Words: René Shellis
Photos Credit : ZEAZY
Hardware’s Babylon festival returned to the Northern Grampians for their third and arguably finest festival yet. Encompassed by our classic Aussie outback, the magical wonderland filled the space with a plethora of creative colourful structures. The stage set-up of the festival was something extra special so to make the most of our festivities we tried to plan out our weekend. Looking at the line up we attempted to navigate and dodge any potential clashes. Little did we know that we would be swept away and flowing free through the dust to our hearts desire.
The Bloc 9 stage posed as a demonic altar where hundreds of ravers took to the dance floor to worship some of the world’s techno pioneers. Harmoniously situated on the opposite of the site was the Mandala Stage –a kaleidoscope of beautiful patterns and psychedelic textures, bringing to life a tasteful mix of psychedelic trance and its sub genres. In between the two behemoths was the Day Spa disco wonderland and the Hanging Gardens stage, which featured a shipwreck pumping progressive and desert house out of the Funktion speakers. My time at Babylon was filled with therapeutic adventures and curious encounters, and so here are just a few of my memorable moments that made my experience such an unforgettable one.
Thumping 909 at Bloc 9
After a picturesque ride through the Victorian countryside we finally reached our destination with less than 10 minutes to spare to hit the techno stage for our most anticipated night of the festival. After racing out of our van to haphazardly reach the stage, we come across a giant goat-like structure with red blazing eyes and lasers blasting the dance floor. The atmosphere was tough and booming with pounding kick drums shaking peoples bodies and dictating the crowds every move. Bjarki was playing, his music pushing the boundaries with break beat percussion and razor sharp walls of sound slicing through the air. Seeing such a provocative artist in his element was a cleansing start to our festival. Next up was Nina Kraviz who took to the stage for one of her many gigs down under. I was curious to see the synergy between her trancy undertones in a bush environment and after keenly following her new releases I finally got to experience them in all their glory. Before returning to camp our last set was hosted by Dax J whose thumping industrial techno pounded into the early morning. Reflecting on our first evening, I was particularly moved by how empowered the crowd looked by this fierce sonic assault and impressed by the selection of techno much of which I was exposed to for the first time.
Mandala and Mister Pink
The psytrance stage is always such a highlight and something Babylon really succeeds at. Every year such passion is put into that space and this year was no exception. A favourite was Hypogeo with his rapid dribble bass lines and atmospheric electric creaks broken up by funky drops. Nothing can beat the positive loving energy of this spiritual space. Whilst dancing to this music I was approached by Mr Pink, an interactive artist who travels the world locking eyes with punters and engaging in a primal tango until you break eye contact and he disappears into the crowd. Seeing him in the flesh was a finer detail and he was one of the many interactive artists who littered the utopian playground. Don’t forget to do the worm in the mud pit I hear it’s good for your skin.
Red Moon DJs at the District of Love
My Sunday was spent lounging at the District of Love — a renegade stage built by the local venue holder from Killing Time, Cam, and hosted by the Eat the Beat crew. Situated just before the official entrance of the main stages and the camping ground, the space hosted a series of local DJs playing euphoric tribal beats. A stand out was the Red Moon Tribe, a family of close friends which brought a homely homely vibe where punters shared wonderful moments cheering on their significant others behind the decks. Shout out to the guys who developed the thong gag, which was probably one of the most abstract pieces I’ve seen in a while. To try at home, simply place your shoes in a line and commence a series of make-shift games, anything from pole vaulting to seasoning the shoes with pretend spices will do. I also want to mention the simplicity and effectiveness of the stage and the love that went into it, Cam has a strong view of how a dance floor should operate stemming from years of experience in the scene and his hard work and constant dedication was something that really rubbed off on me and the space. Thank you Cam and thank you Eat The Beat for an amazing atmosphere.
The Hand Pan and the Herb Garden
My experience concluded with a brief visit to the Day Spa Colosseum — the last stage to play music and ultimately where every raver flocked to get the last taste of the festival before coming back to reality. The circular stage was pumping with heavy bush techno beats (a contrast to the usual deep house and disco which played throughout the festival). After the music cut off everyone dispersed to their campsites. Some still thirsty for the electronic stimulation danced outside the numerous food stalls, just to soak up the crumbs of any beats playing. We decided to sit inside the herb garden which was a little seating area cleverly put together with strategic stick engineering. Different herbs and their descriptions were littered around seating area. I was glad I made the time to get some peace and quiet before heading back to campsite and surely after a while a group of people walked in. One of them brought his Hand Pan, a relatively new instrument that took shape of a UFO like metal dome with a series of indents to alter the pitch. Our friend commenced to play a beautiful piece of music, and the instrument always leaves me with wonder as the soothing vibrations flow through me.
To conclude, my only regret was not making the time to make most of the chill stage and witness the numerous creative artworks around the event. I was so consumed by the variety and quality of the music that I struggled to disengage with the numerous stages. I wish I took the time to mingle more with the crowd, as there were many creative and loving spirits and after my Hand Pan performance I was left thirsty for more. This was my third Babylon and my most enjoyable one to date. Every year, Hardware brings new experiences and additions, and their constant strive to do better and give more is something that keeps bringing me back. I cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store for us all.