There is just something so effortlessly charming about Paradise Music Festival. What originated as a university project, Paradise lures you in with a captivating aura and its daring vision.
We began our trip to Paradise up through the lusciously green forests surrounding Marysville. Just a short drive out of Melbourne, we were suddenly atop of Lake Mountain, the location of Paradise Music Festival.
The sheer beauty of Lake Mountain is immediately striking. A victim of the Black Saturday Bushfires some 5 years before, the canopy that surrounds Paradise is scarred in an eerily beautiful fashion. The snow gums have been stripped bare and are stained a stony white. Underneath the white pikes is an emerging growth of revegetation that perfectly compliments the deathly ill spires. When we arrived, the foggy swirl of the hovering clouds gave the festival a mystical aura. I almost feel I had been transported to the nether regions of Scandinavia, when in fact I’m only 90 minutes out of the city.
Paradise uses its scenic environment to the utmost potential. Whether it be campgrounds weaving throughout the forest or the nighttime light shows that pierce through the pitch black woods to create captivating displays which compliment the music perfectly.
Paradise even utilises the surrounds in curating its main stage. Planted at the bottom of toboggan run, the icy woodland that dresses the rolling mountain ranges provides a striking background for the main stage. It’s perhaps the most distinctive and picturesque stage I’ve seen at a music festival.
Capped at around 2000 punters, Paradise provides a warmly intimate environment. Acts are often camping with punters and it’s easy to go say hello to your new favourite act. Furthermore, I don’t think they could increase the crowd size even if they wanted to, as I couldn’t see the location holding many more punters. As Paradise continues to grow and develop, I hope they strive to keep the intimacy and location, which are the festival’s most enchanting features.
As with being on top of a mountain range, the weather for Paradise was polarising. The day was unpredictable as it ranged from somewhere between harshly sunny or a chilly overcast. At night, it turned into frosty cold as the temperature neared 0 degrees.
While weather is obviously out of the festival’s control, it was clear that in the early hours of the morning, many punters ditched the outside stage to head to the warm indoors of Clubland, which is Paradise’s stage that effectively works as a night club.
This may have taken away from some of the acts on the main stage and I wonder if Paradise will do anything to remedy this.
Or punters could just toughen up…there’s that option too.
But let’s move on to the music.
Paradise prides itself on selecting an eclectic range of local up and coming acts. It is refreshing to see a festival give so many talented local artists an opportunity to show their craft.
The first act I was able to see was Melbourne electronic chillwave group Leisure Suite. In studio, they comprise of duo Mitch Wood and Bridgette Le. Luckily for us, for Paradise they brought out a full 6 piece live band. Leisure Suite have a crafty handle on dream pop and they were in the perfect time slot at 5pm. Le’s rich and soothing voice is the selling point for Leisure Suite. Although I felt she initially battled in the cold, she managed to warm up and we were able to listen to her vocals in full force.
Following up was Broadway Sounds, a tropicalia funk, dance and RnB act. Complete with saxophones, sensual dance moves and whistles, Broadway Sounds are a fun live band and showed broad appreciation of dance music that started the party early.
If only there was more saxophone.
The next act I caught was garage band Smile. Smile’s set began with jangly and distorted pop tunes and then transitioned to more shoe gaze and experimental tunes. I undoubtedly preferred the second half of their set as it featured delicate textures in their music that demonstrated far more depth than the rather forgettable first half.
Lurch & Chief hit the stage next with power and hastily brought the crowd to life in the rapidly declining temperatures. Lurch & Chief have been bubbling around festivals and triple j for a few years now and they performed with swagger and experience that belies the up-and-coming young band. With dual lead singers Hayden Somerville and Lilli Hall, the layered vocals work harmoniously with the formidable force of the band to provide an intricate yet commanding set. I especially like how Somerville and Hall work together on vocals rather than compete against each other, as seen on closer ‘Mother/Father’, which is a genuine banger.
Black Cab has been kicking around for a while now, but I never heard any of their music so I thought to check them out. The veterans delivered a raucous and relentless set that I felt was some sort of mix between The National, New Order and Booka Shade. It was weird and wonderful. Andrew Coates’ gloomy and droney vocals were the perfect match for the bombastic beats and pulsating synths. I felt that I was in some sort of cyberspace as his deep, hypnotising vocals punched through the arctic air. One of the weekend’s best acts.
Headliner Roland Tings was next up and had attracted a large following to the stage in the freezing night. Compared to his 2pm slot at Listen Out earlier this year, I felt Tings was far more in his element at Paradise. Covered by the deep fog of a smoke machine, Tings delivered his live electronic set with a extended interludes that complexly layered multiple brightly tuned synth lines over one another to form a head spinning composite wall of sound. Subtly, Tings brought in a driving bass line into the mix that had the entire crowd moving. Tings excels at constructing delicate pieces of electronica and transitioning them shrewdly into throbbing boogie beats.
As the main stage closed, we headed into Clubland, Paradise’s version of the dance stage. First act I caught was Cassius Select who provided was provided a solid pace that warmed the incoming crowd from the cold. Following on was AV techno duo Friendships. Friendships have a bit of hype surrounding them, but I couldn’t help but feel let down. For an act that advertises their visuals, they were unremarkable at best. Exacerbating that, their music was washy and jagged. I know some people who loved them, but for me, swipe left.
