Beyond The Valley prevailed as a slice of solace amidst national turmoil

Beyond The Valley prevailed as a slice of solace amidst national turmoil

Meg Mac
Tyler, The Creator
Methyl Ethel
Hobo Johnson
Confidence Man
1 / 7
Words by Leland Tan
Photos by Andrew Bibby

Sporting a lineup that marvelled both in stature and prestige, in its sixth year running, Beyond the Valley is on track for evolution, and evolution almighty.

The founders’ near faultless execution of a boutique festival, nimble responses to uncontrollable conditions, and offering of world class talent is a testament to their strengths, especially when their peers are struggling for the same endurance.

Repping opening day theatrics is often more nervy than comforting, yet the sharp call of regular jockeys Dena Amy, Late Nite Tuff Guy, and Market Memories was a distinct shout for familiarity. Purveyors of funk and dance were cosily ushered into comfort after eager beavers swarmed to erect their temporary digs.

Familiar multi-hued flags swarming the Dance Tent and the kooky metal scaffolding of Dr Dan’s were welcome relief from camping logistics, but on increasingly baking afternoons, it was the beachy accommodations of the Tinder pools which proved to be game-changers, albeit with questionably murky waters as days boiled ahead.

No such muskiness was found by day two’s inauguration; back to back sets from Cassian, Owl Eyes and Confidence Man quickly fanned off siesta hours, and Honey Dijon’s triumphant return from her famed Boiler Room set at Sugar Mountain was midday dessert.

Madonna and Queen remixes injected freshness to the ever hard-hitting tent, but even the New Yorker’s languid demeanour couldn’t quite combat the 43 degree Celsius heat.

Amidst satanic temperatures, Meg Mac’s ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ was all too literal, but how the songstress was draped from head to toe yet emoting all at once was unfathomable.

CC:Disco!’s European endeavours possibly underscored the biggest evolution of a jockey’s sound at the festival, but come sunset it was Floating Points that won the day’s machinations.

Utilising a Buchla synthesizer, the visuals followed his finger movements as he played, and ranged from tornado-like eyeballs and free-form butterflies to psychedelic mustard, much like oscilloscope drawn sounds, but done live.

The crowds’ whispered speculation on what he might put out prior was sharply confronted with what was a conjured electro visual beast behind Sam Shephard, machinery spawning from screen like ritual.

Crush, his latest labour released in October didn’t impress me, but the visualiser is a different entity altogether.

British rapper Skepta needed less of an introduction to burgeoning rap heads, but ‘Redrum’ and ‘That’s Not Me’ were sufficient in leaving the Electric City camping ground pumping his tunes after his set.

Day three saw Bag Raiders comfortably pushing tunes from 2019’s Horizons and snugly capping off with global meme tune ‘Shooting Stars’, before punters skedaddled over to the Dance Tent for DJ Seinfeld.

Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers, Matt Corby, Claptone, and Mallrat brought the most ironic progression I’d ever witnessed on a single stage, with each switching their own turnstile of fans between sets, but it worked a charm considering the gradual decline of attendance at the Dance Tent for Snakehips. Kudos to their energy, but the duo shoehorned almost every genre of EDM into a solitary set that the buffet of sounds was an eventual violation on the senses.

No matter, as Cub Sport shined as acting liberators of everything bad and deathly. Vocalist Tim Nelson donned the same flashy half-piece as in music video ‘Hearts In Halves’, and ‘Party Pill’ saw confetti and a home-video of the band’s newlyweds on screen, but it was their cover of Billie Eilish’s ‘when the party’s over’ that encapsulates how underrated the Brisbane quartet are.

Alas the first headliner; Tyler, The Creator, less everyone forgets, had his tour forcibly cancelled by protestors in 2015. Ostensibly forgiven now, the rapper, like much of 2019’s acclaimed Igor, revels in healing, pushing past bygones, and contentment in the face of pain.

His performance was half sloppy, which he blamed on jetlag, but no one really gave a damn. He rocked up in his signature suit and wig, bitched about it, but asked the audience for help finishing his songs; “Cause when it all comes crashing down, I’ll need you” – the lyricism from ‘EARFQUAKE’ suitably met.

Like Flower Boy, this was Tyler at his most honest, and between fumbling on Frank Ocean’s cameo lyrics, and letting the crowd finish Kali Uchis’ verses on ‘SEE YOU AGAIN’, it was a long overdue appearance from a beloved artist who can do no wrong. He did right just by showing up.

The final day started on a bit of a paltry note as the almost inevitable technical difficulties crept in like the proverbial virus; sets were reduced, sometimes to a mere handful of songs. London Topaz, Big Words, Set Mo, Lion Babe, and The Veronicas all felt a blow, most notably with ‘I Belong Here’ being the only song managed by Set Mo and Woodes.

It was evident, though, that the organisers weren’t going to let it cut The Veronicas’ set significantly, as the crowd’s energy was palpable when it came time for their appearance. The twins drew a population that beat every other non-headliner and then some, with a fan even scaling atop some 20-metre speakers for an better view of the duo.

‘Hook Me Up’ and, of course, ‘Untouched’ likely registered on the Richter scale at some point.

Meanwhile, Motez and Made In Paris commanded the Dance Tent, not before we succumbed to yet another mammoth commanding of crowd a la Hayden James.

Instead of his usual kind of set, which we’d come to expect at intimate shows, the producer debuted not only an unreleased number, but also added a deeper trance mix to the tail end of ‘Just Friends’, ‘Something About You’ and exploding ‘Better Together’ into starburst, the Californian influence intrinsically evident to his productions lately.

Ask any punter to elect a producer to ring in the New Year with and RÜFÜS DU SOL would conquer by margins. The Australian electronic darlings have subdued expectations but achieved global singularity with SOLACE and Bloom; it lends to the credence of BTV that they’ve managed to pull this one off.

‘Like An Animal’ and ‘You Were Right’ were appetisers to the second half, which detonated into ‘Underwater’, ‘Treat You Better’, and of course, a perfectly timed ‘No Place’ positioned to perfection for the countdown. The headliners never misplaced a thump or pummel, with the sonic echoes in their productions comfortably matching the ensuing celebrations.

Horns in check, confetti cannons aligned and a bellowing “There’s no place I’d rather be!” later, and we were in 2020.

Leaving the crowd to get to Denis Sulta was a separate ordeal altogether, with some too inebriated to move, some dialling their mates on cells, and others barging and scathing themselves on the ground to their dismay. Hey, anyone need a band-aid?

Highlights: RÜFÜS DU SOL, Denis Sulta, Tyler, The Creator. Also, no walls of death!

Lowlights: 43 degree Celsius heat for two days. Also, Tinder booked Hayden James for a pool party DJ set in a metal cabin that could barely fit one. The man’s too nice (and tall) to say it, but whose idea was that?

Crowd Favourites: ‘SEE YOU AGAIN’, ‘Untouched’, and ‘Innerbloom’.