• Drake Silver

After two COVID-19 cancellations, Bluesfest is planning a return in October.

After two late cancellations due to a health crisis, the Byron Bay Bluesfest team has pulled themselves up, cleaned themselves off, and is ready to go again.

The legendary Australian Bluesfest is set to return in October, with headliners Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly, Tash Sultana, and Jimmy Barnes on the bill.

It's a fast and remarkable comeback for an event that was canceled by a Public Health Order less than 24 hours before it was set to open due to a single local case of transmission in April 2021.

COVID had sunk Bluesfest's best laid plans for the second year in a row.

The most recent was a blow to the music industry as well as local businesses that depend on foot traffic generated by the five-day celebrations.

According to veteran concert promoter Michael Chugg, the cancellation "really impacted the industry and took the last threads of trust out of it."

Rather than focus on the negatives, Noble and his team have finalized a lineup and new dates for the first big festival to return since the pandemic, which will take place Oct. 1-4.

“We're rising,” Bluesfest director Peter Noble said on ABC's Breakfast program on Wednesday (May 19), shortly after the announcement of the festival's return.

“We have to do it because we all want to get back to work comfortably in the Australian live music industry.” And we'll be able to do it.”

Bluesfest, like its expected Easter weekend version in 2021, will be a COVIDsafe affair, but it will be cut down from five to four days. Ticket holders will not be required to wear a mask on the venue because all outdoor stages will be fully seated.

Noble continues, "If we get another four months of near to zero COVID cases in our culture, who knows what we'll be presenting."

Bluesfest, which began in 1990, is one of the most well-known festivals in the region.

It has won best big event five times at the NSW Tourism Awards and is a member of the NSW Tourism Hall of Fame, as well as being nominated for best foreign music festival nine times at the Pollstar Awards in Los Angeles.

Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Robert Plant, James Brown, Angelique Kidjo, BB King, and many others have performed on its stages over the years.

The 300-acre Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, about 6 miles north of Byron Bay, became the permanent home of Bluesfest in 2010.

The 300-acre Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, about 6 miles north of Byron Bay, became the permanent home of Bluesfest in 2010.

It has an influence that extends beyond the arts. According to the festival's most recent Economic Impact Report, the 2019 show created 858 full-time equivalent jobs in the area and 1,333 in the state of New South Wales. In addition, the study found that the festival annually generates more than $163 million ($126 million) in regional revenue and more than $277 million ($214 million) in state revenue.