Pulling into Tropical Bloom as the crisp orange sun set across the cattle yard, I knew I was where I needed to be.
I’d had a good feeling about Tropical Bloom since I first made contact with the organisers, whose good vibes and friendly nature was undeniable. Well, the old saying rings true: Your vibe does attract your tribe.
How pleasant it was to find that tribe of like-minded souls last weekend.
Musical offering: ☆☆☆☆
This year, Tropical Bloom decided to mix it up a little. Instead of a three-day straight psytrance marathon (although there was plenty of that), the organisers opted to cap off the event on Friday night and Sunday afternoon with a generous lineup of live music.
Brother Beans was the second artist to perform, and his upbeat hiphop got the crowd in the mood to boogie. And, by opening the mic up to anyone who wanted to freestyle, he set a welcoming tone that would prevail for the whole weekend. His breaksy beats brought a fun and dancy element, while dub undertones throughout added depth – the bass was heavy without being overbearing
Chocolate Strings then lit up the stage with their soulful sounds, welcoming late-coming campers and setting the pace for a chilled yet exciting event.
It was Khallidad that really stole the show though. The three-piece band from Melbourne took to the stage in KISS style face paint, classical guitars and drums in hand. The sounds they produced with such simple instruments were phenomenal. They effortlessly transitioned from rolling country tunes with a hint of Spanish guitar through to such vigorous shredding you could only describe the sound as acoustic metal. And, just for good measure, a beachy surf rock song brought the crowd to life at the end of their set.
Sitting on my picnic blanket at the main stage, I felt the happiness of just being there to witness such talent course through my veins.
From there, the music progressed into the familiar psytrance sounds doofers know and love. I was thankful the organisers considered their guests’ need to sleep and shut it off before the sun came up. Not that I don’t like psytrance – I simply appreciate a little respite.
Saturday’s music picked up where the early morning electronics left off. Highlights included MastaRyte’s psy punctuated by funky bass and Grandpa Dad – the organiser’s old man – whose mid-tempo afternoon set was met with hoots and cheers.
I must admit, I am no aficionado of the various psytrance genres. But from all accounts the doofers were thrilled with the electronic lineup. It drew crowds throughout the day and night, luring anyone passing by the stage into the mosh pit for a quick boogie. Even those who didn’t usually doof could appreciate the sounds emanating from both the stages.
Crowd vibe: ☆☆☆☆☆
By far the biggest strength of Tropical Bloom was the people who attended. Each person I encountered was open, honest and welcoming.
And it wasn’t a family friendly festival solely in name. Little children frolicked around the playgrounds (all set up by the legendary Rocky tradies who made the festival such a logistical success – more on that later). Daughters sat atop their dad’s shoulders while the family had a boogie. Grandmas shaked their tail-feathers. A sense of acceptance and love pervaded the entire event. There were no fights. There were no dickheads. And, most importantly, there wasn’t anyone on their phones. The human interactions were simply too good to miss out on.
And the diversity – oh the diversity! Never in a million years did I imagine I’d share a campfire with a drag queen, a farmer, a gold broker, a couple of bush doofers and some teenagers just looking to have a good time. Yet I did, and my life is richer for it.
It’s obvious that this festival is run by people who know a thing or two about their trades. The amenities were flawless – in fact, if there was an award for the best festival toilets, Tropical Bloom would win hands down. There was never a wait for the bathrooms, they were always well stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitiser, and they didn’t even smell too bad.
But, that’s not to say that the festival only excelled when it came to pragmatism. The structures dotting the site were filled with creativity and love. From the thought-provoking sculptures, through to the shady chill out zones and signage around, everything had a special artistic touch.
It’s rather lovely to walk around a festival with someone you’ve just met and hear them point to one thing or another and say with pride, “I made that!”.
Just looking at the time, effort and consideration that went into creating Tropical Bloom, it was clear the organisers and crew always strive to improve on the previous year – and I was fortunate enough to attend the sixth year when everything was sorted rather nicely!
Extra curricular activities: ☆☆☆
When it came to workshops and talks, I did not participate as much as I would have liked to. That’s not to say the extra-curricular activities weren’t there – I just had such a good time with the people I met that the ambient level of learning and sharing was enjoyable enough for me.
It was lovely to watch children getting involved in arts and crafts, and to see young blokes stroll up the hill with yoga mats in hand early Saturday morning. When I return next year (which is an absolute must) I will be exploring this side of Tropical Bloom more. I have no doubt there’s much to absorb from the practical, pleasant people who make this event a Rockhampton staple.
The physical setting of Tropical Bloom is a bit of a misnomer. Two-thirds of Queensland is officially in drought, and Rockhampton is no different.
Yet, the less-than-green landscape of this event is delightful in its own ways. Thick mist descends on the site from the evening through til mid-morning when the sun finally shows its face and evaporates the cloud. This phenomenon makes for perfect camping weather – you can sleep in and feel well rested without your tent heating up like a bain-marie.
Then, once it hits 10am, you feel like you’ve been magically transported out of that miserable winter weather and into a summer playground. You’ll want to shake those cobwebs out of your bones. grab an iced coffee (coconut milk, please) and get to the dance floor for some fun in the sun.
Aside from the weather, the local surrounds boast unique flora and fauna you won’t see anywhere else. We spotted an echidna, emus, deer, and dozens of Brahmin cows coming in and out of the festival (I wonder if they like the tunes?). And, because the site is located near wetlands, there’s also plenty of natural song for bird-lovers to enjoy.
I would recommend Tropical Bloom to anyone. It doesn’t matter what music you like, or what walk of life you’re from. You will meet lovely people, feel safe and warm, and get more than a few great dances in!