“Best ever” is the resounding verdict on the sixth Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival which took over the city last weekend.

Spring finally arrived and a definite spring in the step was evident amongst 15,000 Festival-goers. The Festival showcased not only 170 acts, but Bendigo at its finest.

I saw 33 different acts play over the weekend. One of the real joys, though, is discovering new artists. Queensland’s Liam Gerner, Travis Bowlin and The Barren Spinsters from Canberra were three such acts.

Travis Bowlin sent me downloads of his work some months ago, but that didn’t really prepare me for the energy, vitality and humour of his live shows. The Nashville man was a whirlwind presence around Bendigo for four days, playing seven organised sets and joining other artists on stage at different times. He was everywhere. I wondered, in fact, whether there were two or three Travis Bowlins in town. There was an almost punk-like sensibility and delivery about his performance, as he played the likes of Bad, Bad Man and Hoochie Coochie Man. Bowlin made many friends on his first visit to Australia. He has other dates scheduled in Victoria through until November 18.

Another solo performer, Liam Gerner, had a packed Golden Vine in raptures with his mix of quirky country, folk and almost soulful ballads from his recent debut album, Land Of No Roads.  He also treated us to the freshly-penned Dead Trump in the Middle Road. Timely, and very funny.

I kept seeing The Barren Spinsters’ singer-multi-instrumentalist Brendon Houlahan’s distinctive facial hair at different points over the weekend. Admiring a front man’s sideburns isn’t usually high on the list of reasons for checking-out a band, but why not? And as the sun went down at Rocks on Rosalind on Sunday, The Barren Spinsters didn’t disappoint. The Canberra two-piece packed an almost brutal hard blues-rock punch in their 45-minute set, with Would You Be My Slave? a stand-out.

A great festival, and a great buzz around Bendigo.