Watercolour skies and laser beams permeated our retinas for three intoxicating days of bush walking and shit talking at Strawberry Fields Festival in Tocumbwal. Down the Murray River and on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, Tocumbwal each year hosts one of the most progressive platforms for local and international talent and skitz times on the dusty dance floor.
The three day festival, which is now in its 6th year of operation, has its finger firmly on the pulse and is leading its way through the boutique festival world with a diverse and perfectly curated line up, interactive approach to art and carefully refined culture centred around embracing the wild Australian Bush without having to have a southern cross tattoo or a thirst for back packer blood.
Over 100 local and international artists played deep house, reggae, psytrance, neo-soul, experimental, acoustic folk, rap, techno and beyond over four stages. A few minor changes in layout from the last few years gave way for the collision of sounds; with a bit of cross over from the Wildlands stage to the Deep Jungle. That aside, Strawberry Fields was a logistic triumph. High praise to the crew and security, who swiftly and cheerfully dealt with cheeky drunk patrons trying to sneak backstage or climb up the speakers.
Whimsical installations were scattered sporadically through out the bushland; creating a maze of glowing mushrooms and yarn tangles to get lost in while hurrying from Seth Troxler at the Wildlands Stage to Young Magic in the Deep Jungle, and providing some respite from the sun. One worthy addition to next years festival would be sails and shades at the main stage to prevent the evaporation of patrons.
WHO WE SAW:
Best set hands down was New York based duo Young Magic. Australian producer Isaac Emmanuel and Indonesian Singer Melati Melay filled the Deep Jungle stage with ethereal symphonies, delicately laid textures and frequencies from their critically acclaimed new album Breathing Statues, as well their 2012 release; Melt. The heavy distortion and reverb, drawn out synths overlayed with delicate crystalline harmonies and vocals from Melati is usually coupled with an intoxicating visual element more appropriate for a sunset set; but the pair took the stage in the peak of the glistening heat at 2pm.
He played R Kelly’s Ignition, Better Off Alone, then Sandstorm. Need I say more?
Aside from some minor technical problems caused by heavy rain during his set, Neelix played an incredibly engaging progressive psytrance set while someone kneeled below the decks and fed him a banana. Not kidding.
In her trademark (and hospital supplied) orange sunglasses, Laura Jones mesmerized the crowd with a phenomenal slow burning, melodic minimal tech and house set.
I have to admit, I had never heard of this Melbourne 5 piece before I saw them live, but when Tash Sultana (who also played a brilliant acoustic set to an overflowing Tea Room stage) dragged me along singing high praises for the funk hip-pop act, I followed. Jakubi cultivate a unique sound combining funk and hip-hop and traversing between neo-soul, reggae, and pop; and bring an incredible element from each of those genres to their live show. Think Sticky Fingers, Chromeo, and elements of N.E.R.D and RHCP wrapped up into a neat little sex-oozing package (strangely) endorsed by the beacon of journalistic integrity that is Perez Hilton.