Written by Adam Alloy
All Photos from Ticky Photography
There’s a beautiful happening once a year in the dusty depths of country Victoria: Esoteric Festival. Come pitch your tent on dusty plains and venture out into spindly forests draped in decadence. There are four stages of delicious beats designed to catapult you into another existence, where the humdrum drab of everyday life is nothing but a forgotten dream. On this ground lovely enraptured friends flow in and out of your life like breathes of fresh air. I have never known a group of festival goers as pure in their intention as those who flocked to Esoteric in droves.
Why exactly is this? Well, cloistered scholars have studied, theorized, and argued for centuries about the nature of life – when their conclusions are meant to be hidden they known as esoteric knowledge. Much in the same way that you can share the Pythagorean Theorem but you will never know the inner workings of the ancient Pythagorean cult without being a member, I can tell you that there is truly something profound happening at Esoteric Festival but you will need to go yourself to experience it. All I can tell you is there was mystery in the air, silliness on the tongue, respect in abundance. With less than 3000 attendees the magic really was all the intimacy. With all the scrutiny on music festivals in the media right now (for those not in Australia they have all but been banned in the territory of New South Wales) it is my pleasure to announce that I can find no reports of overdoses or sexual assaults at Esoteric. I put this down to the respect and community that was palpable throughout the event.
Oh, it would be a sin if I didn’t mention the sunsets. They were so beautiful they legitimately brought tears to my friend’s eyes. Each one was a sweeping story and watching the sky cascade from light to dark was a highlight of every day.
The Sun Temple
Truly a testament to the creative powers of the builders, the Sun Temple was as awe-inspiring as the sunset across the sky. Centered around a gargantuan and kaleidoscopic owl with outstretched wings, it seemed as if the stage was some god swooping down to embrace you. Pairing with unending and relentless techno beats and world class headliners, this was truly where the party was at.
Ascension was the Sun Temple’s equal, with a set designed like an old school boombox who’d just had a run in with Albert Hoffman. Here you would find only the finest of psytrance, blasting on through the night like a collective prayer of power. Huge crowds were drawn in day and night, yet it was more open and grounded than The Sun Temple.
The Snake Pit was the side show of the underground, a place that would entice you away from the other stages with blaring horns and an unending stream of fire eaters. It truly had a gravity to it, once in the Snake Pit it was almost impossible to escape. Not that this was a bad thing, with two stages of techno and a one psytrance, the Snake Pit was a descent into the weird and whacky. A place to hear glitch, drum and bass, and even dubstep. By far my favorite stage.
Everyone likes a good wander at a festival. Esoteric was set up with mazes of sticks through sparse, spindly forests draped in lights. At the end of every wander stood the Bush Techno Stage. It was here where people could dance to the same type of music at the main stage with ample room and plenty of couches to chill on. It was a place for comradery as much as it was a place for dancing.
The real heroes of Esoteric were of course the DJs, the people who brought the beats that kept the community boogieing to the break of dawn. Although there were a slew of fantastic international DJs, the true stars of the show were the Australian DJs and producers. Here were my favorites.
Canberra hero Doppel threw down his another of his stereotypically legendary sets. Doppel’s beats haunt you like a ghost and possess you with their spirit, breathing new energy into bodies ready and willing. There is something otherworldly about his production, blending the ethereal and physical without overtly New Age sampling. Doppel’s beats mellow but intricate and your inner child has no choice but to give in to the heavenly groove.
Melbourne’s celebrated hired gun Miss Jade rained fire tracks upon the dance floor during her high noon set. A performer as versatile as Miss Jade intuitively creates the best sets for late night, early morning, and midday – so the rousing rumble of her progressive psy drew in sleepy eyed ravers with coffees clutched in hands for yet another Main Stage round. A warrior slaying sleep with weapons carved from beats, Miss Jade was a much loved minor celebrity at Esoteric. She paid dues to the late Keith Flint, who died only four days before the festival, with a rousing tribute as her final song.
With a funky 80s disco meets post apocalyptic (dystopian) club vibe, Australian duo Staunch bring a cutting edge originality to their sets. This is a trait that is often overlooked in the electronic world. Staunch’s music feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. Mixing in elements like violins and 80s basslines not typically present in an evening of banging techno, Staunch’s brand of glitch funk was a breath of essential oil infused air on my dusty debauchery. Fingers crossed that Staunch will be making an appearance at a discotheque near you.
With a fist clenched and pumping in the air, Skwid leads united souls through the neon draped night. His delicate yet driving psytrance productions as the crème de la crème of Australia’s burgeoning scene. This Victorian treasure has been seeped in music since a young age and has been experimenting with electronic production since age 10. This shows in the layered, immersive, drenched beats he cultivates for dance floor delights. Bursting onto the scene in 2016 he has already played most of the major festivals in Australia, keep an eye on him for international lineups.