It’s Wednesday, four nights before what ended up being the best New Year celebration of my life, Beyond The Valley. Following a car ride from Melbourne city out to the Lardner festival and setting up the campsite, it was boogie time almost immediately, with a mystery international guest in tow to entertain the earlybird campers. And so, the festival began with an intimate set from none other than Claptone, whose chiming house tunes bellowed through the central park, gathering all attendees into the one spot for the first and last time of the festival – an amazing way to kick things off.
Waking up on day two, the skies were looking dim, and to make matters even more interesting a heavy storm was predicted to hit mid to late afternoon. So, we got out to as much as we possibly could. Alex Lahey cleared the skies and brought the sun and good vibes with her, delivering her signature Australian twang and down to earth lyrics making for a warm welcome to the main festival. Running through tracks from her debut EP like Wes Anderson, and PTSD early on, she amped up the crowd with the inevitable revelry of Let’s Go Out, and closing number You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me.
There was no question though, that the day peaked early with Boy Better Know’s CEO JME, drawing an energetic crowd at 3PM. Joined by BBK’s resident DJ, DJ Maximum, JME opened on strong with his latest album’s title track Integrity. Being his first ever Australian show, there was a solid mix of both classics alongside the more recent album cuts, smoothly transitioning from the tracks like Serious to Taking Over.
The energy in the crowd was wild, despite many not being fully aware of the artist, who is also the brother of grime’s standout king Skepta. Still, his raw and gritty delivery atop booming instrumentals was so on point that they were impactful whether you’d heard them before or not. Adding to the stage antics, at one point an Australian cork hat was thrown on stage, and JME proceeded to flip some of his verses and freestyle about Australia and the hat itself.
Soon, the rain began to pour, showering onlookers with much needed cool water. We were drenched from top to bottom, but we were happy with one of the highlights of the entire festival.
The storm picked up even stronger, so headed back to the tent to gather out gumboots and ponchos, ready to head to the main stage. While JME took us into the rain, GoldLink braved the storm and pulled us out the other end. Although he arrived little late (no doubt because of the rain), his DJ did an amazing job to keep the energy up and the worries away, playing tracks like Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and Migos’ Bad and Boujee.
GoldLink emerged, thankful that his fans actually still came out in such weather. Tracks like Sober Thoughts and Dark Skinned Women had the intimate yet devoted crowd belting his lyrics, and the energy really heightened when he had a little covers jam, dropping tracks like Next Episode, Killing in the Name Of and Smells Like Teen Spirit. Sliding back into his own hits, Dance on Me and Fall In Love provided just the right upbeat energy needed to create another magical moment.
Thundamentals came through next with yet another energetic set that helped us forget about the weather. Joined by a DJ and live trumpet, the tracks sounded fresher than ever. Tuka’s vibrancy and jumps around the stage were infectious, while tracks like Smiles Don’t Lie and Got Love worked the crowd into a sing-along frenzy, while Thunda’s experienced their very first mudslide.
The highlight of the night came courtesy of Hermitude, who had a fully live set with an MPC (drum machine), turntables, keys and synths to bring their tunes to life. A well balanced mix of their own productions alongside remixes, they flipped tunes from Rihanna, Kanye and even The Lion King in between their own hits. Blitzhing through the classics, Speak of the Devil had an amazing breakdancing video, Searchlight featured a special appearance from Yeo, and of course Hyperparadise, which they couldn’t play without the Flume remix, resulting in a sea of screams and a chant of “I don’t have to worry!” As if the good vibes couldn’t get any better, they even handed out a gnome to the crowd, as this apparently brings good luck to whomever touches it. The only thing left was The Buzz, and boy did that go off.
After Hudson Mohawke pulled out of his Australian tour, the anticipation was even higher for his TNGHT collaborator Lunice. Known for his dark, bass heavy beats, it was extremely weird to see him perform bright and early at 3pm. nevertheless, the Canadian’s DJ set was really fun and entirely unexpected. Rather than stay behind the decks pumping fists, he climbed on the table, partied with the crowd, and most of all took us on a journey (one that didn’t include actual DJing, clearly). Gliding through tracks from Rihanna, Travis Scott, Chance The Rapper, Goldlink and Kanye to name a few, he also delivered grime from Skepta, Novelist and producer Faze Miyake. From there, it only got heavier, with BPM continuously rising to a point of experimental hardstyle, and his own TNGHT tracks Higher Ground and Buggn. It ended suddenly, and we wished it could’ve lasted much longer.
Things took another turn with Luke Million, who delivered the funkiest set in the dance tent. 80s dance musicinspired dance music had the listeners grooving to their hearts content, and rather than simply spin tracks he too was performing live with additional synths and keys. When Arnold dropped, the audience followed suit in incredible fashion, squatting up and down to the bodybuilder-turned-politician’s voice, while Luke fired up the stage with a belter of a keytar solo, all in all making for an incredible moment. Of course, his Stranger Things remix was another hit, having enjoyed massive runaway success last year.
Returning to the state they used to call home, The Delta Riggs were certainly welcomed warmly. Keeping the energy high singer Elliott Hammond kicked the set into gear, quite literally with his bag of stage theatrics. Each track felt livelier and livelier. The Record’s Flawed and … got the crowd in a ramble, and despite the early microphone failures which popped and crackled through tracks, their raw bravado and punk nature kept things full steam ahead. Supersonic Casualties rung out through the arena as their final track, and regardless of their psychedelic sound their set had taken us on one hell of a trip.
