When we said goodbye to the Pyramid Rock Festival all those years ago, we perhaps didn’t think our little music hearts could love again. But then we met Beyond the Valley – the boutique music festival that just celebrated its sixth anniversary as a heavyweight in the NYE camping festival scene.
Set amongst the beautiful scenery of Lardner Park, Beyond the Valley (BTV) was host to an array of cutting-edge musical lineups and incredible festival experiences, ensuring punters rolled into the new-year in the best way possible despite the challenges faced.
With the news of Falls Festival cancelling the Lorne edition due to unsafe conditions, there was no doubt that the stakes were high for BTV.
Showing courage in the face of adversity thanks to mainstream media and ill reporting, the festival organisers, the fully equipped paramedic teams including nurses, doctors and Ambulance Victoria staff, and the festival volunteers and staff should be praised for their ability to pull off a hugely successful and safe event for the sixth year in a row. Despite the extreme weather conditions, there were no stage or artist cancellations, water remained present at all times with a number of water stations within the site, misting stations within the dance tent, pools at the Tinder Beach Club and more than 10,000 square metres of shade across the whole site, keeping all us BTV’ers nice and shady! All this, plus BTV had a coordinated warnings service through their app and Facebook to keep punters up to date with the changing weather conditions. It’s crystal clear that BTV went above and beyond to ensure the safety of festival-goers at this year’s event – and they threw one helluva great party while they were at it.
Now, let’s get to the good shit eh?
BTV threw open its gates on Saturday December 28, inviting punters to set up and settle in the day before the music really kicked off. It was a warm welcome too with temperatures soaring into the high 30’s, which was to endure throughout much of the four-day festival, but it did little to blister the enthusiasm of keen festival-goers.
Day two (Sunday December 29) got the ball rolling at around midday, which meant we could actually get a decent sleep in and take our time glittering our faces and donning our festival best. I myself am an old lady and can’t party like I used to, but these late starts were particularly necessary and appreciated over the festival for some of my crew who were checking out the dance tent DJs well into the AM each night.
Avoiding the heat for the most part of the day, we ventured into the main site and wandered up to the main stage to catch Confidence Man and sweat it out under the sweltering glare of the sun. Boasting an unmatched no-fucks-given, ravey vibe, the electronic four-piece produce an energetic live show that just needs to be experienced at least once in your lifetime (at least!). The epitome of music confident people can jam to, revellers were soon to forget any frustrations as the band bought all the party vibes with recent track ‘Does It Make You Feel Good’, and a handful of numbers from their 2018 debut album Confident Music for Confident People. Performing their flirty and funky ‘Bubblegum’, the bold ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’, and their upbeat sassy debut single ‘Boyfriend (repeat)’ with the terribly amazing dance moves from Sugar Bones and Janet Planet, a high energy voltage went through the crowd with doof stick in full force and a vibe that proved to be the perfect introduction to my BTV experience.
There was a decent crowd gathered on the hill which grew in size once the breathtaking and soulful Meg Mac started playing, showcasing her vocal and lyrical talent with tracks like ‘Something Tells Me’, ‘Low Blows’ and ‘I’m Not Coming Back’. Dance star Jordan Brando injected a fresh wave of energy into hot and tired punters over at the Dance Tent, and due to Sama having to cancel her performance, Brando’s set was extended into a three-hour set filled with sexy synths, rolling bass lines and non-stop dancing from an adoring audience.
Perth alternative-rockers and one of Australian’s finest, Methyl Ethel, were up next and brought their enthralling live show to the BTV main stage as the cool change swept through the festival site. With a five-member live unit, the band treated the swarming crowd to a solid collection of new tracks from their recent third album, Triage. Highly regarded as their finest work yet, the band sent punters wild into a sea of grooves with ‘Twilight Driving’ and ‘Ubu’ which nabbed them #4 in 2018’s Hottest 100. With the power of their performance leaving the crowd in chills, it’s frontman Jake Webb who took their live show to another level with his transcending and earnest vocals, which sound better than they do on recordings. Combine perfect soaring vocals with the incredible stage persona, mesmerising visuals and a rock-star guitar throw, and you’ve got an overall BTV standout.
Day three (Monday December 30) brought excessive heat, strong winds and rumours surfacing on the internet, which was even more exhausting when paired with a hangover. Luckily, Sydney foursome I Know Leopard brought the slow-growing crowd back to life with their bold looks, poptastic fusion and a sprinkling of tracks from their standout debut album Love Is A Landmine, while sibling duo Amy Dowdle and Josh Dowdle of Lastlings took revellers on a tense and euphoric journey as each song weaved into one another.
