All Blues in Byron

Byron Blues and Roots was a fantastic 5 day festival. The lineup was absolutely incredible, and it was a total bonus on this trip. Ben got a Facebook message offering him VIP tickets when we were in Perth, looks over at me and said,

“Hey, what do you think about doing Byron Blues and Roots? Only cost is accom.”

Keeping in the spirit of the trip, I just said yes.

Getting the chance to see Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr. and the Doobie Brothers at the same venue as John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and John Butler Trio wasn’t something I was planning on passing up. The only problem with this festival was that there were too many artists we wanted to see in 5 days.

The weather was perfect (for the first time in 5 years from what we were told) and the music was amazing. The festival is intended to hold 35,000-40,000 people or so a day, and being the 25th anniversary it was sold out for at least 3 of the days.

Bluesfest

The festival itself was on a specifically designed site. A local businessman bought a tea farm about 7 miles outside of Byron Bay and excavated everything perfectly for a huge festival venue. From the culverts to the stage location, everything about this location was designed with this purpose in mind. About 60% of people camp at this festival, so you’re looking at another 20,000+ campsites plotted out as well.

The music was spectacular. From John Mayer being ripped out of his mind, singing jumbled up “dream songs” in between his hits, to John Butler Trio having 30k people sing “Betterman” we couldn’t have asked for a more outstanding musical performance.

Before arriving, we jotted down ten moments in the festival that we were particularly excited to see. At least one of us made one of them.

1. Jack Johnson- Flake

Flake

Flake

2. John Butler Trio- Better Man
3. Matt Corby- Souls A’fire
4. Buddy Guy – Sweet Home Chicago (my personal highlight of the week)

Sweet Home Chicago

Sweet Home Chicago

5. John Mayer- Who Says

John Mayer, telling 20k people about his "dream songs"

John Mayer, telling 20k people about his “dream songs”

6. Dave Matthews Band- Space Between

The Space Between

The Space Between

7. Erykah Badu- I Want You
8. India.Arie- Video

India.Arie

9. Gary Clark Jr.- Bright Lights
10. Chali 2na- Comin’ Thru

If anyone is a guitar fan and has a chance to see Gary Clark Jr., for the love of all that is holy go do it. He is an absolute legend with a guitar in his hands, and it is a truly incredible thing to see him go nuts.

Bright Lights

Bright Lights

Past that, we were pretty pleased with everyone’s performance. It was my first DMB concert, and I was impressed, if not obsessed with them. Great act, just not sure what the absurd cult-like following is about.

All and all, couldn’t be happier with the 5 days in Byron. More on the actual town to follow.

Leaving Paradise

I suppose if I set up permanent camp this quickly into the trip, the Moorman Conquest would have to rechristen itself the Moorman Siege. It almost happened with Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays. Rarely if ever have I been to a place more beautiful and untouched by human hands, and that beauty truly spoke to my soul.

After riding out the hurricane on Sunday, we piled into the boat and commandeered a mile of totally untouched beach on Monday. Seeing no one for miles on a perfectly white beach with sand so fine that you could buff the face of your watch was a nearly surreal experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We set up camp with a huge spread of food, drink and sporting equipment. Between biscuit (tube) rides behind the jet ski, snorkeling on the reef, a heated game of beach Foursquare, and a bunch of Aussies teaching me to how to properly kick a footy, we entertained ourselves for hours on this pristine coastline. I couldn’t believe that we had such beauty all to ourselves.

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

After that, we headed up to a lookout point over Whitehaven Beach. The tide was nearly completely out when we got there and there were hundreds of thousands of Soldier Crabs scurrying about looking for a meal before the waters came rushing back in. Seeing these palm sized crabs in such staggering numbers was a sight in itself, but then we got to the lookout point and got a better perspective on the enormity of the Whitsunday Island chain.

Uninhabited islands abounded in the area, from small hard spits of land no bigger than a semi-trailer, to massive miles long islands jealously keeping wildlife and waterfalls underneath a lush green canopy of deciduous and coniferous trees, there is a biological diversity that few areas can match.

Tuesday night, we celebrated my 27th birthday with a phenomenal Greek dinner of zucchini fries, mudcrab and lamb chops. Nick once again outdid himself, making a feast that most professional chefs would be proud to call their handiwork. God also jumped in on the birthday celebrations, leaving a beautiful lunar eclipse to be viewed over the vibrant blues of the ocean. It was just one more reminder of the amazing beauty that abounds in our world.

Look up from that iPhone screen, you might see something breathtaking.

