If Splendour In The Grass is the crown jewel of the Australian festival circuit, then Secret Garden is the #straightfire royal-purple embodied cape which resells above retail. The self-touted '48 Hour Forest Disco’ wrapped up on Sunday, leaving an estimated 5000 punters with sore heads, pockets full of glitter and still no idea where Dave is.

In retrospect, it was a nice weekend to be in Brownlow Hill, another world only an hour and a half away from Sydney. Although you wouldn’t guess it was this close to home by the time it took to get through the festival gates, with an impromptu traffic jam made up of more than half the festival goers trying to clear the (rather overkill) police presence at the front gates at the same time on Friday arfternoon.

Once we actually got inside, we realised that Secret Garden was set to impress. A cocktail of good energy, somehow already sweaty people and the familiar callings of Australia’s bush fauna greeted us as the Secret Garden DJs got things started in the Royal Court. It was clear then, over the next 48 hours, I would see some shit. Here’s the best of it:

THIS STUPID YET ENDEARING PHONE BOOTH GAG

Photo: Ryan W Callaghan

The overall festival setup was top-tier quality, a team of volunteers had put in the hard yards to create a colourful, hedonistic world full of ornamentation which was only surpassed in beauty by the costumed punters which walked amongst it. Somewhere in-between an almost overwhelming array of flashing lights and fluro paint was two phone booths with ‘dial-a-joke’ written on a wooden placard above it.

Drawn in by the Seinfeld theme song, I picked up the phone, and in my stupidity, expected to hear an electronic voice recording of something… actually funny. To my dismay, I realised that it was the punters who would be sharing jokes, and it went like this:

Random Guy at phone booth 1: Why do Scuba Divers dive in the water?

Me on phone booth 2: What?

Random Guy: Because if they dived the other way, they’d be in the boat!

Me: Sorry, I can’t hear you

Random Guy: *unintelligible*

Me: Haha, yeah! Right.

Awkwardness ensued. However, once we got around the whole thing I rolled him a cigarette and we actually bonded over our shared love of that one episode of Family Guy where Brian can't pronounce 'cool whip.'

THE CARMEN VERANDAH

Photo: Ryan W Callaghan

Some of the best sets of the weekend came from the aptly named ‘Femme Movement,’ with a lineup including Flexmami and Bad Ezzy taking the flamboyant stage and the surrounding people to freaky places. An impressive spread of sounds came from the diverse talent, covering everything from Disco to RnB.

10 points to the Secret Garden team for installing a bar close enough to enable punters the ability of getting a beverage without ducking out of the forest. Best vibe award goes to Carmen Verandah.

DAVE'S HOUSE PARTY

Mum won't be happy with you, Dave

When talking about personal stand-outs, it’s hard to go past Daves. Good old Dave, where did he get to? Why did he buy a house in the middle of a forest? What’s his obsession with Kramer and why has he got a photo of him framed above his oversized bed?

All these could have been answered if the guy had bothered to show up. Big speakers in a DIY ‘House’ full of shiny decor, some bros sticking their fingers in a highly powered oscillating fan in the living room and a bedroom which included a mattress big enough to ostensibly be an adult sized jumping castle.

BACKROOM HEAT AT THE PRIMORDIAL SOUPSPHERE

Andy Garvey at the Primordial Soupsphere

Without a doubt, my favourite place to be over the weekend was tucked away in the corner of the festival, a smaller setup named the PRIMORDIAL (meaning before time) SOUPSPHERE (no lexical definition available) treated punters to both the hard-hitting and funky heaving music which you’d expect from some of Sydney's best selectors.

Big ups to Lewba and Andy Garvey, who heated up the whole place on Friday night, in a way in which went unmatched for the rest of weekend. All in all, my message to Secret Garden is that I'll be back next year with bells on. Bells, fluro tights and feathers. And I bet I'll still be underdressed.

(Header image via James Simpson)

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