It’s been a long and bumpy ride to the next edition of the Byron Bay Bluesfest – especially after its attempt in April got nixed a day out from opening, with the site and its stages already built – but lo and behold, Bluesfest is finally
(finally!!!) making its return in 2022.
Taking the form of an exclusive special edition, sporting an all‑Australian lineup, the four-day celebration of all things blues, roots, rock and beyond will take place at its established home of the Byron Events Farm (formerly Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm) across next year's Easter long weekend of Friday April 15th through Monday 18th.
And although the usual suite of international icons are sitting this one out – y’know, travel bans and all that fun stuff – the lineup couldn’t be more enormous: headliners include Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly, Tash Sultana and Jimmy Barnes, with over 50 of Australia’s biggest and best names set to raise the barn over four epic days.
To get ourselves prepped for what is undoubtedly going to be the most exciting weekend of the year for any Aussie music fan, we’re catching up with handful of the acts we’re beyond keen to see.
This week, we're going one-on-one with Hussy Hicks!
THE CHEAT SHEET
Okay, so who’s this?
Hussy Hicks is one part soulful, tent-filling vocal prowess (courtesy of the dazzlingly dynamic Leesa Gentz) and one part bold, bewitching guitar that gets heads turning faster than a siren on a city street (courtesy of the virtuosic Julz Parker, championed by Phil Emmanuel as “Australia’s top female guitar player”).
What would I know them from?
The duo released their enthralling seventh album, Gather Up The People, just a little over a year ago. They followed it up with the standalone single “The Edge” back in April. If you don’t know them from either of those records, you’ve probably seen them around at a Bluesfest in years past – after all, they’ve played six of them in the past decade!
Why should I see them?
There’s a reason Parker joined BB King and Santana in Bluesfest’s Guitar Hero fan poll – and why they’ve scored awards buzz everywhere from the Queensland Music Awards to the Golden Guitars. The performances are unlike anything you’ll have ever seen before, loaded with character, charisma, and – of course – incredible tunes.
When are they playing?
Parker and Gentz will play an impressive three sets across the weekend, all of which are certain to be special for their own reasons, taking to the stage on Saturday October 2nd, Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th.
Hussy Hicks are certainly no strangers to Bluesfest. Would this be your fourth time playing it? Fifth?
Fourth or fifth, yeah! We won the busking competition and got to play in 2010, and then we played 2011, 2016, 2018 and 2019 – so it’ll actually be our sixth time playing!
Sixth! What is it about Bluesfest that keeps drawing you back?
Well y’know, we do a lot of overseas touring – well, used to do a lot of overseas touring – so the fact that it gives us the ability to showcase what we do at the highest level, to our local crowd, is probably the biggest thing. It’s like being able to show your friends and family what you can do when you’re given that sort of world-class production at a world-class festival.
I’ve only been up a couple of times, but I’ve found that Bluesfest has such a unique atmosphere compared to a lot of other festivals. Do you feel that way as an artist?
Yeah! The people who go to Bluesfest, they’re really dedicated music fans. Like, they’ll all get in there at midday and have their programs sorted out, and they’ll watch everything. And we’ll see people come to shows all over the world, who’ll come to watch us because they’ve seen us at Bluesfest. That’s a big difference – the people who go to Bluesfest are just real diehard music lovers.
So how do you plan to make your set at Bluesfest 2021 stand out?
Depending on the set times, we might have a couple of special guests. We had a few guests lined up for April, but obviously that didn’t happen. We’ve been playing as much as we can to try and still be a band that has the energy you’d expect to see at Bluesfest. We’ve booked so many gigs, and we’ve managed to pull some of them of, but… We’re going to get up there and just play like a band that’s wanted to get up on that stage for years.
You guys put a new single out earlier this year, and an album last year, so there’s plenty of new material to jam out.
We were originally going to release Gather Up The People at Bluesfest 2020. We held back on it for a while, but then we just decided that, y’know, we’d rather put it out and celebrate it later. Normally by now we’d be celebrating it with a world tour, but we thought that while everyone was isolated and locked away, we’d give the people who already like our music something new to listen to. It’ll be great to play those songs on a big stage, with a mix of old ones in there too. It’ll be very emotional.
With the April edition, y’know, we tried very hard not to get too excited, and it got to, like, two days before the show, we were listening to that ABC special, and because so many of the people on the lineup were road warriors like us – they’re like our festival family – we started getting a bit teary thinking we were finally going to see them all. And then it all got pulled out from under us. But when we’re up there [in October], it’s going to feel very much like we’ll have reached to the top of the mountain.
