On Friday the 20th of November, three mates and I headed out of Sydney towards Strawberry Fields Festival near Toccumwal. During the 8-hour cruise down, we speculated on what some of the sets, the crowd and the site would be like, based on doofs we had been to previously. However, as much as we thought we had an idea of what was about to go down, in true doof fashion Strawberry Fields blew us away.
After stopping at the Aldi in Albury to pick up some essentials (rivets), and passing through Toccumwal, we were directed into the police camp 20 minutes out of the festival. Although we didn’t have anything to be worried about, it was strange watching officers and sniffer dogs go through our bags. We did chat to an officer about their presence there, where he mentioned ‘we just wish no one would bring anything illegal into these festivals, and we wouldn’t have to come here.’ Ah man. We were given the all-clear and headed towards our destination.
Finding a camping spot within the festival was easy, and our neighbours welcomed us immediately as we were setting up our tents. After everything was ready, we headed toward the sound of thumpers to see what we were in for. We arrived at the main stage to catch the second half of Tensnake’s set, featuring a bunch of groovy, celebratory numbers such as 16 Bit Lolitas’ ‘Deep In My Soul’ which were well received by the eager crowd. The Funktion One sound rig proved that the organizers were willing to cut no corners in delivering the best sound for the event. At 10:30, Booka Shade took the stage, delivering a smooth, live house set which kicked the festival into full swing. It became clear pretty quickly that we were extremely lucky to be watching this particular act. Amongst the live jams, classics like ‘Body Language’ and ‘In White Rooms’ went off.
Rodriguez Jr. followed, bringing a slightly darker sound, giving a taste of the more techy side of the lineup. Detroit local, Patrice Scott gave the closing set of the night, with a vinyl mix of tasty techno. Although I was used to the 24 hour music scheduling of other doofs, at the end of Scott’s set, I was surprisingly happy to head back to camp relatively early to ensure I wouldn’t be too dusty for the large Saturday that was to come.
One of the best parts to doofing is waking up to good tunes. As we rose and reassembled on Saturday morning, the sounds of Yokoo’s breakfast set flowed through the camping area, getting us keen to head back to where the action was. After some breakfast quesadillas and coffees from the trusty Psybus, we set out to fully explore the site. Having the Murray River flowing on the site made a huge difference, as I was used to the good old seedy, showerless doof. Right by the Murray was the beautiful Deep Jungle stage, which was almost entirely wooden blending in with the natural surroundings. Spaces such as the triplayground and sacred prism offered the opportunity to chill and meet new people, which is strongly encouraged and plays a huge role in creating the positive environment of these types of festivals. The food stalls were diverse and delish, catering for all pallets and dietry requirements. Big recommendation for the Baby Burger stall: Quality feeds.
The air was buzzing on Saturday afternoon, as everyone was sure the night was going to be huge. We arrived at the Wildlands stage to catch the end of Child’s set. The dancefloor was packed and ready. At 5pm, Oliver Huntemann began the rollercoaster that was Saturday night, taking the crowd on an energy-filled journey of modern techno. Over his three hour slot, Huntemann proved why he has gained such a strong reputation as one of the most forward-thinking DJ’s and producers in the scene.
Max Cooper then followed up in a similar vein, mesmerizing his audience as the sunlight faded away, with his twisted and glitched sounds pounding into the night. We then headed over to the Salloon stage to see fellow Stoney Roads Records bud, Sweetland unleash his hypnotic sounds. His unreleased tunes were received extremely positively, and his seamless mix from atmospheric sounds to dark techno proved himself as the talented selector he is.
And then Peter Van Hoesen happened. You know those sets where you are speechless for 2.5 hours? This was one of those. If you were lucky enough to catch Petar Dundov’s set at Rainbow Serpent festival at the beginning of the year, you might have an idea of the next-levelness of this set. It began at 11:30pm, and I even forgot that it was my birthday at midnight. Relentless Berlin techno entranced the audience for the entirety of the set. Pure cookery. For me, Van Hoesen took home gold for that one. Perfect
Stranger then took the stage, faced with the hefty task of shifting from techno to psytrance, which he did very well, taking the listeners deep into the realms of psyland. Hearing the genre on a Funktion One rig is something everyone should experience at some point.
We took Sunday morning pretty slowly, chomping some breakfast quesadillas in the psybus, and lazing about in the shade by the Murray. After a quick swim, we caught some playful housey goodness from Palms Trax at the Deep Jungle, an excellent way to start our Sunday Session. UK legends Bicep played an exceptional selection of techno for the daytime setting. Cobblestone Jazz were also a highlight of Sunday, with their incredibly smooth blend of jazz and techno.
Dashing back to the Deep Forest, we caught Shigeto’s beatsy set, proving his talents both as a producer and live drummer. For the closing set, Apparat manned the decks, taking the audience on an atmospheric and emotional journey against the backdrop of the final sunset of Strawberry Fields. Jon Hopkins’ ‘Open Eye Signal’ was the icing on the cake. After some cheeky Baby Burgers, we headed back to camp and debriefed on the past couple of days.
It was great to see the ‘Blow Me First’ organisation’s tent set up, offering alcohol and drug testing on site, letting people know if they were safe or not to drive home; a real harm minimisation strategy.
Overall, the festival was an amazing display of passion for good music and great vibes. Although this was quite a younger crowd than what I had originally expected, the friendliness and positive expression was a constant during the festival. A huge thanks to the organizers of Strawberry Fields 2015, you did an excellent job in providing a safe and fun environment for your attendees.
Looking forward to doing it all again in a year!