If you haven’t been to this festival yet, it’s about time you lock it into next year’s calendar, click attending and start gearing up for a weekend of dub tunes and deep unraveling beats pumping out of an intimate, dusty tent.
It was over 40 degree heat and it was still one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. One man we met said ‘it restored his faith in music festivals’ and I totally understand why. If you’ve been to any music festival before, especially in the dance scene, we’re all familiar with the roided douchebags and fluro tarts wandering around the grounds looking for an arse to grab rather than a tune to dance to. You won’t find that at the Del Rio Riverside Resort at Playground Weekender. They barely exist. The festival brings in a massive range of people, from young couples with toddlers to middle-ageds groovers holding on triumphantly to their youth, even to the extremely elderly wandering around with a wooden cane and an umbrella. It’s a beautiful thing. I have never been among such a welcoming crowd. Everyone’s up for a chat, or to offer some help or to share a spliffo and chill in the shade. But enough about the crowd – to the festival!
We arrived there on the Friday night particularly late after a big battle of a day. It took 2 hrs to get into the festival grounds because we had to wait for the car ferry to lug back and forth hundreds of campervans, cars, fuel tanks and more. Next were the searches. Instead of random searches, every single motorhome or car that came rolling into the resort was searched top to bottom. Next to the search area you could see a 10 x 10 metre pile of beer, spirits and goon bags that had been found and confiscated. Even so, most people I spoke managed to get everything through security despite the search.
We finally settled in at about 10 pm and then headed off to catch Salmonella Dub on the main stage. Amazing show. Their albums transform brilliantly into a stunning live show, as the band jams and explores sounds and beats with both freedom and control. They marked the end of my night as I was completely beat after the long drive from Mascot to Wiseman’s Ferry and the fact that’d I had been up for 21 hrs straight. Apparently I missed an epic campervan party but I valued my sleep too much to feel too gutted that I missed it.
I woke up at about 8:30 am on Saturday, unable to sleep in any later as the sun started to beat down on our humble little campervan. Had some vegemite toast, and then headed to Club Tropicana, the place to be on a hot summer’s day as it was fitted with a kiddy pool, a big boy pool and plenty of grassy embankments and a ripper Function 1 sound system. After about 2 hrs, the pool was fairly filthy. Everyone who didn’t feel like having a shower dragged their dusty, grassy behinds into the pool for what they thought would be a cleansing replacement bath. It wasn’t really but it was close enough. Music on the other stages started at midday but we were too hammered down by the 35 degree heat to get ourselves away from Club Tropicana. The first act we saw was Todd Terje at 4:30pm. However, we were expecting to see Jimpster at that time but for some reason all the set times in the Sounds Big Top tent had been shuffled around, which we only realised at 9pm when we had to endure the grueling sounds of Edu K rather than the techy beats of Nic Fanciulli. There are simply no words to describe how painful Edu K was. The MC kept protesting ‘I want your candy’ over and over and all I could think was ‘why oh why are yelling at me, you crazy bitch???’ My ears bled. I almost wanted to just crawl back into my campervan, shrivel in a ball and die. But then I realised Jimpster was on in 10 minutes and thank the festival gods for that. Jimpster played a phenomenal set, with deep, pounding beats with wooden block rhythms and drums intertwining neatly and creatively on top. It was exactly what I wanted and marked the highlight of my time in the Sounds Big Top Tent.
It wasn’t all spent in the Big Top though. I stepped outside into the searing heat for Lyrics Born and Crazy Penis at the mainstage. Both had great energy and new how to get a sweaty crowd even sweatier and happy about it. Most people had braved the weather and dressed up in their costume, staying true to the Playground Weekender spirit and celebrating Fancy Dress day with rigour and style. Where’s Wallies, oompa loompas, bananas, Borat, fairytale characters and even a jellyfish could be seen wandering the festival grounds. Big ups to the man head to toe in golden lycra. He must have sweated out half his body weight by the end of the day.
In my opinion, Sunday musically was much better than Saturday. Even though there were some great acts giving a quality show on the Saturday, there was a lack of flow in the Sounds Big Top Tent. The acts weren’t organised well, each transitioning messily from one genre of dance to the next. Sunday however worked out a lot better. I was in minimal heaven. The only poor effort came from Kid Kenobi who played a generic, noisy set that filled a room but didn’t inspire. Declan Lee before him was quality as was King Unique after him, despite initial problems with the generator running out of fuel. King Unique likes to go hard and heavy, which was a bit of battle for people to deal with when the heat had risen to over 40 degrees but there were still a fair few punters willing to dance off their disgust brought on by Kid Kenobi’s precediting set.
We exited the Big Top tent for a moment to catch Whomadewho. Brilliant show. The boys do know how to perform and can make a crowd boogie and mosh at the same time. They only played a 45 minute set – brief but any longer would have seen a number of avid fans faint from the heat and energy.
Ewan Pearson and the Streets were the acts of the day for me. Ewan played a 2 hour set, as Norman Jay was a no-show. It was a riveting 2 hours, Ewan starting slow and pulling out some uplifting and light melodies and beats and progressed into a banging set that filled the entire Big Top tent with people dancing and stomping til the air was thick with dusty. We managed to catch only the last half hour of the Streets again because set times had been shuffled. When we arrived at the main stage, about 80% of campers were there having the time of their lives. The witty banter and laid back demeanor of the streets set off a great mood on the main stage and satisfying mark to the end of our night. I was absolutely benched. dancing for 3 hrs straight in the Big Top tent had done me in. Once the Streets had finished off their show, we headed back to the campervan and headed home. Leaving early meant we missed out on the after parties (apparently Murat played a killer set at the Teepees) but we were at least able to avoid the havoc that punters experienced the next morning.
I’d recommend this festival to anyone and everyone. It was worth every dollar spent, every sweat expelled, every ache in my legs and every bit of sunburn. I never thought a crowd could make a festival until I went to this one. The crowd makes a massive difference, no matter how good the line-up is. What a phenomenal weekend.