Emoh Instead of What So Not fame was the first of the three heavyweight acts to grace the main stage that night. If you had to describe his set in one word, fat would be it. Every drop felt bassier, grittier, deeper than the next, and pulled the crowd further into his grip. He delivered a varied set of his own tunes and remixes, including his own heavenly trap take on the Stranger Things theme. We sang to Gemini, moshed to Tell Me and Waiting, and went wild to Jaguar.
As far as stage setups go, ZHU’s eerily cloaked band members was incredible. His set was jazzy, funk rhythms, delicately wrapped up in a range of bouncing beats. With the addition of live guitar and saxophone from the cloaked band members, the American producer’s electronic jams sounded tastier than ever. Each tune received warm praise, but it wasn’t until Faded that the crowd really livened up in the latter end of his set. All in all while I enjoyed his set, the change from What So Not was so different that I found myself really just craving the next act.
The man of the hour year, festival headliner Chance The Rapper was the next and final to appear on the main stage for the night. Showing up around 10 minutes late, he wasted no time, jumping right into Angels. Cutting the track half way through, he switched to Blessings, before apologising for having lost his voice. It was clear that his voice was cracking a little, but it seemed so sincere and genuine, and the energy did not waver for a moment. Lesser artists would have cancelled with a lost voice, yet he pushed through, delivering the best set of the entire festival. Introducing Acid Rap, he then delved into some favourites like Pusha Man, Cocoa Butter Kisses and Favourite Song. He then performed a couple of tracks he’d guested on, namely Action Bronson’s Baby Blue (which he dedicated to his ex) and of course, the brilliant Ultralight Beam.
But he wasn’t done just yet. After a brief wait, Chance launched into a back-to-back medley of No Problem, Mixtape and All Night, bringing the energy higher than ever. Thanks to The Social Experiment behind him, he was also able to change things up a bit in comparison to the recordings, delivering a stripped-back, heartfelt All We Got and Blessings part 2 as the final track, blasting confetti out over the crowd. Frankly, only thing keeping this from being a perfect set was that the audience surrounding me weren’t as hyped as they should have been.
Finally at long last, New Year’s eve had arrived, bringing clear skies and good vibes along with it. The daytime was mainly focused on electronic singer-songwriters, with our favourite being the super talented Wafia. Delivering one of the most solemn performances of the festival, her emotive yet danceable music was the perfect kick off for the day. Racing through her own jams alongside those produced with collaborator Ta-ku, and we even got a glimpse into new material with an ‘unnamed track which doesn’t yet have a home’. While her performance was relaxed, and the audience mimicked this, the atmosphere was still extremely positive, and the set was so enjoyable.
Brisbane’s stoner rock heroes Dune Rats contrasted these calm vibes with a weed-filled whirlwind soon after. Walking out onstage to the Rocky theme song and jumping straight into Dalai Lama, Big Banana, Marijuana, it packed a mean punch from the get go. Tracks like Fuck It and Superman are perfect for festival sing-alongs, and later, they held a shoey competition, even giving a fan the stage for one song. What followed was a sloppy reinterpretation of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, yet once the drums slapped in, the mosh went wild, before they ended their set with the unruly Bullshit.
Tokimonsta matched Lunice as my favourite DJ set of the festival, with her incredible ability to really transport the crowd. Beginning with hip-hop bangers like The Next Episode and Alright, it soon blended into trap, slowly getting heavier, bassier and more experimental, keeping punters on their toes. She also played a new track that she has in the works with one of our favourite artists Anderson .Paak, a tune we’ll be eagerly waiting for.
The night was now fully underway, with 2017 fast approaching. Phantogram delivered a gritty and dark set which masterfully demonstrated their blend of hip-hop, rock and electronic vibes. Their stage presence was intoxicating, especially when You Don’t Get Me High Anymore rang out, setting the bar high for the rest of the night.
Canberra kings Safia came through next with a mystical performance. Playing crowd favourite My Love Is Gone early on, the bass vibrated to a new level, and with only a few tracks into their set, the man next to me claimed that he could now die happy. Make Them Wheels Roll added to the adrenaline, but the major highlight was when the trio merged Led Zeppelin into their hit Counting Sheep.
As the countdown neared, Sticky Fingers took to the stage for one of the final sets before their hiatus. It was a bittersweet moment, and the topic of many discussions among the mosh. While they were meant to show up ten minutes before the countdown, the lads decided to take it time, only arriving in time for the ten second countdown.
Confetti exploded as the crowd cheered their way into the year, as the band launched into Australia Street, followed by Our Town and Gold Snafu; this was the the blast into the year we wanted, and we got. Gliding through their catalogue, it was clear that despite the controversy facing them of late, their fans are as dedicated as ever belting out every word as if it was their own. After playing through some recent tunes, their classic material really took the cake, Rum Rage, Caress Your Soul and of course closing with How To Fly made for a great start to a (hopefully) great year.
The night was coming to a close, but first, Motez and Dom Dolla rounded it off in amazing fashion. With Motez on the hill and Dom in the tent, each set went off and kept the party going until 3am.
At risk of sounding reductive, everything about this year’s Beyond The Valley was incredible. The music was loud, and I mean loud. The stage designs were next level, and each even had its own side-of-stage DJ booth to keep the party going between sets. The people, food, bars and campsites were great, but it was the music curation that really won out. Okay, we would have preferred a bit more hip-hop, but that’s just us. The variety of local and visiting talent was so solid, and it made for the best possible way to ring in the new year. Bring on BTW 2017-8!
Header Image: Facebook – Beyond The Valley