Making way for Bag Raiders, it was the Sydney electronic boys and Aussie Dance music’s biggest legends who managed to pull the masses out of the campsites and to the main stage, where the electro-pop tunes took hold and everyone was jumping and singing along. From the euphoric comeback tracks ‘Lightning’ and ‘Wild At Heart’, to the exotic, groovy ‘Snake Charmer’ and iconic ‘Shooting Stars’ which won them international radio-play and meme adoration alike, they proved they’ve still got what it takes to get the world moving and feeling good – a whole decade since their initial stardom!
Bag Raiders were a stark contrast to Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers who followed, with an infectious spoken-word poetic, hip hop performance boasting a mixed bag of broken hearts, bizarre tales and awkwardly relatable moments.
One of Australia’s most-adored talents Matt Corby brought the soulful sounds of Rainbow Valley to the BTV crowd, creating a light, relaxed, and almost dream-like atmosphere as Corby launched into a collection of his newest tracks including ‘No Ordinary Life’, ‘All That I See’, ‘Elements’ and ‘Miracle Love’, all thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd. While his latest record was Corby’s main focus, he did make sure to detour into some old classics playing ‘Brother’ and ‘Resolution’, leaving no doubt that everyone felt they had just experienced a festival set nothing short of heavenly.
As the sun set, Germany’s mysterious house sensation Claptone turned the festival site into a euphoric, up-tempo and explosive dance party for more than an hour with in his slick grooves and elegant house anthems, truly worthy of a headline slot.
Brisbane powerhouse Mallrat kept the totally buzzed crowd up and about with a surprising intro of filthy bangers thanks to DJ Denim, before the young artist swayed her way through ‘Nobody’s Home’, ‘For Real’, ‘Tokyo Drift’, ‘Better’ and ‘Circles’, delivering her usual bubbly electronic style with delicious pop-infused twist that we’ve come to know and love. A small woman with a big voice, Mallrat filled the BTV stage, and was even joined on stage by her resident guitarist Tyne James Organ for the glorious pop sunbeam ‘UFO’ and an upbeat cover of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bellayche’.
It was Brisbane four-piece Cub Sport who earned the best and most enchanting performance of day three for me. True to character, lead singer Tim Nelson, keyboardist (and husband) Sam Netterfield and their bandmates entered the stage wearing all-black, Tim sporting a particularly stylish plunge jumpsuit. The cool chill within the BTV site complemented the heavenly vibes of Cub Sport’s music, as songs from their most recent album were brought to life, further enhanced by Nelson’s mesmerising stage presence, ethereal dance moves, and his dual wielding of two microphones in certain songs. True highlights were ‘Chasin’ and ‘Hawaiian Party’ from their 2017 BATS album, as well as vulnerable pop anthem ‘Sometimes’ which swathed the crowd with 80s vibes and messages of love, and ‘I Never Cried So Much in My Whole Life’. While I was not so secretly hoping for a guest appearance from the former Savage Garden vocalist Darren Hayes, they still nailed the performance without him. To top it all off, the performed their cover of Billie Eilish’s, ‘When The Party’s Over’ and fan favourite from their debut album This Is Our Vice ‘Come On Mess Me Up’ which further showcased Nelson’s utterly perfect vocals full of passion and emotion that didn’t once waver throughout the entire set.
The genuine and uplifting performance was soon followed by acclaimed producer, rapper and singer Tyler, The Creator, who was headlining Monday’s festivities. Admittingly not a fan of Tyler myself, he certainly pulled in an approving crowd with his unique and gratified stage presence, exuberant dancing and energetic crowd interaction as he belted out the likes of ‘911/Mr Lonely’, ‘Who Dat Boy’ and ‘EARFQUAKE’.
For those not ready to call it a night, the Dance Tent was the place to be. Chicago house and techno legend Curtis Jones aka Green Velvet had a crowd of dancers absolutely enthralled, throwing down floor filling house and techno beats until the early hours of the morning.
Day four (Tuesday December 31) dawned and the end of BTV neared, but everyone seemed to be riding a new wave of energy, ready for those New Year’s Eve celebrations. Despite waking to the sound of pouring rain in the early hours of the last day of the decade, the weather turned it up and reached perfection with sunshine and warm temperatures that didn’t require a constant hosing down from the security guards at the barriers – AKA the real MVP’s of the festival.
