As musicians gather for the bendigo Blues and Roots Music festival, they take time out to discuss what it means to them.
Steph Bitter said her favourite part about the festival is seeing so many people wandering around the streets, making their way around to Bendigo’s venues.
“I love how the festival brings so many people to Bendigo and gets the locals out and about discovering new music/artists/venues,” Bitter said.
“I met Colin (festival director Colin Thompson) when he sat on the judging panel of a Battle of the Bands I played in at CCB when I was in high school.
“He believed in me and my music so much that he said when I had a 45 minute set prepared, he would set me up with a gig at the BBRMF. And so he did.”
Playing at the festival gave her a safe, comfortable and important gig to push for.
“It furthered my performance skills. Without it I would not have met or made connections with some of the incredible musicians and venue owners that have propelled me forward,” she said.
“It encouraged me in my music career and creative endeavours. Without them and this festival, I never would have dreamed that someone like me could actually become a musician and pursue a creative, fulfilling career.”
Bitter said every year the festival gets bigger and bigger, bringing a wider range of artists and tourists every time.
“Live music in Bendigo would never be what it is today without the festival opening up Bendigo to the wider music world,” she said.
“Music is so broad and different and the festival brings different styles and ideas that just aren’t on Triple J and the Top 40 radio stations.
“But most of all, it puts Bendigo on the map for live music and gives small and emerging artists the chance to play, come together, travel, learn and practice their art.”
Rhyley McGrath loves the community aspect of the festival. “You meet some of the biggest names in Australian, and international blues… yet everyone is happy to chat, help, have a jam,” McGrath said.
“The spontaneous jam situations which occur in a huge percentage of sets over the entire weekend is a good example.
“It has been a great festival that has supported me since before I began performing until now, as a young full time working musician… and I imagine the amazing support will only continue in the coming years.”
Rob Holmberg, Black Cat Bone and Union Street Blues Club said the festival is a great opportunity to perform for blues appreciative audiences.
“Also you get to see top level blues artists right here in our home town,” Holmberg said.
“It has provided some funds for the Union Street Blues Club which have helped us to improve our facilities and add to our equipment.
“The opportunity to perform at the festival has stimulated club members to focus their energies on developing performance skills. The depth and range of performers we get to see is not only entertainment, it is educational in the sense that when seeing a new and exciting act.
“For example, The Electric Blues Collective at a BB&RMF fundraiser, we can analyse things such as styles of playing, material played, stage craft etc, and see how we can incorporate at least some of those things into what we are doing.”
Holmberg said Bendigo musical culture has been enhanced by the stimulus of the festival in inspiring a whole new generation of young people getting into the blues.
Sherri Parry says the festival is the most exhilarating and adventurous weekend in Bendigo.
“Not only for the musicians, but for every organisation, artist, and person who experiences it. It’s an eruption of the greatest independent blues and roots music this country has to offer, all in one town,” Parry said.
“No matter where you are, you’ll find melodies floating through the air.
“It’s helped me develop and evolve my own sound amid discovering others, network and bond with artists from all over the country, while simultaneously educating me on how to sustain a flourishing career in the Australian music industry.”
Parry became a junior ambassador for BBRMF last year, which allowed her to be a part of the nitty gritty of organising a non for profit music festival.
“I was honoured to be a part of the most dedicated, hard working, loving and passionate group of people who make our festival what it is,” Parry said.
“Each and every year our festival invigorates the Bendigo live music scene, showcasing our amazing local artists, and highlighting our fantastic local business while bringing travellers from all over.
“The world class music brings every part of this city to life over the four days, connecting strangers and music lovers alike. There’s an honest home grown passion and appreciation for live music here that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Erica Hawkey said the festival is a big welcoming family of like minded individuals who love honest, grass roots music without the hoohah that can come with the music industry.
“It has fostered an accesible and encouraging platform for creative expression, and connected me with local and international artists; both of which fuels the inspiration for songwriting and performing,” she said.
“It has made live local, national and international musicians available right at our fingertips, providing a melting pot of artistic expression and appreciation. It brings people together.”