Hat Fitz sets a record with his 19th Bluesfest
VETERAN blues musician Hat Fitz is about to post a record 19th straight appearance at the 24th annual Byron Bay Blues Festival.
But Fitz's enthusiasm for the event is almost as fresh as it was at his first performance in 1994 at Belongil Fields when he was bowled over by The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
"Byron Bay is at the top of the food chain when it comes to festivals," says Fitz who lives on the Sunshine Coast with his wife and talented duo partner Cara Robinson and their three children.
"In one night you can see three to four $350 acts for the price of one."
Fitz loves the eclectic audience the festival attracts from young groovers to retirees - a crowd that's principally there for the music rather than to get the T-shirt or post selfies on Facebook.
"The whole Byron Bay/Northern Rivers area has definitely got something special about it, whereas up in Noosa we used to have that same vibe but lost it 10-15 years ago," says Fitz.
"If I didn't have kids I'd move there."
At the top of his must-see list this year is Bonnie Raitt.
Fitz's advice for festival novices is not too get too maggotted so you can remember all the fun you had the next day (advice he happily admits he hasn't always followed himself).
But also, step out of your comfort zone and take a risk on an artist you've never heard of.
Given his long association with the event, it's fitting that Fitz and Cara will be the opening act on Thursday afternoon, the first of their three performances across the five days.
The pair met at a gig they were playing in Ireland.
While Fitz sings the blues, plays guitar and stomps his foot, Cara contributes soulful vocals that have been compared to Raitt, drums, washboard, flute and tin whistle.
Their latest album, Wiley Ways took out the Album of the Year at the Australian Blues Music Awards.