Beyond The Valley (BTV) in Lardner, an hour and a half outside Melbourne has been proving itself to be a hot contender in the battle for the ideal New Years Festival, against tough competition from Falls Festival, Lost Paradise, Field Day and a stack of others. Although Falls generally has the biggest international names, Beyond The Valley offers a unique boutique festival, essentially a festival without the fuss.
The main stage of BTV hosts a stack of international and local bands, hip hop and electronic acts while the dance stage in a huge rainbow tent with hypnotising stage lights is essentially a never ending rave/doof.
The four day festival begun with the pre party on 28 December with a whole heap of local djs performing to an eager crowd, majority of who which were definitely not pacing themselves for the long four day haul. I must admit I am a bit of a genre snob and although loving electronic genres like trap and future base, I have never really understood the appeal of repetitive techno music. In the middle of the pre party I was really craving a drop but the last act, Market Memories who recently opened for international legend Green Velvet put on a really crowd pleasing show packed with energy.
On day one of the actual festival Brisbane Singer songwriter Clea opened the stage with her velvety but powerful voice. Releasing her debut album Vermillion this year had her set with a full set of originals. With only a tiny crowd, her already intricate songs had an intimacy and touching feel to them. Her most recent single “Dreaming” was melodic and alluring and this song and her performance show her huge potential for her already thriving career.
Sydney rapper/producer/singer/keyboardist/drummer/a lot of other things Kuren had also released his debut Album, Melting Conceptually this year. I first heard about Kuren when during the Sticky Fingers hiatus he performed a song with lead singer Dylan Frost at The Plot and people went crazy trying to predict a Sticky Fingers return. I then saw him earlier this year where he put on essentially a fabulous hard hitting dj set, with a few originals, aided by his drums and keys.
Now with his new album his set was mainly full of originals and much more hip hop focused. He did a really good job at trying to get the crowd to match his energy, which will really pay off when he establishes himself as an artist. At the end of 2017 he released “Bright Dawn” with Illy, which has now become one of his most popular tracks, so I was shocked and a little disappointed that he chose not to play it!
Alice Ivy is the perfect artist choice for Beyond The Valley, with her cruisey electro pop and groovy persona activating the now expanding crowd in to party mode. She opened with “Charlie” a spacey spoken word number and asked the crowd to pace themselves for what will be a party at the end of the set. Alice Ivy did well at turning her heavily produced record, I’m Dreaming in to an equally captivating live show, building in to songs like “Be Friends,” and debuting a glowing indie pop track which is set to be released next year. The set was well crafted and closing with one of her breakthrough tracks “Get Me A Drink” left me ready for what was to be my favourite set of the day.
The terribly underrated City Calm Down released one of my favourite albums of the year after being on the Australian music scene for years. They are what my dad would call “a real band” with powerful choruses commanding guitars and epic hooks. The crowd slimmed out after Alice Ivy and I wanted to scream at everyone to tell them they didn’t know what they were missing.
Their indie rock is delicate without lacking the punch of a good rock band and songs like “Rabbit Run” and ‘Blood” were uplifting and euphoric. Taking you through highs and lows within their 45 minute set, City Calm Down closed with “In This Modern Land” a climactic and liberating finish to a brilliant show!
Anyone who has jumped on the Gang of Youth’s band wagon and knows they are going to be waiting a while for another album should definitely go check out City Calm Down. Oozing the same profoundness without the sometimes over emphasised life advice of lead singer David Le’aupepe, City Calm Down are just a good old fashioned band.
The soulful hip hop of 6 piece Winston Surfshirt has been soundtracking summer playlists for 12 year old girls all the way through to die hard Aussie music fans over the last two years. The indie, easy going personality of lead singer, Winston translates through to their live performances and matches their unique feel good sound. This was another climactic set closing with “Same Same” featuring a shockingly huge trombone solo and then “Be About You” Beyond The Valley fans had hit a jackpot today, with another unreleased song being debuted! Winston Surfshirt are constantly on the uphill and this was reflected by the huge crowd reaction, the biggest of the day by far.
From sweltering hot conditions the day before, by the time Client Liaison hit the stage people started pulling out their trust Kathmandu puffer jackets and others started to question their clothing choices. People who say Client Liaison shows are one massive party are underselling the insanely clever Australian disco pop artists – if that is even a thing!
From their stage design set up with big water tanks, to their political satire, receiving a call from fake John Howard in “Canberra won’t be calling tonight,” Client Liaison have managed to blend all things Australia in to a massive production, with music that still stands on its own in the madness.
With the crowd in full party mode, “World of Our Love” was a special moment for everyone embracing the Client Liaison spirt.
In what I thought would have been a bit of an out of place set at this festival, American hip hop sensation Joey Bada$$ proved me wrong pulling a massive crowd. After a fifteen minute intro with his dj playing todays biggest hits like “Sicko Mode” and “Plain Jane,” he went to introduce Joey Badass to the stage but three notes in there was silence. After a bit of booing and chanting, the inevitable crowd chanting “heeeeeyyyy babbbbyyyy oooh ahh” kicked in. However, even this wasn’t long enough to entertain the crowd as the generator problems took half an hour to fix. When he came on, I’m sure die hard fans would have loved it, however in typical hip hop fashion he spent half the set stopping the crowd to make them cheer, set up mosh pits and chant back at him rather than just playing his songs.
Beyond The Valley seemed to work with this unexpected issue promptly and let Joey Badass play an extra twenty minutes, with Willaris. K only taking the main stage 23 minutes late, to close off the day with his eerie deep production. Willaris. K is easily one of Australia’s most talented producers, getting praise from legends like Golden Features who I’m sure will hand him the baton soon as the leading Australian deep house producer. About a month ago I saw Willaris. K perform in the day time and was mesmerised at how he effectively he made his moody, electronic sound fit a day time slot. After seeing what he could do then I promised myself I would go see him in the night for his full show!
I was thrilled to find out he was bringing his dancers along who in full back with lit up red masks added to the chilling and ambient feel. The way he crafts all of his tracks and live performances, I know he has so many huge visions for the Willaris. K project in the future. In his sets for a while now he has been playing “Natural Selection” which has constantly been a highlight of the show. It has only recently been released so seeing a crowd that now is familiar with the already powerful track was thrilling.
The crowd thinned pretty quickly for long walks back to campsites and the inevitable kick ons, with most people seeming to have had a great first day.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Tomorrow a huge bunch of Aussie legends like DZ Deathrays, The Jungle Giants, Alex Lahey and Safia will be tackling the Beyond The Valley crowd as we approach the New Year!
Photos by Danny Hanssen