“I like Rainbow because everybody is always positive and happy and not down,” announced a bright eyed Isabella, a little girl who has been attending Lexton’s Rainbow Serpent Festival since she was three years old. As the sun began to duck behind the sepia toned hills at Saturday evening’s opening ceremony, it was evident that Isabella’s observation resonated with the expansive crowd scattered with fairies, pirates, bohemian beauties and camo clad festival goers. A few hours later, the now solemn main stage would transform into a wonderland that could only exist inside of Alice’s mind with its psychedelic art installations and array of beaming lasers. From the iconic rainbow arch that stood at the top of the hill to the lights decorating a mountain in the distance, Rainbow Serpent’s sold out 17th incarnation was a long weekend of musical, visual and emotional bliss.
While many chose to arrive on Thursday to secure the prime spot that they would call home for the next five days, the festival didn’t officially kick off until Friday when England’s Banco de Gaia welcomed in Rainbow 2014 at the Market Stage with his special brand of electronic baroque. The smooth, horn tinged beats warmed up the eager crowd who had been anxiously awaiting the moment when they could ditch their camping chairs and finally cut loose. As day turned into night, the music followed suit, turning from lighthearted techno to dark fiery psytrance. Hypnagog and Staunch managed the transition, delivering what best could be described as glitched out psychedelic progstep before psy titan Avalon pumped out an hour and a half of foot stomping beats. With four days to go, Rainbow was an endurance test of sorts, causing many to retire to their camps early with dreams of Main Stage madness dancing in their heads.
As Friday offered festival goers an opportunity to warm up their moves, Saturday was viewed by many as the main event with the fire breathing Main Stage opening up for 24 hours of pure showmanship. Following an opening ceremony that encompassed Aboriginal dances, speeches and moments of reflection, psy dubber Ott took the decks to deliver a velvety soundtrack for the masses of people flooding the now opened stage. If there was a performance that you wanted to catch, it would be ambient house pioneers The Orb, who celebrated their 25th anniversary at Rainbow. With stunning visuals flying out of the LED screen behind the duo, their show was an eclectic, cinematic, and purely captivating journey. As the night pushed on and the inevitable Rainbow polar vortex forced the shivering to cover up with furry coats and animal print jumpsuits, progressive trance became the name of the game as Interpulse and Manifestor injected their high energy sounds into a swell of prog-faced dancers. Following was Melbourne’s own Terrafractyl with a chaotic, yet nearly perfect hour of psy. As the rest of the night continued on at a hectic pace, London’s Tristan set himself apart from the pack with an unrivaled stage presence that saw him pointing, jumping, and grinning like it was the first time that the modern goa legend had ever stepped onstage. After he was joined by Avalon for their side project Killerwatts, the two fed off of each other and the hungry crowd, glowing with an excitement that channeled the blissful vibes of the early morning warriors.
Even as Sunday marked the closing of the Main Stage, there was plenty more fun to be had with techno treats offering a welcomed break from the previous night’s psytrance marathon. With the temperatures soaring and the sun cooking the Rainbow farm, Sunday evening provided much needed relief with standout performances by Michael Mayer and Donato Dozzy. Dark Nebula beckoned those who were still longing for more psy into the forest for a turbulent late night performance with the ominous “bun da ba bun dun da bun” bass line echoing throughout the festival.
While until this point the very best of Rainbow had come out at night, the arrival of Mad Monday signaled a changing of the guard with a day party that gave everyone one last chance to dance it out before reality set in. At noon, Max Cooper blasted off, taking the raucous crowd on a hypnotic journey through a lush expanse of electronica and techno. Whether festival goers were embracing, boogying, covering themselves in mud or cleansing themselves in the sprinklers, Cooper’s two hour set was a flurry of Rainbow madness set to his mesmerizing selections. The UK’s King Unique kept up the electric energy with his signature cosmic techno, followed by the legendary James Zabiela, who closed out the Market Stage’s Mad Monday with a technical performance that couldn’t have been a more appropriate way to bid ado to Rainbow 2014.
When Isabella stated that she liked Rainbow because, “Everyone is always positive and happy and not down,” I have to admit that while I found it to be endearing, I was a little skeptical. But, whether it was when I saw the phoenix emerging from the Market Stage, the serpent being carved out of a fallen down tree trunk, the people stomping and shuffling in time, a ball of electricity glowing in the distance or even just a smile from a complete stranger, at some point Isabella’s statement turned from an innocent observation into a truism. With all of its tiny details and refreshing vibe, Rainbow Serpent has rightfully earned the reputation as one of Australia’s most unique and extraordinary festivals.
BY LAUREN GILL
Photos by Courtney Sparklepants
Loved: All of the surprises.
Hated: Not being able to catch every set.