Live Review: Beyond The Valley

29 December 2017 | 3:32 pm | Bree Chapman

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

day one

On route to Beyond The Valley 2017 and coincidentally once we hit Warragul, we get caught in a convoy of vans and wagons, doesn’t take long to work out where they are going. We catch a sign that says five kilometres out from BTV and we're getting antsy.

We pull in and already, on day one, we can feel the bass vibrations from way up on the top of hill. Gazing down, we see a sea of campers and punters, and you don’t need to be close to catch the reflections of thousands of glitter ensembles. But today is mostly about the set up, and getting to know your neighbours. Everyone you meet is within three seconds you best bloody mate. And without a doubt, everyone is also in  on the ‘no fucks given’ dress code. Hawaiian shirts and bright neon seem to be the order of the day, creating a space for zero-inhibitions punters are already showing off finest of dance moves.

We’ve wandered down to Central Park stage and DJ Sunshine is in full swing; after her set we are all thinking —trumpets and bass beats seem to go together like Vegemite and cheese. But its only day one after all and so it’s all about lounging and relaxing. The coffee bar with its bluesy soundtrack is the perfect place to set up for a couple hours and soak up the sounds of sights.

But if we have one tip for punters after our first day experience, it’s don’t get too close to the giant goon bag display, no matter how much you may want a nice Cab Sav, it doesn’t look as good all over you as you might think. Punters are already buzzing and running around with eager excitement, however the only thing on today is the Central Park stage, so for majority of the day everyone is relaxing at camp, setting up, with a drink in hand or pushing their way to the front of the small stage to soak up what is no doubt just the beginning of an incredible and varied range of music.

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We head back down that mighty hill, needing a beer or cider or just something cold after the significant hike, and Cassettes For Kids are nailing their set amongst twists and turns of unexpected drops and the smooth transitions. Low and behold, the army flies have joined punters on the dancefloor, they make the lengthy lines for dinner a tad of an irritation, but after finding one’s way to the front of the line, kebab in hand, no one seems to mind after that. Spacey Space closes an incredible night one, dropping an immaculate mixture of heavy classics and heavy bass. No one is clearly ready for the night to be over, and we would love nothing more than to kick on, but it’s day one and if anything this weekend is a marathon not a sprint. There is a thick sense of excitement and almost complete freedom in the air and its only up hill from here — seriously this is all anyone is thinking on that hike back up to camp.

day two

It’s sunshine and more flies when everyone starts to wake up for day two. If you can believe it, more and more cars have piled into Lardner Park. We head down just before lunch time, not expecting to be back anytime soon.

We make it through the crowds of more glitter than even yesterday, just in time for the sultry and suave Dean Lewis. With fans lining the front barrier and lapping up each smooth folky tune, and passionate emotional ballad. He treats us to a few more of his upbeat and loved-up tunes, and punters are eating up every word of it (“We don’t fall down/we tumble magnificently”). His is the perfect sound to grab the nearest person and just hug them and dance — which it seems everyone is already doing. Lewis leaves us with two of his big hits, Waves and Lose My Mind have even more punters throwing themselves further to stage, up and shoulders and jumping up and down and all over.

Wandering around the main grounds of the festival there is no shortage of dance beats and smaller parties for us to join. But the one we aren’t ready to leave in any hurry is in the ‘Get Hitched Tent’, coming across a half-naked priest and series of spontaneously epic weddings isn’t something you do every day — and the accompanying ‘80s beats aren’t bad either.

Skeggs hard punk rock tunes call us back to the main stage, and their token head-banger sound is quite a contrast to Lewis before them, but it’s still a welcomed changed.

Punters are letting loose in euphoric ways and we, like the crowd around us, get lost in the trance until we get pulled out by a bit of a fumble. “Fuck, I got distracted and forgot to sing the words.” But at least they are enjoying the day’s scenes as much as we are. And if that didn’t pull us from the trance the next down pour of rain sure did. Quickly followed by a serve weather warning from organisers, and we are in for rain, hail and wind — oh my.

In no time everyone is sporting not just run of the mill clear, but also glitter, knitted and neon ponchos over their festival gear and kicking on through the mud and rain. NOA head out next and punters are losing themselves in a mess of mud and rain and soulful, electronic jazzy beats.

