Nine hours of electronic and indie music and hundreds of bottles of wine quaffed atop the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley can only mean one thing: the Grapevine Gathering has returned to Victoria.
Unlike last year, when wine lovers were forced to endure a scorching day at the Gathering, this year the excitement of festival-goers was slightly (and literally) dampened by rain, which poured down all morning and left the grounds a wet, muddy mess.
But a little bit of rain and chill in the air were no match for Grapevine enthusiasts. Sporting plastic ponchos and puffer jackets, they valiantly traipsed through the mud, eager to absorb some tunes and get their hands of a glass of wine at the sold-out event. Wide-brimmed hats originally intended for shielding the sun acted as makeshift mini umbrellas. Those too stubborn (or foolish) to change their original outfits braved the wet conditions in dresses, shorts and skirts.
Up-and-coming Gold Coast-based duo Arroyo was already on stage as the gates opened and hundreds of poncho-clad festival-goers flooded into Rochford Estate. The melodic, down-tempo sounds of their indie rock tracks spilt out into the rows of grapevines surrounding the winery – a pleasurable and appropriate soundtrack for a sunless afternoon infused with anticipation.
Next up, the mellow and somewhat electronic beats of JOY echoed across the estate. Festival-goers lounged on the grass with ponchos and jackets doubling as makeshift picnic rugs and heads swaying and sipping to Smoke Too Much. There’s nothing like a glass of wine to warm you up.
Dom Dolla then cemented the electronic vibe for the afternoon with tracks like You, Be Randy and Define. Fans of the house DJ flocked to the mosh, and soon the crowd was jumping in unison, singing along to the energetic tracks drastically increasing the day’s decibel count.
After a solid two hours of Australian sound, Berlin’s solo act Lovebirds took to the stage. Along with his other techno tracks, he electrified the crowd with club favourites In the Shadows and Want You In My Soul.
Following Lovebirds, Marc Kinchen, otherwise known as MK, fired up the crowd. The mosh tightened as MK remixed Sam Smith’s Promises and Dua Lipa’s Electricity. People climbed onto each other’s shoulders to get a better view of one of the world’s most popular house DJs while the entire mosh screamed along to tracks like 17 and Piece of Me.
MK’s set marked the last of the electronic and house music for the day. Hungry (and thirsty) festival-goers took a break from dancing and headed up the hill to one of the many food stalls (and to grab a refill at the bar). Empire Pizza, The Greek Wrap Co and Mary Jane’s Burgers were some of the most popular food choices for the day. Punters swiftly downed their food and drinks, endured the long line to use one of the many portaloos, before racing back to the mosh in time for Tkay Maidza.
The Zimbabwe-born Australian hip-hop/pop artist captivated the crowd with Flexin and Simulation and impressed with a new track as well. She masterfully engaged her audience, commanding them to repeat lyrics back to her and getting everyone jumping and jiving. The sun made a brief appearance during Tkay’s enrapturing performance, enhancing the feel-good vibes of the afternoon.
Wild applause erupted as Tkay and her band exited the stage and Miami Horror entered. Sadly, empty wine bottles flying through the air and the ever-increasing amount of mud distracted many from the band’s summery indietronica performance.
The sun dipped below the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley as the Jungle Giants began their performance. The crowd surged forward, making it almost impossible to stand up straight or even glimpse the band, but their contagious melodies could still be heard from all corners of the estate as the audience joyously sang along to Feel the Way I Do.
But the Jungle Giants were unable to recover from a mistake during Bad Dreams, dubbed a “technical fuck up” by lead singer Sam Hales, instead hastily moving on to their next song.
By this point in the night, the mosh was utterly packed, people’s legs were slathered in mud and the crowd, buzzing with adrenaline, was impatient for the headlining act.
And The Wombats certainly did not disappoint. The volume of the crowd instantly rose to an ear-splitting level as the opening chords of Cheetah Tongue filled the winery. What followed was a seamless, riveting performance by the UK band; the perfect combination of bass, drums and vocals invigorated the audience who eagerly shouted their catchy lyrics.
The Wombats smashed out crowd favourites like Techno Fan, Moving to New York and Let’s Dance to Joy Division, as well as their latest single Bee Sting. Frantic, the mosh bopped in unison, with cries of “encore!” continuing long after the band’s final song, Greek Tragedy.
Elated, covered in sweat and mud, and clutching empty wine bottles, festival-goers battled to get out of the mosh before sauntering across the hills of Rochford Wines to one of the many buses ready to escort them back to the city.
Despite disappointing weather and a ruthless fight for survival that intensified the closer to the stage festival-goers got, the calibre of the day’s performances made the Grapevine Gathering an event worth attending. Coupled with wine and good vibes, The Wombats, Tkay Maidza and Dom Dolla were the clear standouts of the day.