What guitars are you playing on right now?
My main electric guitar is the ’89 Strat Plus, which I’ve had since I was a teenager. I was very lucky, because I was just gonna buy a Magnum with the money I’d saved up, and my parents sort of kicked in the other half and said, “Well, now you can keep this guitar forever.” And I have! So that’s my main electric, and my main acoustic is an Andy Allen custom shop Maton, which he made for me back in 2009. That’s been beaten up, and I think every panel has been smashed at least once, but it’s still just a great guitar to play.
I split that with a Mi-Si magnetic pickup – I use the [Maton] AP5 for the acoustic sound, and I run the magnetic pickup through the amps. I usually like to use a Fender Twin. I never use my own amps at festivals because we’ll just play through the backline gear, but I’ve got a Silverface Twin and one of the Music Man two-by-12 HDs. The Twin gives you all the beautiful, sparkly tops and big bottoms, and then the Music Man just sort of punches you in the mids.
What is it about that Fender Strat Plus that makes it such a special axe for you?
I guess just absolute familiarity. Y’know, I learned to play the guitar on that – I played all of my formative gigs on it, so it’s just so familiar. I have lots of other guitars – I’ve got this Tokai SG that I’ve been playing a little bit, and I bought this old lap slide off Jeff Lang that we used on the “Mountain Peak” single. I’ll probably bring that with me to Bluesfest since it’s a local show, but I don’t usually bother taking with me on the road. It’s like a 1960s Teisco, and that’s a lovely guitar. I’ve got a couple of Teles that I’ll chuck in the rig, too, but the Strat’s just… It’s like an extension of my person.
Have you customised it much over the years, or are you adamant on keeping it all stock?
I probably would’ve kept it more stock, but y’know, over the years I’ve tinkered with it a bit. It had the Wilkinson roller nuts, which had the two rollers, and after playing the guitar for a while you kind of dig a groove into them, so I ended up with the ball bearing Wilkinsons instead. A guitar repairer changed the bridge to graphite saddles – I keep trying to change back to the originals, but I’m just waiting for the order to come. But that was just because I was breaking strings a lot.
Phil Emmanuel ripped the trem setter out when I was playing in his band as a 15-year-old; he was like, “Ah, you won’t need that! That’s rubbish! Rip it out!” So now I’ve got just normal springs in there. I’ve got all the original volume and tone pots. The pickups are still all Lace Sensors – I know they’re sort of love-‘em-or-hate-‘em, but I’ve had some more standard Strats and I guess the Lace Sensors are not quite as twangy, but the Strat Plus is just such a solid gigging guitar, the output is there. If I want something super twangy, I’ve got my ’66 Mustang.
Who are you excited to catch at Bluesfest 2022? Take a peek at the lineup below, then start getting your schedules ready!
BYRON BAY BLUESFEST 2022 – LINEUP
- Midnight Oil
- Paul Kelly
- Jimmy Barnes
- Fat Freddy’s Drop
- John Butler
- Xavier Rudd
- Pete Murray
- Ian Moss
- Kate Ceberano
- Kasey Chambers
- The Waifs
- The Church
- Jon Stevens
- The Living End
- Mark Seymour & The Undertow
- The Angels
- Russell Morris
- Kate Miller-heidke
- Vika & Linda
- All Our Exes Live In Texas
- Ross Wilson And The Peaceniks
- John Williamson
- Troy Cassar-daley
- Tex Perkins The Man In Black
- Hiatus Kaiyote
- Josh Teskey & Ash Grunwald
- Weddings Parties Anything
- The Black Sorrows
- Cw Stoneking
- The Bamboos
- Ash Grunwald
- Melbourne Ska Orchestra
- Jeff Lang
- Nathan Cavaleri
- Kim Churchill
- Henry Wagons
- Garrett Kato
- Mama Kin Spender
- Dami Im
- Pierce Brothers
- Emily Wurramara
- The Buckleys
- Fiona Boyes & The Fortune Tellers
- Ray Beadle
- Pacey, King & Doley
- Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission
- Hussy Hicks
- Daniel Champagne
- Little Georgia
- Round Mountain Girls
- The Regime
- Electrik Lemonade
- Palm Valley
- Byron Busking Competition
- Rockwiz Live
Tickets to the 2021 Byron Bay Bluesfest are on sale now – head to bluesfest.com.au for more info!