Knee-deep mud. Sporadic torrential downpours. Gumboots. Nothing says 'Easter Long Weekend' quite like it. Somehow, every year, the crowds grow larger. People from all over make the pilgrimage. This year was my tenth year in a row, my first travelling up from Sydney. Every year, I pray for sunshine. It never comes. Every year, I end up miserably cold, huddled in my ski jacket, resigning myself to the fact that I'm going to have to throw out yet another pair of shoes. Yet, despite the rain and the cold and the inordinate amount of complaining I do, I wouldn't miss a Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival even if you paid me.
The festival, now celebrating its 22nd birthday, is everything good about Australian arts and culture rolled up into one neat little long-weekend-sized ball. People are friendly. The quota of young, drunk, shirtless wankers is anything but fulfilled. The food is excellent – assuming you're okay with some amount of chilli, deep-fry, or sweet corn, which will accompany every meal (and sometimes all at once!). Sure, you're going to pay through the tooth for it, same as you will alcohol, but if you've already paid be stuck in the mud for five days, you can't be a big, fat stick-in-the-mud about what you eat.
Then there's that thing called music, which, believe it or not, is responsible for getting a surprisingly large number of punters through the festival gates. This year, the promoters pulled out all of the stops, securing a top-flight line-up. Crosby, Stills & Nash, John Fogerty, Cold Chisel and Earth, Wind & Fire all spent time on the festival's main stage. That's barely scratching the surface. From experience, I can tell you that the best part of the festival is discovering musicians you didn't intend to discover – this year, for me, the highlight was James Vincent McMorrow, an Irish folk singer.
The only real difference about the festival's 2012 incarnation was that for once, the sun shone … some of the time. Somebody was praying to the right Sun God, and you'd better hope that he's still smiling in 2013. I jest. In truth, it doesn't matter whether it's hot, or wet or cold or somehow all of the above. It's an absolute blast regardless of the conditions. If you've never been, do yourself a favour. If you have, I'll see you next year.