Blues keeps the beat

FROM mid-morning in Belmore Park to after midnight at the Goulburn Club, the dulcet rhythm of blues music filled the cityscape.

Hundreds crammed into venues around town, booked into local motels and poured money into the Goulburn economy.

Once again the Australian Blues Music Festival struck a pleasant chord.

While artist numbers may have been down slightly, a trend noticed at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, interest in the blues remained.

Buskers filled the street, bands played from the Belmore Park Rotunda and headline acts took centre stage to intrigued crowds at the Hibernian, Workers Club and Goulburn Club – the official home of the 2013 Festival.

Best of all, Goulburn Mulwaree mayor Geoff Kettle says, there are multiple spinoffs for the city.

“If we bought 400 or 500 people to town and they each spent $200, well that money flows on to our economy,” he said.

There was substantially more to the 2013 edition than an economic boost.

 “There was plenty of interest,” the mayor said.

“They had 200 programs for sale at the tourist info centre and they’d sold out by lunch time. The streets looked good, people filled them, the markets were busy, the Visitor Information Centre was full, the CBD was a hive of activity.

“It was a great look for the city.”

The Festival ticked plenty of boxes musically, too.

Headline act Jeff Lang featured at the inaugural festival in 1997. The two-time ARIA winner made his second appearance when he took the stage at the Workers Club auditorium on Saturday.

He was blown away by the quality of musicians on show throughout the city and said the festival had come a long way since its humble beginnings 16 years ago.

“This time it was quite different,” Lang said.

“When I first performed we were up at the football ground. Now it’s all around the city and it makes a great atmosphere.

There’s a community spirit around the town and that’s really nice.”

Lang, a man who inspired master craftsmen John Butler and Xavier Rudd and has churned out 15 albums, paid tribute to the crowd that filled the Workers Club auditorium for his Saturday night performance.“I enjoyed getting up there and playing,” he said.

“The venue was nice and the audience, I really enjoyed playing for them. I would have loved to have got out and about and seen some more acts but unfortunately, I had to get back into my box at the studio.”

The four-day festival proved lucrative for the city’s late night venues. The Goulburn Club, a not-for-profit bar dubbed the ‘Home of the Blues Festival’ rocked until the early hours of this morning.

Dozens of acts lined-up for Open Mic Night on Friday and hundreds crammed into the venue on Saturday night for the Festival’s showpiece, the Underground City Blues Jam.

The weekend was potentially life-saving for a club that’s stared down the barrel at closure in recent years.

“We’ve got so many little projects onthe- go that need to get done. All these funds go towards making the venue a better place,” Goulburn Club vice president Eddie Zannit said.

“The patrons were happy and they kept coming back. People have said this is where they want to be for a blues gig. All in all we’re stoked.”

In all, 30 bands and artists turned out at ticketed shows while dozens more showcased their talents on the street.

Hundreds of visitors converged on the city, spectators danced along to more than 70 shows, tens-of-thousands of dollars were spent and Goulburn was again touted the home of blues in Australia.

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