Kamasi Washington, D’Angelo, and Kendrick Lamar help open Bluesfest for 2016

The epic five-day music adventure that is Bluesfest began in a big way this year, welcoming punters both new and old onto the spacious Tyagarah Tea Farm for the festival’s 27th year, boasting one of it’s most diverse programs to date. Compton emcee Kendrick Lamar was the Thursday headliner and all eyes were on him to see how he would approach the Mojo stage and what kind of crowd he would attract.

In the lead-up to the festival there had been some divisive talk about the credibility Kendrick would bring to Bluesfest, mostly from people who have never listened to him. The 28 year old rapper instantly cut through any criticism with his fiery live show, unconventional where commercial hip hop is concerned but still bringing an incredible collective energy to the main stage that built upon that set by preceding acts: the legendary D’Angelo, whose set list spanned all three of his classic albums, and the increasingly popular Kamasi Washington, who along with members of L.A collective West Coast Get Down, left the crowd stunned with an incredibly complex and engaging set of inventive musicianship.

Grammy nominated Aussies Hiatus Kaiyote put on a stylish, diverse show, while elsewhere Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (Willie Nelson’s son and Neil Young’s touring band) delivered an excellent set, which included a cover of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”, ensuring people would be back to catch their encore performance at 1:30pm on the Monday at the Jambalaya stage.

Working backwards, the start of the day was dominated by Melbourne artist Harts (who plays again on the Saturday at 12pm, Mojo Stage), who opened the Crossroads stage with a grand sound, making it seem like he was playing with a full band when in reality it was just him and a drummer on stage, with Harts absolutely shredding his way through his own material and cover songs, the last of which was Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. He was followed up after a short wait by U.S soul band Con Brio (who play again on the Saturday at 1:30pm, Mojo stage), who quickly won fans over with their funky old-school motown vibe and perfect cover of Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” which had people running towards the tent as soon as that voice would reach the surrounding areas.

The Wailers performed Exodus in full, kicking off their four-day series of full-album sets; Steve Smyth proved himself as a festival favourite yet again at the Juke Joint stage; and Cold War Kids brought a high energy dose of good ol’ indie rock.

With a huge four days and nights still to come, the AU is going to be bringing you more coverage from Byron Bay in interviews, reviews and photo galleries! Stay tuned and follow #AUxBluesfest on Instagram/Twitter for live updates!

D’Angelo Set List

Devil’s Pie
Red Hot Mama (Funkadelic Cover)
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Really Love
The Charade
Brown Sugar
Sugah Daddy
Left & Right
Chicken Grease

Kendrick Lamar Set List

For Free (Interlude)
Wesley’s Theory
Backstreet Freestyle
m.A.A.d City (second half)
The Art of Peer Pressure (second half)
Swimming Pools (Drank)
These Walls
For Sale? (Interlude)
Hood Politics/Complexion (A Zulu Loves)
Bitch, Don’t Kill my Vibe (Remix)
Money Trees
m.A.A.d City (first half)
King Kunta
Momma (Live Version)


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.