Put down the iPhone

Put down the iPhone

Wednesday afternoon, we left for the Gold Coast en route to Byron Bay for the Blues and Roots Festival. While I hope I someday see the Whitsundays again, as Frost so eloquently stated in his immortal poem, “The Road Not Taken”,

“Yet knowing how way leads onto way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”

I suppose I should be thankful that I took the road less taken to begin with. The twinge of regret on the road not taken would be nothing compared to having never seen the fork.

Upon arriving to the Goldie, as it is affectionately known, we were taken to yet another beach lookout, where the full moon illuminated a massive swath of dark water into a lighted southeasterly arrow. I took some time to glance at a few of the constellations that I’ve been trying to learn (I’ve got you now Gemini and Cancer) and took in the pounding of the massive waves. Our friend Brittney asked if I was sick of ocean scenes yet, and I laughed that after spending 22 years living in the midst of cornfields, it would take a whole lot more than 3 weeks in OZ to lessen my appreciation for a lungful of salt air and the rhythmic onslaught of waves on rocks.

We stayed with Ben’s grandmother in the Gold Coast, a wonderful woman of 78 who made me realize that whether in the US or OZ, grandmothers know no borders.

I can’t act as if I wasn’t jealous, seeing a grandmother interact with her eldest grandson as I had so many times with my own, but it made me again appreciate the 26 years that I got to spend with the sainted women that called me their grandson. As with my trip to paradise, all things end.

What we so often fail to realize in our own lives, whether a relationship, a job, or a friendship is that an end does not diminish the good that was. I think it is an important lesson to reflect upon.

After the Storm

Growing up in the midst of cornfields, my experience with hurricanes has been limited to watching Jim Cantore get blown all over Florida, and a dud of a hurricane named Irene while I was in NYC. Tropical Cyclone Ita was a bit of a dud as well. It wasted a full day blowing around palm trees and lashing everything with a deluge of water, but there was never a period where we felt the awe inspiring power that hurricanes can sometimes bring.

Tropical Cyclone Ita

Storm rolling in

Tropical Cyclone Ita

Waking up Monday morning, the sky was an unmarked crystalline blue. Aside from a few rangy clouds on the western horizon, there was no mark of yesterday’s storm. As I read my book on the balcony this morning, the sun poked out from behind the mountain on Hamilton Island and bathed the marina in a gentle light. Gorgeous is not an adequate word to describe the illuminated palate of blues and greens.

Marina the Day After

Birds were everywhere, singing and making up for lost time by eating anything and everything. A cockatoo played chicken with me this morning on the balcony. Lithe as a gymnast on a balance beam, the cream colored bird trapezed along the aluminum rail as if I was the intruder. He would sidle up next to me as I read, only to scurry further away if I paid him any mind. His talons on aluminum made a very distinct noise, keeping time as I flipped from page to page. Occasionally I would look up to see him pacing back and forth, throwing up his neon mohawk whenever I took a few steps towards him.

Good Morning!

Part of the group is leaving today to head back to Melbourne, and the rest will be departing tomorrow. Even with the rain, we’ve had a good time drinking and feasting around the island. Nick seems to want to get out to the reef this week, so hopefully we’ll have time to get out about 50 nautical miles to see the heart of the Great Barrier Reef before Ben and I head down to Byron Bay for the Blues and Roots Festival.

Brisbane Hostel Life

After saying goodbye to Chad in Perth, Ben and I jumped on the overnight flight from Perth to Brisbane, landing at 5AM local time. Needless to say the 4 hour flight wasn’t the most conducive to sleeping, so we headed to the hostel to try to catch a few hours worth of Zzz’s.

Brisbane is a much more mature city than Perth, as evidenced by the architecture and city feel. In the oldest part of the city, streets are named after British Monarchs, with female streets running parallel one direction and males the other. When our waiter told us that at lunch, it definitely made navigation a ton easier.

Queen Victoria

Benny and I wandered down through the center of town, eating lunch near St. George square. Benny had a quick errand to run for some paperwork at the Medicare office, so I got a quick glance at completely socialized medicine. It was in the middle of the shopping center, and run like a DMV. As far as efficiency goes, we were in and out in 10 minutes, so I considered it a win.

We met up with some people for dinner, eating at Breakfast Creek, one of the oldest continuously run establishments in Brisbane. Open for 125 years, it has a fair share of ghost stories, high water marks from floods, and a cracking good petit filet.

