Bluesfest Melbourne debuting in 2023 with Kasey Chambers, Buddy Guy, Ash Grunwald and more

Festival director Peter Noble says he’s “always wanted to” expand the event to Melbourne

As of next year, the annual Byron Bay Bluesfest will no longer be exclusive to its titular NSW city – organisers revealed today (November 10) that a Melbourne edition will go down in April with a two-day, 25-act itinerary.

The poster sports a decent mix of international acts and local stalwarts, with notable imports including Buddy Guy, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, The Doobie Brothers, Eric Gales, Lucinda Williams, Paolo Nutini and Robert Glasper. Australian standouts include Ash Grunwald, C.W. Stoneking (performing with his Primitive Horn Orchestra), Kasey Chambers, The Soul Rebels (performing with Talib Kweli and GZA) and Xavier Rudd.

The inaugural Bluesfest Melbourne will run across the weekend of Saturday April 8 and Sunday 9, taking place entirely indoors at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). As part of its setup, the MCEC’s Plenary Theatre will be used to hold concerts from The Doobie Brothers and Paolo Nutini, which, unlike the rest of the festival, will see tickets issued with reserved seating.

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2023 will mark the first year that a Bluesfest has been held outside Byron Bay. The festival has gone down on the northern coast of NSW every year since 1990 – aside from 2020 and 2021, when editions were cancelled due to the pandemic – but in a new interview with The Music, festival director Peter Noble said he’d “always wanted to” expand it to Melbourne.

“23 years later, we’re actually doing it,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do a downtown and so when the right circumstances came about, I jumped at it. I do remember back to the 2019 Bluesfest, it was the last one we got to do before COVID knocked us for a couple of years, and we sold 27,000 [sideshow] tickets in Melbourne. And I’m going, ‘That’s a festival.’ I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that people in Melbourne just like to go out and hear music.”

In a general press statement, Noble expounded on his ambitions for the event: “We’ll be bringing some of the absolute premium international and local artists who perform at Bluesfest alongside the fantastic Melbourne artists to create an experience for music lovers that is unprecedented in this city.  

“Offering patrons the chance to see more than 30 performances over a two day period in an environment that is weatherproofed, accessible and safe, right in the heart of the Melbourne and Docklands area. I see Bluesfest Melbourne becoming an absolute must see on the annual events calendar.”

Tickets for the first-ever Bluesfest Melbourne go on sale at 9am on Monday (November 14) – find them here.

Meanwhile, next year’s edition of the Byron Bay Bluesfest will run concurrently over the five-day spread of April 6-10. Its line-up currently sports a total of 50 acts, with the latest addition – an acoustic set from Beck – announced earlier this month.

The line-up for Bluesfest Melbourne 2023 is:

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Ash Grunwald
Backsliders
Buddy Guy
Chain
Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram
C.W. Stoneking & His Primitive Horn Orchestra
The Doobie Brothers
Eric Gales
Eugene Hideaway Bridges
Fools
Geoff Achison & The Souldiggers
Greensky Bluegrass
Henry Wagons
Kaleo
Kasey Chambers
Keb’ Mo’
Lucinda Williams
Melbourne Ska Orchestra
Paolo Nutini
Robert Glasper
Shaun Kirk
The Soul Rebels With Talib Kweli & GZA
Southern Avenue
Steve Earle
Xavier Rudd

Stay tuned to NME for more Australian music festival news.

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