Catlips followed up with a decent set that featured bobbing bass and nice sampling which provided an interesting adaption of tech-house. Throughout the festival, I felt the vibe of the performers didn’t consistently match the crowd. There was a lack of funk/disco in the early hours, which was substituted by heavy techno and I felt this turned some punters off. Whilst this lighter style of dance made a feature with Misty Nights and Post Percy, many had called it a night by then.
I like to think of day two of Paradise of the Day of the Niche. Many of the acts playing were strange and wonderful in many weird ways and I think it is refreshing that Paradise operates as a boutique festival that actually caters for boutique tastes.
First act of the day was emo punk band Oslow. This band wins the Kindest Frontman of the Festival award, as lead singer Dylan Farrugia made every effort to thank everybody at every given opportunity. I may not have liked the angsty emo that sounded like it came from 2005, but I liked the guys in the band, and isn’t that all that matters at the end of the day?
Following on was vocalist Marcus Whale. It seems that in the infancy of his solo career, Whale’s songwriting leans on the same formula for every song. Put forth some ambient electronica, add in a little live percussion and then sing about personal topics so you can show how you’re in touch with yourself. His in-between talks were an amalgamation of awkward, cute and bizarre.
Next up was Habits. I’m not really sure how to describe Habits other than they reminded me of Purity Ring but more eccentric and progressive. They have gained considerable hype in the Melbourne underground music scene and it’s easy to see why. With their passionate live performance and relentless, disturbing electronic music overdubbed with distorted vocals, Habits are striking to watch live. They are most definitely a niche act for a niche market and it's obvious that their niche market adores them.
Led by the charming and talented front-woman, Elizabeth Mitchell, Totally Mild delivered the perfect Saturday afternoon set. Totally Mild is a mix of jangly surf pop and slow-burner RnB. I enjoyed every song that they performed and can’t wait to see them at Meredith this December. If you’re going, be sure to check them out.
Drawing perhaps the largest crowd of the festival, excitement was high for The Harpoons. Armed with a great appreciation for soul and funk music, The Harpoons delivered an enthralling set that delivered on the hype. Featuring backing vocalists from a number of other acts, The Harpoons’ groovy harmonies led the crowd in mass sing-a-longs and the band enjoyed a wild reception. ‘Ready for your Love’ was one of the many highlights of the festival.
As the Dorsal Fins’ 9 (or 10?) band members entered on stage, vibe lifted quickly. Dorsal Fins make full use of their elaborate band and features multiple guitars, keyboards and brass instruments. What I found most enjoyable about Dorsal Fins is their depth. One minute it’s big band numbers that ooze with funk and the next minute it’s crazy unhinged rock jams. It’s refreshing to see a band that really pushes genre boundaries and uses that as strength. Plus, their live show was just an abundance of unbridled energy, with their dual lead singers constantly dancing while their guitarist climbed the scaffolding.
Lucifer’s Monocle mates Flyying Colours were on next. For some reason, there was a criminally undersized crowd for a band with Flyying Colours’ repertoire. Nevertheless, Flyying Colours performed a raucous set that included gems such as ‘Wavygravy’ and ‘Running Late’ and featured some mind melting noise freak outs that left our ears ringing with delight. The abrasively charismatic Brodie J Brummer gave a passionate performance as he threw himself and his guitar around on stage like a man possessed. Flyying Colours proved why they’re one of Melbourne’s best up-and-coming bands with an awesomely riotous show.
I was shattered I missed Tired Lion and Darts so I rushed back to the stage to catch Black Vanilla, which features fellow Paradise acts Cassius Select and Marcus Whale. Black Vanilla’s music comprises of minimal drum n bass with grime style rapping over the top. Whilst the beats were booming, they kept the same sort of framework for every song, not a huge issue to the crowd who were loving it but I found it to be a bit bland. However the rapping over the top was subpar at best. The lyrics were unimaginative, dull and unnecessarily repetitive to the point that it signalled a lack of creativity. Maybe I shouldn’t be expecting party rappers to be the best lyricists, but I expect it to be better than ‘Your Mother Should Not Be Running Your Life’ shouted at me over and over and over again.
I have to admit, I got a twisted sense of enjoyment as I watched many the naive punter bail on My Disco as they realised that My Disco is definitely not disco. The Saturday night headliners performed dark progressive noise rock and delivered a menacing and harsh set. My Disco thrives on creating horrifying noise and pushing sonic boundaries. They don’t stick to conventional interpretations of melody, harmony and rhythm and they are not for the faint of heart. But that being said, I have to admire Paradise for booking these guys. My Disco has a dedicated core group of fans and it demonstrates an aspect of real diversity on behalf of the festival.
Paradise Music Festival is ticking all the boxes. Curating an eclectic lineup of all sorts of music, being held in a unforgettable location paired with an easy-going BYO policy that allows punters of all budgets to enjoy themselves. In many ways, I feel Paradise has replicated the model of Meredith Music Festival with its own distinctive twist.
And I'm all for that.
It will be exciting to see how Paradise continues to grow and develop local talent.
See you next year Paradise!
Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.