THE night woke me. Early morning. The alarm was set at 5am, and it wasn’t quite. It was neither the heat nor the cold that did, it being mid-autumn. I greedily consumed a tomato, avocado, cheese and chicken patty sandwich I’d made the night before. And gathered my things to go. Downstairs I noted the absence of the Bearded Man then remembered he said he would surf tomorrow; his day off; Good Friday. So he would not be in need of a surfing buddy and I knew I would have many at Byron Bay, about a half hour south.
I’d dragged my arse and the sun was already hanging 10 centimetres to the eye’s perception above a flat horizon bordering what could be seen of the Pacific Ocean. As I pulled into Byron’s beach car park hope swooned within my waterman’s heart: waves, in the notoriously swell-guarded bay, were pulsing through sweeter than a breakfast orange juice and I wasted no time joining the others sitting on their boards and staring toward the horizon. Walked past a sand dragon on the beach, with a bucket and a sign in front of it saying ‘Tips Please’. It was of such good albeit inexplicable workmanship I would have tipped, had I any change in my boardshorts. Those in the water were mostly kids: ‘Did you go to school yesterday?’ one asked another.
‘Nup,’ he replied.
These mini-men with bleached hair and teeth were pulling into Byron’s famously freight train barrels and emerging, while older and larger adults – such as myself – were pulling into said barrels and being virtually decapitated by the waves’ lips. During those fleeting hours before work, this would have irked me, but I had a music festival to get to and – especially if I knew what I would find out – I was in no hurry. In fact an older guy asked me the time; anxiety on my face. I gave it, and said ‘Glad I’m not working today’. He nodded weary acknowledgement. An interesting distraction from the consistently not-quite-dumping waves was the appearance of a creature. A beautiful creature: short blonde hair, both lithe and svelte body and a friendly grin. I chose not to say hi, considering the fact her greetings to everyone else seemed to be of the re-acquainting type, while I was decidedly an outsider. I would unashamedly stare while she moved along her waves, thrusting her perfect arse in the direction of the beach with each turn, as I knew I paid little attention to anything or one else while focused on my ride. Of course after she disappeared it was all downhill from there, and I lost interest in Huey’s meagre yet admittedly large offerings.
I figured what better way to start five days off than buying a coffee, which I rarely do, and sitting overlooking Byron Bay while sipping it and smoking a cigarette? I walked past five people waiting for their javas, ordered a flat white, one sugar, then sat down for the long wait. But it wasn’t. Long, that is. My coffee was served in a cardboard cup along with two of the people waiting who were apparently but not certainly at the head of the cue. One of the three remaining muttered ‘What the hell!?’ as I shuffled past, contented but not sure what exactly had happened. It was indeed pleasant sitting and sipping and smoking and surveying, but I felt a rising wave of momentum in me. So visited Woolworths for supplies before heading north out of town to Tyagarah Fields: Bluesfest 2012’s home.
Chaos surrounded my initial appraisal of the festival’s organisation, but that was partly my fault. I was asked by security at the entrance to the camping area if I had any glass or alcohol in the car. The answer was, of course, no, and the two bottles of wine under the passenger seat be damned. But then the problem was I had nothing to prove I was camping there, and I was a little sleep deprived so didn’t understand when the security dude pointed to a building I needed to go to in order to sort things out. Naturally, of course, I’d forgotten the code I was given when I purchased camping tickets by phone. I know, I thought, I’ll get my ticket first. This was at about 9am and I had no idea the box office didn’t open till noon, let alone the festival didn’t open until 2pm. For some mysterious reason I had to report straight to the media section within the festival’s bowels immediately upon getting settled. I remember asking one guy wearing an orange reflector vest where the media section was.
‘The day parking site office is open over there,’ he pointed. ‘Go and ask your questions over there.’
I had the distinct feeling this guy wasn’t too fond of questions, nor of people who ask them. They’re an annoying way of gaining or imparting knowledge, questions. So yeah I finally figured out the score, avoided paying for parking by waving my media pass letter, and sat there for two hours reading. Then it was an only 500m walk to get to the ticket office . . . which opened half an hour late.
Interesting times when I returned to the camping gate: I had no idea what I was going to do or say to get in. But fate and incompetence (not just mine) saw me through safely.
‘I’m thinking you’ve already been checked,’ a different security chick said.
‘Uh, yeah,’ I replied, puzzled as to how she knew I’d been checked. ‘But I don’t have camping tickets yet.’
‘Just drive up to those guys and they’ll sort you out.’
And they did.
‘You’re all sorted,’ he said, after seeing my five day festival but not camping wristband, and gave me the sheet I needed to fill out. Finally: some fortunate incompetency.
Unfortunately I couldn’t save a spot for my compadre who would be following me up the next day. But no matter, I set up my tent and met my bogan female duo neighbours on one side, and bunch of drunken-stoned early 20s dudes on the other. More on them later. I found myself at the festival’s main stage at a little after 5pm, where Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were playing. They were good, from memory, complex and vibrant. But that’s all I remember of them. Then Ziggy Marley came up. I even danced a little, which was a good thing for an inhibited person such as myself. He played one of his dad’s songs, but I can’t remember which one. My Morning Jacket came on at 8pm, and I didn’t finish their set. I was in bed about 8.30pm, and missed Cold Chisel. Remember I’d been up at 5am that morning. And there’s just something about music festivals: they relax me so much I just kind of feel like sleeping a lot, while many others are running around excitedly.