Most of the action was taking place on the main stage on the final day, kicking off with the dream-pop winners of BTV’s Muso App comp Manorism, RnB and soul artist China, and Melbourne punk rockers Picket Palace.
Melbourne’s London Topaz brought the beats to the main stage in the early afternoon, proving his place in the electronic music scene and on the BTV main stage with a style reminiscent of top-tier electronic artists Rüfüs Du Sol and Hayden James who would perform later in the day. With powerhouse vocals from guest George, London Topaz performed a string of solid releases including ‘Hideout’, ‘Your Eyes’, Stay’ and ‘Back To Life’ which were welcomed warmly by punters decked out in their Western best, some of whom were already waving their doof sticks wildly in the air.
Melbourne’s Big Words took punters on an epic wild ride as they shredded their way through a brilliant set fuelled with their hip hop influenced hybrid of soul and RNB. Performing with energy fed by the crowd’s vibes, these guys bought the heat to the final day.
Riding the wave of energy from Big Word’s set, anticipation grew for Sydney electronic duo Set Mo, who delivered a phenomenal live show at Splendour in the Grass earlier in the year. Unfortunately, the stage offered some technical issues throughout the mid-afternoon which meant that Set Mo had their performance cut down to a single track. Devastating, but they performed fan favourite ‘I Belong Here’ which lifted the vibes of hot and frustrated fans.
The set from The Veronicas were perhaps one of the most anticipated of the entire festival and the pop duo certainly lived up to the hype. Drawing a crowd that was easily the biggest that the main stage had seen yet, the sisters proved why they have earned the reputation as Aussie music royalty with performances of ‘Everything I’m Not’, ‘Hook Me Up’, ‘In My Blood’ and ‘4ever’, which will forever be remembered as the greatest banger to surface from 2005. It was of course their performance of Australia’s unofficial national anthem and certified banger, ‘Untouched’, that everyone was waiting for, and it did not disappoint.
The unrelenting electronic sounds pumping out of the dance tent drew a flooding crowd thanks to Motez and Made In Paris, while Hayden James brought the beats and the crowd back over to the main stage as the day turned to dusk. Known for his flawless electronic beats, the slick Aussie producer turned it up to 11 as he delivered track after track of his signature club-pop stylings and immense summer house jams, many from his debut album Between Us, while triggering waves of dance movies and people being thrown around on shoulders and jumping throughout. Performing the likes of ‘Better Together’, ‘Just Friends’, ‘Favours’, ‘Numb’ and ‘Something About You’ complimented with impressive projections and lights as well as his esteemed tour vocalist Nat Dunn, Hayden James delivered an incredibly strong live performance making BTV feel larger than life.
Sending in the final moments of 2019 was Sydney three piece and one of the world’s preeminent live electronic acts Rüfüs Du Sol who returned to the BTV stage to redeem the countdown crown with their psychedelic tracks of dreams with catchy hooks, soaring vocals and entrancing dance vibes. Delivering a larger than life performance with raised platforms and blinding light displays, the trio kicked straight into their 2018 album ‘Solace’ with the energetic ‘Eyes’, while ‘You Were Right’ and ‘Like An Animal’ came in like a king hit to revellers, as the surprising second and third songs in their set, followed by favourites like ‘Sundream’, ‘Lost In My Mind’ and ‘Underwater’. With the entirety of the BTV crowd producing an electrifying energy that only continued to flourish, the trio welcomed the new year with ‘No Place’ which was met with echoing chorus cries, punters taking to each other’s shoulders and a flood of Insta story recording, before finishing the full-blown dance set with ‘Treat You Better’ and ‘Innerbloom’ and proving Rüfüs Du Sol worthy of the BTV countdown crown.
The night wasn’t over yet though, with ARIA award nominated Melbourne producer Dom Dolla and Glasgow-based DJ/producer Denis Sulta providing killer closing sets before things officially wrapped up.
All in all, the wealth of talent spread across the four days should be and is more than enough to admonish any ill-thoughts. The real winners of the day are the treasured memories we’ll leave Lardner Park with, which are linked with ferocious rhymes, happy vibes, a western NYE theme, the giant inflatable Chapel which made for some wicked marriage ceremonies, a Ferris Wheel for all the romantics, and of course, a shit tonne of glitter, party shirts and some seriously hilarious doof sticks.
With such a scenic location, Beyond The Valley was an absolute game-changer of a New Year’s Eve festival and is one of the best musical escapes I’ve had in a while. Until next time friends, Happy New Year!
Reviewed by Talia Rinaldo
Photos by Armand Eghanian