Bluesfest Promoter Peter Noble, “It’s Not Ego When You’re Telling The Truth”

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Bluesfest Promoter Peter Noble, “It’s Not Ego When You’re Telling The Truth”

As Australia’s music festival scene gets more and more competitive, the lineup announcements come earlier and thicker than ever before. 

From Future Music Festival revealing their hand yesterday, to the Big Day Out pushing out their lineup and ticket sales almost a half-year ahead of its 2013 showing. Then there’s been the recent lineup announcements from New Year’s events like Peats Ridge and Falls Festival, to the more boutique LanewayMeredith and Golden Plains

But for every established event that’s putting another successful calendar year behind them, there’s many more that – despite their best intentions – have joined the ever-growing list of festivals that have hit the scrapheap. The last twelve months have seen the cancellation of Kangaroo Island Surf & Music FestivalPerth’s On The Bright SideVictoria’s Castle Music Festival and NSW’s Central Coast Coaster Festival coming apart.

But one music festival, one of our nation’s longest running, that continues to sell year upon year, is proving once again why there’s much more to putting on an event than just a great location and lineup (just look at Supafest, Heatwave, Blueprint et al.)

Now in its 24th year, Bluesfest is standing head and shoulders above the rest, and – according to its own Festival Director – is “delivering one of our absolute best artist lineups ever,” for its 2013 iteration; and off the basis of Bluesfest’s epic first round of acts, already announced a little over a week ago, its hard not to agree.

This morning, the second of a touted four major lineup announcements, saw the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Rodriguez, Joan Armatrading, Mavis Staples and more joining an already mighty bill that includes Ben Harper, Santana, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, Dropkick Murphys, Wilco – the list goes on.

Having won back the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm festival grounds back after an embittered battle with Byron Shire, the multi-award winning 5 day-long music festival has more surprises to come for its Easter 2013 event. 

We caught up with Peter Noble, the boss of Bluesfest who makes it all happen, who provided his own colourful, confident take on why his music festival is still Australia’s greatest event.

Tone Deaf: You’ve decided to roll out the Bluesfest line up in four parts, can you tell us the reason behind that decision? And what can we expect from the other three announcements?

Peter Noble: We have got too many great artists to announce this time around to do it ALL in one announcement – stand by for more – it’s sensational.

With bands like Iggy and the Stooges and the Dropkick Murphys playing, some might say you’re moving away from being the blues in Bluesfest. Is that an attempt to widen your appeal? Is that something that’s necessary in today’s music climate?

We have rocked it, countryed it, folked it, funked it and punked it for so long now, that a question like that kind of catches me in that place of WHAT – haven’t you ever been to a Bluesfest dear interviewer– if so you would get that – Because THIS is what we do.

Bluesfest has been around for a long time now, longer than the Big Day Out, Splendour and Falls. Where do you believe Bluesfest sits in the canon of Australian music festivals?

Slightly to the left of THE Music God – on a chair that is only 1 inch lower.

What separates Bluesfest from the countless other Australian music festivals these days?

Distance – we knock the socks off 99.99% of them – just come once – you will then know why artists and fans all over the world say we are the best music fest there is – it’s not ego when you are telling the truth.

Can you tell us what the ongoing battle you had with the Byron Bay Council earlier in the year meant to you and for music festivals?

Life is full of challenges. There are people who actually want to harm other people, and they want the power to be able to do it.

The petty councillors who created the Byron Events Policy have been rolled in the recent Byron Council elections, perhaps the greatest thing is that in a new council who actively support the arts, the one councillor who was most behind the creation of the events policy to stop the arts being presented in Byron Shire now sits on council for the next 4 years totally alone; and in isolation with 4 years of seeing his policies doomed to failure.

There is a German word for this, which is totally appropriate in this instance – Schadenfreude – you can look up the meaning if you like…

Splendour In The Grass also faced red-tape challenges this year. Why did you rally against their proposal to set up permanent residence on the Yelgun site at North Byron Parklands?

Sorry – you got the wrong guy – I suggest you check the facts…

We did, and in fact, Noble had some rather controversial things to say when spoke at February’s Public Assessment Commission over the nearly six year long saga over the battle for the Byron Shire’s North Byron Parklands as festival site for Splendour In The Grass. 

No audio was allowed to be recorded during the event for legal reasons, but reports of those present say that Noble claimed it would be “unfair” should North Byron Parklands grant 365 days operational approval to Splendour In The Grass, when his site at Tyagarah is only allowed five.

Noble’s comments was met with anger from some members of the audience, with heckler calling the promoter “vicious” for objecting to initial council plans. Noble stood firm however, and even cheekily slipped in that he’d be happy to host Splendour In The Grass at his site if the council would allow him to run more events at the location. 

“We can easily take up to 30,000 people, we have put in the parking and we have the camping areas already in existence,” he said. “But we’re not interested in doing large events or getting approval for large events above 30,000 people. We just don’t see that it’s necessary or even needed in our area.”


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