UPDATE Wednesday 31 March 4:20PM: Since the publication of this article, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced that Bluesfest 2021 has in fact been cancelled. Head over to our interview with Bluesfest organiser Peter Noble about getting ready for the Byron Bay festival here. In response to the cancellation, Hazzard said: "While the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for music lovers and the local community, I hope that ticket holders would support Bluesfest and hold on to their tickets as I understand Bluesfest will be working on a new date as soon as possible."
Byron Bay Bluesfest is set to be one of the first two major music festivals in the world to get the green light to go ahead since the beginning of the pandemic. But as we all know, the chaos of this pandemic is that anything can change in an instant, as Melbourne saw recently with its five-day snap lockdown.
This was certainly the case at the start of this week, when the QLD government ordered a snap 3-day lockdown in the Greater Brisbane area due to an outbreak of community transmissions.
While the news continues to roll in about the QLD lockdown, what will happen with Byron Bay Bluesfest, slated to kick off on April 1 and take place over the Easter weekend?
So, is Byron Bay Bluesfest cancelled?
No, the festival is not cancelled!
Byron Bay Bluesfest confirmed on its website and social media that the festival will be going ahead this year.
However, they had to make the tough call that ticket holders from the lockdown zones in the Greater Brisbane area are no longer permitted to attend Bluesfest 2021.
In a press statement, Bluesfest 2021 wrote:
"Based on advice from NSW Health, we are not allowing ticket holders that are affected by the 3-day Queensland lockdown to attend the festival on the first day, Thursday April 1. We will keep ticket buyers informed and advise them to also keep updated via their state government advice."
The lockdowns currently affect the council areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Moreton Bay, Logan, and Redlands.
What has Bluesfest organiser, Peter Noble, said?
Bluesfest director Peter Noble spoke with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, and confirmed that the festival is still going ahead, just without punters affected by the Greater Brisbane area lockdown.
"We are in continuous conversation with NSW Health and are committed to provide patron, artist, and staff safety at all times, when visiting Bluesfest. This is our biggest priority, and we will keep you updated," Bluesfest said in a statement.
MTV Australia spoke to Peter Noble earlier this month about the possibility of the festival going ahead.
"I feel a responsibility to everybody," Noble said. "To my staff, who look to me at times, like, ‘Are you going to pull this off?’ To the musicians and the agents and the managers who all said, ‘Yeah, we want to be a part of this, but do you really think it's going to happen?"
"[If it’s successful] we will have shown the industry that you just have to be proactive, get out there and put your events on, do them safe. Nobody's perfect. Somebody is going to make a mistake somewhere, just don't make the major mistakes. So our industry can look at it and go, we found a way back ourselves."
What about people attending Bluesfest from Queensland?
If ticket buyers are in the areas affected by the 3 day lockdown (which, at this stage are the council areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Moreton Bay, Logan, and Redlands), they're no longer able to attend Bluesfest 2021.
"All patrons will be contacted by Moshtix directly once we have an update on how to proceed by the end of today, Tuesday 30th of March," the festival wrote on their website.
However, if your travel plans just include passing through Brisbane airport, you're exempt from the lockdown.
Advice from Byron Bay Bluesfest to these ticket holders is:
"From the airport you must travel directly to your destination without stopping in any of the lockdown affected areas. You will need to provide an Entry Declaration form when entering NSW which is available on the Service NSW website."
What has NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, said?
In a press conference on Monday 29 March, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard sent a strong message to ticket holders from Brisbane: "do not come!"
"Thursday is out of any question if you listened to what your government is saying. If the Government in Queensland extends the lockdown period, and we are not saying they will at this stage, but if they do, clearly people who have bought or are buying tickets from Brisbane are not welcome to attend the festival," he said.
Are tickets to Byron Bay Bluesfest still available?
As long as you're not in the areas affected by the 3 day Greater Brisbane area lockdown, you can still grab tickets to Byron Bay Bluesfest 2021. You can grab them here.
Will Bluesfest ticket holders from the lockdown areas get a refund?
Bluesfest has confirmed that "all patrons will be contacted by Moshtix directly to advise availability of refunds or alternate options to attend Bluesfest."
Who is playing at Byron Bay Bluesfest?
The line-up, which you can see in full here, boasts many of Australia's most celebrated musicians. Tash Sultana, Briggs, Pete Murray, Kasey Chambers, Jimmy Barnes, John Butler, Xavier Rudd, The Cat Empire, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kate Miller-Heidke, The Living End and more are slated to perform.
A final word
Music festivals were one of the many, many joys that the COVID-19 pandemic took away from us. With restrictions being placed on how many individuals could be in a single house, the idea of thousands of festival goers getting together for a full-blown music festival seemed like a very distant dream.
Bluesfest 2021, along with Yours & Owls in Wollongong will become the first two major music festivals in the world to get the green light to go ahead since the beginning of the pandemic. These music festivals getting the green light bring some much needed good news to the Australian music industry, which is currently running at four percent (!) of its usual capacity.
This marks a (very) slow but steady return to normality in the music scene, after so long without the beauty of live music and spaces to dance and soak up musical excellence.