Beyond the Stage: Tales from Byron Bay Bluesfest 2024 with the Playing For Change Band | Member Exclusive Insight

Come with us on this special odyssey with the PFC Band as they visit numerous locations in the town down under.

Join them as they reconnect with old partners and friends, discover unexplored rehearsal spaces, and grace the stage to uplift audiences worldwide. Experience it all through the lens of our friend and collaborator, William Aura, who beautifully captures the best moments and essence of this remarkable journey!

Byron BLOG1

As I sit down to recount the whirlwind of emotions and experiences from the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2024, I'm filled with a sense of gratitude. The picturesque landscapes and warm hospitality of the Aussie people welcomed me with open arms, setting the stage for what would be an unforgettable week.

Upon arrival at the hotel, I was greeted by the sight of members of the Playing For Change Band unloading their gear, each member potentially a bit jet-lagged but excited for the days ahead. The embrace shared among us spoke volumes, reminding me of the deep bonds forged through years of connections through music.

Byron BLOG2

Walking with Clarence to the first gig location!

On stage during the band set up | Before the show

Taking place every Easter weekend near Byron Bay in New South Wales, the Byron Bay Bluesfest is Australia's premier contemporary Blues & Roots music festival. 200 acts across multiple stages. Five 12-hour days. Camping for 6,000 guests, over 100 food and market stalls. The festival provides a safe and family-friendly environment, making it a vibrant celebration of music, community, and culture.

Byron BLOG4
Byron BLOG3

One of the festival's most beloved acts is our very own Playing For Change Band. It’s the group’s seventh time appearing at the festival. This year, the band was scheduled as a featured act for four shows on various stages - from daytime sets to closing shows.


I found myself in a unique role during the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2024. It was my responsibility to help capture the essence of the festival through social media content creation, documenting crowd reactions, post-show responses, and spontaneous behind-the-scenes action.

Hanging out at the rehearsals is incredibly rewarding, as each of the ten musicians in the band bring their unique flair to the table. It can occasionally take a while for everyone to truly sync up, but much like any family, once achieved, the camaraderie flows effortlessly. Stories from the past are lovingly retold. There's a genuine feeling of gratefulness permeating the air for the opportunity to be a part of this collective effort we call Playing For Change.

Led by Mark Johnson's visionary leadership behind the scenes, rehearsals and performances are steered toward moments infused with passion and purpose. All proudly wear the costume of this role, representing not just ourselves, but everyone who is feeling this movement. We know we're fortunate to have the chance to represent you all.

One particularly memorable highlight unfolded during a luncheon on the rainforest's edge, generously hosted by longtime PFC ambassadors, Maurie and Vivien Stang. Set amidst the breathtaking backdrop of nature, we gathered to celebrate birthdays, swap stories, and savor the camaraderie that binds us. As desserts were served, the atmosphere was electrified by impromptu jam sessions that spontaneously erupted, filling the air with music and joy. 

Luncheon jam session 5 | ‘I’d Rather Be Blind’ blowout session between Titi and Clarence

Birthday party jam! With a Little Help from My Friends

Luncheon jam ‘Colors’ with Clarence Bekker

We seized the moment to hike deeper into the rainforest and capture a couple Live Outside videos, featuring stellar performances by Tula, Roberto, Mermans, and Jason. Their music and messaging captured the essence of the shared energy and connection we all experienced during that magical afternoon. Keep an eager eye out for the official PFC release of a few of these performances. They promise to evoke the same sense of joy and camaraderie that filled the air that day.

Behind The Scenes | Live Outside 'Tears On My Pillow'

Tula jams with the band | ‘Tears On My Pillow’


This year's festival was a convergence of soulful energies, where the raw power of music connected hearts. Among the special guests performing with the PFC Band were William Barton, widely recognized as one of Australia's leading didgeridoo players and composers, and Mihirangi, whose passionate Māori performances added a distinct flavor to the stage. Both are powerful, renowned advocates for a wider perception of their cultural traditions.


Conversation with Mihirangi | Backstage Before the Show

PFC fans often eagerly await the chance to meet band members after each show. Having watched them countless times on YouTube, it's incredibly rewarding to witness fans ultimately connect with these talented individuals in person and experience their genuine warmth and kindness firsthand. Spending personal time with each band member is what truly makes the event unforgettable for me.

Some fan reactions made us smile! 🙂

Claire's unexpected bass solo in ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ was jaw-dropping, and a very special shout out for her meticulous band coordination and communication. Roberto's raw soul resonates deep blue in the heart, Mermans' dynamic presence commands your attention; and Jason's lilting, mesmerizing counter-melodies take you to another place.

Titi's powerhouse vocals stopped the audience in their tracks, Tula's multi-talented glorious prowess was on full display—don’t miss ‘Jolene!’ Robin's electrifying solos, as always, faithfully nailed the moment, Keiko's exquisite old soul keyboard brilliance was luminescent, Peter’s rock-solid groove set the foundation for everything on stage, and Clarence's soulful magnetism demonstrates what a true connection with an artist is all about. They all contribute to a colorful kaleidoscope of unity and joy.

Behind the scenes is master jack-of-all-trades, team leader Raan, and the invaluable contributions of a most respected camera team - Yasu, Guigo, Marc and others - along with the unwavering support of Davo, Vivien, and Yvonne, ensured that every moment was captured and celebrated. They poured their hearts into every action, feeding off the energy of the overflowing crowds.

Capturing Keiko’s magnificent keyboard solo

Yet beyond the performances and the technicalities, what truly resonated was the shared exuberance, that moment when the band's electrifying energy touched every soul present - artists, sound technicians, security personnel, and the vibrant audience alike. It’s simply the transformative power of music. The collective spirit that defines Playing For Change.

To Maurie and Vivien Stang, Peter Noble, and all those who made the Byron Bay Bluesfest possible, all of us here at Playing For Change extend our deepest respect and appreciation. Your support and encouragement help fuel our journey.

Peeking behind the backstage curtain during the performance.

As the festival drew to a close, I was filled with a profound sense of gratitude for being part of this journey—a journey that reaffirmed the timeless relevance and boundless potential of music to unite and inspire. In the end, the Byron Bay Bluesfest was more than just a music festival; it was a celebration of the human spirit and the power of unity. Onward and upward.

Would you like to see the PFC Band Live? Let us know in our comment section below where you want them to play next!

http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" height="20" width="20" viewBox="0 0 512 512"> Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PlayingForChange/

http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" height="20" width="17.5" viewBox="0 0 448 512"> Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/playing4change/

http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" height="20" width="20" viewBox="0 0 512 512"> Twitter: https://twitter.com/playing4change

http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" height="20" width="17.5" viewBox="0 0 448 512"> Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@playing4change



Minneapolis MN! Come to the Cedar Cultural Center!



Minneapolis! Come to the Cedar Culturla

Become a member or login to comment