Words & Images by Bonnie Ryan-Vance
The lead up to the beginning of December brought mixed emotions for me – although I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. My roommate was settling in to work from home, as a severe weather warning was being broadcast for the whole state. I frantically trawled the internet for places to buy gumboots before boarding the bus to Tatyoon, where the second annual Hopkins Creek festival was to be held.
Kulkurt Crater is pretty much a big hole with some water in the middle, surrounded by steep hills and a few trees. All I could picture was a torrential downpour washing me into a swollen lake – and I was less than excited. Luckily for me, and everyone else that attended, Victorian media outlets were being very dramatic, and my premonition was wrong. The rain was minimal, and even if there had been a flood, nothing could have washed away the vibe. The description as a celebration of music and mate-ship was more than accurate.
The music was showcased at one main stage, which was at the far end of the event site and sheltered with blue sails. The bulk of the tunes took place here, and varied greatly between artists, which was one of my greatest things – no clashes, no running between locations to catch different acts, and no boredom. Early on Friday evening, Claudia Jones and her band performed, and I was struck by her strong voice and stage presence. The evening continued with performances by selectors from around Australia, and when I said varied, I meant it – a jungle track in Toni Yotzi’s midnight set was followed by a song I recognized from Top 40 pop darling Charli XCX.
Late Saturday afternoon, a mostly plastic raincoat covered crowd danced to my favourite set of recent times, from Hopkins Creek co-founder and regular on the Melbourne dance circuit, Josh Keys. He dropped “LSD 25” by Butch, followed with an extended version of Talk Talk’s 1984 classic “It’s My Life”, and in the rain the electricity in the air was almost palpable.
The main stage closed on Sunday evening with a three-hour performance from Belfast-raised, London-based vinyl enthusiast Brian Not Brian. Aside from his continuing the theme of phenomenal tunes, it was a particularly enjoyable performance to be front-row for as he seemed to enjoy playing the tunes as much as the crowd enjoyed grooving along to them.
Thankfully, the main stage closing did not signal the end of the festivities – just a change of scenery. On the festival site, another structure had been assembled as a licensed bar, also with an extensive musical set-up. It seemed like every attendee packed into the little structure for the closing set, simply listed on the timetable as “Hopkin’s Creek”. The final hours were a blur of almost every banger you could hope to hear – from Groove Armada’s “Superstylin”, to a rework of Prince’s “Wanna Be Your Lover”, to Eric Prydz “Call On Me” and finally, a rousing closing with none other than Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (I’m not crying, you are).
Hopkins Creek was a musical treat like no other, but the real joy in the weekend was the people who shared it – and it was all about sharing. The conversations and drinks on the grass at the back of the dance floor, appreciating a great tune with a new pal at the stage, or even going on a Lord of the Rings style adventure to the top of the hill to admire the views. Nobody thought twice about offering help to others – I watched people banding together to offer shelter from the rain, to push cars out of the mud, to share beverages, jokes and compliments. I can’t remember meeting anyone rude, sad, or aggressive. There was no need to impress, no judgement, and no hostility. It began as a weekend promising good tunes with strangers and ended with no strangers at all.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I wholeheartedly recommend getting yourself to the next Hopkins Creek. Is it too early to start the countdown to the2018 edition yet?