It’s blues in the ooze!

Mud, glorious mud and these festivalgoers were wallowing in it. Despite the weather, thousands attended Bluesfest.
Mud, glorious mud and these festivalgoers were wallowing in it. Despite the weather, thousands attended Bluesfest.
Music, mud and mayhem on the roads – that was Easter at Byron Bay which saw the 20th East Coast Blues and Roots Festival at Belongil Fields attract 85,000 fans over five days.
With rain a constant companion and despite the best efforts of organisers, the venue was quickly turned into a sea of mud with gumboots becoming the necessary footwear of choice.
Despite the trying conditions, festival director, Peter Noble, described it as possibly ‘the best Bluesfest we’ve had yet’ and it was going to be hard to top it next year for the 21st anniversary festival.
“If you wore designer shoes this year, then the weather may have claimed them inside 30 minutes,” he said.
“But, people here are absolutely beaming and having the time of their lives.
“It’s incredible that we’ve had such a great turnout during an economic downturn, and in fact, three or four stores in Byron Bay said that they’ve had their biggest shopping days ever, so it’s a big win for the business community here too.”
Mr Noble said that musically there were just too many highlights to mention everybody.
He said that John Butler performed fantastically; Ruthie Foster thrilled with her soul-powered folk and blues; the Blind Boys of Alabama were jaw-droppingly great and Ben Harper’s new band Relentless 7 debuted to Australian audiences by rocking so hard it ‘scared’ him.
“Tim Finn was astoundingly good and his voice was wonderful,” he said. “Blues Traveler was one of the best live bands that I’ve ever seen. Eric Bibb was so good. Paul Kelly has never gone over so well at Bluesfest and Terrance Simien played an amazing zydeco set.”
“The new InDIG stage proved to be a massive hit and will be a permanent fixture at Bluesfest from now on.
 Mr Noble said that council approvals permitting, the Bluesfest team now looked very much forward to staging its 21st festival in 2010 at its new home on land bought at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm.
While the festival was a major success, as Easter was for many businesses in the town, the huge crowds led to traffic mayhem in the town with the CBD clogged with cars for much of the holiday break.
There were times when cars were bumper to bumper in Bangalow Road back to Byron Bay High School and of course there were major snarls in Ewingsdale Road.
On Monday, with the addition of the Byron Bay markets at the Butler Street Reserve, it was almost a gridlock situation in the CBD.
Byron Bay Police Duty Officer, Inspector Owen King said the traffic was a ‘nightmare’.
Inspector King said while there were no major incidents, there were a number of arrests in the town for minor drug and street offences.
He said at the festival site, where police mounted a two-day, drug sniffer dog operation, there were 137 people detected as having drugs in their possession.
Of those, 23 were given notices to attend Byron Bay Local Court on April 30, while the remainder were given cannabis cautions, he said.
From last Thursday to Monday afternoon, police charged 42 drivers with drink driving with 16 drivers testing positive to drugs.

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