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Rainbow Serpent 2015 @ Lexton

“Dugga dugga dugga dugga.” It’s 5.45am on Sunday morning at the main stage and Laughing Buddha is behind the decks, pumping out relentless psytrance. The sun’s yet to break through the night, leaving hyperactive laser beams to illuminate a sea of dusted faces, grinning with delight. The crowd, which has thinned out due to a frigid rain shower, stomps and moves their arms wildly, like a flock of psytrance pterodactyls. “I fucking love psy so much,” yells a guy in the front centre dressed as a pirate. Welcome to Rainbow Serpent.

 

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Now in its 18th year, Rainbow has become an institution. People plan their year around it, promising friends met along the way that they’ll cross paths again in January. This year’s edition was no different, selling out weeks in advance for the first time ever. Boasting some of the finest names in psy, techno, house, glitch, you name it, it’s become the marquee event of the doof season. Ineffability will always be an issue when talking about a festival like Rainbow, but 2015 also came with plenty of huge moments that will come to define this year’s incarnation.

 

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While many arrived on Thursday to secure a spot and warm up at the theme camp parties, the tunes didn’t kick off until Friday afternoon with a healthy offering of dubbed out techno and house from Melbourne’s Louis McCoy at the Sunset Stage. Later on in the night, progressive psy took over the larger Market Stage, which was decorated this year with a dragon head in place of last year’s phoenix. Interpulse ushered in the evening with a chugging hour, while Symbolic took over later on, starting off with their Zen Mechanic collaboration Psychological Effects, igniting huge clouds of stomp induced dust.

 

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While Friday was for settling in, Saturday was for exploring the magical Rainbow grounds, full of hidden gems straight out of a psychedelic haze. One of the most prominent structures were two giant wooden swans positioned near the rainbow arch, greeting festival goers as they made their way to the stages. Aside from the regular offerings of top-notch food and market stalls, there were also a number of stunning art installations, including a “trash palace” decorated with old tinnies that made for the perfect spot to laze around and a ball pit that appropriately harkened back to the childhood joy that Rainbow generates. To top it all off, once the sun set, a man dressed in a bee onesie made his way over to a small structure to “pollinate” the video projectors, casting footage of a blossoming flowers onto the walls.

 

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Back at the stages, Lee Burridge proved to be the champion of Saturday daytime, delivering a hypnotic two and a half hours of melodic tech-house. The dreamy Fur Die Liebe and Lost In A Moment captivated dancers as they swayed back and forth, with the slowly setting sun providing an idyllic backdrop.

 

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While it was easy to get caught up on the dancefloor, the main stage’s Saturday night opening ceremony provided solace and a time for reflection. With uplifting speeches that encouraged the crowd to look beyond themselves and “be the raindrop that has fallen in the dry riverbed,” as well as Aboriginal dances and a moment of silence, the ceremony was a grounding experience that brought the focus back to the heart of the festival.

 

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Following glitchy sets from Spoonbill and Opiuo, the main stage gave way to The Riddler, who took the baton for the first leg of the psytrance marathon. The stage, which is opened for just 24 hours, flaunted multicolored sails, a massive Funktion One rig, eye-popping lasers and an LED screen. From a distance, it was a spectacle on its own, as lasers danced in time to the driving bass-lines with the stars and the night sky.

 

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Christopher Lawrence took the reins next, delivering a charging set that made for the perfect transition into the mind-bending sounds of Electric Universe. His entire set was unyielding, with hit, The Prayer coming through near the end for a spine tingling moment. The UK’s Laughing Buddha finished up the night shift with pounding Goa-influenced trance, while Treavor Moontribe proceed to welcome the daybreak with a strong helping of “dugga dugga.” Sunday morning’s rain shower sent many back to their campsites, clearing out the crowd, but by 7.30am, the masses had made the pilgrimage back to the main stage, settling in for a full day of full on stomps.

 

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Later on, the Market Stage played host to a super bill of techno and house, started off by German duo, Superflu. Their two-hour set surpassed expectations, weaving in tracks like Dennis Ferrer and Jerome Sydnham’s Timbuktu and originals like Fibi Maybe and Ooooooh.  Next up was Petar Dundov, the Croatian producer whose name had been on more Rainbow attendees lips than Rivet tinnies. Over the course of his two-and-a-half-hour slot, he played both a live and DJ set, giving new meaning to the term “musical journey.” His live portion was lush, with multilayered soundscapes playing off of the lights that engulfed the surrounding trees, while his DJ set continued with these vibes, making for one of the most stunning performances of the festival.

 

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As if Sunday couldn’t get any bigger, Marcel Dettmann brought Berlin to the bush for a thumping two and a half hours of his finest selections. To be expected, Dettmann delivered, captaining a techno expedition, traversing songs like Underground Resistance’s Transition, Phuture’s Your Only Friends and Cosmetic’s Black Leather Gloves, which added an unexpected, but welcome poppier touch. In what would’ve been one of the most difficult acts to follow, Melbourne’s Dean Benson took the decks, keeping the Market Stage pumping with tracks from the likes of Len Faki and Reeko. As with the other nights, the mercury plummeted on Monday morning, with winter temperatures frosting the grounds and sending many retreating back to the warmness of their tents. But those who endured the chilly morning were treated to an equally chilling set from Melbourne glitch producer, Whitebear. Starting off with his own Auric Sight, he made his way through originals and remixes, capped off by the haunting The Beast Within.

 

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And then it was time for Mad Monday. With only hours left of Rainbow 2015, it was only natural that goon bags replaced beers, Speedos became pants, dance moves bordered on maniacal and the tunes pushed even harder.  As 11.30am approached, masses of people emerged from their campgrounds, flooding the Market Stage for a commanding set from duo Son Kite. As the day moved on, Solid Snake and Pole Folder kept the energy up, with 16 Bit Lolitas closing the stage with a lighthearted set of fan favourites like New Order’s Blue Monday and Pachanga Boys’ Time.

 

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The legend of the Rainbow Serpent says the mythical creature is the giver of life. With that in mind, it makes sense that it should be the namesake of an event that breathes such vitality into so many people. Whether it be the quality of the music, the magic of the grounds or the uniqueness of its attendees, Rainbow Serpent consistently proves to create the most vivid display of life on the Australian festival scene.

 

BY LAUREN GILL

Photos by Courtney Sparklepants

 

Loved: Marcel, Marcel, Marcel.

Hated: Freezing at night.

Drank: Lukewarm goon.