The surge in sub-par parties on the doof scene has seen many reluctant to invest their hard-earned (or cenno) dollars in tickets.
But punters, fear not for the future: Mushroom Valley is one party that doesn’t fail to live up to the beautiful artwork on its promotional posters, nor it’s hard (and well earned) reputation.
Like it’s sibling festival Happy Daze, this FNQ festival is known for impeccable music selection, and it certainly lived up to the hype. With just one stage, it can’t be easy choosing artists that will make the majority happy, but the general consensus was one of consistently ass shaking approval.
The Friday night music started the festival on a good note, the dance floor filling as the first echoes of sound escaped the speakers. Artists Chamberlain, Spoonbill, and Prowler Dub Sound System kept the party going into the early morning before the speakers shut off at 3 am, allowing tired travellers a chance to recharge without FOMO-induced sleep deprivation wiping them out before the party had even started.
This smart decision also enabled a massive showing at Sophie Porche and Kid Kenobi’s Saturday morning yoga session/chill set, with the dance floor filled from 8 am with morning sun and stretching limbs. A wander down to the swimming hole revealed a joyous scene of reclining relaxers and water filled with fresh-faced floating festival goers. A giant tree on the opposite bank was flush with lounging nudists, while the lilting notes of an impromptu cello & hang drum jam flowed out from the shade cloth structures sheltering semi-sunbathers soaking their senses in the serenity of their Saturday morning.
The festival had one of the best layouts I’ve seen and sat atop one of the best sites. It was lush and green, with a plethora of tall trees crowding a river. And, while the campsite is spacious, it is never a long walk to the dancefloor.
The festival grounds themselves are set up like a circle; the entrance from general camping to the festival leads to a corridor of shops and cafes, opening out into a large dance floor.
The much-acclaimed art gallery was located in its own field out the back of the dancefloor and marketplace, accessible via a newly-built bridge that provided an enchanting journey to the many participants who wandered across it, drawn by the brightly lit banners and an entrance that promised magic and wonder. Curated by the ever-aesthetic Julia Fulop, the gallery showcased a diverse range work from local creatives. A constant stream of amazed patrons trailed around the perimeter of the large geodome, marvelling at pieces from artists including Crystalface, Julia Fulop, Kiro Kirodor, Nick O’Brian, Hannah Vela, Eleanor Ewan, and The Ozidax. The increased effort and expenditure in this area has really paid off, with the steady stream of festival patrons a testament to the work put in.
Exiting the gallery back across the bridge and taking a left across the dancefloor would take one to an archway exit with “OCCUPY YOUR HEART” spelt out in naturally formed root and branch letters. The mangrove magician behind this arboristic artistry, Spider, had several spectacular nature creations scattered throughout the festival grounds, with a root-formed angel twisting beside the gallery bridge, large carved whale tails, and more mangrove lettering on the water pump behind the dance floor where twisting tree roots blessed the water with LOVE.
The archway takes you down a net and bamboo corridor structure, leading to another section of the festival where a few large tents and geodomes trailed towards the river. As one wandered along this section of the festival, there was often a hooping or staff workshop going on out in the in the open, or a softly spoken workshop to join in on under the shade of a carpeted dome.
The workshops, facilitated by a highly conscious collection of speakers and doers, covered a diverse array of fascinating topics. One stand-out I chanced to sit in upon, ass in the dirt and sheltered by the shade of the towering eucalyptus trees, was Luke Mathews’ permaculture workshop. Handing around seeds to begin the regeneration of abused land, he imparted a surprisingly large amount of knowledge during his limited timeslot. For example, did you know you can use a plantation of sweet potato to break apart compacted dirt, then leave them in the ground to rot in preparation for further crops? Neither did I, but now we both do and are more prepared to regenerate this trashed planet.
Carrying on past these workshops led you to the aforementioned swimming hole, where murky water enabled clear spirits and respite from the baking Queensland sun.
The music increased in intensity along with the Saturday morning sun, with the chill set from Kid Kenobi giving way to banging tunes and stomping feet as artists including Mickey Space, Mood Swing and Chevy Bass, Paul Abad and Smooth Criminal upped the pace. The dust rising from the dancefloor, stomped from the earth by exuberant feet pounding the bass into the dirt, was routinely hosed down by festival organiser Ben Irving. Regularly raising the water stream to spray down the smiling dancers, he took charge of the decks later that night as his audio-artist alter ego smiGGle to deliver one of his always awesome sets, accompanied by the beautiful dancer Hannah Vela.
Back on ground level, the dancefloor remained a consistent collection of cavorting revellers well into the morning, with respect for personal space maintained and a joyous, friendly vibe lingering in the air along with the heat of the day.
The special atmosphere of this particular dancefloor continued into early Sunday morning. Waking with the sun, I wandered down to a particularly bumping morning set by Oddwave and bore witness to a d-floor with over fifty fresh-looking partiers bouncing along to the basslines with a truly shocking amount of energy. The Sunday dancefloor collected more people as the morning drifted on, and the energy, already high, continued to build thanks to excellent sets from Timeframe and Purple Hayes. Psymon, Smilk and Hugh Jass played their crowd-pleasing sets to great Sunday Session joy, with the music beaming well into the night and finally ending at 9.30pm.
I must add: besides all I’ve already mentioned, there are two things that really set Mushroom Valley apart from other festivals.
The first is their emphasis on a family-friendly atmosphere. The organisers of the festival have children of their own, and a wholesome atmosphere permeates the entire event. Indeed, I did not witness any overt drug taking on the festival grounds. What I did witness was happy kiddies everywhere; children drifted in the swimming hole on inflatables shooting people with water pistols, they boogied on the dancefloor perimeters, and many of the workshops were especially for the entertainment and education of kids. A pirate-ship playground built off to the side of the dancefloor provided much delight for adults and children alike, with the hammocks incorporated into its design supporting many an exhausted individual while the slide and swing provided an entertaining respite.
That epic stage was the second stand-out feature of Mushroom Valley. It was a gigantic stretching green rainforest goddess with a snake that curled around her arm and contorted through the use of genius lightmapping. Incorporated into the design were three-dimensional leaves and a tree stump as a spacer in her earlobe, the speaker stacks cradled in her clavicle and womb while the audio artists played to the crowd from a space within her sternum. A smaller stage at her feet played host to acts such as fire tribe Pyro-Vibez. It was an utterly spectacular functional artwork – a microcosm of the beautiful details contained within the macrocosm of the festival.
And on the topic of beautiful details…
After the final ceremony ended, taking my time to solo stroll through the marketplace on the way to some well-needed sleep, I wandered into a dancing crowd twisting and stomping around a few people beating well-known tunes on cajons and belting out lyrics. The air was still warm, the light was dim, and the drums and singing mixed with giggling and lilting laughter as people shuffled and swayed along.
It was a beautiful end to a beautiful festival, and I went to bed happy.
This review was written by our resident doof connoisseur, the talented Tamara Kenna.