Words: Sam Howard
Images: William Hamilton-Coates
Inner Varnika is something special. It’s the groove of your body and the beat that vibrates your bones. I didn’t even know I was looking for it but it’s hard to forget it exists once you leave.
Inner Varnika has created an unparalleled vibe which manages to perfectly capture both nature, space and electronica in an iconic location on the land of the Djargurdwurrung. Set within a 360 degree view of hills rolling beyond the horizon, the location appears other-worldly, with meteor-looking rocks of different sizes scattered across the earth.
It’s simplistic and endearing design brings a warmth from the moment you walk in. Tszuj, the creative masterminds of Carla Zimbler and Mikaela Stafford, designed a softly robotic backdrop for the stage which would later be accompanied by sound-reactive visuals projection-mapped to perfection. As well as a kinetic sculpture installation featuring nearly 200 suspended globes of water lining the walkway to stage which were lit up by UV lights at night.
In between large piles of boulders were flashing orbs designed by Jordan Fletcher and Luis Duncan which appeared to have dropped down from space. This perfect mix of technology versus nature was mirrored in the incredible quality of music. Here are just a few highlights.
She’s been a solid groover at Butter Sessions parties, one of Melbourne’s best labels, and you can see why. Following Brett Clarke of the Djargurdwurrung performing Welcome to Country, she introduced her set with the deep vibrations of a didgeridoo and laughing kookaburras by bringing in “Oodnadatta Rain” by Die Orangen. She took us on a stompy, groovy ride, featuring Afrika Yie’s “Blay Ambolley”, Sampa the Great’s “Energy” and classic Missy Elliot’s “Pass That Dutch”.
He’s a wizard. Or a magic chef … but if only he had a recipe. As he whisked up the crowd with grounded tunes topped with delicious instruments, he made a tasty set with percussion to vibrate your bones. A dash of Donna Summer, a sprinkle of Basement Jaxx, two dollops of his own tracks, “Cultural Variance” and “The Vibe” plus Slam, KiNK, Jeff Mills and Derrick May made up one of the best quality sets I’ve been able to gobble up.
Flawless doesn’t even begin to describe Lauren Hansom. Indian sitar-synths of Alka Yagnik and Shankar Mahadevan’s Koi Jaya To Le Aaye created a sound that took us around the world and back. Lauren got the crowd over-the-moon with excitement as we boogied to Blay Ambolley’s “Simi Rap” and with her set ultimately peaking at the Skatt Brothers’ “Walk The Night”. Hansom is an absolute boss.
OK, so Tornado Wallace (I’m pretty sure) is Jesus. Thank the Lordy he came down on this Easter weekend to give us a set made from heaven. Nado has a knack for bringing you to the freedom of nature but he’ll be taking along a bunch of synths and shakers with him. Then he’ll remind you of our technologically advanced world with his intricate electronic beats.
What truly blew away the crowd was the moment when Sui Zhen’s ghostly and charming vocals made it to the stage as they came together for their absolute belter from another galaxy, aka Lonely Planet, “Today”. It served goosebumps. And no, he didn’t record his set, I asked. It’s a set that will just have to stay in a very special place in the mind.
Inner Varnika truly is a wonderful place which has been delicately and carefully curated whilst remaining simplistically artistic and brilliant. It definitely aligns with its vision of being an inclusive space creating a blissful occasion for a dance. My Inner Varnika will be buzzing for a very long time.