Bluesfest is first and foremost about the incredible line-up of diverse, world-class music you find at your fingertips, so it’s worthwhile spending time beforehand studying both the line-up and the timetable in fine detail. Work out your main priorities of who you want to see and when they’re playing and plan around that, there’s nothing worse than vagueing out and missing your fave act, plus look for potential clashes and don’t be afraid to get strategic.
BE (MUSICALLY) ADVENTUROUS
Obviously you go to Bluesfest because heaps of bands you love are playing, but often the best part of each festival is the new acts you discover and fall in love with. When it comes to tunes everyone loves different stuff and not every act is going to blow your mind, but the beaut part is there’s five stages so you get to move on and check out something else. If you see enough new (to you) artists, it’s guaranteed that something will knock your socks off – there’s a reason Bluefest is globally renowned for its line-ups.
LEARN THE SITE LAYOUT
If you’ve spent more than a couple of Easters at Bluesfest already, you most likely know the layout at Tyagrah Tea Tree Farm like the back of your hand. It’s incredibly well-designed in terms of stage position and people flow. Newcomers, however, should learn the names of the five stages intimately so that if a friend texts you to meet them at the Mojo tent you don’t end up at Crossroads, which is very easy to do once it gets dark and you’ve spent the day indulging in social lubricants (trust me).
A five-day festival is a lot different to your typical weekend affair, so it’s important to treat it like a marathon not a sprint (cue all of my past Bluesfest companions chortling in unison, not a pretty sound). Seriously though, ease your way into the fray because – as long as you indulge responsibly and be thoughtful of others – it is, if you choose that path, an awesome place to get your party on, but there’s nothing worse than going too hard, too early and compromising your overall experience.
At the risk of sounding like my mum (who rocks), check the weather forecast and make sure you bring the appropriate clothes for each day, because the weather can – and will – change significantly over the long weekend. The Bluesfest site is great at coping with drainage issues after storms but after rain it can still get muddy in places, so make sure you have sturdy boots or gumboots as there’s no bigger buzzkill than trying to enjoy a band in wet, squelching socks. Also if sitting down is your jam, don’t forget your camping chairs. The glory days of setting them up wherever you want inside the main tents are long gone (thank you jebus) but there’s still plenty of cool allocated vantage areas to stake a claim and set up shop for as long as you desire.
KNOW YOUR PRODUCT
Speaking of shops, Bluesfest contains an absolute plethora of great bars, food vendors and market stalls, so have a wander and take in all of your options. If you want to meet one of your musical heroes, hit the music shop and check the signing schedule. If you want to get into ultimate relaxation mode, know where the massage tent is, and if you’re petrified of losing track of your mates, make yourself familiar with the phone-charge tent, and so on. Discover that the various bars all have their own ambience, and that the Craft Beer Bar sells different beverages to the Byron Bay Brewery Bar, for such variety adds spice over the course of the journey. The food options are amazing for a festival so spread the love, and always get the chilli option on your Pizza Loco.
IMMERSE IN BOOMERANG FESTIVAL
During the middle three days of Bluesfest, a smaller festival takes place within the festival: we’re talking Boomerang Festival, which is an amazingly vibrant celebration of our Indigenous music and culture. Embrace the opportunity to explore First Nation music – both contemporary and traditional – and dancing, as well as art displays and workshops on language and early instrumentation. It’s a wonderful opportunity for cultural exchange but mostly just completely fascinating and a whole lotta fun.
EXPLORE THE AREA
If you somehow feel yourself getting stale of live music midway through Bluesfest – seems implausible, I know, but five days of bands can be daunting for some – don’t be afraid to explore the beautiful part of the world surrounding the site. Your wristbands give you unfettered access to the festival so you can come and go as you please, and the bus system is affordable, comprehensive and reliable, meaning that if you so desire, the whole area is yours to wander. Head into the tranquil world of Byron Bay for a few hours, grab a swim at one of the many other gorgeous beaches offered by the seaside towns to the north and south of Tyagarah, or head inland and check out a gorgeous township like Mullumbimby. There’s so many gorgeous places in the region to explore.
One last thing, take the time to look around you at Bluesfest and take it all in; some of the best (and strangest) sights can be found while you’re just wandering around between stages. It might be a roaming performer doing weird shit on purpose or just some of the downright odd characters (in the best possible way) that comprise the wonderful temporary festival community each year: for five days, this is your tribe, be aware of its disparate faces and customs.
So there you have it, if it’s your first Bluesfest have an amazing time and be ready for fun and great music of all types and persuasions, and if you’re a returning regular, hope this is your best one yet. Either way, catch ya amongst the action!
Bluesfest kicks off next week in beautiful Byron Bay, New South Wales. For all the info on dates and tickets, head to theGuide.