say whether or now it’s alright!
A couple of artists you’ve never had grace the stages before, a few familiar faces, who are you looking forward to getting to share with audiences?
Always Ben Harper. Every year we go out there and do a questionnaire on our site… did we clean up fast enough etc., and who do you want to see next year? Every year Ben Harper is in the top three. Last year he showed up with the Innocent Criminals. We thought he was bringing Relentless7. It was the first time they’d played together in a couple of years. When we signed them up this year, they said “we’ll get the band” – I knew better than to ask “which band?”. We’ll find out on the day I guess! He’s our guy. We have an unshakable bond, we align with in so many ways…
Then we got Santana and Iggy Pop! Pinch me, I’m dreaming! Wilco! Now there’s a band. It all just melts into one blur, but it feels to me like they were last at Bluesfest five years ago?
I think many people think I pick up the phone and people say yes. It doesn’t quite work that way. I do remember Wilco had an incredible album come out last year, and I wanted to get them out this year. Every time I’d try to book them they’d go back to Europe. I made sure I kissed a lot of arse to get them out next year. That band is SPECIAL. They’re something else. Perfect for our audience.
I want the bands who play Bluesfest to be SPECIAL, and we will strive to continue delivering that with every announcement still to come.
Using Bob Dylan as an example, some artists on your lineup you spend years trying to book – was that the case with any artists this year?
Iggy kind of fell in my lap, it happened very, very quickly. Viv Lees who always tours him called me and we did a deal. As for Santana, that offer has been out there for the best part of 10 years. This finally turned out to be the year. These artists are going to choose when they want to tour and how they want to tour. Neil Young could have picked a better event than Big Day Out. I don’t think Santana could have picked a better festival than ours to perform at.
We’re about great music and people who care about this planet, and he’s all about the same. I do hope to get the opportunity to meet him. I’m am music fan first. I strongly believe that all music festival promoters should be.
There are some people I go after every year. The analogy is going out there and dropping a few lines in the sea and seeing who you pull in. If I don’t go to Robert Plant every year, that’ll be the year he wants to do it and I missed it.
We don’t have the ability to wave a magic wand and have the artists come. I don’t think Neil Young has any tour plans outside of the US and Canada. Should that change I’ll happily have him on my stage.
One artist who has graced your stage before is Glen Hansard, but never with The Frames. We have to admit we’re a bit excited about that one.
Yeah, me too. I wanted to do a first announcement that didn’t feature too many blues bands. There is a blues and roots announcement coming. We’re not just about blues. We’re cool and groovy – this is the cool and groovy announcement. It morphed into something else but that’s what we’re all about.
I spotted you in the crowd at BIGSOUND – was there anyone there that you’d consider booking?
The Canadian band Current Swell, I really liked them. Saskwatch, an interesting name for a band with such a pretty, captivating girl up the front. Not the sort of music you’d expect them to play, either. I thought King Cannons were hot. I thought The McMenamins were great, I’m thinking about booking them.
Grey Ghost, they were good. Everyone sees a whole bunch of favourites. 120 showcases, everyone has a different top 5 to the next guy. I kept hearing about Thelma Plum and Hey Geronimo!, and didn’t see either.
I found more bands this year though than ever before. The organisers widened it. It’s bigger than an indie rock festival. Great to have Steve Earle, a roots artist, opening things up with the keynote - the event just went up a notch from past years.
So what happens from here?
I tell ya what, the next announcements will be huge. But you’ll have to wait. We have three more main announcements to come, and then plenty more after that.
Well congratulations on keeping the festival alive after all these years, we always have the best time at Bluesfest.
It was touch and go there for a while (with keeping the festival alive in Byron Bay)… it’s amazing how the dark forces dissipated. In the end the public is never wrong.
Tickets are on sale now: http://www.bluesfest.com.au/