We had the best of times; we had the worst of times. Actually, we only really had the best of times!
Gathering our make-shift tent homes, a whole lot of ‘healthy’ snacks, the funkiest outfits we could find and sunscreen, lots and lots of sunscreen, we were ready to brave the scorching Australian summer heat and dance our way to Beyond the Valley 2019.
Although the three-hour car queue just to get to the entrance gates prevented us from really ‘dancing’ our way in, we certainly didn’t stop once we finally got there. Greeted by the familiar rolling hills and shimmering lake (which magnificently reflected the festival lights at night) of Lardner Park in Victoria, we could not wait to get our daggy camp set up and run with open arms to the music.
The rising frustrations brought on by the delays getting in (and the heat), were immediately dispersed into the atmosphere as a wave of excitement and positive energy embraced us making our speedy descent to the main arena. Taking into account that this was the sixth iteration of ‘Beyond the Valley’ (BTV), we were still pleasantly surprised by the extravagant stage designs, lighting and sound production, and the array of special extras (such as a giant ferries wheel, the Tinder pool and the activities including meditation and tarot card readings in the Sanctuary), that surrounded the magical festival grounds.
The additional perks that on offer at BTV all factor in to making the festival truly like-no-other in Australia, and further demonstrate its ability to rival festivals on an international scale. Really though, when we get down to the crux of what brings thousands of people together to camp for days in the heat, in the rain, sharing space with a whole bunch of other strangers; it’s the music, and when it came to delivering on expectations; BTV exceeded them.
Those involved in the behind the scenes of the festival held true to what was promised from the insanely strong line-up of national and international artists; whom I like to regard as the custodians of high-calibre music and hitting us in the feels. Now, I could easily retell, in extensive detail, the talent and enthusiasm that was witnessed during pretty much every set I attended, but neither of us have time for that, so I will proceed with the highlights of the highlights.
We arrived on day two of the four-day festival and hit-up the sand-grounded dance tent to catch foreign disc jockies Honey Dijon and Patrice Bäumel. And what a cracking start to the afternoon it was; both acts went-off without a hitch – clearly evident from the crowd they managed to pull to the stage in the soaring heat. Dancing and sweating, and sweating and dancing, the electronic bliss produced by each artist enveloped the shaded sandpit with bouncing bodies and grinning faces; the best part was that we knew this was only just the beginning.
After a quick re-hydrate, de-hydrate (alcohol may be a liquid but it certainly doesn’t have the same effect as water) and stomach fuel-up, we presented ourselves at the main stage for a triple threat line-up starting with Floating Points, followed by Methyl Ethel and closing the stage for the night with Skepta. Although being vastly different in genre, Methyl Ethel’s ‘Twilight Driving’ and Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ were respective crowd favourites, which speaks to the diversity of the acts and crowd interests that BTV caters for. After Skepta’s grimey set quite literally ‘shutdown’ the main stage, we trekked on until the music officially silenced at 2am at the dance tent with Noir, who we can’t exactly say gave us a lullaby to send us to sleep, but did give us enough dancing ammo to tire us out.
In spite of the wind and the hangovers, we made an early start on day 3 to see Sydney-based band I Know Leopard, whose single ‘Landmine’ from their 2019 album ‘Love Is A Landmine’ went absolutely swimmingly. Lastlings were up next doing their thing on the main stage as the sleepy campers began to encroach on the arena grounds. However, it wasn’t until Bag Raiders graced the stage that a significantly large crowd formed. Performing quite a few of their more recent tracks along with the ever-loved, legendary classics ‘Shooting Stars’ and ‘Sunlight’, Bag Raiders proved that they’ve still got what it takes to start the party after all of these years. Just to put their musical journey into perspective, ‘Shooting Stars’ was released OVER a decade ago… do you feel old now?
Sadly, I missed the angelic Matt Corby perform, but I was assured that he did justice to his well- respected status as one of Australia’s top acoustic musicians. Racing back after a quick interview, German tech-house master Claptone awed us with his usual mysterious aura and undeniably funky tracks that reverberated in waves of enthusiasm through the crowd. Every single song Claptone played was flawless, ‘Heartbeat’ was my personal favourite, although each song effortlessly transitioned into the next without dropping an inch.
Mallrat and Cub Sport came next, both gave the punters what they wanted; playing their biggest hits, however, the energy did drop slightly from Claptone’s mood setting set (I feel like the timings could’ve been better here). Not to fear though, it was Tyler, The Creator who lifted spirits back up, even with an extended piano solo that came seemingly out of nowhere. With his ‘I need to speak to the manager’ blonde bob wig complete with bangs, Tyler stayed true to his strange self, giving expression to the some of the most out-there lyrics that live within his songs (do yourself a favour a go look up the lyrics to ‘She’). He also performed some of his catchier, yet still super-wack, tracks like his recent hit ‘Earfquake’.
