Beyond the Valley has had a rough trot with the elements. From the gale-force winds of the festival’s original coastal location, to punters’ complaints of scorching heat, the BTV organisers have had their fair share of challenges in its short but hugely successful lifetime – and this year was no different. But, with some good management and a little bit of luck, they came away with a brilliant end result.
Now in just its third year (and the second at the beautiful lakeside surrounds of Lardner Park), and with an expanded lineup now stretching across four days, this year’s event looked unstoppable on paper. But, as tends to happen any time weather is involved, a spanner was well and truly thrown into the works on the first full day of music as a torrential downpour swept across the state.
Sets all across the day were affected, as those huddled at the front of stage in rain ponchos could barely hear the wailing guitars of Harts over the rattle of raindrops on plastic, and by the time Hermitude brought the day to a close, the area in front of the stage was a mud pit. Some revelled in the weather (we all know a lot of festival-goers aren’t necessarily afraid of a bit of mud), while others sought shelter in the dance tent.
Once the rains parted, the weather was absolutely perfect
Thankfully, the rains moved on, and the organisers worked through the night to pack the grounds with freshly-ordered beds of hay. It was a swift reaction from the team, and an important one. By the next morning, what could have remained a swamp had instead been restored mostly to its former glory, and the rest of the festival was a dream. Two days of near-perfect weather followed, the occasional spikes in the heat mitigated somewhat by the addition of shade sails that had been brought in after the unrelenting sun of years past (although a few more would still be welcome).
The music that followed was mostly glorious, from the early-evening sets each day from DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats (the latter performing a filthy shoey-off with some lucky punters and the sloppiest version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ you’ll ever hear), to the huge late-night rager from Oliver Huntemann, who presided over his domain like a techno god.
Day three’s early run of female talent in Woodes, Wafia, Vera Blue and Emma Louise, all capped off by Sweden’s Highasakite, was a particularly delightful way to spend an entire afternoon – a stark contrast to the often unrelenting electronic sounds pumping out of the dance tent. Certain moments saw the crowd flood to one stage or the next, such as the first strains of an extended version of ‘Faded’ being dropped by Zhu towards the end of a fantastic set, but there was never any threat of overcrowding.
Dune Rats looked suitably stoked as they took to the stage
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. A few sound issues plagued the main stage at times – Delta Riggs frontman Elliott Hammond spent much of his second tune searching for the stage for a new mic when his cut out, and even the headliners like Sticky Fingers being affected by drop outs – but for the most part things went according to plan.
Some of the set times were also a bit odd, particularly Jarryd James, whose oppressively shy performance brought the energy right down at 7pm on the final night, just as flagging punters were in need of that final boost to propel them forward into a final evening of choons. Bakermat proved to be the saviour here, roaring onto the stage in a flurry of sax and enthusiasm, picking the mood right back up. Phantogram’s repeated calls for “titties” throughout their set the following evening grew a bit tiresome by the end, as did their constant reminders that they do, in fact, hail from New York City, although ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’ was an expectedly good closer.
Bakermat picked the energy up at just the right moment
Of course, many people had come to the festival for one of two reasons: to see emerging superstar Chance The Rapper take to an Australian stage for the first time, or to see beleaguered outfit Sticky Fingers play one last time before they took an indefinite hiatus after some recent indiscretions on the part of singer Dylan Frost. Both sets were fascinating, for various reasons.
Firstly Chance, a perfectly-timed booking who has gone from strength to strength since he was first announced. As he burst onto the stage at midnight to close out the main stage of day three, there was a massive pop, but it soon became clear that something wasn’t quite right. He revealed that, while it was “bogus” for him not to give it his all on his first trip to Australia, he’d gone a bit hard in the lead-up and partially lost his voice. The resulting set saw a lot of moments fall flat, as he asked the crowd for help with sing-alongs that they weren’t quite able to deliver. “Can we sing a song where we sing every word together?” he implored, but it was too much to ask.
Chance put the effort in, but struggled with vocal issues through a tough set
It was a disjointed hour, as he took up to several minutes at a time to bring the music to a halt, and while he did his best to bring the energy back up towards the end, ‘Blessings’ saw his voice continue to falter, ending on a whimper not a bang as the confetti blew.
The headliner the following night was also interesting to watch, a booking with less-fortunate timing. With Sticky Fingers having recently cancelled all but a few of their remaining shows following their frontman’s highly-publicised battles with personal demons and repeated incidents of alleged terrible behaviour, it would be interesting to see how the turmoil impacted their crowd as they rang in the new year.
Emotions ran high during Sticky Fingers’ final performance before their indefinite hiatus
The band strode to the stage with a mix of defiance and appreciation, while Dylan peered intensely out at the sizeable crowd, shrouded in a heavy coat. What impact the controversy has had on the band, it’s hard to say, but a considerable legion of fans turned out to sing along to every word, and the emotion onstage was palpable. Due to take to the stage at ten-to-midnight, belt out a couple of songs and then helm the countdown, they instead made it on just in time to get halfway through their opener before the countdown ticked over in the background and the streamers rained down.
For those less inclined to watch the band, or who simply wanted their electronic needs met for the countdown, Melbourne producer Roland Tings was giving them their fill in the dance tent. In fact, the countdown here was probably even more effective, as the glorious glowing pyramid nestled within brought its own majesty to the occasion. His set was a slow starter, but by the time ‘Pala’ dropped, the mood was at a high.
Punters kept the spirits high all the way through to New Year’s Eve
The big musical moments were the centrepieces of the festival, but it’s everything surrounding them that went into making for a fantastic four days – even despite the freak weather. Settled beside a lake among green hills, the site itself is ideal, never demanding too long of a walk to camp or amenities. The stages themselves are something to behold, too; the huge faux rock face and raised DJ booth of the main stage was a sight, but the constantly-morphing light show of the dance tent’s raised pyramid.
While not packed with the art installations all the rage with the ’boutique’ festivals these days, the grounds were littered with an array of clothing stalls and food options, with little side-stages dotted around for you to discover. The wait at the bar was never an issue, and the inflatable church always provided a laugh as various people got dressed up for a sham wedding.
There were hitches – there always are – but they were dealt with swiftly and effectively for the most part. For an event of this scale to be as accomplished as it is after only its third year, and to react to the deluge as quickly as it did, is an impressive feat. If the Beyond The Valley team continue their streak, there’s no telling what could be in store for next year.
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