It was always going to be a tough ask.
How do you follow up a year where your festival gets its biggest lineup to date. A year where your headliner is the god of mainstream folk music, the Judas of faithful folk music, the unwilling figurehead of protest folk and the holder of title for world’s longest tour. Not only did Bob Dylan headline, but he was backed by a plethora of stars: B.B. King, ZZ Top, Ben Harper (with his newly reformed Innocent Criminals),
Elvis Costello, Jethro Tull, Michael Franti & Spearhead, John Legend and Paul Kelly formed just the top of the impeccable lineup.
Despite this seemingly impossible task, Peter Noble put together what on first impression looked like a strong lineup for the 2012 Bluesfest. Having never seen most of the headliners before and having only a cursory knowledge of most of their work, the lineup this year seemed destined to fail in its attempts to measure up to 2011’s efforts.
This was, most certainly, not the case: Despite the bigger names last year, 2012’s Bluesfest was a stronger event by far. Improvements to the event’s site had a marked effect on the quality of the festival and the avoidance of issues like last year’s B.B. King farce where he was presented in an inappropriately small tent. No, this year was almost entirely glitch free.
Let’s start with those small glitches: Seasick Steve’s first set on Friday was plagued by sound issues, firstly with his microphone and secondly his guitar amp. Fortunately for Noble and his team, Seasick is enough of a character to wrangle his way out of this kind of situation. Secondly, the festival’s ATMs ran out of money on the Monday night, causing a lot of problems with the only things able to be purchased without cash being CDs and alcohol.
Those minor troubles aside, this year’s event was fantastic.
The first Australian headliner of the festival , Cold Chisel, delivered a powerful, rocking performance that put paid to the perception that Cold Chisel is bogan and nothing more than a vehicle for Jimmy Barnes.
Followed by two strong sets by John Fogerty who achieved excellent deliveries of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s signpost albums: Cosmo’s Factory and Green River.
Crosby, Stills and Nash delivered their peerless songwriting and angelic harmonies to the stage. Ziggy Marley brought the funk as he created a party atmosphere with his reggae band. Trombone Shorty followed up on his well received 2011 slot with a slick, energetic performance with his Orleans band.
Too many others to name, this year’s festival was a well-rounded lineup with excellent acts performing consistently throughout each and every day. This is the best Bluesfest I have been to and from the sounds of it, many others feel similarly and with very good reason.