Confession: the first few days of Bluesfest kinda freaked me out.
You probably weren’t given that impression by my last blog post, which goes to show the deceptive power of social media. I didn’t lie yesterday, but I didn’t tell the whole truth.
The whole truth is that some aspects of Bluesfest were challenging: the crowds, the excessive public inebriation, the unfamiliar music.
But, like childbirth, the less pleasant stuff is quickly fading. I’ve mainly been left with a memory of companionably sitting in a folding chair beside DD in the golden light of late afternoon with a cloudy cider in hand, watching St Paul and The Broken Bones.
That was quite lovely.
Friday and Saturday nights, on the other hand, were crazy.
The place was totally heaving with people. Thousands and thousands and thousands of loud, pushy, often off-their-trolley people.
I’ve decided crowds aren’t really my thing in my old age. Especially drunken ones.
Queues aren’t really my thing either. There was a long queue to enter Bluesfest. There was a long queue to electronically add money on your wristband so you could buy booze. There was a long queue to buy the actual booze. There was a long queue to go to the smelly portaloos. There was a long queue to buy organic doughnuts.
Don’t get me started on the traffic jams in Byron Bay itself.
Back to Bluefest: you also had to put up with people constantly shoving past you as they entered and exited the venues throughout the performances. I think because patrons were paying for whole day passes they felt no loyalty to particular acts, so they were on the permanent prowl. I also think because patrons were paying for whole day passes they didn’t feel the need to actually listen to the acts they were ostensibly watching and used it as an opportunity to loudly catch up with their friends instead.
I became quite panicked by all the people and noise and movement at one point. The Patti Smith gig on Friday night was scarily busy – DD had to reassure me he’d keep me safe, but even that didn’t ease the stricken look on my face.
I also felt sorry for the acts – I wondered whether it bothered them to hear the loud hum of conversation all the way through their gigs.
I couldn’t understand why so many people had paid so much money to simply secure a location to get totally shite-faced. Actually, some of them were so smashed they could barely walk as they made their way through the entrance.
I was sitting watching a performance in a relatively quiet tent when a bloke climbed to his feet from a picnic rug and tried to dance – he staggered around splashing beer in all directions and fell on me at 4.30pm in the afternoon.
He must be very well paid in the real world to be so laissez faire with his booze, as the beers were $8.50-$9.50 each.
Actually, the $8.50 beers were a bit of a bargain compared to the $10.50 cider. I decided to switch to a $9.50 glass of wine on the last afternoon, mainly to cut down on my trips to the stinky portaloos – I’m a bit stunned by the things people think it’s acceptable to leave in portaloos – only to discover every venue at Bluesfest had run out of wine.
Run. Out. Of. Wine.
I think if I was the organiser and I ran out of $9.50-a-glass wine (that’s currently retailing for $9.40 a bottle, or $8.90 in a case of six at Dan Murphy’s) I’d make a trip to the local bottle shop to stock up on some more for the last night, just to maximise my profits. But, hey, I wasn’t running the joint. So I made do with a $10.50 plastic cup of cider.
By Sunday afternoon, the crowds had eased – though things got a bit nuts at Santana – and I drifted quite happily around the place.
I loved seeing all the brass instruments on stage – having bred a trumpet player and a tenor saxophone player – and, as previously mentioned, Neil Finn was AWESOME. So I left Bluesfest on Monday night with a giant grin and a glow.
But I’m not sure I’d sign up for another five-day pass. I’d think about skipping the madness of Friday and Saturday night – I prefer my holidays to be a bit more relaxing.
Although, reading this article by Karen Balstrup on Double J that my friend Leanne sent me was a reminder that I was pretty lucky to experience such a cool festival.
And it was so nice to escape the pressures of real world for a while.
Plus, the people watching was also totally AMAZING. I was fascinated to see the different ways music fans aged: from the ones who were still rocking the same look they had in the ’70s to the ones who’d decided to embrace the Hush Puppies years (and the couples where there was one of each!).
My top (cranky old woman) tips for surviving Bluesfest:
- Avoid Friday and Saturday nights
- Wear gumboots, even if it’s not raining. You’ll need them for beer spillages and the revolting toilets
- Take hand sanitiser – there’s no soap in the revolting toilets and they don’t give you forks with your organic doughnuts (hint: germy finger food)
- The organic doughnut queue is shorter early in the afternoon
- Skill up on opening toilet doors with your elbows and lifting toilet lids with your gumboots
- Take a folding chair
- Avoid sitting on the grass outside the tents. It might seem like a chilled place to watch the shows, but the talking and the constant movement is even more pronounced. You’re better off inside, down the back of the tent
Song of the day: Split Enz “Message to my girl”