BRISBANE — Byron Bay Bluesfest is the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Just hours after the Australian government announced strict new rules applied to public gatherings and travel into the country, Bluesfest organizers officially canceled this year’s event, due to be held April 9-13.
“To everyone involved with Bluesfest, it is obvious we will not be on this Easter,” reads a statement issue by Peter Noble, executive chairman of Bluesfest Group of Companies.
He continues, “We are heartbroken as we believe we were presenting one of the best ever bills of talent for you. I was in discussions right through last week with every headliner – they all said they’re coming as long as nothing occurred to prevent them from doing so. That is the level of commitment that our artists have, and I am proud of that.”
Bluesfest’s five-day lineup was a deep one, with headliners Dave Matthews Band, Crowded House and Alanis Morissette leading a bill of about 70 local and international performers. Also confirmed were Lenny Kravitz, Patti Smith And Her Band, George Benson, Kool & The Gang, The Gipsy Kings and many more.
The award-winning Bluesfest is one the most cherished festivals on the Australian live entertainment calendar, and the last major outdoor event before the colder months set in.
Held at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, about 10 minutes north of the picturesque beach town Byron Bay, Bluesfest opens its gates each year to about 125,000 music fans.
The fest celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and has won a slew of awards since its inaugural 1990 event, including four Helpmann Awards for best contemporary music festival and six trophies at the Australian event awards for Australian event of the year.
“We are now working through how to move forward and to give you details,” Noble continues. “I thank you for allowing us enough time to get everything in place for the best possible outcome for everyone.”
The cancelation of Bluesfest coincides with the federal government’s ban on organized public gatherings of 500 of more people. In New South Wales, anyone found breaking those rules face a fine of at least A$11,000 and a potential stint in jail.
The government’s new set of travel restrictions make entry into Australia a challenge. Any foreign national arriving by plane would need to self-quarantine for 14 days entering the country, and strict entry restrictions apply to foreign travelers from mainland China, Iran, Republic of Korea and Italy.