I’ve got to be honest; when I heard Psyfari was going to be on the Tharwa site, I was a bit disheartened. Seemingly alternately dry and dusty or wet and fucking freezing, that site has never impressed me much (don’t yell at me in the comments, it’s just not my favourite site), and I couldn’t conceive how a festival as sprawling and beautifully put together as Psyfari had been the previous year in Capertee Valley would fit. This just goes to show that I am an idiot, because WOW they made that dry dustbowl look damn good.
The festival layout flowed perfectly from the front campsites through to the back bass-pumping Boombadonk stage, with the medics and waste station impossible to miss as they were situated either side of the gateway between camps and festival. From there one wandered past the Giving Tree (take a gift, leave a gift – a favourite with the kids) to the Foxtrot stage. This stage felt somewhat unique to the current festival scene as it primarily showcased a variety of live acts, vastly differing in sound but always spectacular. These musical collaborations ranged from acts such as Wawawow, a shimmying, smiling boy saxophonist playing along to the banging beats of his DJ mate; First World Criminals, an epic collaboration of soulful singers, wizard wordsmiths and Ojae, the man with the magical music; and assorted but always rocking bands such as Ekko, Narla and Lime Cordiale.
The ample dancefloor was well needed as favourites such as Beats Antique drew a massive crowd, and standing platforms and telescopes allowed the shorter amongst us to witness the pure talent and joy exploding from the stage. From there, one roamed on through the markets, past the large shaded workshop space and Cosmic Egg (more on this later), and under an immensely aesthetic art arch of trailing leaves and woven branches to the Boombadonk electronic music stage. It was here that the site really came into its own; the spectacular confection of a stage containing a dancing DJ loomed over a natural amphitheatre, the stomping and socialising shaded from the sun by the natural shelter of lofty eucalypts. Here, local and international acts such as Chromatone, Luna Orbit, Ryanosaurus, Perdy and Volkeine raised the bpm and the dust as their intricate melodies and thumping bass beats wound through the contorting bodies and twisting trees.
In a solid testament to the music, these dancefloors never emptied, no matter the weather, which stayed in the low thirties for most of Friday and Saturday. In a somewhat nice respite from these soaring temperatures, the clouds came to the party on Saturday evening with almost 12 hours of rain. It dampened the dirt but definitely didn’t dampen the spirits of the dancers.
I, like the sook I am, went to bed as soon as the storm rolled in, but was informed that the d-floor was pumping despite the downpour well until early Sunday morning. By late Sunday afternoon, the psy stage resembled a mud-wrestlers wet dream, with a traffic cone standing proud in the front centre, ostensibly warning those who would enter to watch their footing. Happy dancers stomped and swirled in the mud, joyously revelling in the ooze enveloping their toes. “TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES,” an ecstatic dude tried to convince me. “THE MUD FEELS AMAZING!” People were still showing up for the bands on Foxtrot early in the Sunday; a marquee set up on the side of dancefloor by friends of the band Ekko provided shelter for those who didn’t feel inclined to dance in the mud and the rain. “Build it and they shall come”, their mate proclaimed, and come they did despite the sporadic deluges.
Now! Back to the Cosmic Egg I mentioned earlier! The Cosmic Egg gets a big chunk of words all to its own, that’s how great I think it was. It was composed of two conjoined structures, one ostensibly a chill space while the other fulfilled the function of gallery space. The chill space was a geodesic dome with a cathedral-esque high ceiling. It was filled with beautiful things to gaze upon, including strings of disco balls along the walls and a suspended sculptural indoor storm hanging from the heavens, complete with puffy soft toy clouds and fat felted raindrops. Lining the round walls were cushion-couches containing sleeping humans. There was also apparently power?? I don’t know how they managed this but a regular congregation of boys clustered around a collection of computers, happy humans collaborating and creating electronic music together, while the acoustic sounds of guitar and lilting lady voice floated through the doorway that joined the geodesic dome to the gallery. This other room, a large marquee, contained said gallery, a constant band set-up of mics, a drum-kit, more mysterious electronics, and more floor cushions. The ever-evolving gallery space played host to packs of silently painting punters, joyous jams of varying musical styles, clay and basket weaving workshops, and spoken word poetry – and a lot more I’m sure that I wasn’t able to witness, as unfortunately I haven’t yet worked out how to clone myself into a collection of physical bodies attached to a hive mind. My first wander through on Saturday led me to a centre table filled with paints, brushes and palettes beside a crate of canvases.
I returned a few hours later to an almost empty crate with two canvases left, a tidy table-full of paint-filled palettes, and a room filled with painting people who, inspired by the exhibited art, were taking a turn at creating their own. By the time the table was removed, the marquee’s perimeter was lined with the art of attendees. I could have never left the Cosmic Egg and been satisfied with my festival experience, but you’d not be satisfied with this article if I did, so you’re welcome.
All events aim to take care of their punters, but Psyfari went above and beyond. Water taps flowed freely to guarantee adequate hydration for all, and the Giving Tree was rarely without a cluster of children exchanging treasures they had found for treasures of others, peering into the tiny hammocks of random stuff with excitement. From water misters on the dancefloor to multiple large woven hammock structures situated at its rear, the festival aimed to ensure attendees had their needs met at all times. The Cosmic Egg was never without a sleeping person or five, and despite the bass pounding from the stage a mere 50 meters away, people kept their voices low around those sleeping out of sheer kindness and consideration. Indeed, kindness and consideration permeated the entire festival, creating an atmosphere of community and love that I have rarely experienced before.
After the heat-induced burn-out of Rainbow, Psyfari was a beautiful experience that reminded me why I love this scene. There was an overwhelming atmosphere of joy and caring, art and creation. The festival showcased the spectacular things humans can do when they have a vision and work together, with every aspect, from décor to music to the waste station singers, inciting inspiration and connection in attendees. All in all, I leave you with a cliché quote: “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times” – the best because this has continued to be one of the most epic festivals I have ever attended on the East coast of Australia, and the worst because those who made the mission to Tharwa that eventful weekend may have witnessed the final, spectacular funeral-pyre of the Phoenix that is Psyfari.
Written by the illustrious, illustrative illuminator Tamara Kenna.