Aerial view of the Blues and Roots Festival site at Tyagarah.
Aerial view of the Blues and Roots Festival site at Tyagarah. Doug Eaton

Defending drinks at Bluesfest

IT'S just cruel.

Two large eskies are sitting there on the dressing room floor. They've magically just appeared like two monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey. One minute I was sitting here alone in the dressing room thinking I was a bit thirsty and - shazam! Two eskies.

Well, actually it wasn't quite that magical; they've just been delivered by a couple of blokes (one esky at a time; they're heavy) dressed in the roadie uniform: black everything - apart from the bright Bluesfest passes around their necks.

I opened the eskies to reveal what's inside. The first esky is loaded with ice and bottles of water. There are at least 20 bottles of water packed in there. The Bluesfest organisers have certainly taken into consideration the size of our show.

The Songs of the Haight Ashbury Stage Show is a big operation.

Earlier there were ten of us packed into this room listening to the producer explain some changes to the set list and handing out meal tickets.

We are dispersed now. Dinner is being served in the performers' dining room; massages given in the performers' lounge area; and cigarettes smoked outside where the fresh air was. Showtime is in an hour.

There's nothing cruel about the first esky. It's thoughtful and useful. Always drink lots of water, right?

The second esky is cruel.

Beer and white wine rest alluringly on the ice, hands behind their heads, beads of moisture clinging to their skin, and winking seductively.

It's like one of those TV ads designed to show young people how good drinking is.

All that's needed now is an Australian polar bear, good fun mates and an anorexic teen in a bikini.

On the dressing room table, two bottles of red wine, aloof from the esky crowd, enjoy the room's temperature next to the new set list, a hair crimper and packets of chips.

At one hour before the show, that's cruel. I really am feeling a little thirsty. Must be nerves.

And everyone knows alcohol calms the nerves ...

The Bluesfest green room is the best I have seen at a festival - and I have seen a few.

There are more than 20 dressing rooms; a dining room serves free delicious meals; the massages are expert; the lounges are comfortable; the air-conditioning is cool; and the outdoor area next to the lake is relaxing - if you don't mind cigarette smoke in your face.

All this in a tent! (A big tent.)

I would like to have one of those cold, free beers. But drinking alcohol before a show is risky business.

Unless you're a bluesman. (The blues are made of booze.)

Drinking alcohol anytime is risky business, but alcohol is embedded deep in our culture. It's Australian.

Out in the festival, children are running about with inflatable guitars. It's good the kiddies have something to play with.

But these blow-up guitars are a promotional tool from Jim Beam and have 'Jim Beam' writ large across them. It does look a little strange, these children advertising Jim Beam.

I decide I'll have a water. I'll drink beer after the show. But I'm worried someone might pinch drinks from our treasure chests while we're performing.

We have a lot of alcohol here. And there's a blues band in the dressing room next door. Not only that, it's an Australian blues band.

They walked by before and I saw them eyeing off our eskies.

I'll shut the door.

As I reach the door, Taj Mahal strolls by. We nod at each other.

He has a warm smile but I quickly slam the door shut - just in case.


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