Festival season has well and truly landed in Australia, and yesterday I had my first festival adventure for Summer 2010-2011, which I have to say set the bar pretty high.
I was up on the Central Coast when I got a call from my friend Benji Hart to say he had a little present for me. One that came from his friend Carl Cox and looked like this...Oh the joys of a VIP wristband at a festival. The horrors of long toilet queues and missing out on chunks of a good set as you try to get a drink are suddenly erased, and the day is filled with all the good stuff that a festival can bring, without the hassles. Quick as a festival junkie cat I jumped in the car with my friend Richard and we headed back to Sydney.
After meeting Benji at the VIP ticket collections counter, and being introduced to four of his lovely mates, we made our way into the Sydney Showgrounds at Homebush and immediately tried to find our way to the Carl Cox and Friends stage.
It took a few dud turns and ending up at the wrong stages before we finally figured out we were looking at the Melbourne map (doh!), but once we had the Sydney map out we managed to find the stage, and spotted Carl on the balcony of his own VIP area.
Eagle eyed country gals and guys will realise in the photo at the start of this blog that he's actually standing on the balcony of The Land newspaper's Easter Show hut, which made this ex-country gal laugh at her two worlds colliding.
Fortunately he also spotted Benji, and next thing I knew we were being handed my favourite wrist band of the day, the one that allowed us to join Carl Cox (and friends!) for a drink before he stepped behind the decks, and then enjoy his set from either on the stage itself, or directly in front of the barriers.
The sun was shining, the beer was cold, the toilets were empty and just a few feet away, and the company was perfect as we watched the crowd throw their hands in the air and bounce from Carl's balcony. I first saw Carl Cox at the opening party of Space in Ibiza in 2000. I've since seen him spin at goodness knows how many parties, and I'm happy to say meeting the man was an absolute pleasure. He was just as lovely and warm as I always thought he was from afar, and what a great way to meet.Now I have to confess I've spent a lot of time in DJ booths over the years. A few of my best friends are some of my favourite DJs. But I haven't done the festival stage before, and when Carl took to the decks, and we joined him on the side of the stage, it was a fantastic perspective. To watch over his shoulder and see the crowd all facing his way, to see them hooked on Carl's every move, and to feel that energy was definitely something to remember.
After enjoying the view, and having a (very) happy snap on the stage, it was time to see what the crowd was seeing and go to the front of the stage.
Here we danced. And danced. And danced. And watched the security guys cool down the crowd with the occasional spray of water...
And some free water bottle refills, which is always a good thing.
When Carl's set was over, we made our way over to one of the public VIP bars – as in the ones people can buy tickets for – and grabbed one last drink as we looked down over the main stage. And I must say I was pretty darned impressed by the sea of people in front of me. It's great to see so many people still love their dance music. Yes, they're still mad for it, and it makes me smile.
Then came the most difficult part of the day. Harder than getting the VIP tickets. Harder than getting on stage with Carl Cox. Getting out.
The big "Exit" sign above may suggest that there is an exit here. There is not. We tried. We then asked three police who sent us in the wrong direction. We tried asking security, they sent us another way. Wrong again.
When I politely asked another security guard standing near a break in the fence near this exit sign why there was a large sign saying "Exit" and yet we couldn't exit, he explained that it meant there was an exit around the corner. I suggested an arrow might come in handy in conveying the message in the future.
But in the end we made it out, and had fun chatting amongst ourselves and to random strangers on the train on the way back to the city. After one last drink back in Surry Hills with Benji, I curled up in bed a very happy girl. And woke up with a smile on my face.
Festival magic. Now that Stereosonic 2010 in Sydney is over, I have Big Day Out, Playground Weekender, Future Music, and more to look forward to.
If the rest of this summer's festivals are half as much fun as yesterday was, it's going down in my record books.