Brisbane at Night

The hostel we’re staying at is attached to a bar, which leads to some late night comedy that money can’t buy. Stumbling drunk Asian guys hitting on standoffish British girls, the three angry looking German dudes standoffishly bogartting a corner, two dreadlocked hippies dancing in their own little world and everyone’s favorite, the selfie snapping American girl up from her study abroad program in Sydney.

The best thing about hostel life is that there is no social order going into an evening, so everyone just tosses themselves together with reckless abandon, and sees where the night is going to take them. Tomorrow there will be a whole new crew. Hilarity inevitably ensues.

Heading to Hamilton Island tomorrow en route to the Whitsundays. Looks like Tropical Storm Ita is going to be heading considerably north of us, so we won’t have to worry about that while we’re out on the boat. Internet will be scarce, so it might be a bit before the next post, but it will be full of pictures from the Great Barrier Reef.

The Conquest Witnesses Footy

We’re winding our time down in Perth and leaving for Brisbane tonight at 10:45 PM. We’ve had a great time here in Perth for the last 10 days. The people have been stunningly accommodating at every turn and staying with Chad has really given us the local flavor of the place.

The last couple days were spent running around Perth, from the outstanding weekend market to my first footy game which morphed into a late night out in Mount Lawley.

After we got going on Saturday morning, Chad took us 3 blocks from his flat to the Subiaco Market, which is a combination farmers market/international food fair. The food was fantastic and completely ethnic. There was a huge paella stand next to a Greek souvlaki place. Just down the row from them were two competing Indian vendors who were staring at a Vietnamese joint which shared a wall with a Turkish shop. I ate paella on Saturday and got a sampler from the Exotiful African Food stand on Sunday. When I asked Ben if he wanted me to get him anything, he said a club sandwich or something easy. The closest thing I found was a handmade Turkish diced chicken pocket. Standard food was no where to be seen. Turkish Stand

Turkish Stand

The place was completely bustling both days I was in there. There is also a huge fresh fruit and vegetable stand next to a fresh fish monger.

Subiaco Fresh Market

The whole scene was alive with color, chattering masses and some crooning Aussies covering Johnny and June Cash’s hit “Jackson.” It seemed that nothing made sense, but it was so haphazard that nothing seemed out of place either. All and all a great experience, which properly summed up the Australian culture as a nation of immigrants.Exotiful African Food

After the market, we met up with Ben’s Perth counterpart at Future Music, and had a few pints before heading to the footy game. The neighborhood around Patterson grounds isn’t exactly Wrigleyville, but all the pubs were jam packed with Eagles (West Coast) supporters prior to the game. The girls were sitting in the box for one of the big newspapers, while Benny and I were sitting in some seats arranged by Chad.

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

We weren’t expecting much, as St. Kilda were 58.5 dogs and 13:1 to win. However, the Saints gave it a real smashing effort in the early going, which helped keep us interested in the game. I was still fascinated that a sport that attracts 40k+ people 26 games a year is virtually unknown outside of Australia.

After the game we had a little vinyl party pre-game with our newly fixed record player. I think I might have to invest in one when I get home and settled. Quite a different sound than the digital we’ve gotten used to, and people seem absolutely fascinated by the things. After that Ben and I headed up to Mount Lawley with Sarah and Kate, where we had a good night and met up with some other people from the music industry.

Sarah is actually a top PR person for Western Australia tourism, so it was very interesting to hear her perspective on both the perceptions and reality of tourism in this part of the country. Most Americans tend to head to the east coast of Australia when they come down on holiday, so WA has made a big push into trying to capture part of that market. From what I’ve seen, they shouldn’t have too much of a problem attracting visitors. It is truly a beautiful and vibrant part of the world. She told me about a NYTimes article comparing Perth to Williamsburg in Brooklyn. She took it to be a compliment, which in some circles, I’m sure it is.

Yesterday was reserved for taking it easy on Cottesloe Beach and watching Essendon beat down on Carlton in the late afternoon footy game. Cottesloe was a gorgeous beach, which appears to be a real hot spot for kiteboarding. The sky was full of kites south of the break, and watching these guys go at it at pretty substantial rates of speed made me want to develop a new hobby. Kiteboarders off Cottesloe Beach

Benny and Chad went and punched it quite hard with some of Chad’s mates after the polo game, but I stayed in to catch up on some writing and sleep.

Brisbane tomorrow for a couple of days, then off to the Whitsundays, where we’ve heard that Tropical Cyclone Ita is going to come join us at least temporarily. We’ll keep an eye on it, but as of now it looks like it will be heading a decent bit north of us. Time will tell.

Well I’m sure everyone wants to get back to Game of Thrones so I’ll sign off. Next stop Brisbane!