American rhythm and blues band Vintage Trouble at Bluesfest 2016.
American rhythm and blues band Vintage Trouble at Bluesfest 2016. Lyn McCarthy

Bluesfest: The good, the great, and the sublime

BLUESFEST was a hit in numbers and music, with an estimated number of patrons just above 100,000 over five days and selling 94.8% of tickets.

A total of 82 bands put in some spectacular sets at the festival's site at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm.

So what made this festival so successful? As usual, it was the music.

From a powerful and record-breaking Kendrick Lamar attracting scores of teenagers to the first day to an elegant, stylish Sir Tom Jones closing the festival.

Lamar had a couple of fantastic gigs ahead of Bluesfest, but as the mixed audience at Byron Bay was not there solely to see him, he was not everyone's cup of tea.

Lamar's show was a highlight of the festival, which is no small feat for a country with limited experience of urban/hip hop.

Two of the main discoveries of the festival were California's Vintage Trouble and Alabama's St Paul and the Broken Bones.

Both bands delighted audiences with great music deliveries and the flamboyant performances of their frontmen.

A number of icons of music graced the stages this year, but two stood out from the rest.

The first one was a pristine rendition of Pet Sounds by an incomparable Brian Wilson and Al Jardine (of Beach Boys fame), with clear and precise vocals by Al's son Matt Jardine.

The second one was the relaxed, highly engaging and charming show by Sir Tom Jones, who had audiences of all ages eating from his hand from the first song.

Australian bands also added to the eclectic mix, with festive and enjoyable shows by The Cat Empire, fantastic sets by progressive funk band Hiatus Kayote, great gigs by Kim Churchill, Sahara Beck and Harts.

Locals were also in the line-up, with Ballina's Marshall O'Kell and Lismore's Brotherhood of the Blues on the bill, plus a brilliant show by Byron Shire resident Jeff Martin (The Tea Party).

Festival director Peter Noble also had some highlights.

"The Bluesfest audience discovered what we truly felt, going into the festival, would be the best selection of young and emerging artists we have ever presented," he said.

"Artists like Lukas Nelson and Promise of The Real, St Paul and The Broken Bones, Kaleo, Con Brio, Vintage Trouble, Rhiannon Giddens, Shakey Graves, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, Fantastic Negrito, The Bros Landreth, Blackberry Smoke, Irish Mythen, Elle King and Allen Stone all displayed their brilliance and everybody who came can now say they saw them (before they were famous), as all of these artists are on their way to truly big things."