Although we didn’t stay for long, we passed over Dr Dan’s stage which was electronic club-like mania. I overheard that the set design for Dr Dan’s was inspired by Burning Man festival, which made a lot of sense from the décor lining its perimeter. Some real creativity and effort was put into making Dr Dan’s a lot more sophisticated but still super fun (especially with Poof Doof’s decorative influence) compared to last year’s set-up. Passing over the top there was a crowd dancing all around, and looking down below to the stage and the ground level it was packed; I really wish I had spent more time here but there’s always next year! Anyway, once again we soldiered on to the dance tent to finish off the night in true BTV style (until closing) with the ever so fabulous Green Velvet, who did not disappoint. The stylish American producer took us on a wild ride over his two hour set which went until 3am, and even by that hour no one wanted to call it quits.
We had made it; day four, New Year’s Eve day, the most significant of them all. We were in the vibe, over tired and super excited for what the last day of 2019 had in store for us, which we kick started with Melbourne’s own London Topaz. I interviewed this super down to earth artist only a few months earlier, and I can tell you that he has only grown in confidence and talent since then. London Topaz is truly making a name for himself amongst some of the most renowned Australian producers, whilst still staying humble and true to his craft and the passion that has secured his place at these huge events. Current fans were right at the barrier of the main stage supporting his set, while I witnessed many new fans being converted as his performance went on. Following London Topaz, Big Words were up next; this soulful bunch surprised a lot of people who had never seen them live before. They had the most energy of any artist/band I saw over the entirety of BTV; constantly jumping around stage, head banging, switching instruments and vocalists; their set is more than just the music, they put on a real show, it’s almost impossible to be in a bad mood watching these guys.
In opposition, the most energy that was seen from the audience was when Australian identical twins/ pop duo Lisa and Jess, otherwise known as The Veronicas, came on stage and blew our minds. Seeing The Veronicas live would’ve been a teenage dream come true for so many people in the crowd at BTV that day. By a stroke of fate, I had bumped into (completely frozen and literally star-struck) the lovely sisters in the bathrooms of the artist compound where I told them what an inspiration they had been to me growing up with their feminist ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ attitude, which was quite progressive for its time (we’re talking 2004). I can’t lie, once they had left after hugging me and thanking me for the best pre-show hype-up, I did have a little cry of happiness and disbelief. But anyway, back to their set, without a doubt the two certified platinum anthems ‘Untouched’ and ‘Hook Me Up’ were the tracks that sent the crowd into hysterics. If you weren’t one of the many up on shoulders then you probably wouldn’t have seen a thing, but that didn’t matter as long as you could hear and got in amongst it. Their performance was a strong reminder of the fact The Veronicas will live forever in Australian pop culture history, end of story.
After a quick dinner dash, we were back at the main stage for another fan favourite; Aussie producer Hayden James. Set on a trajectory that’s steadily inclining, Hayden James demonstrated his ability to bring a crowd into a shared euphoric experience with his hits: ‘Just Friends’, ‘Better Together’, ‘Numb’ and ‘Something About You’ (to name a few). Hayden James was the perfect artist to flow our feel-goodness into the next set which would bring us into the new decade; Rüfüs Du Sol. The internationally acclaimed three piece was the ideal choice to be honoured with the privilege of playing during the New Year’s tick over moment; but really, the privilege was all ours. Taking us on a rollercoaster of joy, heartbreak, understanding and transformation, the trio played tunes that resonated deeply with the crowd, which propelled us far above surface level and into a blissful electronic dimension. ‘Underwater’, ‘Treat You Better’ and ‘Innerbloom’ were a few of the much- loved tracks they blessed our ears and hearts with, although their entire performance was met with utter enthusiasm and respect as they took us from 11:59pm on the 31st of December 2019, to 12:00am on the 1st of January 2020.
Carrying on in similar sentiment, Dom Dolla played a range of mixes including his hit ‘Take It’, which saw bodies in full dance mode fresh with New Year energy with good vibrations to match. To see the night/early morning through we headed to the dance tent (yet again) to witness Glasgow-based DJ, Denis Sulta do his thing on the decks. His melodic set came to us in immaculate waves of sound, which at some points almost seemed like they were going to fly off the rails but just at the last second he would change direction; no predictable moments were had here.
From secret clubs hidden in portaloos, to the annual dress-up Western theme, in spite of the weather and the hovering gloom of the current bushfires, the sold-out Beyond The Valley 2019 festival managed to pull people and music together to make the most of the present and enjoy the fruits of a collective creativity. As with any event of this scale there are a few areas that could be improved by letting attendees know of the multiple roads to get to the festival gates to reduce the extreme traffic experienced, adding more lanes for security checks in the gates to get things moving quicker and allowing people to bring water into the main arena.
Nonetheless, the importance placed on crafting a safe, fun and unforgettable festival experience talks to the mammoth amount of organisation and determination that went into this year’s event to ensure everyone’s wellbeing was upheld, and that the anticipated good times were had by all. For now, all there is to do is wait for BTV 2020 to drop; who knows what treasures this year’s festival will have in store for us!
Images by Mackenzie Sweetnam.
This article was written by Tomasina Dimopoulos. When she’s not working in communications and PR, you can find her writing poetry and having a boogie. Follow her on Insta: @tomasinadim & @taste_these_words.