Photo: Josephine Cubis
It was 5.43am at Melbourne airport and I had missed my festival flight by just three minutes. Mornings aren’t my forte. But there was no way I was conceding defeat again. This was my third attempt to get to Rabbits Eat Lettuce and I was certainly not falling at the last hurdle. Sorry credit card. Some things, like a flight to your first doof in over two years, are just non-negotiable.
After a false start at Easter thanks to a resurgence of the dreaded-you-know-what in QLD, it was a miracle Rabbits 2021 Take 2 was all systems go. Whatever voodoo was conjured to retain pretty much every artist on the original lineup for the event from 22-26 April was nothing short of magic. It was finally time to scurry down the burrow to follow the filthy fanged rabbit once again. To reinvoke that just-landed swagger of out of Dan Murphy’s armed with anything non-glass and alcoholic you can physically carry. To finally find your crew after two hours of trying to discover where they’d pitched your tent after arriving the day before. To revive all these feelings after being denied festivals, fun and frolics for so long was kiss-the-ground monumental. The weekend was an absolute peach.
After potentially the speediest check-in of any festival in history – there was absolutely no queue on Friday afternoon – we were ready to make up for lost time.
We made it just in time to catch local legend Robina’s set bring the noise to the KooKoo stage, lifting the shackles off our feet so we could dance with a sparkling sunset spectacular. Night was framed in flames with fire dancers before Beat & Path records’ Uone ignited the darkness playing the second date of his Australian Tour celebrating 20 years of DJing.
“There was a really unique feeling on the dancefloor,” he said. “A feeling of pure bliss that we could all be together again, celebrating love and freedom through music and dance.” Absolutely nailed it. Much like his quirky, mystical, magical set which you can relive here.
The evening unfolded with Hypnagog on the Wabooz stage accompanied by the stunning feats of an elastic lady contortionist. Jazz and wubbs with Grouch in Dub and a groovy clarinet burst into flames on the KooKoo stage.
Le’Bruh set the tempo with some self-confessed chunky muffins freshly baked for a seasoned stomp sesh. The Melbourne DJ lost his wallet twice in two days, both times handed in with cash inside. He commented on how special and on point a crowd who did that was. But nobody would nick your wallet when you played a blinder of a set like this.
I may be a little biased with my Melbourne contingent, but it would be rude not to have stuck around to witness Rabbits stalwart Michael Muska throw down some of his trademark Bush Techno, inviting Kane Laidley to join him B2B in the Wabooz burrow.
‘It was my first festival back from lockdown,’ he told me.
It’s very much a team effort with him and his partner Chia Jen who brought a lot of the artwork to life for Rabbits, including painting the main stage.
“We are so happy to be doing what we love again. In this industry, you get used to losing everything, but as long as you have your art, you have that creative outlet passion and direction in life. It’s what we live for.” And it’s ridiculously good to see it back.
Mid way through Gabriel Moreas giving the speakers a good pounding with some outstanding Bush Techno, we began to really fall down the rabbit hole. We were somewhere around the Wabooz, on the edge of the desert when the wizz fizz began to take hold. We grew feathers in our hair, people asked us to paint their bodies and I seem to remember having an extensive conversation with someone in French. Teleported to the bonfire for a lovely d&m, a curly-haired sprite used my lap as a cushion to rest while flexing his kaleidoscope eyes. It made us jump out of our skin when he interjected into the conversation – we’d completely forgotten he was there. Back we waddled to the campsite for next level chats in the frosty, moonlit air before bed. It was that cold everything was dewy wet with icy water. I spared a thought for the crazy little minxes who were still frolicking on the dancefloor in their head to toe Honey Birdette as we hugged each other to sleep.
Waking and baking in the tent the next day, coffee was superfluous with Brisbane DJ Jamie Forrest’s breakfast funk set as the alarm, caffeine injecting everything from classic Nightmares on Wax to Stevie Wonder to kickstart the Saturday sesh. I had a lovely chat with Jamie about his thoughts on the festival after the big weekend. Basically, he’s a bit of a legend.
“I am forever impressed at how Erik (the festival director) manages to keep pulling these parties off in the face of persistent adversity,” said Jamie.
“Understanding the challenges of throwing events and warehouse parties, I respect the logistics that are required to throw a bunch of people together in one space to dance to loud music. It’s not easy – especially when things keep getting cancelled.”
“I am consistently enamoured by the diverse curation of music at Rabbits, especially the gradual increase in downtempo and midtempo based acts being booked. Since I first started attending music festivals (particularly electronic orientated ones) in Australia, I’ve eagerly awaited a time where there was a counterpoint to the high energy vibes usually found late at night on the main stages. The Rabbits crew continue to push the boundaries every year.”
“I found myself caught in the welcoming oasis of Crop Psycles, another testament to a bunch of lovely people doing what they love. The magic wonderland feeling that was present this year with the layout of the site meant I never had a moment of rest, as I wanted to try and explore everything.”
Jamie definitely wasn’t the only one who shunned the sandman over Anzac weekend.
The infamous Mood Swing and Chevy Bass had a reputation to live up to after disappearing off the stage in an inflatable dinghy at Rabbits two years ago. Of course, they didn’t disappoint with some COVID safe circus stunt crowd surfing in a magenta zorb ball, blasting a super fun Saturday lunchtime set. Some ridiculous mash-ups featuring Meet Her at the Love Parade and Dire Straits were the absolute peak of do-not-give-a-fuckery that set the pace of the afternoon, as Captain Hydrate and H2GoGirl ensured everyone was saturated in the good stuff.
