With a seven-week-old baby in tow, and a career(/lifestyle) firmly rooted in live music, Easter was the time to answer a question I presume many new or soon-to-be parents have pondered: can you take a baby to a music festival?
The answer is yes. You can. But there are definitely some factors to consider. After a pretty successful first attempt at Bluesfest 2017, here are my tips:
1. Choose your festival wisely!
Bluesfest was the perfect choice for my partner and I. Having attended the previous four years together, we know the site and experience well; the shortcuts, parking spots and general ebbs and flows of the five-stage, five-day beast of an event. The organisers have mastered the set-up and logistics to ensure that punters of all ages can have a maximal experience, a sentiment backed up by the line-up and curation. You need only notice the swarms of face-painted eight year olds, or the doofed-up, all-terrain toddler rickshaws, or the rows of heads in camping chairs up the back of Jethro Tull to affirm that Bluesfest is truly a family festival.
2. Make sure your accommodation and travel plans are tight
It’s a notorious happening for Bluesfest (as well as Falls and Splendour) patrons to book digs in Byron Bay. Traffic and bus queues can make this a real shitfight of a daily pilgrimage. With some local friends and intel on our side, we were perched just over the hill in Myocum with a rotation of designated drivers. Camping is of course the most convenient option, but that might need to wait a year or two!
3. Get some earmuffs
Rumour has it that really loud noise is not good for your ears. And I presume this is doubly important for youngsters. At seven weeks our bub’s head was still too soft for the classic clamp on earmuffs, but the internet is a hell of the place; three minutes of Googling and we had a set of specifically designed baby muffs couriered to the door.
4. Pick your battles
For vastly different reasons, there were two acts that we really wanted to see as a family unit: Jimmy Buffett (the tropical, cheesy, nostalgic international) and Remi (the fresh, soulful, contemporary local). As such, we strategically waded our way to the back of tent and into the sound zone where the three of us grooved out like the world’s biggest dorks. The rest of our time was spent either tag teaming in and out of the action, grazing the awesome food stalls or recharging in the super useful kid zone (complete with soft seating and change table).
5. Keep dancing. Keep exploring
I seem to spend a lot of my time at home with the bub trying to pretend something incredibly exciting is happening. I sing, bounce, laugh and dance… nervous to stop in case that sort of smile face turns into a screaming one. Needless to say, this routine was a lot easier whilst navigating the festival.
6. Enjoy the kindness of strangers
Festivals can often be marred by poor interactions. Yet community and connection are actually at the core of why we even attend these crazy rituals. If you ever need your faith in humans restored, hold a baby at a festival and soak up the love. When a security guard (just doing his job) refused me entry from a licensed area because my seven week old was “underage”, a small civil rights movement emerged. “What are you drinking mate, I’ll get em,” shouted one bloke from over the fence. “He’s just a little baby, c’mon,” from another. 'He' is actually a 'she', but that doesn’t matter.
7. Light it up!
My only blunder was not packing any type of signal lights. The more experienced parents have their kids flashing or glowing or somehow luminescent at night. Whilst our bub wasn’t much chance of running off into the distance, it was unclear for oncoming foot traffic that my partner had some seriously precious cargo strapped to her chest. That's something to improve for next year.
Start planning your trip to Byron Bay for Splendour in the Grass.