"Hot Dub Time Machine promises the best party ever, and boy does he deliver."

Everyone is feeling pretty elated, once getting over the rain and putting up with it as more friend than foe, it’s hard to not let out the little kid inside of you, who just wants to jump in puddles of mud. So, we do. By the time punters are well and truly soaked, the rain clears out just in time for PNAU. Frontman Nick Littlemore launches into an inspirational speech about fucking off the cops, and just having a good time, “you can just do what you fucking like,” he encourages. Their set is relentless, each song bleeds into another, with that ‘awe, I love this song’ moment surprising punters again, and again. Go Bang is one epic track that everyone knows and tries desperately to sing along to over the heavy, infectious bass. But the real highlight of the set is the trio’s true rock star moment. Clearly enjoying being here as much as we are, Littlemore calls “shut the fucking lights off”, and then it just us under the stars. And we think that’s the best part of the set, but without warning they launch into the epic electronic ballad, Chameleon and I don’t think anyone wants the song to ever be over.  

But the moment a lot of us tonight have been waiting for has arrived. Stormzy makes a cool and casual entrance and with ease crashes into his intense and high-energy track Scary. The  South London rapper is an enigmatic powerhouse onstage, he doesn’t hold back and he doesn’t let us either. “All I need from you tonight is energy.” He has punters climbing on one another just to get closer, chanting his name over and over again. He truly explodes onto the stage and leaves it all there. Those with real determination are tying their hardest to sing-a-long, most making up the words, but his is real, raw talent so pretty much all we can do is dance, and dance hard. He turns up a heat on this set a little more, with a cover of Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You, but then in the blink of an eye he is saying goodbye with his hit Shut Up. When he comes into the crowd to say his final goodbyes, there is more than few punters trying to hold on, not ready for him to leave and it to be over.

It’s already been a pretty full on day, but we have time (and stamina) for just one more set — or so we thought. Hot Dub Time Machine promises the best party ever, and boy does he deliver.

Firstly, he and his trusty flight attendant, take us back to the 1950s. Then for the next hour he has just shouting “another one, another one” after every classic hit, that somehow most everyone knows. The free and truly ecstatic vibe coming from the crowd must be getting to him because, he goes rouge. Adding in more hits and more hits, seriously not wanting to leave the stage. Albeit we are also vibing so hard most of us can barely stand, but he brings us back all the way through to 2017. And it truly was the best party ever, but dancing through neatly 70 years of epic music, leaves one pretty tired, so we head off for the hike back home.

And there we are again, walking back up the hill, wet, muddy and sweaty and without a doubt, day two was a success. 

day three

Day three, or as it’s become known around camp, ‘crash day’ — the day most punters realised they danced, sang and drank far too hard on day two. So, it’s a slow and lazy start, the cold weather doesn’t help either. But after dragging one’s butt of out bed, joining the pretty huge cue for coffee, now we are roaring to go. Although the festival grounds are pretty sparse in the early afternoon the crowd that turns out for Jack Rivers is equally as loud as one twice this size.

Rivers and her band saunter on stage, all matching in mechanic jumpsuits and cheesy grins. The pop rock artist is the perfect way for us to ease back into the groove of things, along to the beat of her smooth and folky rock we are just letting the wind sway us back and fourth. “Maybe we can bring the rain back with this one,” Rivers launches into Dream Girl in a bid to bring the rain back, and because of the sheer joy of jumping in mud we are all on board. Needless to say, but her rain dance is much more graceful than any of us. Which is probably why we stay dry, but when she moves straight into the hit Fault Line, it’s hard to really care anymore.

We are ready for Cub Sport, but we are getting pretty cold and need to keep moving, so the echo of a pretty intense party is hailing from the Central Park Little Green house stage. So off we go. We get there and Asante Nuru & Ash Mclerie are giving it all they have.

A quick boogie but before we know it we can hear the thrum of a soundcheck over on main stage and so back we go. Cub sport are the perfect line-up for this time of the afternoon, after running back and forth we have enough body heat to keep us warm and so we park ourselves up on the hill for the very chilled-out and soulful tracks they are putting down for us. Punters look so relaxed it’s like the band has put them all under a spell, because nobody is in any hurry to move. And with the next couple lined up for main stage, we aren’t in a hurry either.

