Byron Bay Bluesfest

10 All-time Onstage Collaborations at Bluesfest in the Last Decade!

10 June 2016

Onstage collaborations are always a bonus at Bluesfest and talked about long after the festival.

In fact, Bluesfest becomes a meeting ground for many artists during their long world-wide tours – a place they can feel right at home, hang out with old and new friends, jam backstage and share a laugh or a meal together. Sometimes these friendships can play out onstage with artists teaming up and jumping up for a song or two.  Most of the time our official photographers are there to capture these once-in-a-lifetime magical Bluesfest moments. 

Picking 10 collaborations was a daunting task – I mean, aren’t all of the onstage cameos at Bluesfest all-time classics? For the exercise of picking 10 for this article and turning the pages on the history books, let’s stroll down memory lane and enjoy looking back on some of these cherished moments.

1. Jeff Beck and Joss Stone – 2014

One of the most talked about and let’s face it, hottest performances of the Bluesfest 25th Anniversary year, was the knock-out ‘vocal-versus-guitar’ duel between soul sister Joss Stone and legendary guitarist Jeff Beck.

First inklings behind the scenes was seeing Joss disappear into Jeff’s dressing-room area and soon after hearing some unmistakable vocals and guitar soaring over the artists area.

The song: ‘I Put A Spell On You’ held the Bluesfest audience ‘spellbound’. Wouldn’t you agree?

2. Mavis Staples and Bonnie Raitt – 2013

Bonnie Raitt was ‘adopted’ into the Staples’ Family a long, long time ago – and the friendship and respect for each others music has endured and grown over time.

When Bonnie released ‘Slipstream’ in 2012 she embarked on a World Tour – with Bluesfest being one of the stops ( fortunately), and bringing her friend Mavis Staples along as special guest.

There’s many a clip of them together on this tour – and Bluesfest was treated to a very special ‘sisterly’ performance of ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’

3. Ben Harper and Xavier Rudd – 2013

Fans were delighted by the surprise on Easter Sunday during Xavier Rudd’s set when Ben Harper jumped up onstage, a connection that dates back to Bluesfest 2003 where they were both on the bill and may have first met. 

Many fans since this performance have made comments requesting a collaboration album between the Bluesfest faves. Likely to happen? Let’s hope the stars align.

The song: ‘I Shall Not Walk Alone’

Check out a fans recording of the performance below.

4. G. Love, Donavon Frankenreiter, Jack Johnson and friends– 2015

Jack Johnson wasn’t billed on the festival in 2015, but still charmed fans with a few cameo appearances throughout the festival. In fact, Jack, G. Love , Donavon Frankenreiter, Jake Shimabukuro and Kristy Lee spent most of the first three days appearing on each other’s stages, and each time the performance was taken to a different level.

What would have made this a super jam? Perhaps if Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals jumped up as well. Next time. 

5. Peter Noble and Melbourne Ska Orchestra – 2015

Nicky Bomba and Peter Noble have always enjoyed a friendly rivalry. Nicky has fronted several projects, Bomba, Bustamento as well as The Melbourne Ska Orchestra and the story goes that it was a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ dare leading to Peter Noble being suited up (complete with pork-pie hat) for his appearance with the MSO.

The song:  A classic: ‘Message To You Rudy’

Music and Lyrics: ‘The Specials’

Extra Special Guest: Ranking Roger from The Beat

Choreography: Noble and Bomba

Crowd Verdict: A definite Roof-raiser!

6. Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule joined the Dave Matthews Band to perform Jimi Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower" - 2014

Dave Matthews made two huge appearances at Bluesfest in 2014 playing epic sets and surprising the Bluesfest audiences with his (and his band’s) virtuosity and choice of material.

Special guest guitar-shredder Warren Haynes teamed up with Dave for ‘one of those Bluesfest moments’ – a titanic version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ ...... we’d like to think Jimi was grooving to this too !!

7. Tom Jones invites Blind Boys of Alabama to the stage - 2016

The Legends paired up at Bluesfest 2016 closing night when Tom Jones brought out the Blind Boys of Alabama for ‘Didn’t It Rain’ .

The first warning that something special would happen during Tom Jones’ set came from the impromptu rehearsal vocals in the artist area.

Tom’s voice was unmistakeable - and those of the Blind Boys of Alabama – led by the perennial youthful Jimmy Carter (he’s been with them since their first gig in 1944) – adding perfect harmonies. Side of stage in the moment , not a dry eye to see... with goosebumps and tears throughout the whole MOJO tent.

A one-off, something special collaboration that will go down in the Bluesfest history books.

8. Seasick Steve (with John Paul Jones) and Wolfmother -  2012

“We wrote a song together – it's pretty good too” – Seasick Steve. 

Behind the scenes earlier that week hanging out in Byron, Seasick Steve, John Paul Jones ( Led Zeppelin), Dan Magnusson and Byron local Andrew Stockdale wrote a song together, just for the Bluesfest audience that year. Some audiences members calling it 'The Highlight Of The Festival'. 

Also part of the onstage personnel was a couple of Delta Riggs (just for your info !!)

9. John Butler and Keith Urban - 2008

What can you say – two of Australia’s finest going ‘head-to-head’ and ‘shred-to-shred’ as they ripped into John Butlers ‘Funky Tonight’, with Butler jumping up on the drums, adding to the pairs onstage magic.

A special moment between the two Aussies - we can only hope that these lads will one day be billed in the same year and re-create that same moment at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm. 

10. Bonnie Raitt and Ben Harper – 2007

"Playing in that sultry, steamy tent to a jammed crowd as ecstatic and drenched as we where, what i always imagined Byron Bay to be. Then sitting in with Ben felt like being transported to some kind of voodoo funky trance dance. What a blast" - Bonnie Raitt. 

Bonnie describes the moment perfectly all those years ago at Red Devil Park when she stepped out onstage to join Ben Harper for a once-in-a-lifetime guitar jam. 

Jack Johnson and Joss Stone (backstage) – 2014

Technically, this wasn’t an onstage performance but just imagine if it was?  Joss Stone dropped in on a Jack’s interview backstage and joined him singing ‘Bubble Toes’.

Joss Stone first came to Bluesfest as an emergency replacement for The Dave Matthews Band back in 2007 but couldn’t hang out ‘Byron-style’.

In 2014 ... she did hang-out ‘Byron-style’ .. enjoying the whole weekend. Just like Jack, Joss Stone loves Byron – and Byron loved her back! 

Did we miss acknowledging your all time onstage Bluesfest collaboration? Share with us below!

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