Not all always just about the music.

© Photography: Christopher Rickard 

I recently went to Listen Out music festival in Melbourne where the sun shone on the enthusiastic crowd like a bright promise of what’s to come this festival season, and the liquor flowed a little too liberally. My memories consist of the following (and not necessarily in chronological order): guacamole (♥), Little Creatures, walking through getting lost in the botanic gardens, dead phone, missing Young Fathers due to aforementioned Tan situation ↑, sunscreen, toilet queues, Shlohmo, drink queues, overpriced drinks, charged phone, Schoolboy Q and the thousand gatorades, dead phone, dumplings, charged phone, lost friends in Flume crowd, accidental backstage, seeing Chet’s feet, backstage toilet, sunset, sugary drinks, finding friends, running to tram, napping on tram, house party … & black.

Despite this melange of disparate memories, I do have photographic evidence of just how enjoyable it was.

Listen Out truly marked the start of Spring. After crawling from beneath the wintery shroud of saturday nights binging on Seinfeld re-runs and Coles brand peanut butter ice cream (you’ll thank me later), the sublime 28 degree day was a welcome dose of sunshine. Each year, when I’m waist-deep in the winter blues, I can fall into some pretty at-risk behaviours. These include mastering every justification to not put on my pants and go to that thing where that person is playing, but also wasting hours clicking through my iPhoto collection of pictures from summers passed. “Where’d the tan go?” I ask myself while reaching for another mulled wine. I get intoxicated on images of these scantily clad, happy, tanned people who bare some semblance to the July versions of me and my friends. From the perspective of a wintery hermit who’s cocooned herself in her doona, and avoids mirrors for fear her pale reflection will blind her, the images of me and my friends from summer look more like something out of a Ralph Lauren ad.

banner_Kopen Tommy Hilfinger

… Except maybe with fewer polos. And sadly sans Marcel Castenmiller. But I digress.

As I scroll through these images, I realise that the summer photos that inspire the most nostalgia are taken at music festivals. Maybe it’s the summer fashion we’re wearing, or the memories of sun rays hitting my now vitamin D deficient skin, but one look at these pictures is enough to put a smile on even the wintery-est of expressions. Which leads me to my question: What exactly is it that makes music festivals so memorable?

Don’t get me wrong, the music itself is awesome. But when people tell me things like “Rainbow was the most moving experience I’ve had”, or, “Meredith 2013 was the best weekend of my life”, I question if it really had that much to do with the fact that Spiderbait played the 8:30 slot ¹.

In my opinion, the music is merely the backdrop to a stage where the performers are you and the people you share the event with. Admittedly, even now when I hear Jon Hopkins I’m instantly taken back to Meredith 2013 Night One. But my fondest memories, the ones that still make me LOL because they’re so utterly ridiculous or telling, are from just hanging about at the campsite. Or memories of looking out over the sunset when you’re sunburnt, tired as hell, picking at the borek your friend forced you to buy for sustenance, and willing yourself to get up and dance to Chic. Good times, indeed.

Which brings me to Listen Out. The standout performance for me was Schoolboy Q, who instantly built a strong rapport with the crowd, and was so invested in each song that he was drenched in sweat by the end of the performance. “Collard Greens” was a highlight of the entire day, and coming a close second was the babing dreadlocked MC who stood at the decks guarding the 10? 15? bottles of gatorade. After seeing Schoolboy Q’s performance, however, I now know why there were so many. The crowd screamed when he thanked them for paying for his daughter’s education, and the best part was that you could tell he really meant it.

Other notable performances were Shlohmo, who is adorable and dropped “Fuck You All The Time” like a boss, and Four Tet, whose set I only caught the end of but was amazing nonetheless. Disappointingly, the clash between Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Four Tet meant that hardly anyone was at Four Tet. Luckily for me, this meant I could basically walk straight up to the front and see the genius at work up close and personal.

Somewhere in between looking for a line-free toilet and weaving through the growing crowd around the main stage for TEED, I accidentally found myself backstage… All I remember is seeing a cordoned off area for ‘Flume’ and ‘Chet Faker’, and some fashionable feet beneath a curtain. I mostly was just waiting in line for their toilets ². Emerging from the toilet as I waited, however, was one of the guys from Snakehips, a DJ duo I was dancing to just an hour earlier. Thankfully, even in my tipsy state I was suave enough not to go all fan girl on the poor guy. But I did catch a few lines of his adorable British accent as he called for his friends and ran off outside. Suffice to say I didn’t see much while on the inside, and only stayed long enough to graciously use the facilities, avoid the beady-eyed security guards checking backstage passes, and escape through the barricades and back into the pleb section where I belong.

So my review of Listen Out is √√√√. One for the amazing weather, one for the awesome music, one for using the toilet backstage, and a big tick for the people I shared it with. I look forward to making more memories, and taking more photos that inspire summer-envy for those cold and dreary months ahead.


¹ Actually saw Spiderbait play at 2013 Meredith and they were admittedly pretty awesome.

² Backstage toilets were in fact heaps nicer. Even had real toilet paper



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