The haters said Babylon – a fresh new bush festival backed by Stereosonic’s founders – would be a juiced up, commercial event that lured dudebros and instahoes into our beloved doofing scene.
How wrong they were.
In the heart of the Victorian countryside, Babylon festival delivered an inclusive artistic experience that is becoming increasingly rarer to find amongst other large-scale Australian bush doofs.
‘It’s been a while’, Laurent Garnier greeted the crowd, kicking off the bloc stage Friday night. The much-anticipated rolling French techno set warmed up the eager audience with continuous and upbeat dancing. Following, SHDW & Obscure Shape snatched the crowd with their contrasting techno sound, informing all festival-goers just how diverse the sounds of the weekend would be.
All the while at the mandala stage, Headroom and Freedom Fighters showcased three hours of back-to-back individual performances of trippy psytrance, playing on pauses and sporadic drops.
The Saturday line up created a lively and bouncy tone. A special mention to LOUD’s and Astrix’s afternoon performance at the mandala stage, which kicked off with his much loved ‘5 Billion Stars’ track complemented with a digeridoo holding the bass. Other stellar performances included a set by Enrico Sangiuliano and the much-anticipated comeback of Victor Ruiz, who after cancelling Australian appearances in 2016, finally unleashed his Brazilian sound onto Australian soil.
After two days of heavy hitting psytrance and techno, the mandala stage brought a nice change to the magical weekend on Sunday, playing disco, house and tech house. Highlights were Australian favourite Late Night Tuff Guy and ending the day with Eric Powell with a reappearance of Carl Cox.
‘That is definitely one of the best festivals I’ve played in Australia’, Cox emphasised closing the festival. The ongoing and free-flowing words between performers and attendees illuminated a special relationship based on mutual appreciation and enjoyment.
For all lovers of techno and psytrance, it was easy to see just how special the line-up was: the respect for the musical artistry was felt in the crowd.
This extraordinary and well thought out line-up was equally reciprocated into the artistic visuals and stage décor. The bloc stage portrayed an old junkyard of rustic cars and steel structures, almost a post-apocalyptic aesthetic. In contrast, the mandala stage housed the performers in a spaceship, with loud lasers creating a futuristic cosmonautical vibe. The hanging gardens held an earthy and intimate setting, draped in pastel colours, highlighting the surrounding gum trees created an organic space. On top of the three main stages, two renegade stages nestled nearer the campsites. The Day Spa hosted couches and a blow-up pool for patrons to kick back and relax.
Babylon’s attention to detail and emphasis on free-flowing, creative expression weaved through every crowd. A woman dancer covered in glow-in-the-dark paint lit up an interpretive, psychedelic performance; a man on stilts covered in reflective material danced robotically, interacting with surrounding bodies. The various quirky entertainers encouraged independent patrons to openly emerge and play. Poi performers, jugglers and hula-hoopers frolicked with their toys. The festival’s conscious effort to inject pop-up performers into an atmosphere already saturated with creativity translated a powerful inclusive energy.
And, unlike other festivals that can be prohibitively hot, he beautiful summer temperature allowed the patrons to dance all day and the weekend to roll smoothly. The crowd’s enthusiastic dancing quickly created the notorious doof dust storm – so much so that Laurent Garnier comically took out a duster to wipe off all of his equipment. At one point punters dragged bins into the middle of the dance floor and everyone cheerfully followed to clean up.
Babylon 2018 was an intimate festival, carefully considered, displaying outstanding artistry, sustainable creative practices, and a respectful, harmonious and all-inclusive space.
Babylon, you were truly hospitable.
Welcome to the scene.
Written & Photographed by Emma Brill and Zach Walsh