“We want Meg, we want Meg.” And just like magic, there she is - Meg Mac in all her graceful glory, walks out onto the stage, as the queen of cool. Without blinking she throws herself into Turning and has us truly captivated with every word. Her voice and performance seems to know no bounds, it’s clear by her raw talent that she put every piece of herself in to each song.

Looking around at punters, they can feel it to, her sound and lyrics are intensely felt and they almost crawl inside you and force you to feel each moment and enjoy it. We can’t fight it for Cages, the echo of the crowd singing back is just too loud. She treats us to her cover of Tame Impala’s First Time and then rounds out her huge set with the epic ballad Grandmas Hands, everyone clapping (somewhat in time) together, and huddling up in the mosh to stay warm, and it’s a pretty perfect and intimate moment for all of us to share.

"It’s going to take a while to come down from that set."

And the cherry of top of an already incredible afternoon, Matt Corby saunters on stage, and once he gets going with Belly Side Up we all just let the wind move us as one. Corby exudes finesse and clarity up there, as if in his own world and we are just watching. He doesn’t hold back, giving us a range of covers and then closing out with the ones he knows we are hanging out to hear. Resolution echoes far beyond the festival grounds with everyone singing back, clearly as loud as humanly possible after two days of screaming. Then finally Brother captures us all just for that final heartbreaking moment when it’s all over and the stage is empty. But the Corby shaped whole in our hearts is quickly filled again by Hayden James. Once he takes his place and crashes straight into his brand of house meets alternative folk it’s all just a mixture of jumping and swaying.

But in a quick rush, we run over to the dance tent to catch George Maple already going at it in all her glory. Mirrored stage, smoke machine, back up dancers it’s the full set up for the princess of electric pop. She oozes confidence up there and with her huge, intense vocal range it’s not hard to see why. And we aren’t the only ones who think so, the dance tent is overflowing, with people spilling out onto the grass, clamouring to get a glimpse.

Just another light jog, trying our hardest not to miss a single thing, and we make it back to main stage in time Mura Masa. Two minutes into his set and it’s his world and we are just living in it tonight.

He builds higher and higher we are dancing until we can’t feel our feet beneath us anymore. He comes around to the middle of the set and drops One Night, and so by now everyone has found themselves their own piece of dirt, and space to move and are truly letting loose in an almost childlike way. He keeps pusher us up and up, and by the time we see the end of his set we think he might be leaving us without the classics we have come to expect. And just before we wander off disappointed we hear a faint, “here is an old one.”

In his spontaneous fifteen-minute encore he crams as much energy in as he has done all night. Leaving us with the crowd favourites Love Sick and What If I Go, it’s going to take a while to come down from that set. But once we hit the dirt below us for a moments reprieve, we realise we’re either not getting back up, or we are going to bed. All the way up the hill we can hear the hugeness of what is going on back down the bottom, Schoolboy Q is absolutely smashing it out, with the crowd’s echoes reaching all the way up here. If this is what New Year’s Eve Eve has in store for us, we’re are going to need a Powerade for tomorrow.

Day Four

Everyone is buzzing today, and everyone is pink. The day is finally here, and for 2018 we are all head to toe in hues of pinks. (Insert appropriate ‘we wear pink’ Mean Girls reference here). Tonight already has all the makings of the perfect NYE countdown. The sun has come back to us for the last day, and

The Belligerents are hitting it out of the park as we wander down for the beginning of a very long last day of the year. But after two Red Bulls and one of those agonising long waits for a burger, we are ready to go. We watch from the top of the hill, inhaling a couple of very nutritious cheeseburgers and this band has quite literally all the puzzle pieces of an amazing rock band. If we hadn’t heard about them before today, well we’re are certainly saving them to Spotify playlists now. Flare pants, drum and bass heavy pop punk tunes and guys wearing pink onesies, it feels like a different (and potentially better) world out here. Caroline goes off like a house on fire and clearly it hasn’t taken people long to settle into the NYE spirit. FKG, a French instrumentalist, is another bloody good surprise. The things he is able to do with just himself and his collection of random instruments, well, we are unsure if he is actually human. Saxophone, keyboard, vocals — the list just goes on. And with each song of his set, more and more punters and eagerly turning and ear to listen, which is quickly followed by them running further down to the stage to assumedly soak up as much of him as they can.

