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Family friendly festivals – they do exist afterall

I’ve always been an avid Festival goer. Back in the UK, it was an annual occurrence – until the pitter-patter of tiny feet came along that is. Making it to festivals over the past 7 years has definitely become a rarity, so we couldn’t wait for our daughter to hit the age where we felt we could take her along to enjoy the vibe and a good ole dance in a safe environment, and what better festival to do that than Bluesfest.

Bluesfest takes place on the outskirts of Byron Bay, one of the most idyllic spots in Australia in our humble opinion. It’s also the place we are lucky enough to call home.

Bluesfest started life in 1990. It’s grown from hosting an audience of 6000 to over 100,000 today. Bluesfest describes itself as the ‘foremost destination festival in Australia and renowned for being a safe, fun, family-friendly event’. We couldn’t agree more.

From the moment we arrived at the car park and took the short walk to the festival gates, we were accompanied by young festival newbies through to other parents, grandparents and the kids of course. We felt totally comfortable with our daughter (which for an overly paranoid mum was a huge relief).

 

Bluesfest 2018 – our highlights:

What were our highlights, other than the delicious Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts, profiteroles and waffles that seemed to magnetize our daughter (and us if I’m honest)? Luckily, we danced enough over the weekend to destroy those naughty little calories.

We discovered so many new artists and also witnessed some of our all-time favorites and global legends. But it was the Monday lineup that blew me away. I mean blew my socks off AMAZING! We went from bobbing along with intent to The Wailers who played all the Bob Marley classics, to disco fever on another level as legendary writer Nile Rodgers took to the stage with Chic, and then topped the evening off with my all-time favourite, Lionel Richie. My heart soared and my smile didn’t stop beaming. Here’s a rundown of our Bluesfest 2018 highlights:

1. Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers

Did someone say DISCO baby? Wow – just wow!!!!! The highlight of this year’s Bluesfest for sure! Even the next morning I was bopping around with sheer joy from the nothing short of spectacular and slick performance from Chic and Nile Rodgers. And who would expect anything less from the man who wrote many of the worlds most well known and awarded songs. Song after song of pure disco gold. It was like a funky timewarp from the past few decades.

Photo Credit: Natalie Grono @nataliegrono for Bluesfest

2. Lionel Richie

I often refer to Lionel’s music as ‘the soundtrack to my life’. This is because Lionel has been played at pretty much every relevant and meaningful occasion in my life. After a few warm up songs, Lionel and his band had the crowd dancing on the ceiling and in awe of his presence. It was surreal to see him up on the stage prancing around. Where does that man get his energy? The tears were flowing to a number of his ballads and my heart definitely went to Lionel this festival. To say he made my year is an understatement.

Photo Credit: Orlando Sydney

3. The Wailers

I’m pretty sure most people over the age of 30 know most of the words to the songs from Bob Marley and The Wailers. It was pretty clear from the huge crowd sing-along that these tracks have not lost their appeal. The vocals and instrumental did justice to these all-time classics, and the crowd was so present for every single beat and word. Reggae magic!

Photo Credit: Clare Southwell for Take Me To Australia 

4. Rag’n’Bone Man

What a voice. The second we stepped into the tent, the power that came out of this guy was nothing short of mesmerising. His songs were instantly catchy and upbeat. And even his self-proclaimed depressing song won the hearts of the crowd. This UK talent really connected with the audience who were clapping and dancing along to every song.

Photo Credit: Lucinda Goodwin @lucindagoodwinphotography

5. The Teskey Brothers

With their raw and authentic tone, you’d be mistaken for thinking that this group of talented musicians was straight out of Tennessee. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that they were actually from the Yarra Valley just outside of Melbourne. The Teskey Brothers are the kind of group you can sit and listen to on a cruisy day in the backyard, but also strap on your dancing shoes and tap away to their husky and infectious combination of soul and blues. There’s nothing commercialised about this band, and that’s what gives them their humble charm.

Photo Credit: Clare Southwell for Take Me To Australia 

6. Gomez

We walked into Gomez as they were playing one of my all-time favourite songs that took me straight back to memories of my University days in Leeds, an area in the UK that played a critical part in the success of the band. The haunting voice of lead singer Ben Ottewell really hasn’t faltered. I was hanging on to every single word as the audience re-lived most of their songs from their debut album ‘Bring It On’.

Photo Credit: Natalie Grono @nataliegrono for Bluesfest

7. Narasirato

Think of giant panpipes, funk, reggae, and a true sense of culture combined – that is the best way I can sum up the thumping and joyful beats of Narasirato. These energetic Solomon Islanders will have you jumping, dancing and singing along with them, and you won’t be able to wipe the huge grin off your face. What a beautiful and happy addition to Bluesfest. Their epic tunes are as big as their back-story, something that made seeing this orchestral group of musicians even more special.

Photo Credit: Steve Ford @stevefordphotos

8. Boomerang Festival

Experiencing Australian culture firsthand is always special. Bluesfest is home to the Boomerang Festival where Indigenous music, dance, arts, and instrumentals are there for all to experience. The festival is a colourful and meaningful opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture and get involved in the numerous workshops.

Photo Credit: Natalie Grono @nataliegrono for Bluesfest

Take Me To Bluesfest Top Tips:

What is it with the rain and festivals? They seem to go hand in hand more often than not. I have to say, like most people, I’d rather the sun at a festival. It makes everything so much easier, especially when you bring your kids with you. Saying that, our daughter seemed to revel in the chance to jump up and down in muddy puddles.

This year’s festival threw in a pinch of torrential rain, but soon dried out. If in doubt about the weather, wear your gumboots. I’ll never forget the hilarious moment when the sole of my friend’s shoe was ripped from her foot by the viscous mud.

Invest in some ear guards for kids. Our daughter found the music a little overpowering until she wore her ear guards. She could still hear the music but didn’t find it overwhelming.

I was a touch envious of the people who took mini carts for their kids to lie down in when they needed a quick rest. We ended up leaving quite early on some days as our daughter was tired (so was this mama), but she seemed keen on the idea of a cart. In hindsight, this would have been a great addition to our festival experience with her.

I think I have accepted that my non-glamping festival camping days are over. But don’t avoid festivals because you think you have to camp the entire time. As we’ve grown older we opt to stay in hotels or even at home if they are close by like Bluesfest is. The vibe is something that you really don’t get in other areas of life and is well worth the effort for a day trip or two.

Family friendly festivals – let’s sum it up

Taking kids to a festival is definitely a different experience. You have an obvious sense of responsibility that comes before everything, but what a fun and soulful adventure to have as a family. If you’re going to take your kids or even parents to a festival (as Chris Hemsworth did at this one), then this is the place to do it. Thanks for the memories Bluesfest. We’ll see you next year!

 

 

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Parts of this experience were kindly gifted, but all opinions and recommendations are strictly our own.

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Welcome along. I’m Clare, Editor of Take Me To Australia. Having moved to Australia six years ago, I made it my mission to learn more about this epic country we now call home. As we travel across the country to unique destinations, we share with fresh eyes the most extraordinary places we are lucky enough to experience. We aim to inspire others to follow in our footsteps, explore what Australia has to offer, and even encourage people further afield to make a similar move.  We’ve grown a like-minded community of over 100,000 people. Be sure to join them by signing up to receive all the latest inspo, and connecting with us on Instagram and Facebook. See you soon.

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