You oughtn’t need to steer far off the beaten track if you wish to escape into complete nirvana come New Years. About a one-hour drive north of the frenzied free-for-all of Sydney lies a picturesque valley which for the second time ever opened up its humble wooden gates and played host to almost 8,000 keen punters. The 2015/16 installation of Lost Paradise featured the likes of Jamie XX, Four Tet and Motor City Drum Ensemble amongst a more than impressive stack of Australian artists.
An eye-catching crowd of all ages descended the valley for three days of peace, love and a big healthy dose of quality music. It was colourful, it was weird, and in-between my hazy recollection of the events I somehow managed to learn a thing or two.
1. It’s all about timing (or a lack thereof).
Here is a quick tip for anyone travelling here who is attempting to tackle a camping festival in the middle of summer – never underestimate Australian weather. Waking up in a tent with a two-day hangover and sweltering in enough heat to burn deadmau5 in a flame war on twitter is never fun.
The shade offered little refuge for punters, so many just adopted the ‘no worries’ attitude and decided to have a crack anyway. And those who did did not regret it. Earlier sets were not lacking a crowd; I was quite honestly shocked by the number of punters who were revelling in the heat of the midday hours. With Sydney local Rabbit Taxi delivering a dreamy, left of field set at ‘Paradise Club’- a smaller stage (last year it was a simple wooden structure) which this time was an eerie yet inviting shack type thing. Paradise Club was the first to get the tunes going in the AM and the last to turn it down, everything from techno to trance was being deployed and by god was it done right!
There is nothing like a killer DJ set to champion the light into the night. The likes of Mantra Collective and Motorik Vibe Council respectively delivered the goods with ease. I’ve never seen afternoon sets quite like the ones I witnessed at this years Lost Paradise. As the temperature dropped, the vibe amongst the crowd took charge and heated everyone right back up again. Props to Lost Paradise for hiring the constantly re-appearing, costumed, crazy dancers dressed up as native Australian fauna, the atmosphere was electric.
2. Bigger isn’t always better.
Lost Paradise is on the smaller side when scaled against the mainstay Australian music festivals. But let me ask you this - who doesn’t love cutting shapes a whole lot more when there’s actually room to do so? And when you combine all that lovely space with camping situated on the side of a free flowing tidal river? What you have on your hands is arguably one of the most beautiful festival locations in Australia.
A more spaced out crowd was a breath of fresh air for a festival of this calibre. It meant that nobody had to haphazardly navigate through an endless tangle of sweaty limbs and torsos whilst desperately trying to make it back for the end of Seekae’s set (which, by the way, was pulsating and drum heavy). It meant that nobody had to run the gauntlet and risk losing their friends when fetching some drinks and it meant that everybody could get up close and personal with the live acts. That’s a win win win in my book.
3. Respect is earned.
When it comes to the internationals on this year’s bill, it would be tough to not be a happy camper. Berlin based producer and musical influencer Motor City Drum Ensemble delivered a necessary three-hour set, easily keeping the crowd going with his signature deep and gritty sound. He played us straight into the hands of London producer Four Tet who wrapped up the second night at the Lost Disco stage in spectacular fashion.
The following day was notably graced by UK group Crazy P. I had the strange feeling that the majority of the people watching had no idea who they were, but Crazy P truly earned their keep. Front woman Danielle Moore brought with her a feel good attitude which everyone else quickly mirrored, promptly putting the Arcadia stage into a whirlwind of high energy. It’s pretty easy to tell when an artist isn’t putting their heart into a performance. I think it’s this difference that separates the good acts from the bad. Crazy P knows this, and their live set proved it.
4. Local acts can bring international quality.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to support local and underground music. Whether it’s a band at the local pub or your budding DJ/Producer friends, I don’t need to mention why getting behind is beneficial for everyone. Lost Paradise played the good guy role and gave a bunch of local Sydney DJs early timeslots over at the Lost Disco stage. This made for an enthusiastic crowd, as seen on the second day as North Sydney DJs Jimmi Walker, Persian Rug and Tech No More treated the mob of enthusiastic supporters to some revitalising sets, charging everybody back up over the hump day of the festival.
When a festival like Lost Paradise gives lesser-known DJs a platform to perform next to some of the biggest names in dance music, it shows an unpretentious quality amongst the dance music community; something we can all be proud of. Nothing says PLUR quite like giving the little guy a go and it seems like the crowd really got behind the local electronic acts this year. With the Lost Disco stage solemnly left deserted, some of the said local DJs actually seemed to have pulled a crowd which was on par with one or two of the biggest names on the bill. Go figure.
5. You get out what you put in.
If you were in attendance, I think you’ll agree the festival was what you made it. You either shrivelled up and perished in the heat or you went and partook in some yoga. You either remembered to actually bring a lighter along with your cigarettes or you relentlessly bugged everyone around you for one, etc.
Someone wiser than me once said that you should be the change you wish to see in the world. With all the talk in the dance music arena about what makes a good crowd or a bad crowd, no one really looks at themselves. You are the crowd, so don’t be a dick.
“You guys sure know how to have a good time, but seriously – why the fuck are all the guys wearing brightly coloured women’s leggings?” – American guy camping with us.
On the thread of not being a dick, I wanted to end with this. Now I’m no authority in fashion and if you want to show everyone how much of a ‘loose unit’ you are and feebly cover up your insecurities at the same time by wearing a skin tight layer of fluro coloured spandex, then be my guest. But what doesn’t fly is cultural appropriation. It’s time Australia got the memo on cultural appropriation. The American frat boy attitude translates into something much worse when mimicked by Australians, especially when paired with some casual marginalisation of minorities. I spotted my own brother sporting an American headdress, I hope he reads this.