Over in Central Park we are elated by the feeling of freedom to dance without the inherent fear (and likelihood) of hitting someone in the face. We are in the Little Green house for Mitch Bain and in amongst the sea of green foliage and pink tutus we are quite literally throwing ourselves all around — and shortly later we again are running back to main stage with successfully no injuries.

As we are walking we can hear a familiar thrum of a guitar, and after it dawns on us that it is Amy Shark, we head flying down the hill with hundreds of other punters already shouting “Amy! Amy! Amy!” Gasping for breath, but still we are shouting Drive You Mad as we cross the final couple of metres, the echo sings out across the festival floor. She pours her heart out into each song; her huge vocals and range are filled with so much raw honesty we couldn’t look away even if we wanted too. “I’m going to end 2017 with something that started it,” Shark launches into the much-anticipated Adore and then says goodbye leaving a bunch of broken hearted fans wishing it wasn’t over. But there is no rest for the wicked, turn around and quickly head back to Central Park where we can already hear it is truly going off. It seems everywhere you turn today there is even bigger party, or even louder crowd and trying not miss a single second is giving us whiplash. But we are grateful for the little cardio we had to endure when we make to Jesse Brown & Zac Mowthorpe. The boys pander to their crowd, with classic hits and a heavy mix of synth and bass beats, it’s unrelenting but with every twist and turn of their set they get an even louder crowd.

On the walk over to the dance tent, we are Googling ‘how and where do people get those little buggie things to drive around?’, but our efforts don’t yield any results and we are left to continue hoofing it around, cursing those lux campers and their golf carts as we do. However, Mallrat’s cheery and yet sinfully happy pop eases the burden, and in a matter of songs either we have lost all feeling in our feet or the infectious For Real just has us to happy to care.

You can see how absolutely intense the pit is already for Ivan Ooze over in the dance tent and this just makes us want to be inside more. After wiggling our way into the middle we are caught in the most insane hour of the weekend so far. Here’s what went down:

  1. Shirtless guy throws himself over the barrier
  2. Shirtless guy gets pulled out by security
  3. Ooze says, “Nah mate, none of that’ and pulls shirtless guy up on stage.”
  4. Shirtless guy expertly polishes off a beer and we think it can’t possibly get better than this, after all this is the stuff of a pure rock-star fairytale
  5. Ooze crowd surfs on an inflatable pool swan

Leaving the dance tent later, we are nothing short of gobsmacked and amazed. Also, incredibly glad we didn’t miss that, it’s a story you don’t just want to hear about the day after. But now there is only about two hours left of 2017 and so back to main stage we head.

DMA’s hit the stage in a big way, ready to get the crowd warmed up for the countdown.

After emerging beers in hand, they throw themselves into Play It Out with as much passion and intimacy as is in the song.

Their set is like one big hug and singalong, we are just walking about through the crowd and can hear all throughout the sweet echoes of thousands of punters singing their lyrics back to them, in (almost) a perfect harmony. And there is just a lot of embracing and PDA, but it’s hard to be mad about it here. They close out the set as cool and confident as they started it, and with a couple simple nods they are gone.

But the moment’s almost here, and the thick anticipation that is in the air is just building and building, everyone waiting for the same thing. And here they are, The Presets appear on stage and immediately up the game for 2018, they crash straight the set with their brand of heavy house, with smooth folky lyrics and an underlying snythy groove. But in the blink of an eye the guys have put a pause on the music and there is less than a minute left. “When do we start counting down?” one of the guys laughs, but in a matter of seconds his question is answered because there is ten seconds left of the year. Without missing a beat as soon as 2018 starts they launch into the most epic, and intense dance party with the one and only My People. Strangers are hugging and dancing, people are kissing, the mood hanging over this huge and elated crowd is just that — bloody happy, and what more could we ask for.

Following The Presets, it just keeps getting bigger and better, with Set Mo lighting up the New Year and no one is slowing down yet. And we’re pretty sure the first sun of 2018 will be up before anyone is ready for tonight to be over.