Blog 16a: Byron Bay Bluesfest, Day 1
Hey there forager followers. This week we are doing something a little different with the blog while we are at Bluesfest.
We will be posting daily with a wrap up of the musical adventures of the previous day.
First, a little preamble to fill in the blanks from Sunday to Wednesday.
A long way huh?
With Adam still recovering from the all-coughing, all-congested, all-low-on-energy fun times of the common cold, we didn’t get to do either of the wedding registry activities we were funded for in Byron Bay – not to worry, it just means we have to come back! Maybe in August-ish some time.
Following on from our initial thoughts of the town, after a wander around we arrived at this: Byron Bay seems like an awesome place for the sort of holiday where you stay in a boutique hotel or B&B, enjoy shop-hopping around the town, go out for most meals, do any of the loads of activities and generally aren’t on that much of a budget. So not that aligned with our low cost travel plans. We only really got to spend a day wandering around though, so maybe when we come back in the low season we will re-assess. We enjoyed a cold beverage at The Beach and a cute cafe called Folk right next to the caravan park, where Ruth spotted Sarah Wilson.
We loaded up on diesel, gas and groceries and left town for the festival location at Tyagarah.
Winding along gravel tracks through grassy camping swales, we eventually were allocated a spot. Roof tent flipped, some space negotiation with our friendly neighbour Anthony and foxwing went up too – has been a life saver in this rain. All our friendly camping neighbours are Bluesfest repeat offenders, some for most of the 28 previous editions of the festival.
The festival grounds have been getting soaked with rain over the last week or so, the grass is sodden, muddy, boggy and occasionally home to a nest of potently envenomed ants (ask me how I know). We are lucky our spot isn’t too bad, and no ants nests. Adam got the high lift jack and Maxxtrax out for the first time this adventure (and shovel) and helped extract a Toyota Hiace van from a deep bog, then rescued a two wheel drive (why?) Mazda ute and their caravan, twice.
Adam is looking forward to giving the winch a workout on Tuesday when we leave (Land Rovers are the BEST!) and everyone else tries to leave. There are some pretty sad looking vans, sedans and wagons sinking deeper every day.
So Wednesday night we hung out with our neighbours, talking about who we are all looking forward to seeing, adventures and praying for sunshine. A short sleep, and then…
BLUESFEST DAY 1: THURSDAY
Good Morning Sunsh… oh wait. Grey skies, patchy rain, muddy ground, roof tent is so high and dry and wonderful. The regulars tell us this is normal, and for now, we are having a great time!
Banana pancakes for breakfast, miso ramen for lunch and then a mosey on over during a break in the rain for the festival proper.
We started off at the Mojo stage to watch the welcome to country by the Bundjalung people, the traditional custodians of the area we are festival-ing on. Smoking ceremony, traditional music and dancers told the creation story of the land and people. We were all entreated to give our energy back to the land with our dancing over this festival and respect country and one another. Rad.
Next up on the same stage were rather awesome lads Holy Holy. Guitarist Oscar Dawson started alone on the stage, creating upswelling melodies and building atmospheric resonance in the test that seemed to be trying to drive the rain away and force the sunshine to bloom. As other band members trickled in and took up their instruments the feeling grew and it felt like a perfect opening to the festival. The band wound though awesome songs off their new album Paint and past releases including ‘That Message’ and ‘Impossible Like You.’ They were tight, at home on the stage and sonically luxurious. Great set.
After refreshing our beverages, on the advice of our Scottish-heritaged camping-neighbour Bob we went to check out Inverness lads Elephant Sessions. Scots traditional music incorporating fiddle and mandolin blended with funk bass, rock guitar and elements of percussive electronica. Their first song had elements of the bouncing verse to Jumpin’ Jumpin’
and didn’t really engage me (Adam) that well. Then for song two it was like they settled in, acclimated to the large stage, found an extra gear and exploded into a celtic dance party. Lightning quick mandolin and fiddle dueling for supremacy over a sometimes funk, sometimes almost-disco rhythm section that you just had to dance to. I don’t think you could be in that tent and not feel joy. What an awesome set.
A quick trip back to camp to scoff some Vietnamese rice paper rolls we prepared earlier and a couple of hot cross buns for dinner and we hurried back to catch the start of all-girl four-member folk group All Our Exes Live In Texas. Sweet harmonies, songs and stories about heartbreak, conscious uncoupling (don’t try it) and womanhood. They were good, and talented and could really sing a four part harmony, but I think after the uptempo energy of the previous two acts it was hard to get into the folk-songer-songwriter headspace. We skipped out after a bit and braved the rain to squelch our way over to the Mojo stage for our much anticipate next act.
Gomez. Adam has fond childhood memories of being maybe eleven or twelve, going over to Paul Geronimos house around the corner to play Playstation with him and Beau Tran. His older brother Andreas (who I think was about 14 or 15 at the time, and we all thought was really cool) had the Gomez album ‘Bring it On’ and the Beck album ‘Mellow Gold’ on pretty much exclusive rotation in the house. We loved those albums so much. For their first set of the festival (they are playing again today Friday), Gomez played the now twenty-year-old Bring it On album in full. Wow. Highlights were ‘Get Miles,’ ‘Tijuana Lady,’ ‘Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone’ and the crowd singing along to ‘Get Myself Arrested.’ Awesome band. Great to see three members taking lead vocal at various times and lots of instrument swapping. Awesome set. We will probably see them again today to hear some of their later releases (because you can’t think of Gomez without thinking of 'How We Operate'). Excited!
After Gomez it was time to check out one of our favourites (although with less dreadlocks than last time), Newton Faulkner. Self deprecating wit, crazy finger-style guitar licks, powerful voice and perhaps the best at engaging the crowd to sing multiple harmony parts as his ad-hoc backup singers. And just a generally excellent human being. Love this guy. He even threw in a couple of his most famous covers. Good fun.
A stop for some chips and a little sit down and we wandered over to check out almost-overnight superstar Tash Sultana. Wow. This girl. Her opening remarks went something like: "I have three rules. If you're homophobic... you can fuck off. If you're racist... you can fuck off. If you're transphobic... you can fuck off". Tiny in stature but infused with some sort of super-dense cosmic universal musical plasma, she bounces around the stage like a tornado. It is like she is on her own celestial journey though a universe made out of music, melody, loop pedals and any instrument she touches and you sort of get to peer into the way she sees the world around her. And then she absolutely shreds a face melting guitar solo in the middle there. Oh and she is just Twenty-two. Very Cool.
Getting weary we stumbled (and squelched) back to camp past the tail end of sets for Joe Louis Walker and Dumpstaphunk. Hope to check out a proper set for each of them over the next few days. Got to hear Joe Louis Walker doing a very nice cover of Eagles classic ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ as we were getting ready for bed.
Final thought for the day: You need to go to Bluesfest at least once in your life. This place is great. Just be sure to pack your wellies.