We checked out the Boho Lounge for an afternoon hula hooping workshop with the lovely Jane Fondle, nibbled on some really delicious picnics from the stalls… vegan nourish bowls, quesadillas, poutine, watermelon mint juice, and goat curry. There was plenty to gaze upon, broaden your horizons, or stretch your psoas muscle to – from acro yoga to painting, Shibari bondage from Kopitan, Bellsy and Lumialemae, or hiring rollerskates and gliding around the Mile High Rollers Club. Whiling away a pleasant afternoon in the sparkly countryside, we were happy that this absolute delight of a festival had gone ahead in April and not over Easter when the rain would have rendered it a complete washout.
As darkness fell, we were frothing at the mouth for some proper filth. Just a Gent set the scene with some ridiculously gnarly dubstep (it’s been a while), and some serious talent from the crew from Beatbox Australia. Shockone couldn’t make so in jumped Duos & Bustaflex but they were everything we had dreamed of and more. Unbelievable to hear a throbbing sound system absolutely torn apart as if it was armageddon. Then pocket rocket Sippy delivered a ruthless bass enema to rip everyone a new one in the foxiest way possible.
Deep into the night, things started getting pleasantly interplanetary as we jumped through infinity artwork and covered our dirty paws in all kinds of sherbet. Decamping to disco at the conservatory in the campsite, we met a pirate with a seagull on his shoulder. Finding buried treasure from Sriracha and Moe Aloha at the Drift Lab until dawn, we claimed our spot around the bonfire to talk the legs off anyone who would listen. Thanks to the lovely Ben who had just finished his shift at the Pulled food stall, who shared a pretty fancy bottle of Shiraz with us at sunrise, as we pestered passers-by with bullshit until they got bored of us. As the mist rolled in on an ethereally beautiful Sunday, it was clear that sleep was out of the question. Surely there was some music somewhere. We found a guy asleep behind the Drift Lab, cuddle buddies catching a snooze in the double hammocks – and yes some music cranking up once again over yonder.
It seemed that the post-pandemic doof had evolved too. It was a palatable stretch to find anyone smoking. It looks like the conscious doofer would rather be shaking their butts than smoking them. People also seem to have grown out of unfunny doof sticks at long last – there were still a few, but thank fuck they weren’t the centre point, or invading precious dancing space. Props however to whoever brought the hills hoist rotary washing line, never a better place to air your dirty laundry than a festival.
Which is basically what we were by Sunday night. A pair of grass-stained hotpants, pretty stretchy, with a few sequins missing – definitely ready for a wash. A really gorgeous disco funk set from Late Nite Tuff Guy put us back in a happy spin cycle with his trademark Prince tributes and that banging Moodyman “fuck that shit” tune – it’s fair to say last nite a tuff guy saved my life. As did Greek sculptress Ioanna Thymianidis whose live free carving limestone performance during the set was something a dancefloor had never seen before.
“The energy from Late Nite Tuff Guy’s set was set was so contagious,” she said.
“The music and crowd were the inspiration and I was the vehicle for the piece.”
The attention to detail when every musical set was accompanied by unique live art or performance really ignited the magic to the next level – a flawless program was expertly executed by the team.
Sydney’s Lo 99 blew the imaginary roof off with a raw, motly set that bounced all over the place – just like the crowd. He ended with a nice little two-step “track played for the first time ever in the world.” But no matter how much I twisted his arm, he still wouldn’t share the track ID.
“I had such an amazing time at Rabbits,” he said.
“The entire event is really such a vibe! Erik, Ziggy, Lica, the entire crew working behind the scenes, the other DJs and performers, and all the people who came to party and dance made it so special. It’s easily up there with my favourite gigs and I can’t wait to do it again. Big up the guys that put that stage together, the house was nuts!”
The crew wanted to go check out Spoonbill but I was running out of steam for sure. I tried and failed miserably – and also rather dramatically – to climb the Wabooz stage with my buddies. I conceded I was probably better at using other methods to get my head closer to the clouds. I felt much more at home listening to Made in Paris sculpting her complex, melodic techno soundscapes back at the KooKoo, before I dragged everyone off for one last speaker desecration from Tristan Roake from Truth. The NZ dark dub lords had been unable to make the Easter date but were back on the lineup for the April weekend. I’d like to give a shout out to the guy who stood millimetres from the speaker staring into the abyss as his eardrums rattled, but there’s no way he would hear me.
With the last sets finished, the ceremonial burning of the giant wooden rabbit to close the festival certainly had a dash of somberness to it. A beautiful burning effigy commemorating a stellar weekend, but purposefully still and silent, we weren’t used to not having a soundtrack. With the campsite uncharacteristically quiet, we sat around making agonisingly awful small talk listening to dnb through tinny speakers in sub-zero temperatures. The end was nigh, and the call of a double valium nightcap finally lulled me into shut-eye.
The next day was a rude awakening, which saw us hastily scribbling hitchhiking signs to make our 8pm flights from the Gold Coast. Our planned lift was busy drawing his own map out of struggle street with an imaginary pen – who could blame him, he didn’t have a plane to catch. But, that feeling of dread never entered my belly – we always had faith we would make our flight home. We’d met so many lovely souls over the weekend, we knew we wouldn’t be left stranded. Festival people are kind. Before we knew it, we were on our way south with two sweet Chileans sipping yerba mate tea and playing Boris Brechja. We made our flight with 30 seconds to spare. Because sometimes things do work out in the end.
Rabbits Eat Lettuce. The good things come to those who wait – thanks to all who made it possible and see you all at Bohemian Beatfreaks!