Live Review: Bluesfest Byron Bay 2023 – Day 1

Review by Wanda Hill
Photos by Ant Ritz Photography/Rock Shots

My favorite time of year is here again, where no bigger decision needs to be made other than – what band should I go see now? A fantasy life for five days where Bluesfest serves up an irresistible menu of musical treats. With a plethora of choices laid out before me, I just need to wander around and discover music, new and old to love. Lured in by hot organ sounds I found Southern Avenue at the Juke Joint, just in time for a wicked drum solo by Tikyra Jackson. This band has a big Memphis funk sound with vocalist Tierinii Jackson wielding a powerful voice that can do anything. A perfect initiation into what promises to be another soul shaking festival.   

Check out the Photo Gallery: Bluesfest Byron Bay 2023 – Day 1

Sweet banjo melodies from Greensky Bluegrass at the Delta filled the air as sunset colours cast a mystical glow over the festival grounds. Initiating a joy sequence of remembering to smile at strangers and embrace the feeling of being in a music lover’s community for the weekend.  Even though the festival felt very empty I still managed to bump into people while being distracted by an unexpected pirate ship complete with pirates roaming around, adding a bit of theatre and spectacle to the event. 


With a full moon rising, LP’s elevating vocals emanated from the Mojo, where a loyal following were riding her every move. Transfixed by her smooth and cool warbling. This seemed like a good time to discover the culinary offerings available at the festival this year. Like the music, it’s possible to travel the world in a few paces and find cuisine from around the globe. After a delicious pho, Kaleo is where I really found my groove and totally forgot where I was. Thoroughly transported and mesmerized by this Icelandic band that sound like they are from Mississippi, it is unsurprising that their music is used in many American screen productions including Orange is the New Black and Lucifer. I can’t wait to go on another adventure with this atmospheric blues band tonight at the Crossroads (5.30 pm Friday 7th Aril 2023). 

Then to something from closer to home. The Angels had a knowing crowd waiting to sing along with familiar tunes. Current front man Dave Gleeson has all the moves and vocal prowess to get the crowd excited about reliving old favorites and the opportunity for a cathartic call and response with Am I ever going to see your face again? You know how the rest goes…

Dave Gleeson – The Angels

Beth Hart came out solo with some gospel to get things fired up and then struck a raw nerve accompanied by her band, with a potent cover of Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks. The Northern Rivers, home of Bluesfest, knows all about breaking levees after a series of epic weather events last year. But you would never know judging from the Bluesfest site, which is in great condition currently. 

Highlight of the night was Paolo Nutini, bringing stage craft reminiscent of a Roger Waters performance to the Mojo. The screens were filled with visuals rather than just projecting his image and a well thought out stage show using some interesting props like a red 80’s telephone for a mic, created a bit of drama that complimented his highly emotive lyrics and sound. Don’t miss him playing again tonight at the Crossroads where there is no need to move far with this stellar line up 5.30 – Kaleo, 7pm – Beck, 8.30 – Paolo Nutini then Gang of Youths at 10.30. I don’t think there will be the luxury of small crowds tonight. 

Paolo Nutini

Tex Perkins and Matt Walker replaced the Black Sorrows who were a last minute scratching, closing the night at the Delta.  A task which they fulfilled brilliantly together, creating a very full sound with just an acoustic 12 string and electric guitar. Their great connection and beautiful harmonies with cinematic lyrics filled the void left for them, with magic. Happy Bluesfest 2023. 

Check out the Photo Gallery: Bluesfest Byron Bay 2023 – Day 1