my bluesfest 2014, byron bay, australia

Courtesy Tao Jones
Courtesy Tao Jones

happy 25th birthday bluesfest!!!

this year has by far been my ultimate favourite year of attending bluesfest although i didn’t think that beforehand.

every year since i was 18 i have camped and volunteered on my own at the festival, the place where i could truly express myself, my love of music, dancing, living, meeting strangers old young local foreign.

on my first year i hitchhiked for the first time and at a campsite i met a person i would eventually fall in love with.

this year, myself and three other friends volunteered with no camping tickets or phones or arrangements for the week. the plan was to go gypsies.

by luck we all managed to find two other friends on the first night and camped with them the entire week without one problem.

in a small campsite, three tents, five boys, one girl, passing guests and lovers, one minute walk from the north gate.



i arrive at night, it’s a full moon, the stars are exploding with intensity above us, it’s beautiful

call my friend, i lost my car companion, he’s drunk but i manage to get vague directions to the campsite, walk through no problems. by luck we find our other two friends pass through camp. one’s got md, ‘wanna dip?’ sure why not, EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS are on, quick, we run inside.

they are an absolute dream and i want to explode from love and excitement. we listen to 40 day dream, man on fire, up from below, that’s what’s up, pray, home, om nashi me, others i can’t recall. they have guests sing with the band, invite audience members to sing a verse, the feeling is overwhelming love, this is the best act for the week and it’s only the first one.

we need to keep grooving, energies are high, jambalaya will provide…. SEUN KUTI & EGYPT 80 … Nigerian jazz, everyone jump shimmy shake groove jive don’t stop moving your body to the trumpets shakers drums… what a band.

the vibe is slowing down so we make it to mojo for the last few songs of JOHN MAYER. we sit on the grass smoking cigarettes and the first song we hear is a cover of Van Morrison’s and it stoned me, wow, i had no idea what a brilliant blues man this guy is. then he plays gravity for the encore and i can’t believe my little ears. that song is genius. we play that as our final song before bed every night of the week

gravity… stay the hell away from me

back to camp we smile and smoke and listen to our music and laugh that we’re here again at this place with all the stars above us and silence and the moon. one of our friends was stage crew for mayer and tells us secrets and says that john mayer requested a vintage pinball machine in his room, weird.


morning at camp is conversation, showers, sun, drinks, then i work 2:30-7:30 and the work is digusting, sorting rubbish into recycling and trash, but we talk and finish early and drink tea and listen to BUDDY GUY from across the fence, make friends with two brazilians. after work get back to what you came for, pure music, spend ours on my own moving tents.

run to THE WAILERS at delta and it’s packed, an old samoan guy keeps lighting joints and passing them down the line, it’s good grass. listen to exodus, buffalo soldier, stir it up, and others. run back, get some food, then

BOZ SCAGGS hear a few songs

listen to GREG ALLMAN,

DOOBIE BROTHERS yeah they’re alright don’t recall what they played then it’s two sweet hours of JACK JOHNSON and that was the night first hour lie on the grass, fall asleep, no wake up, then dance, and everything is positive vibes. there’s oceans and waves and colours transitioning slowly behind and he croons, better together, do you remember, bubble toes, good people, angel, and so so many more.

he talks about his wife and i feel sad, so much of the music at blues reminds me of my love, who shares the passion for blues,

the blues is about feeling and most feeling is about love and so the whole week is intense with feelings and love and joy and sadness

so sway to jack johnson and think of how one day my love will be here again.

look forward to returning to camp for late night drinks and excited talks about our nights and days.


i don’t start work till 7 and so does my stage hand friend but the rest are preparing for a weird night we have drinks play drinking games smoke talk bullshit talk guy stuff

go in see DEVENDRA BANHART and he is a folk playing dream, run into some positive vibing spiritually charged friends and share our excitement,

back at camp listen to music and rest,

everyday another grey haired neighbour will come over and praise our music … the doors, the beatles, pink floyd,

there’s a crazy cowboy who stays and drinks beers and talks smack and then takes the guitar and jams with us

go around the circle: jimi hendrix or elvis presley, cream or yardbirds, creedence or crosby stills, led zeppelin or metallica? hard choices

one friend sings the jungle book, it’s a riot!

off to work, see THE BEARDS real quick before, then spend the night picking up cans at the delta tent and this ends up the greatest nights in history…

see the NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS and they bring the beat, one guy kills the washboard, the band comes into the audience right in front of me and then up next is OZOMATLI,

what a wild gig, saturday night, como ves, cumbia dia de los muertos, i dance and party, one guys tells me i should kiss him it’s easter! strangers hug me, high fiving, some steal my bucket and dance with me, groove in multiple dance circles, bump into my friend with two random people who say i’m beautiful, run into the other two who had a dip or two, picks me up and spins, dance,

dance with the stage crew and one does the salsa with me,

then suddenly it’s WAR playing,

why can’t we be friends, lowrider,

find another friend high as kites, picks me up, spins me wildly, licking my face and shouting ‘i love you’ ‘isn’t she beautiful?? say it!’

dance with other vollies at the back, THINGS GO OFF, we are the tops, one guy comes up after and gives us all hash cookies.

best night of my life. go back for smokes and we all pass out



early rise for work 10-3, catching KIM CHURCHILL, FOY VANCE, VALERIA JUNE, the sweet crazy southern banjo playing gypsy.

CAMBODIAN SPACE PROJECT, psychedelic rockabilly sequin pop music

walk and talk with a vollie friend as we pick up cigarette butts, argue music, travel, life, find drink tickets, money, get ourselves a coconut smoothie.

day 4, this is our party night!! everyone has the night off work. drink drink drink fun fun fun rum wine tequila scotch whiskey vodka so few mixers

see CHALI 2NA, mojo goes mental, Jurassic 5 respect, stomp and groove and back to camp to gear up some more.

drink and body paint and dips all round, walk inside and get in a circle ‘ok gang let’s get real weird tonight’, hey that was kinda weird we just did that, THIS IS GONNA BE REAL.

for three hours dance wildly to OZOMATLI again, NAHKO AND MEDICINE FOR THE PEOPLE (feat XAVIER RUDD), MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD, best night of what i remember, kiss and hug everyone, go wild, boogie down, please don’t have said anything weird to your close friends,

control the jaw! keep your clothes on!

some of us go to vollie camp and spend hours jamming quietly and playing originals and chain smoking,

go to sleep happy.


last day and everything is almost over

get back on the drinks at midday to stop the pain, gimme a gin and juice,

work 2:30-7:30 and listen to KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND, shake that booty around crossroads,

move on over to mojo for JOSS STONE and she is one amazing soul filled voice, hear MICHAEL FRANTI again and he is the life of blues as always,

life is better with you…

finish work, get food and chill out to DAVE MATTHEWS BAND,

JAKE BUGG, skip over to GARY CLARKE JR another wildly surprisingly brilliant blues act,

PLAYING FOR CHANGE are a hit as always,

then finish on WATUSSI, the best afro-colombian australian band around,

it’s an early night and early rise and like that this week is done and i feel refilled and inspired and my balance has returned.

bluesfest is always my favourite experience for its brilliance of music, diversity of friendly engaging people,

the weather was divine, the company couldn’t have been better,

and now i have the serious blues for blues. until 2015. i look forward to many more birthdays of blues.


(working diary entry – i’m still recovering from a week of maybe 20 hours max sleep)

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