Late Summer Aussie Festivals Continue Strong Draws

As the Australian 2017 late summer festival season – which spills over to early autumn – comes to an end, the major festivals continue to pull with a combination of superstars and newcomers. 

Bluesfest 2017
– Bluesfest 2017

Bluesfest Byron Bay (April 13-17) drew an accumulated 105,000 over five days, organisers said.

This was one of the event’s biggest in its 28 years, equaling last year’s turnout. But the record remains with the 2011 six-day event when Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Ben HarperElvis CostelloGrace Jones and George Clinton helped draw 110,000-plus.

This year’s international headliners included Patti SmithCarlos SantanaBuddy GuyMary J. BligeBonnie Raitt and Rickie Lee Jones while Laura MvulaNikki Hill and Melody Angel made their debuts.

Festival director Peter Noble ranked it “one of the great Bluesfests, and in my opinion certainly within our top 3.”

The sentiment was echoed by the likes of Raitt, who hailed it as “one of the world-class, great festivals of all time” while the Doobie Brothers thanked the audience “for singing louder than the PA.”

Bluesfest injects A$64.1 million ($484 million) to Byron Shire, A$84.2 million ($63.6 million) to the wider Northern Rivers region and A$150.6 million ($113.9 million) to the state of New South Wales’ economy.

On the same Easter-long weekend, the National Folk Festival in Canberra’s Exhibition Park (April 13-17) drew 47,000 – 52 percent of whom came from outside the Australian Capital Territory and which makes it a regular winner at tourism awards.

The 200 acts covered music, dance, spoken word, film, circus and traditional crafts.

The Adelaide version of WOMAD, called WOMADelaide, celebrated its 25th anniversary in mid-March with an attendance of close to 90,000 over four days.

The indications are that the crowds will still be coming for later in the year.

The fifth Dark Mofo in Tasmania in June, which last year drew 270,000 over two weeks, announced April 18 it sold A$1 million ($756,410) worth of tickets on the first day of sale, breaking previous box office records.

Half of the box office target was reached within five hours. Among instant sellouts were the two-day, multi-venue art party Welcome Stranger, Red Bull Music Academy’s Transliminal dance party, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Messe IX-VI. X and Xiu Xiu’s recreation of the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack.

The folk-blues-jazz Queenscliff Music Festival on Victoria’s surf coast (Nov. 24-26) announced early-bird tickets sold out in record time. Last year it sold out for the first time in its 20-year history.