Peter Noble: 'We Didn't Try To Top Bob Dylan'

28 March 2012 | 11:29 pm | Dan Condon

Roots and blues column Roots Down talks to Bluesfest honcho Peter Noble.

“We actually had someone real upset call here yesterday and they said they needed us to change the billing of some of the artists because they can't see all of their shows,” Peter Noble chuckles from his Byorn Bay office. “I understand people really want to see the artist, but it's really tough for us to deliver it in a way that everyone can see their favourite bands.”

This year the festival has brought the likes of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Buddy Guy, John Fogerty, Yes, Donovan and Canned Heat to Australia, which has led some people to question if Noble is perhaps shooting for an older demographic.

“I know quite early in the piece a number of people were saying 'have you deliberately booked an older festival this year?' I said 'absolutely not, I don't see it as that'. I look at acts like My Morning Jacket, James Vincent McMorrow, Dawes and so many more and just think it's no different to any other year. But people say 'Well it doesn't have Franti or Harper on it' and I say 'Yeah, well it's about time!'.

“Maybe we have a lot of bands who maybe haven't quite broken who have broken in other market – My Morning Jacket are quite a big band in the US but here…”

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Noble concedes that people often try and get into his head when they see who has been selected for any given year's event and says they almost always overcomplicate it.

“People often ask if I'm going back to the roots or booking more of the legendary, it's amazing what people think I'm doing that I don't realize I'm doing,” he exclaims. “I mean, I'm a pretty good band booker, that's what I do well, but there's no master plan other than putting on great music and making sure we've got all the bases covered.”

While last year's bill – featuring the like of Bob Dylan, BB King, Elcis Costello, Grace Jone and many more genuine superstars – might be hard to top, Noble's goals are just to provide the best cross-section he can.

“People asked how we were going to top last year with Bob Dylan etcetera and we haven't really tried to. But this year's bill is so deep, you're looking at major artists walking on stage at one or two o'clock in the afternoon.

“We are a music lovers festival, we're not much else. We don't have all sorts of other things happening besides music, because in the end that's what it's all about.

“I just feel like the mix is working at the moment, it's the right mix of up and coming talent, jam bands, alt-country or Americana or whatever you want to call and certainly the right mix of the blues, it's not overdone and it's not underdone, it's definitely there as the theme.”

There are many different types of Bluesfest devotees; those who are just interested in the big name acts, those who feel the blues has been under represented on the line up since its early days and some who steer clear of any acts of note in general.

“There's guys that wear a proud badge that every year they never venture to the Mojo stage and to the Crossroads stage only once or twice and they say that's the best Bluesfest, what's happening on those smaller stages,” Noble says. “I kinda agree with that to some degree, because there's so many up and coming artists that play those stages and a year or two later they're in the big league. There's an awful lot of those this year that people can catch.”