The Easter Dilemma Aussie Music Festivals |

The Easter Dilemma: Aussie Music Festivals

The Easter Dilemma: Aussie Music Festivals

Every single year, fans of acoustic music are faced with a dilemma: where to spend the Easter long weekend? If you’re a diehard fan of folk, acoustic and roots music, you’re either at the Byron Bay Bluesfest or Canberra’s National Folk Festival.

So here’s everything you need to know about The Easter Dilemma.

The Lineup

Bluesfest: Always guaranteed to pull in the big names, Bluesfest has outdone itself this year with headliners like Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, John Mayer and The Doobie Brothers. There’s also a strong Australian contingent with the John Butler Trio, Kasey Chambers, Kate Miller-Heidke and more. Bluesfest has strayed from being a pure blues and roots festival but who can argue when you have a lineup like that?

The NFF: Big names have never been the focus of The National. Instead they deliver quality artists at the top of their game while striving to preserve Australian and international folk culture for future generations. This year’s lineup has its fair share of folk and acoustic heavyweights – Eleanor McEvoy, Jordie Lane, Kate Fagan, Bernard Carney and Trouble in the Kitchen. And if you haven’t heard of half of those artists? Don’t worry. The beauty of The National is that you can know no one in the program and come away from the weekend with a bucket load of new favourite bands. There’s even kids performers like the Ladybug Express at the KidzFest.

The Venue

Bluesfest: In 2010 Bluesfest unveiled their custom built site at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, about 11 kms north of Byron. It features 6 stages, 4 bars and more facilities than you can throw a stick at. Bluesfest is notorious for being either hot and dusty or wet and muddy so come prepared for anything.

The NFF: Since 1993 The National Folk Festival has made its home at Canberra’s Exhibition Park (or EPIC). The park is custom built for major events (it also hosts the car festival Summernats) with a plethora of indoor stages, marquees, market stalls, children’s areas, bars and more. It also has the famous “Session Bar” where artists and punters celebrate into the wee hours of the morning playing or listening to impromptu music.


Bluesfest: If you’re a fan of pitching a tent or rolling out a swag, then Bluesfest offers on-site camping at its Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm venue but for something more protected from the elements, there’s plenty of accommodation options around Byron (with a free shuttle bus service to the festival). Try the Nomads Hostel if you’re on a budget, go mid range at the Lord Byron Resort or go all out at the Beach Suites.

The NFF: The National offers powered and non-powered camp sites or pre-pitched tents but there’s plenty of hotels around town. The Clifton Suites on Northbourne Avenue are popular with Aussie travellers.

Getting There

Bluesfest: Getting into Byron usually means one thing: road trip! Thousands of people make the trip along the Pacific Highway each year. Given it’s Easter, the roads will be busy with holiday goers. If you’re not a huge fan of traffic, fly directly into Ballina airport (about 45mins from Byron).

The NFF: Canberra is also a road trip-worthy destination and the roads away from the coast won’t be so busy. Canberra’s airport also sees plenty of domestic flights each day.


Bluesfest: I’m not going to lie to you, the Bluesfest crowds are massive. Luckily the festival has learned to cater for the huge crowds so it’s pretty easy to get around. Just arrive early if you want a good spot for a big name act.

The NFF: Although it probably gets more people through its gates than Bluesfest (thanks to a wealth of day tickets), The National just never seems as busy. The EPIC has massive venues but if a band gets a buzz going throughout the course of the weekend (most artists play about three or four shows), it can mean standing room only.


Bluesfest: With a predominantly younger audience (peppered with older blues fans who’ve been coming for years), Bluesfest is packed full of energy and fun. People are there to soak up the music and fun and as a result Bluesfest is a really happy place to be.

The NFF: Catering more to families and older “folkies” who are there every year, The National Folk Festival has a really relaxed vibe. Everyone is friendly, everyone is looking out for each other and as a result you can’t help but walk around EPIC with a smile on your face. If you’re not a fan of kids at festivals you might be in trouble, but otherwise it’s a really nice way to spend Easter.

So there you are. Hopefully I’ve made your Easter decision just a little bit easier. Tickets for both festivals are selling fast so toss a coin or go with your gut sooner rather than later. And regardless which one you choose, you’ll be guaranteed a weekend filled with some amazing music.


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Gareth Evans

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