I’ve always wanted to go to the Byron Bay Bluesfest. It’s been on my bucket list for a very long time, but to be frank I’ve not done much to get myself there.
I’m not good with the unknown and a music festival for me is pretty much an unknown quantity. The things that other people take in their stride, I worry about. Where to stay, what to take, how to get there each day and (silly I know) what to wear have all been barriers stopping me from doing more than think about it.
So, when a friend emailed a group of us asking who wanted to join her, I jumped at the chance. She organised the tickets and the accommodation. All I had to do was turn up with the other four couples that readily put their hands up. For me, there was safety in numbers.
I picked the brains of my Bluesfest Regulars friends. They told me that there’s little seating in the marquees so bring a chair. It often rains so bring gumboots. Check out the program online and listen to some of the artists to have an idea of who to see.
Plans will certainly change, but it gives a starting point. I could have brought ear plugs. And not have worried about how the shuttle buses work. Our accommodation, north of the festival site meant getting in and out of the car park was no problem. Just remember where you’re parked. I heard someone shout out triumphantly “I’ve found it” after spending some time searching for his car.
My small torch came in handy. Best not to use the flashlight on my phone as I needed my phone charged for reading the Festival App keeping in touch with friends.
Five Day Pass
Even though we arrived at the house late afternoon, there was a certain compulsion to go for at least a couple of sessions that evening to make full use of our five day tickets. At the gate we showed ID and exchanged our paper ticket for the blue wristband that would gain us entry each day.
Friendly staff and volunteers work wished us a good festival. They worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to make the festival the happy event that it is.
I discovered that people of all ages go to Bluesfest, many year after year. Babies and toddlers wearing ear protection were carried, pushed in strollers or pulled along in decorated carts.
Dreadlocks and tattoos were commonplace. People wore colourful festival clothes, decorated hats, coronets of flowers, angel wings and more. Skirts and gum boots were de rigueur. The energy and vibe was palpable. Everyone friendly and happy. A bit like a big happy family. Which in essence it is – for a few days at least. As an inveterate people watcher I was in my element.
And then the music. It was loud and it was great. In tents with names like Mojo, Jambalaya, Juke Joint and Delta. There were numerous artists with a range of styles. Local and international. Well known and new comers. Tom Jones, Archie Roach, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Cat Empire, Grace Potter, Irish Mythen, St Paul and the Broken Bones, Dustin Thomas, UB 40 and many, many more. They were excited to be at Bluesfest and played their hearts out.
There’s a saying that if you get called to play at Bluesfest, you’ve made it. The artists didn’t disappoint. I spent time at the busking tent and the Boomerang Festival showcasing indigenous arts and culture.
My feet didn’t stop tapping all weekend. I ducked in to one tent on my way to another and never left. I danced and danced, once with a little boy who for some reason took a shine to me.
Holding hands, we tapped our feet and swung our arms through most of Jackson Browne’s performance. I made acquaintance with artists new to me and renewed the friendship with others. I had a ball.
The little rain there was ensured my specially bought gumboots got an outing. I splashed out on the deep fried sweet potato spiral on a stick and some sweet but delicious baklawa. Other dishes were just as tasty. While a coffee boost at about 4pm kept my energy levels up while the chilled canned G&T hit the spot at about 6pm.
As we left the festival for the last time, I was tempted to buy tickets for next year. There’s an amazing discount if you do. I’d love to come back, but who knows where I’ll be next year. I’ve ticked another item off my bucket list and in the process learnt that if I ‘just do it’, I won’t be sorry.