I would definitely describe myself as an enthusiastic participant in the Rainbow Serpent Festival. Since 2012, I’ve only missed one year, and that was because I was out of the country.
When I arrived on the Thursday night to a vibrant and ever so welcoming atmosphere I was quickly reminded why I keep coming back. Rainbow, which is held in Lexton, Victoria, always offers a home away from real life where freedom and the opportunity to be whoever you want surrounds you.
Not much had changed since my last attendance but I missed the introduction of the Theme Camps to Southside camping area in 2015 and it is much welcomed move in my eyes. The Theme Camps Village includes individual stages and set ups where you can relax, enjoy some new and creative music and involve yourself in intimate and welcoming events. Each camp has their own stage and dance floor and on this Thursday night they each took turns to entertain the eager Rainbowees on the first night of this massive party and would continue to host small and individual parties on each night of the festival. The stand outs from the theme camps included Welcome To The Jungle with their ‘anything jungle’ theme, low hanging dwellings and enthusiastic beats; Pelican Villa providing an oasis to relax and enjoy a delicious cheese party on Saturday afternoon and of course, Cocopocoloco with their annual Pink Party on Thursday night. This featured a fantastic portable stage, driving around and setting up camp in various places over the course of the event to serve $1 beers in recycled cups and offer funky tunes to those wondering between stages.
It’s 6.30am on Friday morning when I, and the two other occupants of my tent, are awoken by loud thrashing sounds and the howling of wind. We emerge to the campsite fluttering with marquee walls and people scurrying everywhere to batten down every hatch within reach. It wouldn’t be Rainbow without wild winds and inclement weather. We spend the next four hours resting peacefully to the sounds of torrential downpour. Despite this, and the four hour hailstorm scheduled for 3pm, Friday proved to be just as glorious as always. With Market Stage not opening till 3pm and the other stages including Sunset, Playground and Chill, not opening till 4pm you have the chance to walk around and meet the awesome people surrounding your camp and the people that make Rainbow what it is. With the awe inspiring themes and decorations of campsites, including constructions of timber with slides and double story chill spaces, the music, laughter and general atmosphere of freedom, you can’t help but feel giddy for what your time in the magic kingdom is going to bring.
Friday night was a great example of the eclectic mix and international talent rainbow serpent draws in. To open and close the entire festival was Emancipator from Portland, Oregon on Market Stage who offered the chilled sounds of incredible live electronic music. From there the night progressed with the Sunset Stage hosting the bouncy sounds of Uone and Retza to bring down the sun and kick start a colourful night of new friends and music.
Saturday is always the day the feels like the real introduction to what the people and music of Rainbow offers. You wake up, you refresh and take all you think you might need for the day down to the stage with you. Market Stage offered such a fun a brightly coloured atmosphere. The stage always has a theme and this year we were looking at Egyptian Pharaoh theme with brightly coloured awnings. The sounds of Monkey Safari and Mood machine filled our afternoon, whilst hanging out with the fun crowd at Pelican Villa filled our time before the Opening Ceremony at Main Stage.
The Opening Ceremony is an annual tradition at Rainbow Serpent where every year at 8pm, as the sun sets, all stages close for one hour and everyone gathers to celebrate the coming together of all the various tribes of Australia and The Torres Strait. You can expect to see and hear creative dances, music and touching talks from the Traditional Custodians of the land who welcome you to the Ngullumburra Ngarramilli. The ceremony serves as a reminder that we should be grateful for the experience they are offered by the people of the land. After the ceremony is complete the stages resume and the party continues on the Main Stage as well. My highlight for Saturday were the three to four hours spent in The Playground tent, which is a large circus tent where alternative ensembles play live jazz, funk and any style they wish. It offers a retreat from the constant electronic music where we enjoyed watching Broadway Sounds fill the air with their upbeat African drum sounds and live bongo, saxophone and vocal talent.
Spacey Space and Boogs highlighted my Sunday. Not always the biggest fan of Spacey Space, I regretfully only caught the end of the set but he was playing fun vocal tracks and was a welcomed, lighthearted set. Boogs was highly anticipated by the whole crowd with specifically made totems in his honour. Compared to his 2015 set, I don’t think this year was as amazing but the atmosphere of the crowd at Market Stage was ecstatic and infectious. Sunday usually ends up being a day of rest before the big Mad Monday and it was a nice time to walk around and catch up with groups of friends you hadn’t yet seen and explore the various workshops and art galleries the festival has to offer.
Having never made it to a Monday of Rainbow I was super excited to see the uproar...and it did not disappoint. Monday is the day where everyone left standing lets go of their inhibitions. It’s the day where all the costumes and 'doofsticks' that have gone unused make it down to the stage. It’s bright, it’s fun and everyone is beaming with delight. I weaved my way deep into the crowd and joined the array of fairies, circus creatures and glitter soaked people dancing on eskies. Once the music closed at around 6pm, I moved over to the Chill Stage where Emancipator brought in the closing ceremony with his melodic tunes. Sitting amongst the couches and hay bales, the sounds of relaxed voices, happy and familiar faces makes you reflect on the amazing five days you’ve spent out here in the bush and how grateful you are to have been here. As a last goodbye the theme camps bring in the last night at Rainbow as you hang out with you friends and enjoy the company of your surroundings. I am always so happy to be part of the great gathering that is Rainbow Serpent Festival and will always cherish the memories and experiences I make there.