Get the family together! The ninth annual Bendigo Blues and Roots Music Festival serves up a jam-packed four days of music, talent, art, community, and fun for the whole family. With over 130 acts across 40 venues, the festival is a true celebration and reflection of the blues and roots scene in Bendigo and across the world. While there will be acts storming in from Canada, Germany, and New Zealand, it’s the Australian talent that takes the forefront.
This year the festival reunites old friends in a co-headline spot for the ages, boasting two of the most prominent blues and roots acts this country has to offer up, John Butler and The Waifs.
“Our manager is John’s manger as well so there’s been a bit of a family connection for a number of years,” says The Waifs frontman Joshua Cunningham. “I remember John early on; he was the legend of John Butler – a busker on the streets of Fremantle way back in the day. We did shows together, he actually opened up for The Waifs playing solo a few times and his star was really on the rise, and then he got his trio together and launched into the stratosphere. He’s a wonderful human being and very inspiring and I feel very privileged to have had a connection to him and his whole world over the years.”
The Waifs have just as rich of a history as Butler in the Australian music scene from their humble roots in Albany.
“We’re going into our 28th year now and it’s one thing playing music together – it’s a really magical experience, but then I think about the fact that I’ve had these people in my life a lot more of it than less of it. One of the greatest attractions and appeals of getting to do what I do is getting to do it with those people. When you mention the word family, it really is that. Coming together for a few weeks here and there and getting to spend time and travel and have adventures and make music is really amazing privilege and one that I really cherish,” Cunningham says. “The connection runs so deep it’s like a subconscious, intuitive thing that you don’t really think it through, it’s just there. It’s an amazing thing really.”
The group has just returned from their extensive US tour, where unfortunately guitarist and vocalist, Donna Simpson, was struck down by pneumonia. Now on the recovery, the band are excited to bring their show back home in a festival setting. While the headline acts are the drawcard (and rightly so), it is the undiscovered talent that Cunningham can’t wait to see.
“Festivals are fantastic for that. You’re always making new discoveries. Invariably you look at the bill of the festival you’re playing at and be excited about people that you know about, but to me the best part of the festival is when you make that discovery. Suddenly you’ve got a new amazing CD to listen to or music to get excited about,” he laughs. “It’s a very healthy community. I think Australia can really hold its head up high for the wealth of inspiring and amazing creative output – not just in music, in lots of different forms. There’s no end of amazing talent out there and it seems every year there’s a wave of new young people who are just beginning their journey. It’s an incredible thing and an incredible thing to be a part of.”
That amazing talent will be sprawled across Bendigo over the four days. The two headliners will appear on the Ulumbarra Theatre stage while Rosiland Park will be transformed will two stages; Bull Street and Water Street will host colourful street parties; and venues, cafes, hotels and parking spaces in the CBD as well as into White Hills, Golden Square, Quarry Hill, Long Gully, Kangaroo Flat and as far as Ravenswood, Cornella and Maldon will light up with a-class talent for the community.
“That’s another great thing about music too, it’s not just about the community of the band that you play in but it’s the community of the people you get connected to and meet and form really special friends with. Community and creativity; they’re two very potent forces and I think as those things rise up in the world I think they really do a lot of good.”
The Waifs are certainly contributing to the two C’s and are continuing to do so with plans for new music on its way.
“There is new music there and when the time is right we will get together and get it out,” confirms Cunningham. “I think we’re close!”
While we wait, relive The Waifs career-defining hits as Bendigo Blues and Roots Music Festival takes over the streets of Bendigo 7 – 10 November 2019.
Tickets at bendigobluesandroots.com.au
Written by Tammy Walters