Is it the End for the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival?
Since its inception in 2004, the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival has become a spring staple for the folks of Fremantle, Australia, and the surrounding areas. The event features both local and international musicians, with headliners ranging from James Brown to The Black Keys, John Butler Trio to Elvis Costello, Iggy & The Stooges to Santana (you get the point).
Throughout the festival’s tenure it’s flirted between a one and two-day format, going back and forth nearly ever other year. In addition to scheduling changes, the event also moved around quite a bit, hopping from Kings Park to Esplanade Park before finally settling on Fremantle Park in 2010.
But all of these changes pale in comparison to the most recent news announced by fest organizers. Following the 2015 edition, it was revealed that West Coast Blues and Roots would not happen in 2016, taking a year off to rebrand and emerge as Freo’s Blues, Roots & Beyond. According to a press release:
“After our humble beginnings in Kings Park bringing Blues to the people we have decided to take our brand new festival model and make the move into Freo.
Passouts will be introduced, allowing the festival to filter out into the surrounding streets, music venues and hospitality spaces, creating a musical journey throughout the cultural centre of the old port city. Come and go as you please exploring Freo’s vibrant centre or visit one of the local venues we plan to programme with festival talent, offering a more intimate experience and space away from the main festival hub.”
The article went on to say that organizers would use the year off to plan and “engage with the inner city and arts communities and pull everything together,” to come back bigger and better than ever. But spring 2017 has since come and gone, and (according to the WCBR Facebook page) promoters Sunset Events are still working to obtain approvals for 2018.
Can the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival survive a name-change and rebranding? Most likely. The event has already undergone a name-change once, having start its inaugural year as the tongue-twisting “Sunset Live’s Botanic Blues, Roots and Soul.” Plus, they’re not the first music event to endure a PR facelift: in 2016 Austin Psych Fest turned into LEVITATION; in 2003 the suffering Fan Fair country fest turned into mega-popular CMA Music Festival.
The real question is whether the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival–I mean Freo’s Blues, Roots & Beyond–can handle another blackout year. Organizers were already under fire on social media after the March ’17 edition was scrapped, and with so many other music festivals cropping up loyalty is likely fleeting.
Hopefully with that extra 365 days, Sunset Events and the city of Fremantle have something super special up their sleeves for the hottest new old blues festival in town.
(Image courtesy Al Black via Flickr.)