My sister moved to Australia in 2006 to study abroad (from the USA). It was during this time that she went to her first Bluesfest and made some good friends: John and Justin. When I travelled to visit my sister, John soon became my friend as well.
The following year, John met up with us in Chicago the next year for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads festival. Being the lovable Aussie in America, John made friends everywhere and even convinced a stranger to give us all a free ride back to our hotel downtown!
In 2015 it was my turn to experience Bluesfest with John and Justin.
We spent five days at the festival and John was the drill sergeant getting us up every day on time and ready, so he wouldn’t miss a single act he had planned to see for months. This was his 13th Bluesfest, and he was religious about going.
He and Justin would buy tickets on the Bluesfest Monday for the upcoming year. He would map out the entire 5 days and take as many friends as he could get to come.
At Bluesfest 2015, we were all so impressed with Jimmy Cliff who was running around the stage like he was on fire! I hope to have even half his energy at his age; he was amazing! I got to meet Hunter Hayes and tell him I quoted his song as Maid of Honour at my best friend’s wedding the year before.
We all ate a ridiculous number of doughnuts, and gelato and barely slept the entire time. It was epic! Later that year I moved to Sydney on a work holiday visa. John and Justin insisted that in 2016 we were going back to Bluesfest while I lived in Australia, so they both so generously bought me a ticket and the three of us went there again for John and Justin’s annual trek.
Once again, there were many doughnuts. In fact, John’s Facebook relationship status turned into “it’s complicated” with Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts. As for the music, I finally got to see Jackson Browne myself! The three of us also quickly became obsessed with St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
I moved back to America in 2016 but stayed in touch with my mates in Australia. Through those Bluesfest friends, I met so many people including my husband, Chris, who moved to America with me.
Ever since I have loved hearing about John’s adventures on his yearly trips to Bluesfest with Justin.
Sadly, this year after a long battle with cancer, John passed away.
Thankfully, John made it to the 2022 Bluesfest. Despite the risks of being in a large crowd with a weakened body, John didn’t want to leave the realm without one more Bluesfest visit. He managed to attend Blues for two days. Three months later, he passed away.
John’s Bluesfest friends Justin, Sarah, Matt, Maria, Michelle, Shana, Nick, Dan, Nat, Emily, Hayden, Emma, Bree, and Melvin will miss him terribly come Thursday, 6 April, when the Bluesfest gates open. However, they all hope he’s jamming with BB King, eating doughnuts, and drinking rum like a pirate.
Our condolences go to all of John’s Bluesfest mates listed above and his family, Tommy, Kelley, Paula, Deanne, Glen, Glen and nieces and nephews.
Peter and the team at Bluesfest are thinking of a way we can permanently remember John at Bluesfest to make sure he will never miss another festival. Stay tuned!
From Michelle, USA.