Wild Horses 2018: A Weekend Trip Covering All Basses

‘Are you going to Meredith?’

‘Tickets for Meredith are almost half price, you should come!’

This was all I heard in the last month.

When I mentioned my other plans in the opposite direction, ‘What’s Wild Horses?’ usually followed.

It seemed as if the entire state of Victoria had planned to go or was planning to get into Meredith.

And I was going to a doof at Lake Mountain.

Maybe this is what made the magic – that only those not caught up in any social scene or hype seemed to make their way to that blissful Alpine adventure.

And magic it was.

Making my way to the site, the road wound down into a prehistoric Fern Gully, and then up a literal mountain, and I found myself completely mesmerised by the landscape before me.

Contrasting Lake Mountain forest and psychedelic doof land

Upon entering, the security guard opened my beer for me with his ring. I was speechless.

‘Don’t break the glass’ he said.  And that was all.

We wandered into a gallery of tents and cars and, for a doof, it was immaculately organised.Camps were tucked in neatly side-by-side, with clear space for more cars to drive in and obvious paths left for cars to drive out.  The car park was surrounded by alpine stillness. Surrounding the campsites was this picturesque contrast between stark gums covering the mountain tops and the soft shades of the white and blue backdrop. Through the clouds, the sun shone intermittently, playing with our interpretation of the time of day.

It was this romantic, post-apocalyptic, bleak stillness holding literal space for the excited festival goers. Breaking the silence was the usual ripple of beverage openings and those with more letting people know who they were. One gentleman wrapped in a hospital gown was disappointed with his own supply. He apologised for the gelatine used in his pharmaceuticals making them ‘not vegan’. He explained that, with short notice, he’d had to purchase the capsules from peasant pharmacies rather than the elite, vegan suppliers in Germany.

And then the music started. Lights and bright colours created a psychedelic-influenced dance floor.

This was not a festival where the organisers were going to slowly introduce people to the music. It started heavy and only got heavier. You had two options: doof, or be doofed. Before the sun had set, the dance floor was full. Pirates, gypsies, geisha women and cowboys in arseless chaps surrendered to the sound and let the bass dominate them. The supreme line up was a mixture of dense trance and lighter glitch, each DJ melding into the next to create a sound journey of freedom.

Fairies and Foosball adorn the dance floor

Complementing the main stage was the restaurant/jam space, and yes, I say restaurant, not “food tent” space. This festival was not the usual all-outdoor experience. Set around a ski lodge, the festival had a restaurant hosting different styles of food to regenerate your endorphins and offer refuge from light rain, wind and the not-so-light bass.

A little torn by what it meant to have an indoor section, by the second day I had a new gratitude for this space and the bathrooms. For the first time in my festival experience, there so many toilets that there was never a cue, and there were enough showers and a sewerage system so decent that you didn’t need a gas mask and incense stick every time you needed to tinkle.

Although at times the mirrors and lighting were confronting, God blessed those flushing toilets.

The restaurant area hosted a little live music and jam lounge. When the music ended on the first night Afi James – a one-man band – managed to play until the sun shed light on the sins of the night. People came to collapse, talk and stretch their bodies in front of his melodic reggae-and-didgeridoo set.  He calmed the audience down and sent everyone into a state of peaceful bliss. Though the line up for this stage was not consistent with the programme, it became a place that those locked out of their cars or too lost to make it back to their camps could find shelter, warmth and someone to roll them a cigarette complete with aromatic spices before bed. Behind this stage an art gallery was showcasing different styles and different mediums of creation, effectuating a visual odyssey.

‘It’s not the size of your didge that counts, but what you do with your lips.’

The energy of the artists and the festival goers was pure bliss. Whoever’s eyes you met, you were met with a smile. Ego-free and self-pride thrown aside, this was a place you truly let go. No judgements, just dance.

The sound comes at you, that’s what makes the sound so fucking good.’

From all corners of the globe, people had flocked to share their love of electronic music and be themselves. There was something about walking through such a small car park and hearing four and five different languages. There were no doof cliques, no scene where fashion trends dominated or you felt as though you had to paint your tits to fit in. Here you could genuinely be, whoever the fuck you thought you were and doof however you see fit.

On Saturday morning I climbed to the peak of the mountain. The dance floor being 800m from the top, I was met with 360-degree views of this pastel painting of complete tranquillity.

Only the faintest sounds of the party below could be heard, and as I wandered to the summit, perhaps it was my heightened senses but I don’t think I’ve ever smelt eucalyptus as fresh as this. It was like alpine menthol. Convinced it was worth sharing, I took some down the mountain.

Along my way, I was held at sword (long stick) point and challenged to a sword fight on stumps. Determined not to be beaten and to share my eucalyptus treasure I drew my own stick and jumped to higher ground to gain the advantage over my attacker. We proceeded to sword fight while he sung the theme song to Pirates of the Caribbean and eventually, I was able to disarm him and continue on my way to share my findings and tell tales of my mountain journey.

To my understanding, this was the first year the organisers of Wild Horses had been able to obtain a permit, and the turnout was growing rapidly from previous years’ numbers.

‘This is the first year it’s an actual festival’ one fairy told me.

Despite what seemed like streams of people, just over a thousand were officially counted and the vibe remained beautiful, open and liberating. From breakfast tagine in the car park, to the French punk that was blaring from the camper van next to me, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Even after three days, each time I went to leave the dance floor I found myself thinking ‘where else would you rather be?’

‘Love and other drugs’

This article was written, and all photographs were taken by Alexandra Sarre.

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