As Bluesfest 2014 draws closer I thought I would reflect on this years experiences. It does not seem less than a year but Easter 2013 was truly an experience for this old music lover.
Bluesfest 2013 at Byron Bay was a unique experience and apart from a wet day or two I understand the organisers were fairly happy with the turnout and performances. For those who haven’t been to the Bluesfest it looks like this.
The site is large and takes a good 10 minutes to get between venues (minus impacts with people going the other way). The venues have reasonable stages and some (MOJO and CROSSROADS) have large high definition screens. That is essential because once the crowd tsunami rolls in to the big acts (Santana or Paul Simon) its a wall of standing people, hats and waving arms. While you can sit in designated areas don’t expect to see once the big acts at night start.
Pop over to Zimply Music to hear some of the great Bands and individuals that were there on Day One. Working on 2014 performers as this is typed.
The music when it is on is of very high caliber and some international acts grace all the stages. Santana, Glen Hansard and the Frames, Robert Plant and Paul Simon are clearly great talents. There are dozens of lesser known performers and all seemed to rise to the occasion and gave ‘best of’ performances.
The food is not bad. There is a wide variety but don’t expect to sit quietly in a pub restaurant atmosphere. It’s all queue and wait then find some dry ground or a seat in one of the large eating tents. Most of the food on offer is pseudo international and I suspect many Byron Bay people are doing a roaring trade. Paella, strange pizzas, all sorts of middle east and Asian flavors on display and with the high turnover you can be reasonably confident of freshness and safety, though some of the handler’s hygiene practices could do with some monitoring especially in the killer humidity. Prices vary widely but all in all you will not go hungry if you have some money. (You can get free water fills so lots of points there.)
The people are friendly (at least until the alcohol levels get a bit high) and you can strike up a conversation with most. Lots of veteran Bluesfest lovers who delight in telling you how you should have been there last year! The age spread is enormous from kids and teens through to aging Iggy Pop watchers and I suspect a lot of gray nomads if the camping grounds are any example.
They have made available a neat internet app that works very well (even when the internet is overloaded) and gives you a great way of seeing what is on and what you have no hope of seeing because of the distance and crowds. However if you plan and are not overly ambitious in your expectations, you should see just about all of the people you want.
What’s Not So Good.
Well, it is a festival not a concert. It is a lifestyle event and attended by thousands of people all wanting to have a good time in their own way (but occasionally at other’s discomfort).
The Santana concert was a nightmare of chaos (oh, the music was awesome). The rain came down and hundreds of rather inebriated, drenched people just barged into the seating area falling over chairs in the pitch black tent floor and really annoying those who had sat patiently all day in the one space to see their favorites. There was no security to be seen and no controls apart from some don’t smoke and “Move the seats back messages from a lone voice on stage, that only the people inside could hear. At night in a pitch black tent floor with floodlights in your eyes it is a recipe for some serious injury. Not having any lighting down on the floor area between acts was both foolish and from a Workplace Health and Safety aspect a true nightmare for their insurers.
A couple of people fell quite heavily over hidden chairs and bags and believe it or not some children were still sitting on floor rugs as these bull-dozing thonged feet tramped through. There are designated walking areas but these rapidly become clogged with standing viewers making it impossible to get in or out without walking over, on or into some poor seated fan. It is sadly comical and distressing when you see a drunken, dread locked, sole smashing their way over chairs and people to go from front to back.
It is reasonable to say that once the rain starts you need to be where you want to be and stay there. It gets muddy quickly and everyone crams into the available space. There needs to be more covered areas for the numbers attending. Umbrellas are banned (though they – like the copious amounts of what smelled like weed – seemed to appear at night without much difficulty.)
Driving is easy and getting in at the beginning of the day and getting out during the day seems to go smoothly but coming late in the day means a long walk and leaving at the end can add another hour to your trip. There will be better exits we are told in 2014. I am sure this can be improved but it is a BIG festival so be patient in all things. There are shuttle buses and they seem to get through easily though not sure if taxis get a good run. Buses are around $4 each way. All in all cars are a workable option but it’s a bit of pot luck where you get parked and how easy it is to get out. Oh yeah, watch out for the pedestrians they are everywhere at night, they are drunk and they cross the roads like startled kangaroos at any opportunity. Take care.
Looking forward to Bluesfest 2014 – the 25th Anniversary. Have a look at Zimply Music to hear some of the great Bands and individuals that will be there.