The tops and bottoms of Paradise Music Festival 2016

· Friday December 2, 2016

TOPS

I'm dancing in an alpine storage facility that's been named after a Melbourne party boy. It's zero degrees outside and the walls are sweating. Beads drip down through the bass vibrations. Behind me, through the window, dawn is smudging through the condensation. I stand up on a bench and wipe the glass with my sleeve. Fire-scarred ranges are silhouetted against a blaze of deep orange. A few people have seen how stunning it is and are trying to capture the morning light with their phones. One girl gets up and frantically tries to fashion her jacket into a curtain. She's clearly not ready for daylight. I swivel back around and keep stabbing the air with my arms (it's suddenly very important that I'm elevated on this bench right now, people need to see how fucking amazing I feel and move, and I need to take in every beautiful, sexy detail of this dawn-kissed dance floor). There's Miles Brown, he's up the front punching out moves with his lanky arms, grinning like he actually managed to summon the devil with his theremin earlier tonight (it's possible they made some kind of deal and now he can dance real hard forever); there's a cluster of fashion girls dancing like elastic in the middle of the madness, falling over each other, trying to instigate some kind of techno circle pit; there's Kiti mixing records at a frantic pace, she has big white-rimmed shades perched atop a look of cool distain, her lips have been pursed like that ever since the decks cut out and everyone seemed too cooked to fix it. Doesn't matter. They fixed it. She's crunching it out again. I can't even handle it! Gotta look at my feet to stay balanced; I'm stepping and sliding on the bench, not too much, just back and forth with the thudding… wait a second… have I been here before? This isn't a storage room! Families must use this place in winter to hire cross-country ski equipment. They sit their bums on this very bench, strap on skis and embark on a healthy slide-hike through the gumtrees and snow. I was one of them once. I first saw snow here as a kid, on this very mountain. That day has crystallised into a perfect childhood memory. Look at me now dad! I'm a writer and they're paying me to party! My feet are slide-hiking across this bench. Hahahahaha! I'm so lucky; I love you dad; I love my entire family so much; I love my friends; I love my girlfriend; she's a 'safety angel'; she's my angel; I love this room right now; everything is going to be okay.

How good was it when DJ Lachlan K dropped Mousse T's 'I'm Horny'.

How good is pill testing at a festival. Every festival should do this.

How good is Paradises's ultra comprehensive no dickhead policy. It's pasted on all the cubicle walls: “we will not tolerate (in no particular order): sexism, racism, misogyny, transmisogeny, slut shaming, transphobia, body shaming, ableism, wh * rephobia, Islamophobia, cultural appropriation, unwanted touching”. Back when I was a rave kid we just had PLUR – Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It's a slogan that used to look good on a candy chain but, really, it's so vague you can twist it any which way you like. Thinking of PLUR reminds me of an interview in the newly published Swampland Magazine with Simona Castricum (who had Clubland heaving with her industrial new wave thing on the Friday). In this interview Simona talks with Kish Lal (aka Infinity Blade who, incidentally, sleighed it with the R&B-dance-mix jams at Paradise on the Saturday) about abandoning raves and finding refuge in Melbourne's burgeoning electro-clash scene. “I was going to raves and these really big parties in the 90s,” she said “and by the time the 2000s came along those parties started getting too big, too shit, too boring and too full of fuckos, basically”. Point is Swampland and Paradise seem to share a similar ethos. Swampland editor Kimberly Thompson says they “are interested in the untold stories that rest parallel to the already well-spun mythologies”. She thinks “stylistic battlelines seem outdated, as does the idea that Australia's musical output amounts predominantly pasty men with guitars”. Kimberly could just as well be describing the eclecticism of the Paradise lineup. It's really exciting to think of a future where young people keep defining the underground as an inclusive, respectful ethos rather than just a sound, a look or a slogan.

How good were Krakatau! Turns out prog rock isn't boring at all up close.

How good are gumtrees all the way to the horizon!

How good is Rainbow Chan's transformation from shy indie-kid to full-on pop superstar!

How good are lizards! Seriously. I'm hanging out at camp with lemony whiskey cocktails. A cool mountain breeze is blowing through the gums and we can hear a creek rushing down the valley. Three lizards dart out from the scrub and start sunning themselves on a boulder right next to us. We admire them for a bit and I start trying to convince everyone that we evolved from lizards. I say this thinking it's an established evolutionary fact. Plus we're all obviously feeling a real affinity with these lizards right now. But everyone's skeptical! They're calling me a scientologist. Fuck you guys, I'm not talking about Xenu! We all have a medulla oblongata, you know, the back part of the brain that regulates rage (I think). No one knows what the hell I'm talking about. I say I learnt it from an Adam Sandler movie, but I can't remember which one. This only discredits me more. I don't have enough battery to google it. Which, really, makes talking shit at camp much more fun.

How good was Brooke Powers dropping bangers and swaying side-to-side in that massive coat like it was nothing.

How good were the Terrible Truths! Anyone who thinks post-punk is mopey or boring needs to shut the hell up and get to a TT gig.

BOTTOMS

Arriving late on Friday meant setting up our tents in single file in the fading light, high up a damp walking track while a cold cloud swallowed the mountain. We started off too busy jabbing in tent pegs and warming ourselves with whiskey to have any serious fun.

Toasties and burgers. I love em. But guys, come on. At least one (breadless) food truck, please.

Friendships. It's fair enough to remind everyone that we're dancing on stolen land. But it would've taken you two seconds find out that the Marysville State Forest used to be occupied by the Taungurung clans. If you don't pay people proper respect, then it seems a bit insincere. Like you're using their suffering as a prop in your art project or something.

Ableton sequencing, special effects sheen and reverb can't disguise a boring song.

I'm dancing back down on the ground in the converted ski hire room. I was starting to feel like an idiot on that bench. The smokey dawn is changing. It's brighter now and everyone is getting ugly. Moments ago someone wrapped me up in an unsolicited hug and breathed hot gibberish in my ear. I guess that “no unwanted touching” rule doesn't apply to everyone. I guess paying all this money for a special ticket to paradise is going to breed a certain degree of entitlement. Like we all work so hard and commit so much energy to these events, maybe it's no wonder people start to believe they can do whatever they want. I try to keep dancing but people are blocking my space. Any friends I make in this room will probably avoid eye contact with me later today, as I lug my shit to the car. Some kid in the corner looks pale, sick and distant – like his nervous system is detaching from his mind and he can't do anything about it. His head is on his friend's lap and he's staring down the tunnel, trying not to throw up. He'll get through it for sure but he looks so sickly and pathetic right now. Why do we do this to ourselves? My girlfriend is seeing if this guy and his friend are ok. She hasn't said anything to me in a while. She kinda hates it when I disappear into oblivion like this. It's time to leave. I have so much work to do tomorrow.

As I trudge back up the hill to camp, I think of a conversation I had a while back with an old friend of mine. This guy introduced me to techno. He used to go harder than anyone. But these days it seems he's over it. There's this thing an old German once said that's stuck with him. He said “the sound of a club is the sound of the capitalist clock ticking away”. When my friend recounted this, I thought it was bullshit (surely, of all things, club culture isn't the enemy). Still, as we kept walking he asked a question I still have no satisfying answer to: “why do we feel the need to give so much control of our minds and bodies to this music?”