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Live Review: Camp Doogs

14 October 2015 | 8:17 pm | Aaron Bryans

"Collapsing filthy and exhausted into a tent at 5am, it was hard not to begin looking forward to next Doogs."

The joke already runs that if you didn’t go to Camp Doogs, you’re sure as hell going to hear about it afterwards - there are reasons for that. Only three editions old, the low-key, high-vibes music festival has pretty much perched itself as the event of the year in the hippest circles of this city’s music scene.

Sometimes it feels like BIGSOUND without the conference. Is it insular? Probably. But is it welcoming as all hell? Twice so, and it gets more so every year. Camping, as ever, favoured the self-sufficient – if you managed to avoid forgetting your towel or mistake a bottle of methylated spirits for water while coming down the conditions were just about perfect, warm-to-baking as the afternoons were. 

The arts and activities took another step up, with Zen gardens and other amenities to keep the space engaging for the senses neglected by speakers. This isn’t to forget the music, though. While last year’s line-up favoured the unexpected and unheralded to generally mind-blowing results, this year leaned towards more established acts. But if the joy of discovery was dimmed a little, the bangers were wall to wall. 

On Friday night, Hootenanny got the ball rolling before Methyl Ethel set off for the states with a languorous, mesmeric set befitting their incipient world-conquering. Following was the rare and frankly overwhelming spectacle of Mei Saraswati Band brining things out into the stratosphere, before the seismic voice of Kirin J. Callinan brought things back to the gutter, ending with a stage invasion and a group chant about toddlers. 

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Saturday’s highlights came thick and fast early with Erasers and Leure, before Sui Zhen’s masterful ambient pop belied the heat of the afternoon with her chilly, absorbing takes on connection. Along with Grace Barbe, Kitchen People might have been the local MVPs --If it was possible to rip the fuckin’ roof off an open-air amphitheatre, KP did that and more with a bevy of new, cut-glass synth-led material. At the opposite tempo, Outlordz blended yacht rock sensibilities, getting destroyed on lean and just-ok cultural appropriation with a dedication to Party that verged on the hazardous - not an iota of that was a complaint. It wouldn’t have been Doogs without someone perching by the river and whispering with a guitar, and this year the recently-repatriated Rabbit Island obliged with a set that was beatific – if it was easy to lull a couple hundred revellers into a hush at a festival, it would happen. 

The Bedroom Suck showcase was richly rewarding, especially considering how rarely members of the stable make it out west -- the euphoric Footscray Station by Scott and Charlene’s Wedding was worth the three hour bus ride to Nannup by itself. 

The main stage closed to the polyrhythmic incantations of the unstoppably frenetic NO ZU, before the intrepid decamped to Deep Doogs for dancing into the wee hours, capped by a marathon Noise in My Head set. Collapsing filthy and exhausted into a tent at 5am, it was hard not to begin looking forward to next Doogs. 

Originally published in X-Press Magazine